Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flood Watch 2011 - My Backyard - Slightly Better News

The latest (and last) forecast for the 2011 Flood was released on March 25. The situation is still grim overall, but for us the situation has improved slightly. The municipality is currently recommending that temporary dikes be built to the 1976 (record year) level without the +2' for free board. Since our house and the land around it is 1976 + 1' we don't need to sandbag. That's a huge relief. I don't want anything cutting into my reading/blogging/crafting/gambling time. Providing the forecast is right (they are usually pretty good at predicting these things) and we don't get an ice jam, we should be relatively ok-ish.

Some of our neighbours will not be as lucky. There are a few thousand sandbags at the end of our street. Some of these have already been delivered to the individual yards. I'm not sure how many houses are sandbagging, but it's at least a few. It's pretty disconcerting to see them all. My anxiety level is definitely up.

There's still a good chance that some of our property is going to be underwater. Just how much remains to be seen. There's still a 1 in 10 chance that it'll get closer than it did in 2009. At that time, the river was within 50 feet of the house. We still had about 6-8 feet of elevation because the land around our house was raised for flood proofing.

We finally got to see an aerial photo of our area from 1976. There's really not that much to see. Our street didn't exist then and there were just a few houses around. It's hard to tell where the water was because the area was heavily forested. Judging by the survey levels and other information we've received, we are now guessing that at least the bottom of the trees were submerged. I also found some photos online of our area (from ground level) in 1976. They were not pretty. Roads were underwater and in some areas there was just water as far as the eye could see.

As for current conditions, I was going to post more pictures of the yard, but not much has changed. Some of the snow has melted in the nearby city; even the farmers' fields are looking more spring-like. However, our property with its many trees still looks like winter even though we've had some melting. There are areas where we can see the ground, especially around the house where my husband removed the snow (in case we had to sandbag - can't sandbag on snow or ice), but the other 2.75 acres is still pretty much covered.

The weather is definitely warming up now so we should see more of the ground soon enough. I'll post some photos of the yard (or water as the case maybe) when there's been a change.

A big Thank You to those who outright volunteered or said yes when asked to help us with sandbagging, moving furniture and everything else. Please stand down...for now. ;)

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas. You can also get more information by calling your local municipality office.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

In The Oracle of Stamboul, it was said that the birth of Elenora Cohen fulfilled a prophecy. It shouldn't have been a surprise then when this savant teaches herself to read at a very young age. She encouraged by some, but tolerated and even punished by others. When her carpet merchant father, decides to visit Stamboul for an extended period, Elenora stows away in a trunk to be with him. It's there in Stamboul, that her life takes a dramatic turn as she comes to the attention of a sultan. Could this be her destiny? Can she change the course of history?

This is definitely one of my favourite books I've read so far this year. It is magical, exotic and fantastic. I loved it from the very first page. Michael David Lukas transports the reader to 19th century Eastern Europe and introduces us to the most amazing characters. It's so well written and richly detailed that I felt like I was actually there. It's hard to believe this is Lukas's first book. I won't give the ending away, but I will say that it didn't end as I thought it would. I really love when the author devises an ending that surprises me.

Elenora Cohen was such a great character. She has a lot to contend with starting from a very young age. Her mother dies shortly after her birth, which leaves her in the care of her father and aunt who becomes her step-mother. Her aptitude for the written word was outstanding, but her gifts were not always seen as such. Later in Stamboul when she's noticed by Sultan Abdulhamid II, it isn't easy on her. I was particularly taken with the protagonist, but various other characters also got my interest. Among those are: Moncef Bey, Mrs. Damakan, the sultan and just about every other character. Even characters whom I didn't trust or like (Ruxandra, Reverend Muehler) were intriguing.

New words: The book contained many new-to-me words. I couldn't possibly list them all, so here's a sampling:
caïques (page 71): small wooden fishing boat
portmanteau (page 73): large suitcase
funicular (page 81): essentially a cable car
crenellated (page 92): crenel is a opening in battlements
sonorous (page 103): loud
ululation (page 107): howl
muezzin (page 139): man who calls Muslims to prayer
odalisque (page 151): enslaved woman in a harem
kemenche (page 151): three-stringed bowed instrument
meerschaum (page 201): a mineral resembling clay
ablutions (page 203): ritual washing
gnomon (page 216): arm of a sundial
calumnious (page 261): defamation
dodecahedron (page 278): solid figure with 12 faces
seraglio (page 285): palace

I loved the Q&A with the author, Michael David Lukas, at the end of the book. The answers provided me with great insight on the origins of the story as well as other items regarding the book and the author.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the cover of this book. It is utterly stunning. The faint spires and domes in the background along with the flock of birds emphasised that I was about to embark on a journey to faraway lands. As if the cover wasn't beautiful enough, the book arrived with an outer wrapping. Rather than describe it, just look at the photos below.

Isn't it wonderful? I loved the gold and purple ornate designs on the outside of the heavy card stock. The gold foil-like inside totally blew me away. Both the cover and the wrapping not only fit with the story but also enhanced the mystical qualities of the story. It was clear that something very special was inside.

Highly recommended. I'd love to read more of this author's work.

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

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

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780062012098(Advance Reader's Edition), 294p.

Wordless Wednesday - Shhh...

More Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Embroidery and My Old Eyes

It's time for another instalment of "Needlework Tuesday", which I first saw over at Heather's blog, Books and Quilts.

I don't have much to report again this week. I re-stretched both of my embroidery projects I mentioned last week. I also managed to confirm that I have the thread necessary to complete the cross crochet/counted cross-stitch flowery pillow. That's was a huge sigh of relief. I even started stitching that one again. Yippee!!!

Because I haven't picked these up in years, it's going to take me a little time to get back into it. I noticed that my eyesight isn't what it used to be. I don't use the reading part of my progressive lens all that much because I really only need them for very small print, which I don't come across that very often. However, with this embroidery thing I'm finding that I have to use that part of the lens for longer periods. It ain't easy to find just the right angle.

A couple of people made comments last week about the cross crochet so I decided to post a close-up of it. It's done on Aida cloth and only looks complicated. It's actually quite easy to do.

I haven't been doing much crafting because we are still working on the renovations to the living room. I'm pretty much tired of it and wouldn't have minded if we just took a break from it for awhile....a long, long while. However, my husband is still gung-ho and thanks to him we are pretty much ready for painting. I think he wants to start tomorrow. Me? I think I want to start 3 weeks from next...oh never mind. I've already tried that trick and failed. Did I mention I like to procrastinate?

That's it for this week.

