Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Hypnotist by M. J. Rose

In The Hypnotist, Lucian Glass, working with the Art Crime Team (ACT), goes undercover to investigate the destruction of some very old and valuable paintings. While he's undercover he submits to being hypnotized. It's during these sessions that he travels back in time and learns of his past lives. As he does so, he learns new information that just might help him solve the mystery in his current life.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It grabbed me on the very first page, which doesn't usually happen. I usually need a few pages to warm up to a book. Not so with this one. The story remained compelling throughout the whole book and carried me right through to the very last page. There are many facets and plotlines to follow with this one; it's very intricately woven. I found the storytelling similar to that of James Rollins in that both of their stories jump around in time and follow different plotlines simultaneously. I love books written like this as it makes me work a little to follow the story, remember the characters and decipher the plot. In this case, the extra effort was well worth it.

This is the third book in The Reincarnationist Series by this author, but the first one I've read. From reading the outlines about the other books, the stories don't appear to be connected. However, more than a few times while reading this one, I felt like I was missing something in the story, as though something relating to this story had happened in a previous book. It didn't at all stop me from really enjoying this book, but perhaps I should have read the others first.

The book contains interesting information about reincarnation, art work and painting in general. I'm not sure I totally believe in reincarnation, but I do find the subject matter extremely fascinating. As for the art and artists featured in this book, I don't know a lot about it and can't say I'm a huge fan. I do, however, find the whole art scene very intriguing. Equally intriguing was the explanation of Hypnos's third eye and its potential connection to the pineal gland, "which produces melatonin, the hormone that affects the modulations of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions"(page 171), as well as other more elegant and mythical explanations. All fascinating stuff.

I love learning new words. This book contained a few that were new-to-me. Here's a sampling:
Persian satrap (page 20): a governor of a province in ancient Persia
partage (page 22): the act of portioning out or sharing
manse (page 57): rectory
ormolu (page 57): gold-coloured copper alloy
ephemera (page 66): something short-lived
aegis (page 88): guidance
oculus (page 128): circular architectural feature
rheostat (page 130): an adjustable resistor
métier (page 158): profession
shtetl (page 203): small Jewish community in Eastern Europe
miasma (page 221): haze
invectives (page 376): criticism

I read this book in eBook form on my Sony eReader.

Highly recommended. I already have The Memorist on my to-be-read bookshelf and can't wait to dig it out and read it. I'll keeping my eye out for The Reincarnationist so that I can read that one, too.

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

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit M.J. Rose's website and blog.

I'd like to thank Tracee Gleichner from Pump Up Your Book and the author for this review copy. Click here for information on the blog tour.

The Hypnotist by M. J. Rose, Mira Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780778329206(eBook), 412p.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

In The Map of Time, Andrew Harrington is desperate to save Marie Kelly, his lover who has been killed by Jack the Ripper. Claire Haggerty wants to escape her Victorian restraints and falls for a man who lives in the future. Others want to see what life is like in the year 2000. Set in Victorian London, this historical fantasy novel uses real and fictional characters to investigate time travel and the ability to change the history. It also questions what would happen if we do so. Leading the way is H.G. Wells, who because of his novel The Time Machine, is seen as the authority on the subject.

I loved this book. Really loved it! It's one of the best ones I read this year. The story was intelligent, creative and witty. The author has a wonderful, healthy sense of humour. I never would have thought history and fantasy would make such a good pair. After reading the last page, I immediately wanted to start over again at the beginning. At over 600 pages, it could have been intimidating for me. However, it wasn't at all. I felt so immersed in the story that I didn't want it to end. While I love historical novels, I'm not that fond of fantasy novels. They just don't appeal to me. However, the fantasy aspect of this novel is handled in such a way that I found it a joy to read.

The three sections with interrelated plots lead the reader through the whole story. I simply adored the first two sections. The stories were approachable and relatable while the characters seemed real. However, it took me a little while to warm up to the third section. At first, it had a different feeling than the others and that interrupted my rhythm a little. However, that soon passed and I enjoyed reading the final section as well.

Rather than follow a linear path, the story jumps around quite a bit. I love books written this way. They really make me think. I don't mind "working" a little to follow the story and if the author has constructed a well built story, as Palma has, it makes the extra effort very worthwhile. Having said that, most of the story was easy to follow, but there were a few sections that were a little tricky. I really had to pay attention so I wouldn't lose the gist of the story.

One of my favourite parts of the book is when the narrator/author talked directly to me, the reader. He doesn't do it that often, but when he did I was overcome with joy. Reading is such a solitary pursuit that it was nice to be acknowledged.

