Monday, November 28, 2011

Photo Friday - Rugged

For more "Rugged" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.

For more of my submissions, please see my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

The Call by Yannick Murphy

In The Call, a country veterinarian and his family are shaken when their young son is left in a coma after a hunting accident. Despite this, they try to maintain some order in their lives. He goes out on calls to take care of sick animals all the while to trying to find the man who shot his son. Then one day a visitor arrives unexpectedly and disrupts their pseudo-order once again.

I enjoyed this book. It's quite quirky and is written in a highly structured way that I haven't seen in any other novel. It starts off with brief rigid log entries about the vet's calls out to sick animals and gradually expands to include information about the other things, including some of the mundane ones, in their lives. I was amazed that the book kept to its log-like format throughout the whole book. I appreciated the format and author's discipline to keep to that format, but I might have preferred it if she had broken away from it for short periods. There were a few times where that format didn't quite fit with the situations in the book. I can't name them specifically, but I remember thinking that while I was reading.

I liked the characters, especially the vet. I loved reading about the animals he cared for and the owners he had to deal with. I also got a glimpse into the vet's family life, with his comatose son, his young daughters and his wife. It definitely gave me a new perspective and appreciation for those who making their living off the land. The one thing that bothered me was that the vet kept saying he was determined to find the man who shot his son, but I didn't get his sense of urgency. He thought about it a lot and went to talk to people, but his "investigation" was more roundabout than direct.

I didn't quite grasp the spacecraft or spaceman part of the story. I think I got who he was, but I couldn't figure out what "space" had to do with it. I must have missed something somewhere. I'm a little disappointed that some of its relevance was lost on me because it was a major part of the book. It didn't stop me from enjoying the story, though.

Recommended for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

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

This was a win from a newsletter giveaway on Shelf Awareness. Thanks HarperCollins.

The Call by Yannick Murphy, Harper Perennial (HarperCollins), ©2011. ISBN 9780062023148(Trade Paperback), 223p.

The ABCs of Me - Part Deux

I had so much fun with the ABCs of Me a few weeks ago, I decided to make up another bunch of them. I know a few of these are a stretch, but it was harder than it looks to come up with new items. I'd like to thank Mr. Daisy (aka Gary) for helping me with some of the more obscure ones. Anyway, here are the ABCs of Me - Part Deux:

Athletic abilities: None. Zippo. Like watching some sports, can't do any of them.

Bones Broken: None.

Coffee or Tea: Coffee, but it has to be decaf now. I gave up (mostly) caffeine a few years ago. It was probably the best thing I did for myself (besides quitting smoking). Occasionally, I'll have a cup of fully leaded stuff and end up first buzzed, then sick for the rest of the day. I've just recently started drinking tea again.

Dwarves: Of the seven dwarves, I think I'm most like Grumpy.

Education: I went to a community college for business administration and computer analyst/programmer diplomas.

Flowers: Daisies, of course, but I like most flowers. Lilies are not my favourite cut flowers, though. I don't like the smell.

Geniuses you admire: Many, but my latest is Dyson. Yep, the vacuum guy. Okay, it arguable whether or not he's a genius. I do love his products, though, and when I win the lottery, I'm going to buy one of each. Sure there are others, like da Vinci and Edison, but right now I'm drooling over a new Dyson vacuum. One of the main reasons I go to the casino is so I can use the Dyson Air Blade Hand Dryer.

Hair Colour: Medium Brown mixed with grey. It's been turning grey since my twenties. With the exception of some wash out colours many years ago, I'm an "au natural" kind of girl.

Interests: Reading, crafting, photography. I love to learn new things, so lots of stuff piques my interest. I could surf all day on the internet finding new things to read about.

Joke, favourite: A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, "You have to leave. We don't serve your kind here.". The mushroom says, "Why not? I'm a fun-gi."

Kilograms or Pounds: Despite the fact that Canada went metric many years ago, I still use pounds, as do most people I know. I weigh myself in pounds and talk in terms of pounds. However, when I go to the grocery store or deli, I ask for grams/kilograms of stuff.

Languages you speak/understand: English. Just a few words in French, despite taking it all through high school. I wish I could speak more languages, but I don't have the knack.