Heather's is juggling her many projects this week and is thinking of adding more. Is she crazy? Go check out her wondferul work. She's issued a invitation this week to anyone else who'd like to join this regular Tuesday feature. Really, we'd be happy to have you.

Rikki from Rikkis Teleidoscope has created some really nice curtains for her balcony using fabric from IKEA. Good Job!

Have a wonderful productive week!

CSN Stores Product Review - My New Bookcase

I got a new bookcase! It's it nice.

This one is my latest purchase from CSN Stores. I first saw this bookcase on another blog (I can't remember which one just now), but I really liked the colour and style of it. It didn't hurt that it had many glowing reviews on the CSN website.

It was a little stressful when the box first arrived. The courier with his big truck will not drive down our driveway because he's afraid that the overhanging tree branches will damage his truck. We've already trimmed them back a couple of times and while some big trucks have ventured down the driveway, this guy won't. Anyway, this box weighed a ton (slight exaggeration) and he carried it the +375' to our door. Did I mention it was winter? I know it's really his choice, but I still felt really bad. I probably won't be making any more big (as in heavy) purchases in the near future.

Anyway, my husband and I have assembled a few pieces of furniture like this before, so we knew what to expect as soon as we open the box. The instructions were easy to follow; all of the pieces were present and clearly marked. Overall, the bookcase was very easy to assemble. We have run into trouble in the past with furniture like this from other companies. Sometimes the milling of the holes are just a little off and the piece will not go together. However, I can gladly say that each and every hole was placed exactly where it should be.

I was surprised that I didn't have to pay international shipping costs. This is a huge bonus. Had I know this I probably would have ordered it sooner. I saw that it was manufactured in Canada, but I've heard that some things are made here, transported across the border to be sold. They then make their way back to Canada at a premium price and additional shipping costs. Sad, but true. I'm happy to see that's not always the case.

My one little disappointment was that the wood scratched easily. We managed to put in a few very minor scratches while we were assembling it despite being very careful. I bet the ebony colour doesn't help. Anyway, we were able to disguise them with the black marker that was included in the package. It looks good as new.

Eventually, this bookcase will make its way to our newly finished basement. Until the flood risk has passed, though, it's going to stay in the master bedroom. For the time being, I've loaded with it a few books, boxes and baskets to see how it's going to look. I love it! It's really going to be great for oversized books, like the ones published by Dorling Kindersley (DK).

Overall, I'm very happy with this purchase.

For more information about this bookcase, please visit the CSN Stores website.

Disclaimer: I received a coupon/gift certificate from those nice people at CSN Stores that partly covered the cost of this item. I tried to present an honest review despite that fact.

HarperCollins March Madness - Semi Finals

It's the semi finals for HarperCollins March Madness. Only 4 are books left. All of my favourites now have been eliminated.

It was really a funny week. For some of the battles, it was mostly clear from the start who the victor was likely to be. However, other battles (I believe it was the one between Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien) went back and forth and there was no telling who was going to come out on top until the very last second.

Another funny thing was that each of the books I voted for this week lost. All of them! I could see half way through the week it wasn't going well, but I continued to vote for them anyway.

I'll admit now that my favourites are gone and I haven't read any of the remaining books, my interest and motivation have diminished somewhat. I'm still going to hang in there to see who's going to ultimately win, but unlike last week, I probably will only vote a few times. How's your energy level/interest holding up? To vote, click here.

I won't even hazard a guess as to which book will come out on top. Do you have any predictions?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Bat House

This photo was taken last summer just after we put up our bat house. (It's been on my Flickr page since then. We hope the bats will show up soon, so I figured I'd post it here and write a little about it.)

Bats are notorious for eating mosquitos. Something like 1000 an hour or some crazy number like that. We were told not to expect them until spring (if ever), but we figured we should get the box out there for any scouts that show up. Even if they don't show up, it makes a great conversation piece. Anyway, the bats like water (we live near the river)and trees (we have lots of those). We also have a food source...lots and lots of mosquitos. Well, not now of course. They won't show up until the snow is gone.

Once the bats show up, another box is required. When the females have little ones, they kick the males out of the box, who then need somewhere else to go. We will probably build the next one rather than purchase it. The construction looks simple enough.

I'm not particularly fond of bats, but we were told that we most likely will never see them because they sleep during the day and hunt at night. I hope that's right.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. To participate – post a picture that you've taken (or one taken by a friend, or a family member) then add your link on Alyce’s site using Mr. Linky.

Martha Stewart's New Pie & Tarts

Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts is jam packed with recipes for just about every kind of pie there is. It offers "150 recipes for old-fashioned and modern favourites" from classics like pecan, pumpkin and apple to Vanilla Bean-Pineapple Tart(page 228) and Persimmon Tartlets with Caramel Cream (page 208). The back of the book focuses on basics, which includes tips and techniques as well as advice on ingredients and equipment. There are also some recipes for crusts and other common pie items.

From what I've seen, this is a pretty typical Martha book. Beautiful from the first page to the last and filled with mouth-watering photographs and delicious sounding recipes. When I first opened it up, I didn't want it near my kitchen lest something gets spilled on it. It took awhile, but I got over that. Then I got so wrapped up in reading it, I didn't ever think I was going to have time actually to make something from it. The photographs are so wonderful. Just when I thought I'd seen the most beautiful pie the next page was even more stunning.

I love that the two-page spreads features a recipe on one side and a large photograph of the finished product on the other. It's great that each recipe only takes up one page, but there's a downside to that. Some recipes contain references to other recipes or ingredients on other pages. For example, Poppy-Seed Tartlets with Lemon Curd (page 194) requires the baker to turn to three other pages to make the crust (page 333), lemon curd (page 339) and candied lemon slices (page 339). It's a bit of a pain, but I can live with it.

The book is filled with great tips and more recipes than I'll ever need. I didn't realize there were so many different kinds of crusts. If you play around a little with the crusts and fillings, you could probably make a different pie or tart every day and not run out of recipes any time soon.

My husband will be thrilled to see a recipe for grasshopper pie (page 250) which is one of his favourites. However, he's really attached to the old recipe; I'm not sure he's ready for this updated version that features coconut in the crust and fresh mint in the filling. It sounds yummy to me, though.

There are several pies/tarts in the book that piqued my interest:
Cheddar-Crust Apple Pie (page 138)
Chewy Chess Tart (page 150)
Rhubarb Crumble Pie (page 154) I'll have to wait until my rhubarb is up, which will be never if this weather continues the way it has been. or two of the savoury ones.