I love it when authors used real-life characters in fictional works. Even if it's not someone I'm familiar with or someone I even like or admire, I still get a kick out of it. In this book, Palma uses H.G. Wells as a major character, while Joseph Merrick plays a more minor role. There are also brief appearances by both Bram Stoker and Henry James. I'm not that familiar with any them, but I feel that I got to know them a little better through this work despite the fact that the story is fictional. Palma has definitely peaked my curiosity about Wells and Merrick and I'm going to be looking into their lives further. Not only has Palma uses real characters, but he also incorporates some real life events like the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Again, I found this fascinating.

Favourite quotes:
No, the orchestra of life would carry on playing without him, because in reality his part had never been important to the score. (page 433)

New words:
panegyric (page 380): extravagant praise
pilloried (page 483): denounced
fin-de-siècle (page 481): the last years of the 19th century
perspicacity (page 526): perceptiveness
callow (page 584): inexperienced

Highly recommended. Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I love this book and what I love about it. I'm so looking forward to reading more works by Palma. Look for this book in my "Best of 2011" list at the end of the year.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

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

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2011. ISBN 9781439167397(ARC), 609p.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Snake Ecdysis

When we first moved from the city to a more rural area, I was pretty skittish about the creepy, crawly, slimy-looking things I was finding in the yard. Bugs of all kinds, frogs and lots of garter snakes. While I still don't like to be surprised by these things, I'm getting used to a few of them...sort of.

Yesterday, while I was checking out the yard (the little that isn't flooded), I found the results of a snake ecdysis (shedding) in the grass. I think it's amazing! My husband was extremely surprised that I picked it up and moved it to an area more suitable for photographing it. I'm sort of surprised, too! I've come such a long way.

Anyway, here are two photographs of my find.  I've also included a photograph of a garter snake that I took awhile ago.  

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Rain Chains

It's time for another instalment of Needlework Tuesday. Ok, so this isn't exactly needlework, but it is sort of crafty. I figure that's close enough since I haven't posted in a long, long time.

I'm working on making a rain chain. Can you believe that I'm actually doing a craft that involves water? Today my motto is "If you can beat 'em, join 'em". Anyway, I first noticed rain chain at a local bird supply store (food, houses, feeders). The one they had was made of copper and quite beautiful, but also quite pricey. I decided to look online to see if they could be made more cheaply at home. Sure enough I found a couple of different models to make. (If you are interested in seeing some really beautiful ones, google "rain chains" and a bunch of images will come up.)

I choose the simplest one using binder rings. I already had a bunch of rings but I knew I needed more. We checked out both Staples and Office Depot and found that the prices were a tad high (Staples 12 rings for $6). My husband then had the idea to check out Wal-Mart (8 rings for $1.89; two different sizes) and a dollar store (8 rings for $1). We picked up a bunch at the last two stores.

The chain is basically done. Since it's pretty simple and I have some additional rings, I thought I might jazz it up a bit and randomly add a few more rings without making it longer. I was also thinking of adding some beads and trinkets, but I don't want to make it too heavy, so I'm going to forgo those for now.

Here's the chain so far:

Basically, I just need to remove the downspout and replace it with the chain (attached with a bracket). That part is simple. The hard part is deciding how to finished the bottom part where the chain meets the ground. I certainly don't want the water trickling back towards the house. I'm toying with the idea of making a smallish rock garden sloped away from the house. Perhaps I'll add a copper bowl or vessel to catch the water, which will then spill over into the rock garden.

When I get the rock garden done and the chain installed, I'll post another picture. With days of rain in the forecast, it might be awhile. :(

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather on her blog, Books and Quilts. There's an open invitation for other needle workers/crafters to join at any time.  Go see her work.  It's beautiful.

Motion to Kill by Joel Goldman

In Motion to Kill, Lou Mason is a lawyer who's been with the Sullivan & Christenson just a short time, when one of the partner's, Sullivan, is found dead. When another partner turns up dead and a criminal investigation into the firm's transactions is uncovered, Mason is left wondering what he's got himself into with this new job. As he starts digging around, he uncovers a lot more than he bargained for including corruption, a sexual scandal and organized crime to go along the two murders. What's this lawyer to do, but dig deeper and uncover the truth about why the partners are being investigated and picked off one by one.

I really enjoyed this book. The story was suspenseful and exciting, especially the action scenes. They were intense. The story wasn't really straightforward; there were lots of different angles and motives to consider. However, it was still pretty easy to follow. The author moved the story along at a really good clip and with so much going on, it certainly wasn't ever dull or boring. The whole thing was very well written.

