Thursday, January 31, 2013

Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang

The Digital Photographer's Handbook is a comprehensive guide for taking digital photos, making them better with the latest software, and sharing and/or printing them. Ang also covers the latest trends and a buying guide.

This is such a great reference book for those who own and use digital cameras. Whether it's a camera phone, a compact point-and-shoot or a DSLR, there's something in this book for everyone with any type of digital camera. Every time I open up the book, I learn something new and find something interesting to read about. Right now, I using it as part reference book (when I need to know something) and part general photography book, where I sit down and read a section. There's so much in this book, it's going to take me months to go through it all.

The book is divided into 6 sections, with post-processing or image enhancement being the biggest and more extensive. Other sections include: the basics, which covers composition, focusing, viewpoints, colour balance, using a flash and much more; photography projects, where Ang shows the photographer how to take photos of things like architecture, children, animals, portraits; printing and sharing photos; buying guide for cameras and other photographic equipment; and finally, taking your photography to the next level by making it into a business or staging an exhibition.

Ang covers a multitude of subjects in this book, however, at times he didn't go into as many details as I would have liked. Because there are many different cameras and photo editing software packages out there, that's understandable. He can't possibly cover all of them. His generalities, though, sometimes had me fumbling around with my gear trying figure out how I could do what he was describing. I guess that's partially my fault in that I don't know my camera or software as well as I should.

The book is roughly half text and half photos. I love that it contains lots of photos taken by Ang. He's a great photographer. He also a very good teacher and explains things in a clear and understandable manner. My favourite pages are the Quick Fix ones, where he identifies a problem that can occur in a photo, then offers solutions on how to fix it. He even offers advice on how to avoid the problem in the first place.

The book contains a huge glossary, one of the largest I've seen. It explains so many things. The author has also included a number of other useful elements: list of web resources and their function; list of manufacturers with web addresses; software resources with a brief explanation of each; and a list of photography books for further reading.

The table of contents not only lists the major sections, but it also has the individual subjects within each section. The index is pretty good; I found everything I was looking for.

I've also read and continue to use Ang's, How to Photograph Absolutely Everything (my review). It's also really good.

Highly recommended for the digital photographer. I'll be keeping this one close by and will likely refer to it often.

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

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

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

Digital Photographer's Handbook (5th Edition) by Tom Ang, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756692421(Soft cover), 408p.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Get Start: Growing Vegetables by Simon Akeroyd

DK is kicking off the new year with a "Start Something New" celebration. Today I'll be reviewing one of the books in their collection. If this book isn't up your alley, then perhaps one of the other ones will be. There's really something for everyone. Click here or on the photo below to see some other books that can get you started on learning a new skill.
Besides the one below, I've reviewed a few of the other books. If one of them interests you, you can see if I reviewed it and what I thought of it on my Review by Title page.


Get Started: Growing Vegetables shows new gardeners how to grow and harvest vegetables successfully. It's structured approach and step-by-step instructions start off with simple easy-to-grow crops then progresses to ones that need a little more finesse allowing novices to build upon newly learned skills and develop more.

This is such a good book for learning how to grow vegetables. I'm an experienced gardener and have grown a few herbs through the years with mixed results, but I've yet to tackle growing and harvesting vegetables. This year we plan on putting in a vegetable garden, so I this book couldn't have come at a better time.

The introduction features items on planning, equipment (I learned what a "dibber" is used for), soil types, soil preparation and garden sites before launching into more science-y stuff like the life cycle of plants, the science of photosynthesis, and the science of plant needs, which explains all about the nutrients the plants need. I really liked this last part. While that might not be something I'll thinking about when I harvest my carrots, blueberries or zucchini, it's good to know how those things work and what the plant needs to not only survive, but thrive. Besides, I'm a sucker for trivia; you never know when the information will be useful.

