Monday, May 30, 2011

The Guardians by Andrew Pyper

In The Guardians, four friends have kept a terrible secret for many years. When one of them dies and the others are drawn back home to attend his funeral, history starts to repeat itself as the secret threatens to become exposed. Through a series of memory journal entries by Trevor, one of the four, the reader learns what happened to all those years ago that shaped the lives of the four friends and irrevocably haunted them.

I loved this book. I don't read that many ghost stories or haunted house stories, but I'm so glad I got to read this one. When Trevor was diagnosed with Parkinson's, his therapist suggested that he keep a diary of his memories to help cope with the disease. It's through those entries that the authors brings in the past events. I just love how this was done; it fit with the story so well and brought out the mystery at a nice pace. I also loved that the story wasn't just about a ghost or haunted house. The story was also about the tests of friendship, the triumph over adversity, secrets and mental illness.

I can't say that the book frightened me to the point where I couldn't keep reading. However, there were definitely some very creepy parts that sent shivers up my spine. I was particularly interested or intrigued by the glimpses of the mysterious boy that the friends saw from time to time.

The title "The Guardians" was very appropriate. That "guardian" theme ran throughout the book. There was the sports team on which the boys played in school, called The Guardians. The coach of that team was supposed to be their guardian, watch over the boys and guide their futures. Ben was also a guardian in that he had to keep watch on the house across the street. He did this to the point of insanity.

Favourite quotes:
Funny what the memory holds and what it decides it can do without. Like a drunk fisherman, it guts some of the least edible fish and tosses its prize catches back into the deep.(page 219)

Highly recommended. I hope to read many more books by this author. In fact, I have at least one of his other books currently on my bookshelf. I hope to get to it sooner rather than later.

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

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Andrew Pyper's website.

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

The Guardians by Andrew Pyper, Doubleday Canada (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780385663717(Hardcover), 354p.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Murder is a Family Business by Heather Haven

In Murder is a Family Business, Liana "Lee" Alvarez is a 34-year-old half-Latina and half-WASP private investigator. When the man she was following turns up dead, she sets out to find his killer while trying to convince the police that she had nothing to do with the crime. She's not alone in her tasks. There's also her mother, Lila, who's the CEO of Discretionary Inquiries Inc. and as feisty as they come and her slightly geeky and eccentric brother, Richard, who's employed by the company as the technical guy to help her out. Lee's lovable uncle Tio, an adorable kitten named Tugger and a handful of police officers round out the cast of characters.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read with lots of humorous scenes. The mystery was pretty good and the characters were memorable. Haven does a lot of scene setting in this book as it's the first in a new series. She also spends lots of time introducing the characters and their relationships allowing the reader to get to know the characters really well. As far as the mystery goes, she kept me guessing right until the very end as to who the murder was.

As I said above the characters in the book are memorable. Liana/Lee is such a great character. She's not your typical PI either. She does her job while remaining glamorous in her high-priced wardrobe. For me, Tio and Tugger stole every scene they were in. Tio showed great compassion for both Liana and Tugger. I'd love to have him as my uncle. I also enjoyed reading about Lila, Liana's mother. She was feisty and fun to read about.

The only thing that bothered me about the book was the format in which I read it. The PDF format didn't enlarge well on my Sony Reader. The misaligned format threw off my reading rhythm. The book is quite short (183 pages), however it still took be awhile to read it because of this.

Recommended. I'd love to read the next book in the series.

For more information about this book or to purchase it, please visit the MuseItUp website. The book can also be purchased from

For more information about the author and her book, please visit Heather's website or her her blog.

For more information about the virtual book tour, please visit the Pump Up Your Book website.

I'd like to thank Cheryl at Pump Up Your Book for this review copy.

Murder is a Family Business by Heather Haven, MuseItUp Publishing, ©2011. ISBN 9780986587597(eBook), 183p.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hey, isn't this blog supposed to be about books?

Why, yes it is! Thanks for asking. As you can understand, this flood is dominating my conversations, thoughts and dreams. It's really hard getting back into reading, writing reviews and talking books with all of this water and worry surrounding me. Having said that I should have a review or two posted shortly with more to come, I hope.

A note to publishers/publicists/authors: I'm unable to take any more review books until I've cleared the backlog that's accumulated. As for the backlog, I'm am working through those books as quickly as I can. I hope you understand. If you have any concerns, please contact me directly at the email address on the contact tab.