Music: Anything in the Baroque period, most stuff performed by a symphony/chamber orchestra and written before the 20th century, Country, some Classic Rock

Nationality/Heritage: Ukrainian/Polish

Own or Rent: Own. The last house we lived in was my husband's. We bought this current house together.

Piercings: Just ears, but I don't even wear earrings anymore because most of them bother me.

Quote, favourite: "This above all, - to thine own self be true." Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet Act I, Scene III. Shakespeare.

Religion: I was raised Roman Catholic.

Smoking: I gave that up years ago. Now, I love that there's no smoking in public indoor spaces, at least where I live. Even some public outdoor spaces have no smoking sections.

Time Zone: Central for North Amercia (UTC-6)

Urban or Rural: More rural, than urban. I live in a small community of less than 40 houses. No stores, or cafes, no communities buildings. Just houses. We are bordered on one side by the river, the other by farm land.

Vacation Spot: I haven't flown that much, so my favourite vacation spot won't be an exotic locale. I love road trips, though. I loved the Black Hills in South Dakota, our trip to Michigan, the drive through the mountains to Kelowna, B.C., the trip to Peace River, Alta and many others.

Wine: Dry and White.

(E)xercise: I hate it, but I've been using the treadmill off and on for a several years. I also do a little free weights from time to time.

Your shoe size: 10, I used to be a 9.

Zuchinni, Yay or Nay: I love it. It's especially good roasted with oil olive, a little salt, pepper and cumin.

What are the ABCs of you? Feel free to post these on your blog or answer them in a comment below. Also, feel free to use the ABCs photo I posted (I took it myself) or create one of your own. Have fun!

Christmas and Holiday Reads

How many of you read books with Christmas or Holiday themes at this time of year? Do you plan ahead? I have good intentions when it comes to books with holiday themes, but usually don't read them because I don't have a plan. I usually get wrapped up in review books or other books and don't leave enough time. About two weeks ago, I noticed that I have a number of them sitting around here and figured this year that it was time to read a few of them.

My plan is to read as many as I can between now and the end of the year. So far so good. I've already read two of them. By the way, it was these two titles that spurred this desire to create a plan: 
1) I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley. I adore Flavia and really wanted to read this one in a timely fashion.
2) The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman. I realized the other day that this review book has been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for two Christmases already. I couldn't let another holiday go by without tackling this one.

Stay tuned for these reviews. I have a few more waiting in the wings; one review book and a bunch of others from my personal collection.

Do you read holiday-themed books at this time of year?  Which ones are you planning on reading this year?  Have you started?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - More Snow

It's not unusual for us to have lots of snow at this time of year, so I shouldn't have been surprised to wake up to more of it, but I was. This wasn't the light fluffy stuff, either. It was the really heavy, exceptionally sticky snow. Despite the additional snow, the temperature was hovering just under 0C/32F.  It was really nice to be outside. If we could have more winter days like this, I wouldn't complain half as much. I'm sure there were lots of kids out this morning making snowmen. Come to think of it, that's what I should have been doing. Instead, I was manning the shovel, while my husband rode around on the lawn tractor with the snow blower attached to the front.

Every time we get lots of snow, my first priority is to clean off the bird feeders. Those little guys are up early and depend on that food to survive in the cold weather. I was a little late getting out there; I could see that they were already trying to dig out the food themselves. I'm such a bad Momma. Anyway, here are 6 of the 14 feeders we currently have up.   It's not too bad. They've been a lot more buried that this.

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.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Photo Friday - Noon

This was a hard one.  How do you convey time?  After I took this photo, I came up with a half-dozen other things I could have done.   This will have to do.   Sorry for the small size, but it's heavily cropped and needs to be squished to fit here.  Click to see a larger (and more fuzzy) photo. 

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

In Before I Go to Sleep, Christine wakes up every day to a man she doesn't know. He reassures her that he's her husband, Ben. He also tells her that she had an accident two decades ago that causes her to lose her memory every night. To him it's normal, to her it's frightening. A little later, Dr. Nash phones Christine and tells her that he's been working with her, unbeknownst to Ben. He directs her to a journal hidden in her closet. Supposedly, she's been taking notes each day for the past few weeks so that she can refer back to them and know what's been going on. As the notes accumulate in her journal, a picture of her former and current life becomes more clear and more unbelievable.