In true DK fashion, the whole book is nicely laid out with lots of pictures that are labelled and explained. It's organized into 3 sections: Start Simple, Build on it, Take it Further. Each builds on the previous one. After outlining the basics in each section a number of projects are presented. That way, the novice gardener can learn some new skills then immediately put them to use. The whole book contains 22 projects to complete and feature a variety of vegetables and fruits for the new gardener to try. The projects themselves are well presented with clear, logical steps with lots of photographs and informative explanations. I love that a time frame is provided so you'll know how long before your crop is ready to harvest.

I loved that the first section starts the novice off with the easiest and most reliable crops to grow. There's nothing more frustrating than planting something, waiting for it to grow, and then have nothing to harvest or show for your hard work. I also loved that not all of the new skills are presented at the beginning of the book. Some of them are presented later on as the reader needs them. This prevents the dreaded "information overload" that novices can experience when learning a new skill or starting a new project.

I was surprised by the number of projects that include containers. In a way, it's good for those that don't have a large expanse of land to dedicate to growing vegetables. These projects would be ideal for those with small yards or those in apartments with balconies. However, I'm wondering if the processes and tips will translate to planting the crop directly in the ground, as I plan to do. I guess I'll find out this summer.

Unfortunately, this book is written in the UK and doesn't cover extremely cold weather temperatures like we experience here on the Canadian Prairies. I know right off the bat that a few of the suggestions just won't work for us. Others I'm not so sure about. I think I'll ask around, perhaps at my garden centre, about these tips. In addition, I'm guessing that the time frames for harvesting will be affected by the differences in weather. That's another thing I won't know until I test it out.

The book also features a couple of kitchen garden plans, which are terrific. I'm loving that they are laid out in squares rather than the old-fashioned/traditional long rows. I'm looking forward to designing my own garden in this fashion.

The table of contents is extensive, yet compact. It lists items in the introductions as well as the skills (how-to) and projects. The index is good and should aid the reader in finding specific items in the book.

Highly recommended. If the other books in this "Get Started" series is half as good as this one, those looking to learn a new skill this year are in for a real treat.

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

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

Get Started: Growing Vegetables by Simon Akeroyd, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465401960(Hardcover), 192p.

Monday, January 28, 2013

DK's Start Something New - Do It Yourself by Julian Cassel, Peter Parham and Jon Eakes

DK is kicking off the new year with a "Start Something New" celebration. Today I'll be reviewing one of the books in their collection. If this book isn't up your alley, then perhaps one of the other ones will be. There's really something for everyone. Click here or on the photo below to see some other books that can get you started on learning a new skill.
Besides the one below, I've reviewed a few of the other books. If one of them interests you, you can see if I reviewed it and what I thought of it on my Review by Title page. By the way, I'll be reviewing another one of them tomorrow. 

Do It Yourself contains over 400 DIY projects that features large photographs and lots step-by-step instructions to fix, build or install almost everything in your house. This newest edition has been updated to include eco-friendly green alternatives and tips.

This is an awesome book. I learned so much about how things work around the house, the problems that can arise and what to do to fix them. Every time I open the book I find something interesting to read. The explanations are clear, concise and written in easy-to-understand language that even the most novice do-it-yourself will understand.

The major sections include: tools, equipment, and materials; alterations and repairs; kitchens and bathrooms, decorating and finishing; improving home performance; outdoor alterations and repairs; electrics, plumbing, and heating. Within those sections the more detailed parts cover flooring, home security, communications systems, roofs, landscaping and much, much more. It's all in there.

The book lists a selection of materials, including eco-friendly ones, to use when building or installing new items in the home. It also points out things to consider before starting the project (or during the project) and has lots of side boxes with material lists, tips, and other things you need to know. The problem solver pages feature ways in which to fix problems that can arise in specific areas. These pages have lists of materials needed, photos to show the steps, and tips on what to do. They are well laid out and didn't over complicate things.