The characters were all pretty good; I especially liked Lou Mason. He didn't have to dig around to uncover what was going on, but did so anyway, even when his life was in danger. He was pretty tenacious in his investigation, too. I liked that. I especially liked the way he interacted with Sheriff Kelly Holt, whom I also liked a lot. Wilson "Blues" Bluestone, piano player and ex-cop, was another favourite. Besides his interaction with Mason, which was terrific, I loved his general style and his thoughts about music.

The ending was full of surprises and wonderfully written. It was perfectly timed and wrapped up the story nicely. It was a great way to end the story and leave just a little bit open with Mason to appear in the next instalment of the series.

Favourite quotes: Because I have an inner geek, I couldn't resist the following:
The glistening effect was a mixture of a Madonna-halo and a Star Trek transporter.

Another favourite quote of mine involves Jerry Springer and the type of guests he had on his show. It appears on page 298. However, I can't include it her because it gives away a plot point. I'll just say it's vintage Jerry and priceless.

New word:
pogroms (page 165): massacre of a particular ethnic group, particular that of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe.

I also read No Way Out by this author and really enjoyed it. I'd definitely recommend it.

Highly recommended. I'll be keeping my eye out for more of Goldman's books.

This book was originally published in 2002. Since then Goldman has "updated the book but kept the story intact."

For more information about this book, please visit Joel Goldman'swebsite.

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

Thanks to the author for this review copy.

Motion to Kill by Joel Goldman, ©2002. ISBN 0786014474(eBook), 301p.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Cook's Book by Jill Norman, Editor-in-Chief

The Cook's Book features "techniques and tips from the world's master chefs". With over 600 recipes and many, many photographs, this book covers a wide variety of food items as well as many professional techniques adapted for home applications. There are also several chapters on popular ethnic cuisines.

This is such a great book. It's definitely another one of those books that you could get lost in...sometimes for an entire afternoon. I swear time flies by so quickly when I open it. The information in this book is invaluable to those, like me, wishing to improve their culinary skills or for those who are merely curious about the culinary arts.

The introduction includes a section on the chefs who wrote the various chapters. These chefs have different specialities and come from all over the world...from 4 different continents. I love that a variety of chef have contributed to the different chapters. For example, Rick Bayless, an expert on Mexican food, wrote the chapter featuring that ethic cuisine. I love getting advice or tips directly from the experts.

The contents of the book are quite varied. They include chapters on different food categories such as: eggs and diary, fish and shellfish, poultry and game birds, meat, vegetables, grains and beans, fruit and nuts. There are also chapters are different preparations: sauces and dressings, foams, stocks and soups, flavourings, bread and batters. The ethnic cuisines include: Latin American, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern. I especially love the menus and tips for each of the different cuisines.

As with lots of books published by DK, the photographs in the book are plentiful and gorgeous. These photographs feature various techniques as well as finished dishes. The recipes are nicely formatted, which makes them easily accessible to the reader/cook. Tips and techniques are followed by featured recipes which allow the reader/home cook and put the technique information to good use. Many of the recipes feature step-by-step photographs and explanations as well as additional tips to successfully completing the dish.

Even though I'll probably won't do some of this stuff myself, I like knowing how it's done. The sections on butchering is a really good example of this. While I found it was very interesting, it's just so much easier to get the guy at the grocery store to do it.

With so many recipes to try, it's hard to know where to start. I'll definitely be trying the Yorkshire Pudding on page 482-483. The last time I attempted to make it, it flopped. I can use all of the help I can get. I'm also going to try several of the recipes in the Indian Cooking section, including the Onion Bhajis. Yum.

My one complaint is the arranging of the chapters. It seems to be a bit haphazard with little rhyme or reason to the order. Maybe there's some sort of order that a professionally trained chef would recognize, but probably not the average home cook. If that's the case, an explanation with regards to the chapter arrangement would have been appreciated. Otherwise, I would liked to have seen the ethnic cuisines grouped together in a section rather than scattered throughout the book. The other chapters could have used a little reorganization as well.

The table of contents is extensive. It not only features the titles of the chapters and their authors, there's also a description of each of the chapters. It's awesome. The glossary features many cooking terms from procedures to equipment to ingredients and offers clear concise descriptions of these items. The index is also quite extensive and should aid the cook in finding items in the book.

Highly recommended. If you ever wished you were a better cook, this book is for you. If you ever watch Food Network (or any other cooking channel or show) and wonder how they do that or why they do that or what it is they are doing, this book is for you.