For a test recipe, I used the Maple Nut Tart (page 272) with the Pâte Brisée crust (page 322). Think Pecan Pie with walnuts, pecans and maple syrup. [I tried to replicate the photo in the book. At least the layout is similar.]

It was delicious, but I wasn't entirely happy with it. The crust tasted more store-bought (which I don't like) and less homemade (which I love). I did have a little trouble with the crust because our house is very dry (a typical symptom of winter). I had to add a little more water than the recipe called for and ended up working the pastry a little too much. It wasn't as flaky as I would have liked and I'm not sure how much my overworking affected the outcome.

I've made lots of pastry before. I used to use lard or vegetable shortening, until my husband's weird cholesterol and a trip to a dietician changed all of that. Now, I normally use Becel margarine, which works wonderfully well and makes a beautiful, light and flaky crust. The Pâte Brisée crust in the book calls for butter, which I purchased especially for this recipe. Since I don't usually use butter, I'm not sure exactly how the crust should turn out or how different it should be from my normal crust. Besides all of that, we enjoyed the pie.

I still have half of the Pâte Brisée crust in the fridge. I'm thinking a nice quiche for lunch on the weekend.

The table of contents is beautifully presented and the index is extensive. Both should aid the baker in finding items in the book.

Highly recommend, especially for pie and tart lovers. If you've enjoyed Martha's other books, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one too.

For more information about this book or to take a peek inside, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author and her other books and all things Martha, please visit Marth Stewart's website.

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

Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts by Martha Stewart, Clarkson Potter (Crown Publishing Group, Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780307405098(Trade Paperback), 352p. (includes index).

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

For more information, see the Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads.

For other food-related posts this week, click here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

Flavia is back!

In A Red Herring Without Mustard, Flavia sets fire to a gypsy's fortune-telling tent (accidently, of course) at the church fête. She then feels compelled to invite gypsy, Fenella, to rest and park her caravan and horse in an area of the Buckshaw estate called the Palings. Awhile later, Fenella is found beaten and Flavia wonders if this could be connected to a missing child long ago, which Fenella has been accused of taking. When another body is found on the grounds of Buckshaw and Fenella's granddaughter shows up, red herrings abound as Flavia is pulled in many directions. She'll need all of her wits and really focus if she hopes to uncover long kept secrets and mysterious past events.

I loved this book. The first one is still my favourite, but this one is a close second. The story is filled with interesting characters and fascinating information about the family and the Hobblers, a religious group in the area. The whole thing is just wonderful. Bradley fills in new readers regarding the family and past events in other books rather nicely while keeping it fresh for fans of the series by adding new background details.

Flavia is as curious, delightful and charming as ever and still obsessed with poisons and her chemistry lab. Her trusty sidekick/bicycle is once again by her side. As before, she's warring with her sisters, Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely), both of whom get under Flavia's skin. She's joined other familiar characters like her father; Dogger, the houseman; Mrs. Mullet, the cook; Inspector Hewitt; and a host of new characters. These new characters: Brookie, Colin, Fenella, Porcelain and others, are wonderful additions and make the story so much fun to read.

In this book, we get to see a new side of Flavia as she seems about to make a friend her own age, when Porcelain, Fenella's granddaughter enters the story. You'll just have to read the book to see how she makes out with that possibility. Bradley also introduces another side of Flavia's father, a gentler, softer side that even surprises Flavia. I loved both of these developments.

While Flavia is a huge attraction in this book for me, it's not just that character that draws me in and keeps my interest. This story is humorous and so intelligently written, I can't help but keep coming back for more.

This is the third book in the Flavia series. The author references the other cases/books, but not so much that this book couldn't stand alone. Of course, I might be a little biased because I've read the first two.

Favourite quotes:
It always surprises me after a family row to find that the world outdoors has remained the same. While the passions and feelings that accumulate like noxious gases inside a house seem to condense and cling to the walls and ceilings like old smoke, the out-of-doors is different.

New words:
sporran (page 50): pouch worn with a kilt
lorgnette (page 204): glasses with handle, opera glasses
chancel (page 271): area of a church near the altar
gorgon (page 329): Greek monster or terrifying woman

Highly recommended. I can't wait for the next instalment of the Flavia de Luce series, Seeds of Antiquity.

My reviews for the other books in the series:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

For more information about this book or to take a peek inside, please visit the Random House website.

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.

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

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley, Doubleday Canada (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780385665865(Hardcover), 370p.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Unfinished projects

It's Tuesday? How can it be Tuesday already? Anyway, it's time for another instalment of "Needlework Tuesday", which I first saw over at Heather's blog, Books and Quilts.

I didn't manage to do much crafting this week, but I did pull out two unfinished embroidery-type projects that have been sitting for way too long...let just says years and let it go at that. Both of them will need re-stretching before I even start working on them again. I did plan to do that this week, but the week got away from me. (It's really Tuesday?)

The first one is a flaked out teddy bear with a cat napping on top. Cute, eh? It's mostly done in one stitch (Random Encroaching Satin) and just kills my fingers, which is probably why I put it down in the first place. The yarn is hard to pull through the fabric. Anyway, I'm determined now to give it another try.

The second one is a pillow in counted cross stitch with cross crochet (it's embroidery, nothing to do with a hook) used for the wide border. For a time, the embroidery thread to finish this one was in no man's land, but I think I've found it now. I hope.

This week I plan to re-stretch them both and start stitching at least one.

Heather's been busy as usual. Both her embroidery and quilt are shaping up nicely. She does great work that you should see. Go cheer her on. Don't forget to check out her contest for Sushi Socks! Also, this week Rikki from Rikkis Teleidoscope is joining Needlework Tuesday. Yahoo! She's currently working on a stole that's really lovely. Go take a look.

See you next week.

Flood Watch 2011 - And the survey (stick) says...

Last Thursday, we returned home from a short trip into the city only to discover a survey stick planted in our yard. One side marked the elevation of the 1976 (record year) flood +2' (see free board definition below); the other, the elevation of the side of our cistern. The numbers didn't look good and panic immediately set in. If current predications are correct, the water level will be above our basement windows, which means that our basement will fill with water. Our water supply will be compromised. There might even be some damage to the first floor of our house. Not good.

Height of our cistern:

1976 Flood Level +2':

Anyway, we called the municipality to inquire about sandbagging, then the councillor for our area. He dropped by and eased some of that panic. He told us that there's a 1 in 10 chance that the levels will reach the 1976 record and because the weather is cooperating things might be looking better. We'll all know more when the latest flood forecast is out on March 24. There's still plenty of time to prepare (crest will likely be mid-April) and sandbags will be available if we need them. Both my husband and I took a collective sigh of relief when he left. Panic is abated...for now.