Book Deliveries: For the few books that are already on the way, the couriers are not able to get through to our house as our driveway is still underwater. I have made arrangements with one of them (Purolator) to call me when a package shows up, but to date I haven't been contacted and have no idea if I will be. The other carriers were unable to make such arrangements. Any undeliverable book will most likely be sent back. :(

We have no idea how long our driveway will be impassable. Our mail delivery has been reliable (as far as we know) and as long as Canada Post doesn't strike I should be able to receive books that way.

Thanks for your understanding.

Flood Watch - 2011 - High Water Levels

I haven't posted in awhile, but we are still here....with the water surrounding our house and neighbourhood. The water level has been pretty much constant for a few weeks, only fluctuating a little here and there. It probably will only go down from here, but at a very slow rate.

We've actually been really lucky. We've had relatively few problems compared to others in the province and others in our own neighbourhood. Sure, our septic tank stopped working and had to be replaced and then our power went kaput, but all things considered we made out ok. Our sandbags are still well away from the water, which will make cleanup easier.

Having said all of that, it's still been very stressful. I'm very tired of it all and would like it if someone could just take all of this water away now.  Or better yet, take me away from here.  I'm thinking knight in shining armour on a white horse, but I'm not that picky.  Unfortunately, the water isn't going anywhere anytime soon. We just learned (from Twitter @rmcartier) that the high water level could be around for about 4 more weeks. All I can do is shake my head.

Before all of this started, we had contractors lined up to start some work on our house at the end of May/beginning of June. All of that has been postponed indefinitely. I had lots of plans for yard work/beautification to be completed this summer; again all of those plans have pretty much gone out the window. There are still a few things we can do, but lots of other stuff will have to wait until next year or cancelled all together. The major project this summer will be cleaning up sandbags and debris left behind from the receding river; all of that could take months. Our summer is too short as it is.

We do have one thing to look forward to....mosquitoes. They should be hatching in droves very shortly. With all of this standing water, I'm sure it's going to be mostly unbearable.

One more thing, anyone have a good recipe for carp? Along with the mallards, muskrat, beavers and assorted other creatures, we have a lot of them swimming around in our ditches and yards. That's another thing that'll have to be cleaned up when the time comes.

Here's a look at the backyard now that the leaves are starting to come out.  Isn't that river a lovely colour?  Yuck!  It doesn't smell that great either:

That is it for now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - And on it goes

Yesterday, we finally had a day off from sandbagging. After many days, it was great to get some rest, but it was weird to not have to throw on my boots in the morning and slog across the water to get to command central and get the "assignment" for the day.

It was a pretty much quiet day and had it not been for our fluctuating power/telephone, it would have been more restful.

Fluctuating power? Yep, like we needed something else to worry about. The power started acting up Thursday afternoon. Only half the house was effected, so we could still plug a few things in, like the extremely important sump pumps, septic pump and water pump. We still had to do without heat or hot water (the power did come on overnight and briefly the next day) until yesterday when the electrician came back and strung a new main line (through chest high water), which will have to be trenched into the ground once the river recedes. BIG Cha-ching.

The electricians and Hydro figured that the mainline somehow got nicked. It could have been done when the geothermal was installed last year or when the flood proofing was done years ago. It sat like that until the water table came up with the rising flood waters. It wasn't caused by the flood directly, but the flood did make the problem show up.

I swear this is never going to end.

As I write this, the controlled release/breach is underway. For those out of the news area, the province has decided to deliberately cut through a section of the dike to relieve pressure downstream, where we are. The argument is that a controlled breach will flood an area much smaller than an uncontrolled one. Our area is not in the smaller inundation area, but it is in the larger one. For our sakes, I wish them luck.

A big thank you to the neighbours/volunteers who helped raise the dikes around our house and the few who helped move our freezer out of the basement! You guys are wonderful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - Still Here

Yesterday there was some good news and some bad news, but I'm not going to repeat any of it because it's confusing and seems to change by the minute. I can tell you that the military was sent to more at risk areas, so we can't rely on their help. I had mixed feelings about that. So far, though, we are still dry (relatively speaking)...that's the most important thing. The water level hasn't changed in days. We raised the dikes on many houses in the neighbourhood yesterday, including ours. There are more to be done today. It's long hard work and couldn't have been done without some fantastic volunteers. Thanks guys!