This is such an awesome book. I adored everything about it, but I especially loved how the story unfolded. I'm a real sucker for books that feature memories or memory loss. I can't remember why, though. ;) There were more than a few times that I felt shivers up my spine as details of the story were revealed. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the author would surprise me and go in a different direction. Absolutely wonderful writing.

I'm so glad Watson decided to write the book in the first person. It made the story more intimate, more real, more believable. I got to hear the story right from the person who was most affected. This decision also lead me astray somewhat. Watson writes so convincingly as a woman that I was shocked (and almost dropped the book) when I saw his picture on the back flap. I was positive, absolutely positive, that the book was written by a woman.

I was a little confused when I got to Part III partly because I was so wrapped up in reading Christine's writings. I had to go back a bit in the story to figure out why there was a shift in the story. By the way, confusion in this case is really good. It was my "aha" moment. Up until then I really liked the book. However at that point, right then and there, I decided that I loved this book.

I really felt sorry for Christine. I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to have a condition like hers - the inability to form new memories. It was painful to learn that it had being going on for decades. I liked Ben for sticking by her and commended him for his patience. That was before, well, you know. I won't say anymore than that lest I let loose a spoiler. I won't soon forget either of them.

Favourite quotes:
The irony: that I am prone to forgetting that I have no memory. (page 254)
Highly recommended. This book will definitely be on my Best of 2011 list. I hope to read many more books by Watson.

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

For more information about the author, please visit S.J. Watson's website.

I purchased this book.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9781443404068(Trade Paperback), 358p.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Blue

Last year we bought lots of LED Christmas lights on sale after the holidays. Yippee for sales! A few weeks ago, we decided it was time to put them up. Even though it felt a little early, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful end-of-October weather. Who wants to put up lights in the cold and snow? Anyway, here's a close up of the little guys:

We love them! We've been getting lots of comments from the neighbours on how nice they look. I'm glad they think so because they are the ones that have to look at them. If I can figure out how to properly photograph the lights in the dark, I'll post a photo of the whole house.

Remember last week when I said that winter was on its way? As it turns out I was right! [If you think about it how could I be wrong? I live in the Great White North, aka The Canadian Prairies, and it's November. Winter was bound to come any day...but that's besides the point. We'll just leave it at I was right!] This is what happened in the last two days:

And this...

Don't you just love how snow looks blue in the shadows? I'm mentioning this now because in a month or two, I'll be sick to death of winter and I won't have anything nice to say about it. ;)  

For those of you who followed the flood photos, see that wooden stick in the foreground? The one with the little orange thingy on the top? That's where the river was from May-ish to August-ish. See everything behind it? That's part of our yard (some of the neighbour's, too).   The river is now back within its banks and is about 600 metres straight back. 

These snowflakes (along with 3 trillion or so of their closet friends) will be with us until March or into April.

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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando

In Afraid of the Dark, Vince Paulo comes to the aid of his friend's daughter McKenna. As she lay dying in his arms, she utters the name of her boyfriend, Jamal, when asked "Who did this to you?" Minutes later there's a blast that will forever change Paulo's world. Jack Swyteck, a defence attorney, comes to the aid of Jamal after he's been accused of terrorist activity. His alibi for McKenna's murder is a little far-fetched, even to Swyteck, but a lot is possible when terrorism is involved. As more bodies are found, "the Dark" appears and taunts the investigators with mysterious notes, which causes the investigation to grow in scope and intensity.

I liked this mystery/thriller. It was multifaceted and fast paced. It wasn't as tight as I would have liked to see, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. I loved reading about the investigation focused on McKenna's killer, but the terrorist aspect was only somewhat interesting. It was almost as if the scope and implications were just beyond me, too big for me to get my head around properly. At times the story seemed to spread out in every direction hitting upon lots of hot topics: politics, terrorism, child porn and more. Much of it unpleasant to read about or even think about.