Just in case, though, we bought two extra pumps. One sump pump, in case the current one breaks down; the other is a submersible pump in case we get water in the basement or some leakage through the sandbag dike (if it comes to that).

While we aren't panicking much, our anxiety level is still quite high. Once this flood threat subsides and summer arrives all of this will be behind us. Then we'd only have to the mosquitoes to fight. Oh joy.

If you read my blog regularly you'll know that I usually list new words from books I'm reading. I love learning new words. Since we first heard about the flood, I discovered that you don't have to be reading books to learn some new ones. Well, I knew that before, but I have learned a few new ones I hope to never use again. They are:

- Free Board: The +2' in the 1976 flood level is for free board, which is a factor of safety in flood fight management. Your house should be protected to this level. It's needed in case there are waves, slightly higher than expected levels, or other unforeseen items. Think of it as wiggle room.
- Baie St. Paul: This is a place somewhere in this municipality. I'm not quite sure exactly where it is, but apparently the dikes in the area are being raised. Not quite sure if or how it affects us (we're downriver).
- Overland flood insurance: Sadly, no such thing in Manitoba.
- Portage diversion: Diverts water from the Assiniboine River northward towards the lakes; helps alleviate flooding along the Assiniboine River from Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg.
- Shellmouth Reservoir: A man-made dam and reservoir (in Manitoba and Saskatchewan) built to help alleviate flooding on the Assiniboine River.

That's it for this update. We'll know more later this week when the new flood forecast is released.

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas.

HarperCollins March Madness - Round Four

It's Round #4 of HarperCollins March Madness. Eight books remain.

It's hard to believe that Agatha Christie is competing against herself. I haven't read either of the books, but I'm familiar with the stories. I'm having a hard time deciding which one to vote for.

I'm delighted that one of the books I picked out at the beginning is still in the running! It's an amazing book and I really hope it takes the overall title. It has some really stiff competition, though.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it.

I'm going to take Gypsysmom's/Wendy's advice later this week and start "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein. I already know a little about it and I'm afraid it's going to be too sad for me right now. I'm a bit stressed out with all of the stuff that going on around here, so I might have to wait until I'm in a better frame of mind. I'm definitely going to try to read it soon.

That's it for this week. Don't forget to vote for your favourites (click here) and enter the contest. All 64 books in the competition could be yours!

Any predictions about who's going to take the overall title?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

In I Still Dream About You, Maggie Fortenberry is a real estate agent, a former Miss Alabama and a charm school graduate. When she was younger she had dreamed of having a husband, children and living in a beautiful mansion. Things didn't quite work out that way. Still, she has a lot going for her. When her friend and mentor, Hazel, died five years ago, things just haven't been the same for Maggie. Business is way down and she thinks her life is hopeless. She's come up with a brilliant plan, though, to solve her all of her problems. As she works through the plan and is about to put it into action, only one thing stands in her way: life.

I adored this book. From the first word to the last, it was absolutely fantastic! It's filled with southern charm, humour and a little bit of mystery. I haven't read a book by Flagg in some time, so I'd forgotten how good she is. She's a wonderful storyteller.

I just loved the main character Maggie. Her planning was impeccable; she thought of everything and had everything under control. Well, almost everything. As she tried to execute her plan, she encountered many obstacles, which end up teaching her some valuable life lessons. I couldn't help but laugh at how many things got in her way and how things snowballed when they did. If you haven't guessed yet, I'm trying to tiptoe around Maggie ultimate goal. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can get gist of the plan, but I think it's more fun if you read the book and discover it for yourself. I will tell you that while the subject matter could be considered depressing, this book is light-hearted and anything but morose.

Along the way, we get to know other people in Maggie's life. There's Brenda Peoples, her overweight best friend, who sneaks Krispy Kreme's between Weight Watchers meetings; Hazel Whisenknott, Maggie's deceased boss, friend and mentor, who was short in statue but large in personality, Ethel Clipp, the grumpy office manager with purple hair; and finally Babs Bingington, "The Beast of Birmingham", who's a rival unscrupulous agent trying to put Maggie out of business. All of these characters were larger than life and so fun to read about.

I read one other book by Flagg Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It was great! I have a few more of her books in my to-be-read pile which I hope to dig out and read soon.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to take a peek inside, please visit the Random House website.

I'd like to thank Christine at Edwards Magazine Bookclub and those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg, Random House, ©2010. ISBN 9781400065936(Hardcover), 315p.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Dragonfly

I love taking pictures and always keep my camera close by. I already participate in Wordless Wednesday and will continue to do so, but I'd also like to take part in this more intimate meme.

When we lived in the city, I thought dragonflies were annoying and really didn't like having them around. Now that we live in a more rural area and aren't subjected to chemical spraying to keep mosquitoes at bay, we love these guys. I'm not sure how many mosquitoes they eat, but every little bit helps. On any given sunny summer afternoon, our front yard is home to a hundreds of these fascinating insects. Here's a close up of one:

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. To participate – post a picture that you've taken (or one taken by a friend, or a family member) then add your link on Alyce’s site using Mr. Linky.

Weekend Cooking - Potato Pancakes

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

For more information, see the Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads.

I love potato pancakes. This recipe uses leftover mashed potatoes instead of shredded potatoes (as in latkes). I adapted it from "Potato Bacon Scones" in "Simply Scones" by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright. My version contains more good fat (olive oil) and less bad fat (bacon and bacon drippings) than the original recipe. It's just as yummy!

Potato Pancakes

1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1/4-1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsps olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Mix the all of the above together. Preheat skillet. Add 1 tbsp oil olive to the pan. Using 1/3 cup measuring cup, drop mixture onto hot skillet, flattening the pancake slightly with a spatula. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side over medium/medium-high heat until pancakes are golden brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 4 pancakes

Another variation: For Sweet Potatoes Pancakes, use mashed sweet potatoes in place of the regular mashed potatoes; omit the cheddar; add a dash of nutmeg; all other ingredients the same. We like these even better than the cheese ones.

To make the original recipe: Omit cheddar cheese and olive oil. Cook 5 strips of bacon. Reserve drippings. Chop cooked bacon. Mix bacon and 2 tbsps of drippings in with other ingredients. Use 1 tbsp drippings for cooking pancakes, adding more if needed. Use 1/4 cup measuring cup for making pancakes. Makes 7.


For other food-related posts this week, click here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Common Redpoll

More Wordless Wednesday.