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

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

The Cook's Book by Jill Norman (Editor-in-Chief), Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2005. ISBN 0756613027(Hardcover), 648p.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - Miscellaneous items

It goes up, it goes down. The river that is.  The reason (or part of it anyway)? Manitoba and Saskatchewan have had a lot of rain in the last month or so. Let me say that again...a lot of rain. Since the ground is already saturated, it runs off into low lying areas, like the river basin. So when I said the other day that the river was slowly receding, it really was. It had gone down a whole 3-inches. We were ecstatic. A few of our neighbours were positively beaming. When we've been living with a high water level that hasn't really moved in weeks, it was encouraging to have it move in a positive direction, even though in the grand scheme of things the drop was pretty small. Since then, however, it's gone back up. With the rain that we've had over the past few days and more on the way, it's likely to come up even more. Probably just a few inches, but still. We lost most of our spring to flood woes, now it looks like our summer will also be shot.

Hip-waders. We've really gotten tired of using the boat to get across the driveway. While our driveway is long (300+ feet), the part that's underwater is less than 50 feet. By the time we load up the boat, get in the boat, paddle those few feet, we could have walked across in our hip-waders. Since we have to wear boots anyway in the boat, it's not that much trouble to put on hip-waders instead of the boots. We are not quite ready to give up the boat yet, though. We still plan on using it to get big/heavy items across the water or if the river rises more than we expect, we may be using it to transport ourselves.

Generator. The rain that we had was accompanied by wind, thunder and lightning. That means our electricity is subject to outages. When we are heavily relying on pumps to keep our basement dry, that's not good news. We had an incident last week, where the power was out for about 10 minutes. That doesn't seem like a long time, but that's about how much time it takes for the water to start backing up into the basement. Luckily, we had our new best friend on the job. Our shiny new generator. Gary had it all set up and ready to go; it took him just minutes to have it up and running.

Here's a photo of our new BFF:

Pretty, huh?

That's it 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.

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

In Red Hook Road, it's Becca and John's wedding day. What should have been a day full of celebration is cut short by a tragic accident just minutes after the ceremony. Both Becca and John are killed in a car accident. Their families and friends are understandably devastated. As the families return to Red Hook Road for the next few summers, they discover that time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds. As they struggle to go on, they manage to find solace in ways they can't imagine.

I adored this book. The story was so beautifully written and well conceived. The characters felt real and elicited lots of sympathy from me. I just can't imagine living through a tragedy like this one. I loved that Waldman wove topics like literature and music in with the characters' daily lives. I especially loved the interaction between Samantha and Mr. Kimmelbrod, when he was teaching her to play the violin. I could almost hear her playing. As for the other characters, I love them all, even those who were hard to like at first.

Even though the book was filled with tragedy and grief and exhibited an overall feeling of sadness, it's not one that moved me to tears. The story wasn't really about the couple or the accident itself, but rather about the aftermath and the family members who are left behind to pick up the pieces and carry on. I certainly had sympathy for these characters as they dealt with their anguish. While their ordeal was tragic, there were some ultimately uplifting qualities to the story. I loved reading about the different ways that the characters dealt with grief and each other. It made me realize that despite blinding sadness people can survive, even triumph, over adversity.

I've read lots of books with preludes or prologues, but I believe this is the first book I've read with a coda. In fact, when I got to the last few pages of the story it surprised me, in a good way. I can't imagine a better way to end the book.

This book contained quite a few words that were new to me. Here's a sampling:
simulacrum (page 19): representation or image of something
machetunim (page 22): in-laws (Yiddish)
carapace (page 58): covering
intransigence (page 108): inflexibility
senescence (page 131): aging; growing old
nascent (page 190): promising
maladroit (page 192): awkward
epigrammatic (page 226): concise
peripatetic (page 227): travelling; drifting
turgid (page 229): pompous, dull
cascadura (page 286): type of fish

Highly recommended. I'd love to read another book by this author. I'm a little miffed at myself for allowing this book to linger on my bookshelf for some time. Had I known I was going to love it this much, I would have read it the second I opened the package. It's definitely going to end up on my Best of 2011 book list at the end of the year.

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

For more information about the author, please visit Ayelet Waldman's website.

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

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman, Doubleday (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780385517867(Hardcover), 343p.

Wordless Wednesday - Eastern Phoebe and nest

More Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Sandbags and Flood

Yep, another flood related photo. Someday soon I should have other photos to share.

As far as the flood goes, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the river is still mostly surrounding us. The good news is that the water is slowly, very slowly, receding. They (the water management people) are at long last able to drop the levels on the river, so we are getting a little more of our yard back. We are still using the boat to traverse the driveway, though. The other piece of good news is that most of the sandbags in our yard are gone. Yippee!!  Because the water level is dropping, our sandbags were not needed, so they were carted off to help in the flood efforts elsewhere.

This photo shows a few of the remaining ones we kept for filling in some low spots.  By the way, this is not how you build a sandbag dike.  These ones are stacked like this just to get them out of the way. 

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.