All of the major characters were well written and edgy. I liked that, but it made a few of them hard to love. I really liked Vince, the blind police officer, but Jack, the main protagonist, and Chuck, McKenna's father, were a little abrasive. I did have a little trouble keeping the characters and their motivations straight, but that's probably because I had some trouble keeping track of the ever-expanding story line. It's all good, though. I'd definitely love to read another book featuring Jack Swyteck.

New Words: polemic (page 27): passionate argument

I've read one other book by Grippando Lying with Strangers (my review). It's one of my very early reviews, mostly just a bunch of jumbled sentences. I had some problems with the story, but if I remember correctly, I enjoyed it. I have a number of books from Grippando's back list as well as his latest (due out in December 2011) Need You Now on my to-be-read shelf. I'll be reading/reviewing his latest as soon as I can.


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

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

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

Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando, Harper (HarperCollins), ©2011. ISBN 9780061840289(Uncorrected Proof), 406p.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

From the back of the book: We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn't. And it's what happens afterwards that is most important. Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how it unfolds. - Random House, from the back of the book.

My synopsis of Little Bee: When Little Bee shows up at Sarah's door step the morning of her husband's funeral, Sarah was surprised to say the least. The last time they saw each, Little Bee was being lead away by some pretty frightening men on a beach in Africa. Sarah assumed she was dead. Even though Little Bee just met Sarah and her husband once, she seeks refuge with them now because she has nowhere else to go. It is both fortunate and unfortunate that Little Bee has found Sarah at such a terrible time. Sarah is so vulnerable and confused that she has little choice but to invite Little Bee to stay. Together they drift and together they find their way through the sometimes chaotic world.

I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't what I expected. The back of this uncorrected proof says that the book is "extremely funny". While there are some lighter moments that are amusing, I wouldn't call it hilarious. Then again, Cleave is British and I don't always get their humour or satire.

The story is told from alternating points of view/chapters, that of Sarah and Little Bee, with one exception. One of the characters was relating part of the story when all of a sudden the point of view switched to the other character. I had to read that part no less than three times to figure out what happened. I'm still not sure I got it. Besides alternating between characters, the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion. There were a few times I thought we were close to the end of the story, but I wasn't close to the end of the book. I loved getting the story in bits and pieces. In this case, this style worked really well. Despite being told from the different points of view and jumping around in time, the story was pretty easy to follow.

I liked both Little Bee and Sarah, but my favourite character was Sarah's son, who refused to take off his Batman costume. Being a child and doing childlike things amidst horrific circumstances seemed like the way to go to me. At many times in my life, I wanted to escape and pretend to be someone else rather than be a grown up and face reality.

These favourite quotes are from the uncorrected proof, so they may differ from the final published copy.
Death, of course, is a refuge. It's where you go when a new name, or a mask and cape, can no longer hide you from yourself. It's where you run to when none of the principalities of your conscience will grant you asylum. (page 22)
I planned how I would kill myself in the time of Churchill (stand under bombs), Victoria (throw myself under a horse), and Henry the Eighth (marry Henry the Eighth). (page 49)
New words:
vespertine (page 109): active in the evening
inchoate (page 119): unclear
cassava (page 138): edible root of a tropical plant
puerile (page 152): childish
derisory (page 166): ridiculous

Recommended.  I have another book by Cleave on my bookshelf that I'm looking forward to reading.

Want to read another review? Here's one by Man of la Book.

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

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Chris Cleaves' website.

This book was sent to me quite awhile ago as a win from a contest in a newsletter. Thanks Random House.

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave, Simon & Schuster, ©2008. ISBN 9780385665308(Uncorrected Proof), 266p.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photo Friday - One

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Icy

After last weekend's wintery weather, my homemade rain chain sported a coating of ice. Thankfully, it's melted now. However, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before it happens again.   After all, winter is on its 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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

Seriously...I'm Kidding is the latest book from Ellen Degeneres. In her usual laid back humorous style, she tackles numerous topics from her Covergirl campaign, American Idol and her talk show to everyday topics like dreams, exercise, meditation and children.

I enjoyed this book. I really like Ellen's style in her comedy as well as her writing. The topics are varied and peppered with her unique humour that had my laughing out loud a number of times. While it's not all funny, it was definitely interesting enough to keep me reading until the end. The book is more like sitting down and talking to her and hearing her thoughts on life, work and whatever rather than listening to a long stand-up routine.