Q&A with Susan Juby, Author of The Woefield Poultry Collective

When I posted my review The Woefield Poultry Collective the other day, I forgot to mention that it was a part of a blog tour. Thanks to Shannon HarperCollins Canada for putting it together. To read what the other participates thought of this great book, go to the new and improved Savvy Reader website.

Today, Susan stops by to answer some questions I had for her.

Marie: What's easier (or more fun) to write: Adult fiction or YA? Why the switch?

Susan: I wouldn’t say one is easier, exactly. At about the halfway point in any book, I begin to despair and feel as though I will never finish! When I write YA it’s because I love writing about the teen experience. It’s much more fun to write about than to live through. I wrote the adult book (such an odd term!) because I wanted to write about characters who were older. My main goal is to make their voices distinctive and authentic, even if the action of the book is a bit absurdist.

Marie: Your latest book is situated on a farm. Do you have any experience living on a farm? If yes, what was that like? If not, what was your research like?

Susan: I grew up on a small acreage and we had chickens and pigs and a horse as well as a large garden. I took those things entirely for granted and managed not to learn one thing about small scale farming. Now I would love to move onto acreage again, though my experiments with growing vegetables suggest things could go very wrong unless we get a lot of professional help. To research the book I read many books on Peak Oil, sustainability, the local foods movement and visited beautiful and productive little farms in our area. I also went to agricultural fairs and farmer’s markets.

Marie: The characters for Woefield were really fun and quirky. What was the inspiration for these characters?

Susan: They are all composites. Prudence was inspired by the lead character from Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Seth was partly inspired by some of the bloggers I enjoy reading and by an image I had of a young man in a dark and dingy bedroom, his face lit only by a computer screen. Sara was inspired by some of the kids I saw showing off their animals at agricultural fairs. Earl was inspired by some of the laconic older men I’ve known and a biography of Bill Munroe, the founder of modern bluegrass.

Marie: Any plans to write a sequel to Woefield? (I'd love to read one).

Susan: I’d love to write one! It depends on whether people enjoy (and buy!) this book.

Marie: What's up next? What are you working on? Is it adult or YA?

Susan: I’m working on a sci-fi story for young adults. I’m in the despair phase.

Marie: PS. I absolutely loved Woefield.

Susan: Thank you! You’ve made my day.

Marie: Thanks for stopping by today Susan. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - I love my Socks

Welcome to this week's instalment of "Needlework Tuesday", which I first saw over at Heather's blog, Books and Quits.

Even though I didn't watch as much of the Tim Hortons Brier as I thought I would, I still managed to finished my other sock. Here's a photo of the pair:

The first one is on the right; the second, the left. As you can see, the pattern created by the variegated yarn is quite different on each. It doesn't bother me too much. I love them!

I finally had time to address my ill-fitting yoga socks. On the weekend I washed and agitated them in hot water as Heather suggested to make them felt and shrink a bit. I didn't have much luck. Maybe I didn't do it correctly or long enough. I also tried a hot dryer to no avail. I went back and re-read the label for the yarn I used. Hmmm...I didn't notice before that it said "washable wool". I'm guessing that means it won't felt or shrink. Well, darn. That's ok. Even though they are a little big, they are still comfy and I'll get a lot of use out of them.

I haven't started any other projects this week. We are still working on painting/renovating the living room and kitchen as well as worrying about the impending flood. The progress on the living room is slow, but we finally picked out new carpet and blinds. As for the kitchen, the new countertops will be installed tomorrow. The excitement is building.

I might have a little time this week to start something new or pickup an older project to work on (like my quilted wrap). We'll see. Until next time....

Go check out Heather's update which features boxers, quilting and embroidery. She's been busy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

HarperCollins March Madness - Round Three

It's Round #3 of HarperCollins March Madness. Sixteen books remain. Only one of my original 10 favourites! (Go, Book, Go!) As it turns out, it's the only one of the remaining bunch that I've read. It's so sad, I know. There weren't too many surprises this time for me. I kept a really close eye on this round and voted like my life depended on it. I so need to get a life.

To vote click here. If you play along you are eligible to win all 64 books. That would be so cool!

Here's my remaining favourite:

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. The sensational story about the tragic life of Aminata Diallo, a slave girl. Unforgettable characters.

Anyway, how did you do with your predictions? Any surprises this time? Are your favourites still in the race?

One more thing, as I looked over the list this morning, I realized that I have 12 of the remaining books on my to-be-read shelf. Actually, it's more like a to-be-read mountain or Mt. TBR. So, I'm looking for recommendations. Have you read any of the remaining books? Which one would you recommend for me to read?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Kiss-the-Colonel-Goodbye Chicken

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

For more information, see the Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads.

Kiss-the-Colonel-Goodbye Chicken
Recipe By Geraldine Duncann

I really like this coating for chicken, but for me it'll never replace KFC chicken. They are just too different for one to replace the other. This one is still very tasty. Because of the chili powder, paprika and cinnamon, this coating is quite dark, especially after it's cooked.

I always make oven-fried chicken so I haven't actually used the recipe past "Shake off excess flour". I usually just put it in a 375ºF oven for 45-50 minutes (less for wings and boneless breasts) or until it's done.

My ingredient substitutions:
- instead of the minced garlic, I use 1 tsp of dried garlic powder. I like to make this ahead of time and store it until it's needed. I'm not sure how long fresh garlic would keep in this mixture.
- I hate cilantro, so I use 1 tsp dried parsley instead. Again, fresh parsley wouldn't last long.

I'm pretty sure I got this recipe from the Winnipeg Free Press. Anyway, here's the original recipe.

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne -- or less, if desired
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger -- scant
1 teaspoon dry mustard -- scant
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
Salt to taste
1 frying chicken -- cut into serving pieces
Vegetable oil for Frying

In small paper bag, combine all ingredients except chicken and oil. Shake, add chicken pieces and shake to coat evenly. Shake off excess flour.

In large skillet over high heat, heat the oil but do not let it smoke. Add chicken pieces and fry until thoroughly browned on both sides, 5 or 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, turning occasionally for 12 to 15 minutes or until cooked through.

If you want the skin crisp, fry uncovered. If you want it soft, cover during cooking.

Drain chicken on paper towels and serve at once.

For other food-related posts this week, click here.


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Complete Human Body by Dr. Alice Roberts

The Complete Human Body is "the definitive visual guide to our anatomy, physiology, development and disorders". Using computer generated illustrations, modern technology and the latest medical research, it presents the information in a large format for easy viewing. It's divided into several sections: Integrated Body, Anatomy, How the Body Works, Life Cycle, and Diseases and Disorders.