Lots of additional water will be coming our way shortly, hence the rise in dikes. How much is going to depend on some decisions made at the provincial government level and luck.

Once again anxiety is high, patience is thin and nerves are frayed. I hope it's not going to have lasting negative effects on our neighbourhood and the friends that we have made. For me, that would be almost as bad as a flooded basement.

I can't tell you how happy I'm going to be when I can start posting book reviews once again.  

Wish us luck.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - The bad news continues

For the first time yesterday, we were told that the river will surpass 1976 levels. Just how much remains to be seen. I also heard someone say that this was our "flood of the century". That's not very comforting.

We received even more bad news last night. The whole neighbourhood (with lots of generous volunteers) busted our butts for two days getting ready for another rise in river levels. Then we heard that they are calling in the military because it’s might get even worse. We still don’t know how bad, but it’s the worst possible news to date.

While we are waiting for news, I figured I'd post the pictures of the sandbagged house. If things are going to get a whole lot worse, these small dikes will rise.

.I didn't sleep at all well last night, so this morning I'm pretty much at the end of my rope. I don't know how much more of this I can take.

One more thing: The area is pretty much a disaster zone. If you don't live in the area or don't need to be here, please don't come down just to take a look. You'll see all you need to see on the news or in the newspapers. Of course, after all of this is over, we'll welcome you with open arms.

If you'd like to volunteer to sandbag or help out, please listen to the news for details.

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - This is unreal

May 6th - Morning - Did a little sandbagging at two houses across the highway. Things had calmed down quite a bit and we were told that the river was stabilizing. It did look that way. We were told that a second peak wasn't expected because of the way they were managing the river. We were planning a nice relaxing day.

May 6th - Afternoon - Got an email saying that river levels were going to rise dramatically the following week and we had 7 days to prepare. Panic!!!! From what I understand, this isn't another peak, but something else. It's not clear to me and right now it doesn't really matter.  

May 6th - Late afternoon and evening - Lots of behind the scenes (for us) action. Spent that time moving sandbags into position to get ready for bagging. Many houses in the neighbourhood were going to need it.

May 7th - All Day - Volunteers, equipment and food descended on the neighbourhood. Sand dikes were erected including one around our house. From our standpoint, things went really well. Rain is forecasted for a number of days. That is not good news.  The volunteers, neighbours, food and support staff were wonderful.  Thanks so much.

May 8th - All Day - See May 7th.

High water levels, flooded land, and wearing hip waders or boots all the time are starting to feel like normal.  Others entering the area for the first time say it looks like a war zone.   Sad times. 

More later including photos. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - Would you like one crest with that or two?

It looks like the river has crested or is very near the crest. There's still a lot of water out west that has to come our way yet, so it's definitely not over. We might see another crest in a couple of weeks. Depends on who you talk to, this water could be around for 3-6 weeks. Yikes!

Our house is completely surrounded by water now. We still are not sandbagged and hope that it stays that way. The water is about 30 feet from the house in the backyard. Two days ago we could still walk to both neighbours' properties without boots. Yesterday, it was down to one. Today we are surrounded. It's not an ideal situation, but we are making due. A nice couple a few doors down has offered us their spare canoe. (They are already paddling down their driveway). We haven't taken them up on it yet, but we are thinking we will.

The TV stations were out late yesterday and all day today. We didn't personally talk to them, but a few of our neighbours did. I love seeing people I know on TV. It's too bad it has to be because of this stupid river. On CBC, a tiny clip of our house and car were on the news (CBC was talking to our neighbours). On CTV, both of us were shown (with others) sand bagging a failing dike. On Global, our house once again was shown (the news people were in the neighbour's yard on the other side). We PVRed all of them ;)

Here's a photo of me in my new hip-waders. I look dumpy, grumpy, old, worn out and tired, but that's pretty much what I look like. I'm standing on the driveway (front yard) half way to the road. The river should be in my backyard about 600 metres behind the house. Now that we can't get out of the yard without boots, I'm sure I'm going to be wearing them a lot more.

That's it for now. Life is an adventure.