My husband is the do-it-yourself guy in our house; I'm just the helper/gopher. I figured I'd get his take on some of the things in the book. I asked him to take a quick peek at a few of the instructions for things he's done before, things he's about to do, and things he hasn't tackled yet. Overall, he really liked the book and spent lots of time flipping through it. As for specific projects, the instructions (including steps, details, information about the materials/project, etc.) were mostly "very good", however a few projects "need a bit more in the way of details/information". Basically it's a good reference book and is really going to come in handy as we continue to work on and improve our house.

The table of context is quite extensive and lists the major sections as well as the projects and topics within each section. Page numbers are supplied for each item. At 21 pages, the index is one of the longest indexes I've ever seen in a book like this. It's awesome. The glossary contains 2 pages of definitions for common terms used in the book. However, for a book this size, I think it's a little weak. I still found it interesting and learned a few new terms. There's also an acknowledgement section that contains a list of resources with websites, which presumably can be used for more information.

Even if you plan on hiring a contractor or other professional to do the work, you can use this book to familiarize yourself with the work so that you can ask intelligent questions and make better decisions. I think it's always good to have a general idea of what the project involves so that you can assure it's done right and can appreciate the work involved. It might even inspire you to try a few of the simpler things yourself to save a bit of money.

Highly recommended. It's an excellent reference book and will no doubt get lots of use in our family.

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

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

Do It Yourself by Julian Cassel, Peter Parham and Jon Eakes, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9781553631194(Hardcover), 544p.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keepsake by Kristina Riggle

In Keepsake, Trish is raising two kids on her own. She doesn't realize it yet, but she's become a hoarder, just like her Mother. When her young son becomes injured after some of her many possessions fall on him, Child Protective Services steps in. To get her son back, Trish enlists the help of her sister, Mary, who's basically her opposite, to clean up the mess. Together they sift through years of clutter and uncover the memories, the secrets and the pain buried beneath it.

I really enjoyed this book. The story is written from alternating views, Trish, the hoarder, and Mary, her sister, both in the first person. I particularly fond of this style; it was a perfect fit for this book. I loved hearing the story from both the sisters. Trish's hoarding was definitely a problem. Her defensiveness over every little thing was quite abrasive at times. I can't believe that Mary and the others who helped stuck around. I'm not sure I would have. Even though Mary wasn't a hoarder, she wasn't without her own problems: compulsive neatness. I can see how it could be almost as psychologically damaging as hoarding.

Even though I love the style in which it was written, I found myself spending a little time at the beginning of each chapter trying to figure out who was "talking". It wasn't always clear to me until I got a little ways into the text. Perhaps a chapter heading like "Chapter 3 - Trish" or even just to have "Trish" without the chapter number at the beginning. After awhile I figured it out that it was alternating so that if I had just read about Mary, then it was Trish's turn. However, every time I picked up the book, I had to work out who I was reading about. It would have been nice to have a reminder.

My one other complaint is that the story felt a little superficial at times. I can't quite put my finger on why, though. The author gave lots of insight into the thoughts and problems of a hoarder, but perhaps she could have dug a little deeper and wrote a little more about the "professional help" Trish was getting. I wasn't entirely convinced that Trish would/could change her current behaviours even though her reasons for being a hoarder were uncovered.

I absolutely loved the cover of this book. It's beautiful, but I'm pretty partial to pearls.

On a personal note, I found it little hard to read because we had a hoarder in our family. Actually, it was more like an ill family member, who couldn't properly care for himself or his house. Unfortunately, his many possessions and clutter had to be dealt with after his death. This story stirred up lots of painful emotions and memories.

This edition contains a section at the back of the book that contains a Q&A with the author, some questions for book club discussions and a bit about the author's other books. It's well worth the read.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

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

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

Keepsake by Kristina Riggle, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2012. ISBN 9780062003072(Trade paperback), 366p.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

In Fallen, Evelyn, Faith's mother, isn't answering her phone. She supposed to be minding Faith's daughter, so Faith immediately gets suspicious. Faith rushes to her mother's house, only to find the front door open and a bizarre scene inside. Her infant daughter is hidden away in a storage shed out back while there's a dead man in one room and a hostage and gunman in another. Her mother is nowhere in sight. It's all hands are on deck to track down Evelyn, a former cop, and figure out who took her and why.