I love this book. Simply beautiful! It's filled with large well labelled, spectacular illustrations, MRI scans, CT scans and numerous photographs along with fascinating information on the human body. "How the Body Works" section is particularly fascinating. It shows how the lungs work, how the heart works, the function of body hair, how bones grow, how we see and much more. It's really amazing.

My favourite part of the book is the section on anatomy. It takes up a good portion of the book. The illustrations in this part of the book are absolutely stunning. The section first explains the body systems (skeletal, muscular, digestive, endocrine, etc) in great detail and then splits the body into 7 sections from top to bottom. Each section is then explored through the systems within it. For example: The head and neck contains the following systems: skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, lymphatic and immune, digestive, endocrine; whereas the lower arm and hand contain: skeletal, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular. Some of the illustrations/photographs are larger than life which allows you to get a really good look at the subject.

The book is filled with interesting facts about the human body. Here are some of my favourites:

• 17,000 - the average number of times the human eye blinks each day
• 8.8 pounds - the weight of the skin of an average adult
• 75 trillion - the total number of cells that make up the average human body
• 10 - the number of seconds it takes food to travel from the mouth to the stomach
• An adult heart pumps an average of 15,200 pints of blood around the body every day.
• Roughly half the genes found in humans are also found in bananas.

The table of contents in the book is nicely laid out, but it's pretty basic (a list of sections; no explanations). Still, it's good enough to find the major items or sections. The glossary is really good and offers descriptions for plenty of terms used in the book. The index is extensive. At over 20 pages, it's the longest one I've seen in this type of book. I easily found all of the items I was looking for.

The interactive CD allows the users to view many of the anatomy photographs on their computer. Once a section is selected, the user can move the cursor over a label (such as Femoral Artery in the Upper Leg) upon which an arrow appears and points to that item. It's really well done. In addition, there's a user controlled Head to Toe Body Scan, which allows the user to look at particular areas of interest. Awesome! There's also a couple of annotated MRIs that are quite interesting.

My one complaint is that the book is quite heavy and a little hard to hang on to for long reading sessions. I really don't want to give up the book's generous size, which allows for large photographs, so I guess I'll have to prop it up or use a table to hold the book. Can someone just invent/make lighter paper that's still affordable and durable?

Highly recommended. This will be my new reference go-to book for all things related to the human body.

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

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Complete Human Body by Dr. Alice Roberts, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9780756667337(Hardcover), 512p.

The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby

In The Woefield Poultry Collective, Prudence Burns is a city girl who inherits Woefield farm, which consists of thirty acres of rock-strewn land, many buildings in disrepair, one old slightly-useless handyman and one pathetic sheep. She knows nothing about farming, but since the bank is about to foreclose, she has to learn how to make a fast buck. She soon meets Seth, the alcoholic young man who needs a place to stay and Sara who needs a place to house her chickens. With Prudence at the helm, this motley crew comes together to make a go of things.

I adored this book. There were so many things I loved about this book, but my favourite is the way in which the story unfolded. The story bounces back and forth amongst the characters, who tell different part of the story or at least their version of that part. Juby writes in four distinctive voices, one for each of the characters. Each of these is in the first person, which could have been really confusing, but she did such a great job that not once did I doubt who was "talking". It's so cleverly written. I loved following all of the hilarious escapades and Prudence's ideas to make the farm work.

The characters are varied, quirky and so much fun to read about. They had me laughing out loud many times. Prudence had penchant for recycling, gardening and saving the world. She was so out of her element, but she was determined to make a go of it. Earl was a handyman who's not all that handy. He was cantankerous and kept a closely guarded family secret. Seth, the alcoholic young man who used to live next door, comes to live with Prudence when his mother kicked him out. He asked Prudence for room and board in exchange for work, but was surprised his end of the bargain included actual work. Sara was a young girl who raised some prize winning chickens, but needed a place to keep them. She's so stern and mature for her age, not to mention a little bossy. She quickly becomes a fixture at the farm.

There were some more serious moments in the story. At one point, I got this very weird feeling about all of the characters that almost brought me to tears. I can't even pin point the part in the story that did that, but I really felt sorry for them all. It was very strange.

Prudence's experiences in Home Depot were priceless. I especially liked the part about not being able to find a person to help and then seeing one of the staff scurrying away to avoid being seen. I've had that same experience too many times. I can tell you it's only funny when it happens to someone else. Her trip to the farmer's market was equally entertaining.

New word:
paramecium (page 22): microscopic water organism.

Highly recommended. Immediately upon finishing this book, I went over to my computer, open a file called "Best Books of 2011" and added this title to the list. I enjoyed it that much. I hope Juby continues to write more novels for adults. I'd love to read a sequel to this one.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Susan Juby's website. I love the home page.

I'd like to thank Shannon at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9781554687435(Uncorrected proof), 306p.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - One and a Half Socks

It's time for another instalment of "Needlework Tuesday", which I first saw over at Heather's blog, Books and Quits.

Thank God for the Tim Hortons Brier. It gives me plenty of time in front of the TV to knit without feeling guilty.

During the week I managed to finish one sock. Here it is on my foot:

I made a few changes to the pattern:

1) Shortened the shaft of the sock by one inch. I like short socks.

2) Modified the toe a little for two reasons:

  • a) Even though I made a shorter sock, I could see that I was running out of yarn (so not cool Patons!).
  • b) The pattern looks like it made a long tapered toe. My toes are short and stubby and I like my socks to be snug around them. The only problem is that they may be a little too snug and may start to wear more in that area. I'll have to wait and see or wear and see as the case may be.

Here it is off my foot:

I love my new sock!

I also managed to start the other one. I'm just about to shape the heel and turn the corner on this puppy. With lots more curling to come this week, I shouldn't have a problem finishing it.

As for my next project, I thought I was going to make another pair of socks. However, I'm a little tired of writing about socks, so I think I'll save that one for later. I have some other yarn I picked up and have an idea for a light scarf I'm dying to try.

I didn't do anything with the yoga socks or quilt yet. That'll wait until after the Brier. Go Martin.

That's it for this week. Don't forget to visit Heather to see her wonderful work.

A Shore Thing by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi

In A Shore Thing, cousins Gia and Bella head to the Seaside Heights in New Jersey for the summer. They plan to get jobs while they are there, but mainly they are after "hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila." They soon meet the locals (some good; some bad) in addition to some frenemies from their school days. The summer is filled with fun, men, squabbles and trouble. In the end, the girls learn that revenge is sweet and that they really can count on each other.