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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle by Ryder Windham, Daniel Wallace and Pablo Hidalgo

As part of DK Canada's May the 4th Be With You promotion and contest, here's a review of a book in their Star Wars collection.

Star Wars Year by Year is a visual chronicle featuring the Star Wars movies, creators, crew and actors against the backdrop of other events happening in the world. The book goes month-by-month showing how the Lucas empire started as an idea and progressed into this mega cultural phenomenon. It's divided up into 5 sections: Life before Star Wars, The Original Trilogy (1973-1983), Between the Trilogies (1984-1996), The Prequel Trilogy (1997-2005), Clone Wars a& Beyond (2006-2010).

This is such an awesome book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan on the planet, but I have seen all of the movies; some of them more than once. I love that the book shows what was happening in the world in relation to everything Star Wars. There were lots of behind the scene details and stills of the movie sets. It's simply amazing how the world affected these movies and how these movies affected the world. The book also showed how technical advances allowed Lucas to carry out his dream with finer details and special effects and how these movies affected other movies in turn.

The book features many two-page spreads with fantastic photos. Because of the size of this book, you can see the finest details on these. Speaking of photos, this book has too many to count. Some are large; some are small; each one is pertinent and interesting. The book also has the ads and movie posters associated with the movies as well as many of the toys and games that came out as a result of the movies.

The book is filled with tons of interesting tidbits about the movies, cast and crew. An avid fan might know this stuff, but a lot of it was new to me. For instance, did you know that episode six started out as "Revenge of the Jedi" not "Return of the Jedi"? Anyway, I learned a lot about George Lucas, the six episodes, ILM and the world in general.

My favourite pages in the book deal with how the movies have become entrenched in our society. Here are but a few:
pages 72-73: Star Wars holiday greeting cards. Hilarious.
pages 230-231: The different lightsabers used in the movies.
pages 242-243: Yoda in his many forms. As a plushy, board game, bubble bath container, mouse pad, candle holder and on and on. Cute, they are.
pages 282-283: The Vader project, in which contemporary artists were given a replica of Darth Vader's helmet to customise. The results are amazing.
pages 274-275: Star Wars 30th anniversary stamps created by the United States Postal Service.
pages 288-289: The Lego Star Wars minifigures.

Included with the book are two ready-to-frame prints that are housed in a protective sleeve attached to the inside cover. I particularly enjoyed these. Who doesn't love swag with books? They are:
Lighting Concept by Matt Gaser of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Duchess of Mandalore from season two of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, 2008
Harrison Ford on set during principal photography of The Empire Strikes Back, summer 1979

The table of contents lists the 5 sections and the years within those sections. It does have lots of entries, but I'm not sure how useful it's going to be. The index is quite long and contains lots of relevant entries, which should aid the reader quite nicely.

Highly recommended for Star Wars fans.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy and for inviting me to participate in the May the 4th Be With You promotion.

Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle by Ryder Windham, Daniel Wallace, Pablo Hidalgo (Lucy Dowling, Editor), Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9780756657642(Hardcover), 320p.

You Can Draw: Star Wars by Bonnie Burton

As part of DK Canada's May the 4th Be With You promotion and contest, here's a review of a book in their Star Wars collection.

You Can Draw: Star Wars is a guide to drawing the characters and objects from the Star Wars movies. It offers instructions in the basics of drawing these items as well as information about the supplies that can be used. There's lots of tips to get started drawing and some to make your drawings better. The book also includes some stencils to use in making a comic.

I really like this book. It's designed for children, so some of the instructions are pretty basic and not extremely detailed, but the advice is useful and practical. It's definitely enough to get anyone started on drawing these figures. I really like that there is a bit of an introduction to some of the characters. I've seen all of the Star Wars movies, but I don't remember all of the details or characters. It's nice to be reminded of some of these.

Of the three sections in the book (Pencil Drawing, Inking and Coloring, and Creating a Comic), the Pencil Drawing section is my favourite. It's the most extensive and covers many topics including equipment for drawing and the elements of drawing (shading and light, foreshortening, perspective, etc.). It also covers drawing various body parts, droids and aliens, weapons, vehicles, star ships and all other things Star Wars related. I love drawings done in pencil so it's fun just to flip through the section to see the all of the wonderful finished works. The instructions are pretty good for young artists. For complex drawings like R2-D2 and the Millennium Falcon, the book refers the reader/artist to other drawings, photos or books (published by DK) for more information about the subject to complete the project. That's a little disappointing, but these items are so complicated that the author couldn't include all of the details in this one book.