I really enjoyed this 5th book in the Will Trent series. This thriller is fast paced and quite the page turner. Even though it's part of a series, I think it can be mostly read as a standalone book. It's the first one I've read, and while I was a little puzzled at times, but I think I got most of what was happening. I did have a little trouble figuring out who everyone was and who they worked for, so maybe a little background information would have helped with that.

The story jumps between the two different legs of the investigation. On one side, there's Amanda Wagner and Will Trent, Faith's partner. On the other is Faith, who's also a witness in this case. They are all going off in different directions to solve the kidnapping case and rescue of Faith's mom. As the investigation continues, they find corruption in the police force and lots of stuff that might put lives at risk if they can't get to the truth.

I liked reading about Faith and liked her tenacity. I found it strange that even though she and Will were partners, they didn't speak that much to each least in this one. I also thought the relationship between Will and his wife Angie was extremely strange, but then I don't think anyone was trying to say it was "normal". I also liked reading about Jeremy, Faith's son and Zeke, Faith's brother.

Favourite quote:
...a woman can run faster with her skirt up than a man can with his pants down. (page 64)

New word: bespoke (page 128): specially made

Highly recommended. I already have Criminal, Will Trent #7 on my to-be-read shelf. I'm going to keep any eye open for other books in the series.

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

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

I won this copy from a contest held by the Stop You're Killing Me (SYKM) website.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter, Delacorte Press (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780345528209(Hardcover), 387p.

Needlework Tuesday - Knitting, Buying and Organizing

Last week, I finished another another ruffle-y scarf in Bernat's Truffle yarn.  I just love the colour.

I also purchased some more Bernat's Ribbons yarn on sale. I love this yarn and wanted to get one or two more skeins, but when I was the sale (30% off), I got carried away. I bought enough to keep me knitting for awhile. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all of these scarves. I'd only wear them in the winter and, of course, only one at a time. I might try to figure out what else I can make with this novelty yarn.

I also stumbled upon my next project. I won't be starting this one for awhile, but I'm so excited about it I have to tell someone. A few months ago, when I was knitting my sky scarf, I was thinking that it would be nice to somehow represent more of what was happening around me. The sky scarf I've been knitting captures the sky, but I was thinking more along the lines of precipitation, temperature or even ground cover. I had lots of other things to do, so I didn't really do anything more than think about it. Well, yesterday I found this Temperature Scarf KAL (Knit-a-long) and CAL (Crochet-a-long) by Bernat. Exactly, what I was wanting to make. This is even better because they mostly figured out the basics for me.

Anyway, I'm definitely going to have to make some changes, like the scale of the recorded temperatures. Our winter temperatures are much colder temperatures than -6C (22F). For example, the past two days have been colder than -40C (-40F) with the wind chill. Brrr.... Also, as much as I love seed stitch, I don't think I'd like a whole scarf done in it.   The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn't give you nice crisp lines.  Decisions, decisions.

I'm going to give myself lots of time to start this one. I probably won't be joining the official KAL because I'm thinking of starting closer to April, when my sky scarf is wrapping up. I might start before that if I make some decisions regarding the yarn I'll be using. I'll keep you posted on this one.

Thanks to Heather at Books and Quilts for pointing this project out to me. Even though I had seen it already and was busy planning away, it's nice to know that my blogging friends sometimes think of me.  ;)

Also on my agenda this winter: move my craft room/stuff to the basement and weed out some old craft supplies that I won't be using anymore. I've already moved all my stuff to the basement, but haven't set anything up or organized anything yet. It makes it really hard to do or find anything so I probably should be making that a priority. I bought some baskets the other day for organizing. That should help, once I start, that is. 

The red ones are foldable.  The other baskets are folded up and stored inside the big one for now.