I'm really not the target audience for this book, so I feel a little funny reviewing it. I didn't much about Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi before I'd received this book for review, other than she was a young, energetic celebrity. As for her show Jersey Shore, I didn't watch it and didn't know anything about it. Despite that, I did make some assumptions about the book before reading it. I was expecting something flaky that was filled with sex, drugs, slang, cursing, drinking and assorted other bad behaviours.

Having said all that, I wasn't expecting to like it or understand it. But I did...sort of. As for my assumptions, I was mostly wrong. There were lots of funny bits scattered throughout the book. The chapter heading were really cute and described the chapters perfectly. Some of the parts were totally unbelievable and almost spoof-like, but still fun to read. In addition to the funny parts, there were some touching, tender moments that were likeable, sincere and mostly believable. These scenes were: between Gia and Frankie in the park; between Gia and her mom, Alicia; and between Bella and her mom, Marissa. The "trying-to-be-deep" or philosophical parts didn't really work for me. Most of us think we are so deep in our twenties. It's not until we reach our thirties and forties do we realize we knew nothing back then. Snooki might just need a little more maturity to pull those off.

Even though the story was mostly fun to read, there were a few moments that made me cringe. At one point, Gia sticks her hand down the pants of a body builder. Ewwww! I won't share the details of what she finds. That was even too much for me.

The side stories added interest and tension to the story. The bet between Ed and Bender was degrading to women, but it was still fun to follow. Linda and Janey, Gia's frenemies from way back, had ulterior motives much to the detriment of Gia. I loved how both of these stories were resolved in the end.

Favourite quotes: Ok. So this isn't great literature and my favourite quotes will not go down as great ones. However, I found the following two lines funny because rather than act as apologies as they were intended, they just reinforced the insults.

I'm sorry I called you a back-stabbing, buzz-killing shit-talker. (Gia to Bella - page 227)

I'm sorry I called you a cock-blocking, helpless disaster magnet. (Bella to Gia - page 227)

New words: I couldn't find definitions for either of these on the internet. I'm assuming they are slang. Hopefully, someone will drop by and leave a comment.
- nabe (page 4) - short for neighbourhood?
- kronking (page 38) - not sure about this one. Context: girls were at a party. Sentence: "Everywhere, people were grinding, kronking, holding plastic cups of beer".

I watched a few videos on Snooki's website and about 15 minutes of the show to see what she was like. She may be a nut job (her words) and not the brightest penny in the jar (my words), but she's definitely a cutie and seems really sincere. I can't wait to see what she does next.

Recommended for fans of Jersey Shore. It also might work as a very light, silly beach read. It's not appropriate for youngsters.

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

For more information about the author, please visit Snooki's website. There also some basic information about her on Wikipedia.

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

A Shore Thing by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), ©2011. ISBN 9781451623741(Hardcover), 289p.

Monday, March 7, 2011

HarperCollins March Madness - Round Two

Boy, that was a rough week for some great books in Round One of HarperCollins's March Madness. The final tally resulted in a few surprises and some last minute comebacks. Some of my favourites went down in defeat, but others have survived! Yippee! I'm still really hoping that one of my favourites wins the overall title.

The one big surprise for me was Catherine Mackenzie's "Spin" win over "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. I haven't read "Spin", but I've heard really good things about it. On the other hand, I absolutely loved Gruen's book. "Elephants" was ahead most of the way, even when I checked last yesterday. Maybe fans of "Spin" pulled an all-nighter? Anyway, it's clear they voted their hearts out. Way to go! I'm going to have to pick up a copy to see what the excitement is about.

Now on to Round Two. Once again, there are some fierce matchups. To vote click here. As a reminder, if you play along you are eligible to win all 64 books, but remember to fill out the form at the end.

Here are my surviving favourites, in alphabetical order:

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. The tragic life story of Aminata Diallo, a slave girl. Just read the book. You will not forget her.

Deafening by Frances Itani. Set around WWI, it's about a deaf girl and her lover who goes off to war.

Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper. Great debut mystery that will blow you away.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Fictional account of the life of a school shooter. Written from the mother's point of view. I love Shriver's work.

How did you do with your predictions? Any big surprises? Are your favourites still in the race?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flood Watch 2011 - My Backyard

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas.

Two years ago (April 2009) when we moved into the house, we honestly didn't pay much attention to the river. Call us very naive. The river is normally about 600-800 metres away and while the house did flood in 1997, during the Flood of the Century, the house has had some flood proofing since then. Anyway, one week after we moved in, the river rose to within 15 metres (50 feet) of our house. (The large tree in the last photo below was on the "new" river bank). It was mighty scary. We were still 6-8 feet above the water line so we didn't have to sand bag or do too much other than watch the river and worry.

Flash forward to this year, 2011. The other day we attended a flood meeting for our area. Apparently, the situation is dire. We still don't know what that means for our house. We will be receiving some more information at some point, but until then we wait (for the next forecast), prepare (as much as we know to do), and pray (that the weather cooperates and that the forecast gets better).

For the next several weeks, I'll be posting periodic updates and some pictures of our backyard. Hopefully, we'll never see the river in any of them. Right now the long term forecasted crest is in late April. There will probably not be much change for a few weeks, but I'll post again when there's been a change or we learn something new.

For now here are a few photos taken from the second floor of the house.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hush by Kate White

In Hush, Lake Warren, a marketing consultant for a fertility clinic, is fighting with her soon-to-be-ex husband over the custody of her two children. After a night of indiscretion with one of the doctor at the clinic, she awakens the next morning, to find him murdered. Since any impropriety on her part could be used against her in the custody case, she decides to tell no one about it and flees the scene. When the police start snooping around, she lies to them. After awhile they start zeroing in on her and even the people at the clinic start to get suspicious. Lake does a little snooping of her own and soon realizes that there big secrets to uncover about the doctor and the clinic.

I loved this book. I felt the intensity building from the first page to the very end. A page turner for sure. It was well written and nicely paced. I usually groan when I'm reading a book and one of the characters feels that he/she can't trust anyone (even the police) and decides to tell no one about a crime/horrendous event, even though telling would probably help. However, in this case, Lake makes a persuasive case as to why she must keep this a secret. There were still a few times, though, through the story that made me want to shake her and say "Just tell someone".

Lake was a really good believable character. She got herself into more than one jam, but always managed to extricate herself. Her predicaments had my heart racing on more than one occasion. She loved her children and wanted to do what was best for them. I loved how the author had them away at camp when all of this was happening, but was still able to bring them into the story at times. Jack, Lake's soon-to-be-ex husband, was also an interesting character. He wasn't in the story that much, but he certainly made an impact. I also loved Kit Archer, a reporter, who comes to Lake's rescue more than once. Who doesn't love a knight in shining armour?