One of my favourite parts of the book are the velum overlays. These feature rough pencil drawings (stick figures) on velum, which then overlay final pencil drawings. They allow the artist to see the basic shapes which make up the final drawing and how they relate to that drawing. It is actually pretty cool. Another great aspect of the book are the flip-out pages. The design is quite neat. Combined with the velum, they show the rough pencil drawing on velum, the final pencil drawing underneath, and finally the ink drawing on the flip-out page. It's a little hard to explain, but kids will love it.

The Inking and Colouring section includes a two-page layout on Manga style. While the section is very brief, I appreciated it because I knew very little about it. I think younger artists would get a kick out of the Creating a Comic section. Who doesn't want their own comic book?

I tried drawing a few items from the book and was thinking of including a photo here, but they aren't very good and still need some work. It was really fun, though, and I'm going to continue to work on the few that I started and hope to do a few more.

The table of content lists the subjects or lessons within each section. The index has lots of entries; among them are characters names as well as the elements in drawing. Both of these things should be useful to the reader/artist.

Highly recommended for the budding artist and/or the young Star Wars enthusiast.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy and for inviting me to participate in the May the 4th Be With You promotion.

You Can Draw: Star Wars by Bonnie Burton, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2007. ISBN 9780756623432(Hardcover), 97p.


DK Celebrates Star Wars™ and Reading in Canada!

DK Publishing is delighted to announce a special online event celebrating reading and Star Wars!

On May the 4th, ten Canadian blogs and websites will each be posting reviews of a selection of DK’s Star Wars titles (including the New York Times bestseller – The LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary) and the DK Canada website will launch a contest where Canadians are invited to send in photos of themselves, friends and family reading Star Wars books.

For every photo submitted, DK Publishing will donate a “toonie” to Frontier College, Canada’s original literacy organization. One of the photos will be selected as a winning image, with the entrant receiving a complete DK Star Wars library (valued at $400). Also a donation of a complete DK Readers Star Wars collection (29 books) will be made to the Canadian school or library of the winners choice.

The May the 4th Be With You Photo Contest will run from May 4th until May 31st and will be accessible online at the DK Starwars page

Participating Websites:
Jedi News
The Supermom
Serendipitous Readings
Daisy’s Book Blog
One Movie Five Views
Canadian Ladybug
Another Day, Another Thought
Bored Mommy
Sal’s Fiction Addiction

About Frontier College:
Frontier College has been a leader in providing literacy programs since 1899. Literacy is an essential skill in today’s world. At Frontier College, we believe it’s a fundamental right. Low literacy skills are directly linked to poverty, poor health and high unemployment. Through a network of thousands of volunteers, Frontier College is helping Canadians to realize their potential and seize the opportunities that come their way. For more information about Frontier College visit

About DK Publishing
Founded in 1974, DK (Dorling Kindersley) is the visionary publisher renowned for its innovative nonfiction books in which words and pictures are closely integrated to combine comprehensive reference material and superb design in order to present information with unrivalled clarity.

STAR WARS™ and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - The Situation Worsens

I haven't been posting much (especially book reviews) or keeping up with my Google Reader because the flood situation has gotten much worse. Anxiety is high, patience is thin and nerves are getting frayed.

The house is still high and dry (for now), but I can't say the same for our yard. We are not completely surrounded by water yet (unlike some of our neighbours), but we might be by the time this thing is over.   Our sump pump is going like crazy and we have two other pumps standing by.   We still don't have plans to sandbag (that could change any minute), but we have been out helping with sandbagging other houses.

Two nights ago our front yard filled with water and covered part of our driveway. It's getting deeper by the minute and is now coming in from different directions. Our side yards have been filling up for a few days and will more than likely flood our sheds. There's even more water on the way.

I have tons of photos to share, but right now it's taking up too much of my time to post them. Maybe when things calm down a bit.   The crest should happen in a few days, but the water is likely to stay around for weeks.   Not good news. 

I have a couple of book reviews that I promised I'd have up for the 4th. I will be posting these on time.

Once this flood situation is more stable I hope to get back to more book reviews.

Thanks for your patience.