Favourite quotes:
When making a right turn onto a busy street, always check the crosswalk for children's imaginary friends. (page 75, from Random Things That Might Help You But Probably Won't)
What they should do to save us all some time is combine every show into one giant reality show. Who wouldn't watch a show about the next tap-dancing celebrity bachelor apprentice who can survive in the wilderness while singing about losing weight? (page 132, about how watching all of the reality shows takes a lot of time.)
Even though I enjoyed the book, I do have a couple of complaints. You have to live under a rock not to know that she has a talk show. You may not have watched it, but chances are you know it exists, especially if you are reading this book. Yet she mentions her show time and time again. It's a good show and she must be very proud of it, so a chapter on it would be very appropriate. However, it went beyond that and seemed to be repetitive. I just don't see the point. Another repetitive thing was that she thanked the reader for reading the book a number of times. Once in the acknowledgements (or wherever) would be enough. I'd even tolerate another mention to pull off a good joke, but it seemed to me she mentioned it far more often than necessary. I get it, you're grateful. Enough already. Having said that, none of this stopped me from enjoying the book,

Ellen has written two other books: My Point...and I do Have One and The Funny Thing is.... I read and enjoyed the first one. The second one is on my to-be-read shelf. I hope to get to it at some point.

Recommended. Fans will like it. I enjoyed the book even though I'm not Ellen's biggest fan, nor do I watch her show that often. I do think she's pretty funny and really enjoy her work. I'd more than likely read another book of hers should she write one.

For more information about this book, please visit the Hachette Book Group website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Book Group), ©2011. ISBN 9780446585026(Hardcover), 241p.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Photo Friday - Public Space

The pavillion at Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

For more "Public Space" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.

For more of my submissions, please see my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - New Light Fixture

A couple of weeks ago I picked up the newest version of PhotoShop Elements (V9). I don't know how to use it and I really haven't had a chance to even try it out. I thought that I'd spend a few minutes this afternoon playing around with a photo I took today to see what I could come up with. I spent about 15 minutes adding some "special effects" and came up with a photo that wasn't great, but it wasn't bad for my first effort. I then went to save it and I realized that I didn't know how to save it in a format that would allow me to post it here. I tried a few things, but nothing worked. I'm going to have to find a book or a tutorial online before wasting any more time. Apparently, I have a lot to learn about the software.

Because I wanted to post something for Saturday Snapshot,  I used my old very limited software to edit a photo of a new light fixture we installed last week.  I tried to make the fixture look old, but removing the colour.  The fixture isn't exactly what we were looking for, but it's better than what we had, different enough to be interesting (to us anyway) and it was on sale!   The glass casts a very odd pattern on the walls due to the bubble glass.   I'm still trying to decide if I like the effect. 

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.

I realize that I've been posting more photos than book reviews lately. I hope to have some more reviews shortly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Peace Lily - A New Addition

More Wordless Wednesday.

Photo Friday - Wide Angle

This theme of "Wide Angle" was a hard one. Since I don't have a wide angle lens, I had to come up with something different. I looked up the definition of wide angle and everything I could find had to do with photography and the lens itself.   Blah.

Let me apologize for posting such a lame shot, but it's the only thing I could come up with. I'm hoping I can do better with next week's theme.

For more "Wide Angle" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
Some of them are outstanding, especially those taken with wide angle lens. Maybe it's time for me to invest in one. Hmmmm...

For more of my submissions, please see my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Penguin's Canadian Pie Contest

Do you like baking? Do you like pie?

Here's your chance to show off your best pie! Penguin is sponsoring a Canadian Pie Contest. All you need to do is make a pie, take a photo, upload it to Flickr and add it to the contest group. Easy peasy!

Here's my entry:

It's a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with a lattice top.  I'm up against some tough competition (see all of the entries here). There's still time to enter if you haven't already. When it comes to pie, the more the merrier.

Did I mention there's a prize? You could win a book called Canadian Pie by the very funny Will Ferguson and a gift certificate.

Instead of blathering on more, I'll let you get baking. Click here for the details.

Good luck. May the best pie win!