I liked all of the information about fertility clinics. I have no experience with the service and have no idea if the information is accurate, but I found it interesting nevertheless.

I'm sure the incident with the cat will give me nightmares at some point. I won't get into the horrible details. You'll just have to read the book.

There was one thing I found odd in the book. Lake kept referring to Dr. Mark Keaton by his last name. Even in her thoughts it was always Keaton or Dr Keaton, never Mark. This was before and after she was intimate with him. I thought it was a little strange.

New words:
apoplectic (page 106): enraged
kilim (page 242): a woven rug (rich colours, geometric designs) made in Southwest Asia.
guileless (page 246): candid

Highly recommended. This is the first book I've read by Kate White, but it won't be the last. She's written a lot more; I'm going to keep my eyes open for one the next time I visit a bookstore.

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

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Kate White's website.

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

Hush by Kate White, HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9780061576614(Hardcover), 341p.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tourquai by Tim Davys

In Tourquai, Oswald Vulture has his head cut-off and the police, namely superintendent Larry Bloodhound, is determined to find out who did it. There are plenty of suspects, including: Vulture's secretary, Emanuelle Cobra; his mistress, Jasmine Squirrel; and Igor Panda, a degenerate gambler. Besides looking for the culprit, Bloodhound is also really intent on finding the head. Because if he can do that, it can be reattached and he can discover once and for all what happened. Reattached? Yep. Did I forget to mention that all of the characters in the book are stuffed animals?

Tourquai is a neighbourhood along with Amberville, Lanceheim, Yok. Together, they make up Mollisan Town. All of the "people" who live there are stuffed animals. They are pretty much like us (humans), with just a few differences. This book is the third in the quartet, but the first one I've read. Amberville and Lanceheim have already been published. The final book Yok is upcoming.

I really enjoyed this book. It read like an old time detective novel or police procedural that offered an honest inside look at police work. There wasn't a lot of action that a thriller might contain, but I didn't miss that at all. The story was expertly written to reveal clues and background information at just the right time. I couldn't wait to find out how it was going to play out. Just because the characters were stuffed animals, it doesn't mean that the story was flighty or cutsie. It was definitely an edgy and hardnosed story where the characters displayed their flaws and had vices just as human characters would. There were plenty of times I forgot I was reading about stuffed animals. That is, until someone puts a paw on a desk or they discuss reattaching the head.

I loved all of the characters, including Anna Lynx and Falcon Ècu, but my favourite was Larry Bloodhound. With only his pet budgie for company, he was all alone. His eating and drug use were out of control. I really felt sorry for him and just wanted to give him a hug.

There were a few conversations amongst the characters regarding free will and fate. I didn't find them particularly insightful. I'm not even sure they fit all that well with the story. I'm wondering if something got lost in the translation or if maybe it was a cultural thing.

This book has been translated from Swedish. Tim Davys is a pseudonym.

Highly recommended for those looking for an unusual detective story. I'm going to keep an eye out for the first two books in the series as well as the fourth when it comes out.

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

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

Tourquai by Tim Davys, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780061992193(Uncorrected Proof), 325p.

Needlework Tuesday - More socks and House Projects

It's time for another instalment of "Needlework Tuesday", which I first saw over at Heather's blog, Books and Quits.

I didn't get that much done in the crafting department this week. I did manage to start another pair of socks, though. These ones have HEELS and TOES! I'm using Patons' Kroy Socks yarn (Paint Box) with a free pattern for Kroy Socks - Jacquard & Stripe Socks from their website. I was a little disappointed that the socks weren't working up in stripes (little did I know that not all of the Kroy Socks yarns did that), but I'm actually really liking the zigzag pattern that's sort of emerging. This one knitted up very quickly to this point. I'm sure it'll slow down now, though, as I'm about to start the heel. Here's what I have done so far:

As for my ill-fitting yoga socks, I asked Heather about washing them in hot water to shrink them a bit. She gave me some great tips. Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to try it yet. I hope to do that soon.

I haven't done a lot of crafting because we've been busy painting again. The never ending project that's also known as "Ridding This House of Yellow Walls, Wallpaper Borders and Stippled Ceilings". IMO, stippled ceilings should be outlawed. Anyway, this time we are painting the living room/hallway wall. It's one long wall that's partly in the living room and partly in the hallway. This wall is going to be an accent wall in orange (think Home Depot with a bit of cinnamon thrown in.) We are using top-of-the-line paint and it's going over a very light yellow, but because the orange is so intense it's going to take many, many coats. We've already done 4 coats and it's probably going to need at least one, maybe a few more to get full coverage. Had I known this, I would have picked another colour. *sigh* At least it's not a whole room.

That's it for this week. Go check out what Heather has been up to. She's working on a beautiful new quilt in gorgeous colours as well as her socks.

HarperCollins March Madness

It's time again for HarperCollins March Madness, which pits book against book in a fierce literary competition. 64 books are entered....only one book will be victorious. It's up to us to decide.

Of course, I have my favourites from the lists. Rather than post all of my selections, I'm just going to list the ones that I'd love to see win. At the beginning of each round, I'll list the ones that have survived and maybe talk about them a little more...maybe not. Clicking on the titles below will take you to my reviews. To vote for your favourites, click here. Oh, did I mention that by voting and entering your information, you can win all 64 books? Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Anyway, I'm hoping that one of these will be come out on top!

In alphabetical order:

Belong to Me by Maria de los Santos. Beautifully written story in which lives are torn apart, secrets are revealed, friendships are made and tested, and love is defined.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. The tragic life story of Aminata Diallo, a slave girl. Just read the book. You will not forget her.

Cool Water by Dianne Warren. Warren transports the reader to dry, scorching hot Saskatchewan with a cast of memorable characters. Have a glass of water ready.

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Beautifully written historical love story novel set in the Niagara Falls area. It remains one of my all-time favourites. Debut novel.

Deafening by Frances Itani. Set around WWI, it's about a deaf girl and her lover who goes off to war. (Incidentally, if you liked this book, you might also enjoy the one above.)

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Intricately woven story set in New York featuring unforgettable characters.

Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper. Great debut mystery that will blow you away wondering if what Cooper suggests is possible.

Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup. Absolutely delightful book set in India about a game show not unlike Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. If you've ever wanted to run away with the circus or live a dream, you'll enjoy this book.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Fictional account of the life of a school shooter. Written from the mother's point of view. I love Shriver's work.

So, those are my selections. Do you agree? Disagree? Which ones did you vote for?