I also had some other crafting projects sort of planned for this year, but as of right now, none of them have gone beyond the "thinking-of" stage.   Time is just zipping by.   

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. Be sure to visit her to see what she's up to. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

In The Midwife of Hope River, Patience Murphy is a midwife in West Virginia during the Depression, just after the stock market crash in '29. She, like all of her patients, is struggling just to by, yet she helps anyone who's in need. However, she's very leery about getting to close to others fearing that her secret troubled past will one day catch up to her. After some time, she begins to soften a little to those around her and soon discovers that good things can come out of that.

Overall, I really liked this book. The story was interesting and dealt with many issues of the time including, extreme poverty, racial tension and the Ku Klux Klan. The first time I picked up the book, I wasn't sure I liked the writing. It felt clipped rather than flowing. I put the book down for a bit while I read another book. When I picked it up the second time, the writing didn't bother me as much and I really got into the book. I loved that the chapters were short. It meant that I could read a whole chapter when I got a few minutes.

I liked Patience and loved reading about her work and her varied past. However, her constant self-doubt, got a little old. I also grew a little tired of her looking over her shoulder so often. I supposed it was warranted, but even the littlest things got her wondering if her past was coming back to get her. I also really liked Bitsy and feisty attitude. I loved how quickly she picked up what Patience was teaching her about midwifery.

I learned quite a few things about midwifery and women in labour. Harman, the author and midwife, gave vivid descriptions of the birthing process. I was extremely fascinated by the details she brought into the story. I don't have any children, but I did attend the hospital birth of my niece, so I was a little familiar with the goings-on from that point of view. While I'm not at all squeamish about such things, I can see how some of the details might make others cringe a little.

I loved reading about the issues that Harman wrote about. It was interesting to see how people lived during the depression. I also enjoyed the birthing stories. Some were joyous, some were unremarkable (if there can be such a thing), while others were really sad. After awhile, I didn't really want to hear any more bad ones. It got to be a bit too much.

After reading about so much sadness in the book, I really wanted things to work out for Patience. I liked the ending of the book, but it was a little hokey and not that believable. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, so I won't say more than that.

The P.S. section at the back of the book features some information about the author, a Q&A with her, discussion questions for book clubs as well as some interesting information about midwives and childbirth. I always find these sections well-worth the read.


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.

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman, HarperCollins, ©2012. ISBN 9780062198891(Advance Reader's Edition), 381p.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fonduing Fathers by Julie Hyzy

In Fonduing Fathers, Olivia (Ollie) Paras, the White House executive chef, learns some new information about deceased father. Her mother has been keeping it secret all these years, but now it's time to reveal the truth. As Ollie digs deeper into his death and past, she makes some shocking discoveries about his work and how he died. Apparently, he's not the stand-up guy she believed him to be. However, she doesn't believe the allegations and is determined to clear his name and prove his innocence.

I loved this book, the 6th installment of the White House Chef mysteries. It's always fun to drop in on Ollie and the others at the White House to see what they are up to. I think this is my favourite of Julie's so far. Like the previous book in the series, this one seems to be edgy, dark and dangerous. Of course, there are some lighter moments, but the situations that Ollie gets into threaten not only US national security, but also her life. I really like how this series is progressing. In this one, we learn more about Ollie's family and her relationship with Gav.

I love Ollie and really enjoyed reading about her cooking lessons with Josh, the President's son. His enthusiasm for cooking is contagious. I was a little taken aback by the President's attitude towards his son's interests, though. Isn't he a little young for his interests to be discounted and discouraged? He's got lots of time to figure what he wants to be.

Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, Ollie's one-time nemesis, is as crusty as ever and I'm loving it. He's such a great character. I hope we see lots more of him in future. I also like reading about Gav, Ollie's boyfriend, and the other members of Ollie's team.

Again, Ollie is spending a lot of time doing other things than cooking at the White House. In my review of the last book, Affairs of Steak, I mentioned that I loved seeing her in the kitchen and would like to see more of that. However, this story was so compelling I didn't mind one bit when she was pulled away to do other things.

Even though it's part of a series, I think it can be read as a standalone book. However, because I've read a few of the others, I might be a little biased. I don't remember very many references to past events so it should be easy for newcomers to the series to jump right in.

Hyzy included a number of delicious-looking recipes at the back of the book. I especially want to try the "Goat Cheese and Mushroom Bruschetta". A number of the others (Pumpkin Cheesecake, Panna Cotta, and Cheese fondue) are also on my list of ones to try. Yum!!

Julie Hyzy also writes another series, Manor House Mystery series, which is just as fun and wonderful as this one. For all of my reviews of Julie's books, please see the Review By Author page on this blog. You can't go wrong with any of her books.

Highly recommended. I'm anxiously awaiting the next one.

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

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

Thanks to Dana Kaye from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Fonduing Fathers by Julie Hyzy, The Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin), ©2012. ISBN 9780425251812(Mass Market), 293p, including recipes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Favourite Historical Novels

As part of The Painted Girls blog tour, today I'm featuring my favourite historical fiction books.

It was really, really hard to narrow it down to just 5. As you are about to see, I cheated...just a little. (Note: All of the links below will take you to my reviews of these books.)

Until a few years ago, I didn't read any historical fiction. Because I hated (I mean seriously hated) history in high school all those many years ago, I thought I wouldn't like reading about it. However, reading historical fiction isn't at all like learning history is school. You don't to remember all those dates or "old guys". Now, I really enjoy reading about lots of different time periods and count historical fiction as one of my favourite genres to read.

One of the first historical fiction novels I read was The Soul Catcher by Michael White. It's set just before the American Civil War and is about slaves, who escaped, and the soul catchers, who are hired to apprehend them. I was so surprised how much I enjoyed it. To this day I still recommend it because it broadened my reading horizons and introduced me to historical fiction.

So, here, in no particular order, are the other historical fiction books I'd recommend:

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Buchanan (Her current book, The Painted Girls also belongs in this list. However, since I just wrote about it yesterday, I figured I'd feature some other historical fiction books that I really enjoyed.)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Kate has written many good books. If you go to this page on my blog and scroll down to Morton, you can see all of my reviews for her books that I've read.)

The Birth House by Ami Mckay (She also wrote The Virgin Cure, which is just as wonderful)

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark (I'd also recommend Elle's other book, The Sandalwood Tree.)

The Legacy by Katherine Webb (She's also written The Unseen, which is also terrific. )

So that's my list. I could go on and on there's so much really good historical fiction out there.

Oh, wait! Here are a few more authors to check out:
Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes and Any Known Blood)
Philippa Gregory (The Red Queen)
Roma Tearne (Mosquito and Bone China)
Anna Godbersen (The Luxe series)
Beth Powning (The Sea Captain's Wife)
Robin Oliveira (My Name is Mary Sutter)

Ok. I know I've missed a few, but I think I'll stop there...for real this time.  Enjoy!  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls is the fictional account of the real-life van Goethem sisters, Marie and Antoinette, who lived in Paris in the late 19th century. With their father recently deceased and their laundress mother drowning her sorrows in absinthe, the girls need to contribute to the household's measly income. Marie trains to become a ballet dance with the Paris Opera, while Antoinette seeks out small parts as an extra. It's through the ballet that Marie meets Edgar Degas and ends up modelling for him. Eventually both are exposed to the grittier side of Paris and all of its temptations.

There's been tons of buzz about this book and it's easy to see why. It's so good. I loved it! The story of the relationship between Marie and Antoinette as well as the glimpse into 19th century Paris was spectacular. Even though it's fiction, I loved that it was about real people. I was especially pleased that Buchanan included newspaper clippings from Le Figaro to introduce or fill in parts of the story. It makes it all seem more real and believable.

The story is presented from two different viewpoints, Marie's and Antoinette's. The alternating chapters were a perfect vehicle to get the story across. Their voices came across so well, I could almost hear them talking. So well in fact, that a few times I caught myself reading with a French accent. In my head, of course, not out loud.

I really enjoyed learning a little about Degas. I didn't know very much about him, other than he did paintings of ballerinas. This book has inspired me to learn more about him and his work. I was also interested in reading more about the sisters themselves and looked them up as well. There was one other part of the book that had me intrigued. That's the idea that facial features and the criminal mind could be linked. Fascinating stuff.

Favourite quotes:
He touched me on the shoulder lightly, and in the touch I felt sadness that girls grow into women; that men crumple, hobbling over walking sticks; that flowers wither; that trees drop their leaves. The graceful childish back Monsieur Lefebvre, more than a year ago, felt driven to touch was gone and with it Monsieur Degas's interest in me modeling for him. He wanted only the heart and body of a little dancer, aged fourteen. (page 252)
The book contained a number of new-to-me words. Of course, there were lots of ballet terms, some of them familiar to me; others were more obscure. I looked a few of those up, but mostly concentrated on the others. I hope someone will correct me if these are incorrect, especially with the translations. Here's a sampling:
sou (page 5): small French coin
postiche (page 14): a small hairpiece
abonné (page 18): season ticket holder/subscriber
coryphée (page 26): leading ballet dancer
faubourgs (page 28): suburbs
sylphs (page 41): slim, graceful girl
lunette (page 217): crescent-shaped object
claque (page 226): paid audience
porringer (page 261): soup bowl

In the author's note, Buchanan explains more about the real-life characters, It's well worth the read. The acknowledgement section is also enlightening. It's where the author explains some of the research she undertook to tell this story.

I also read Buchanan's other book, The Day the Falls Stood Still (my review). It remains one of my favourite all-time books.

Highly recommended. I can't wait to see what Cathy has in store for us next.

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 book, please visit Cathy Buchanan's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy and for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, HarperCollins, ©2013. ISBN 9781443412346(Uncorrected proof), 353p.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Grow Plants in Pots by DK Publishing

Grow Plants in Pots offers tips and advice on how to grow a variety of plants in containers. It covers houseplants, outdoor plants as well as fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

  This is a very cool book. It's well-designed with lots of beautiful photographs and is filled with tons of tips and great advice to achieving your ideal garden in pots. I should state that I haven't actually tried any of this tips yet, so I can't vouch for their veracity. However, the book has provided me with tons of inspiration and lots of things to try once the weather warms up.

For each plants featured, the book provides some standard information: plant name, height and spread, exposure, temperature needs (but not the gardening zones I'm used to), suitable size and material for the container, and planting media. As for planting media, the book suggests a specific type and specific brand, John Innes, which I'm not familiar with. I googled it and it appears to be something available in the UK. I would have been nice if it was explained further in the book.

I love the look of containers in gardens, but have never managed to get "the look" I want. The design part of the book is going to help with that. It features a the variety of containers in different applications so that I can achieve my "look". I especially love the sleek modern containers. They probably wouldn't go with the style of my current house, but I'd love to have those someday.

The other problem I have with container gardening is that I tend to pick the wrong plant or care for it improperly so that halfway through the season, it's not looking it's best and I'm frustrated at my attempt. The reminder of the book addresses that issue. There's a section on foliage and flowers, fruits and vegetables as well as a planting guide for general care and disease/pest issues. Next year we plan on putting in a vegetable garden. Thanks to this book, I plan on putting a few of them in containers.

I also appreciated the houseplant information. Many of my houseplants have been inherited, so I know very little about them. This book was a great help in identifying them and giving me information on their care.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't cover winter care or overwintering tips for extreme winter temperatures (-30C). There are some that are applicable, but not that many. Most of the suggestions would probably work for climates a lot warmer than the Canadian prairies.

The table of contents has the 4 major sections listed as well as the major items (with page numbers) within each section. It also features an A-Z list of plants featured in the book. This last part is unique and awesome! As for the index, it's quite extensive and should help with finding items in the book.

You're probably thinking that it's a little weird to be reviewing a gardening book in the dead of winter. However, I think winter is the perfect time to plan next year's garden. I like to take my time and come up with different plans before choosing the best one. Also, I find that reading or perusing gardening books when I have the winter blues is a wonderful pick-me-up. It really gives me something to look forward to when it's freezing outside and my garden is under 3 feet of snow.

Highly recommended for those wanting to add containers to their indoor and outdoor spaces.  It would be most helpful for those in climates warmer than the Canadian prairies.    

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

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

Grow Plants in Pots by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley, ©2011. ISBN 9780756682507(Soft cover), 256p.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Daisy's Best of 2012

I love looking back at the books I've read in a particular year in order to make my "Best of" list. Sometimes I forget about the books I read earlier in the year. It's a nice surprise when I come across the review and remember how much I enjoyed it. This year was no exception.
I didn't make any categories this year and basically lumped them all together. Please note that these are books I read in 2012 and not necessarily published that year.

In no particular order, here's Daisy's Best of 2012:
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
The Complete Classical Music Guide by DK Publishing
The Unseen by Katherine Webb
Let the Devil Sleep by John Verdon
Crime Scene Detective by Carey Scott
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay (technically I read this in 2011, but since I didn't get around to writing my review until 2012 it got missed on the "Best of" list for 2011. )
The Legacy by Katherine Webb
Bad Moon by Todd Ritter
Optical Illusions by DK Publishing
The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose
The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey
Curry Cuisine published by DK Publishing

I read a few books over the holidays that I haven't written reviews for yet. The Devil Will Come by Glenn Cooper and Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay both belong on this list.

That's it. Did you read any of these? Did any of them make your "best of" list? Do you disagree with any of my selections? Do you have recommendations? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Knitting Updates

Happy New Year! I hope this new year brings you much joy, peace and prosperity.

Since it's Tuesday, I figured I'd give you a quick update on some of my knitting projects.

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my afghan project that was going to use up the scraps of yarn I had accumulated. Well, I knitted like a madwoman before Christmas and finished it! I only have a little of the burgundy left so it's mission accomplished. It's not full size, but it's enough to throw over my shoulders or cover my lower half when watching TV.

I've also been working on my sky scarf. It's about 60% done. I still have 4 more months of sky watching and knitting to do before I can call this one complete. I'm definitely going to be using the additional white yarn I purchased and possibly a little of the darker blue. Since I'm using more yarn than the "pattern" called for, I'm wondering now if I made the scarf too wide. The instructions didn't specify the number of stitches, so I went by the photo they supplied. It looked to me like it was around 50 stitches. Also, it's a little stiff and probably won't drape that well. Oh, well, I'm not going to start again.

So far, the yarn has totalled $100 (plus tax), but I'll probably have some leftover, especially the greys and light blue. I'm not sure it's going to be enough to make anything, though. Anyway, I think that's a tad expensive for a scarf. I was hoping to make another one next year, but I'm rethinking that idea.  In the photo below, May 1, 2012 is at the top, December 31, 2012 is at the bottom.  

I also started another ruffled scarf. I had to start this one three times. At first, the fine strands of yarn were catching on my dry hands. It was really annoying. So I decided to leave it until after a few applications of hand lotion. My next attempt was going ok until I put it down to get a cup of tea. When I picked up again all of the stitches slipped off the needle, fell to the floor and came complete apart. There was no salvaging it. I may have said a few choice words that I won't repeat here. Anyway, this time it's going much better. I'm being much more careful about how I put it down and pick it up each time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I don't lose the stitches again.

I haven't made any plans yet as to this year's projects.  I had a few in mind, but haven't done anything to make them happen.  I'll have to give it more thought and get off my butt. 

That's it. Have a great day!

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.