Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

In The Guilty One, an eight-year old boy is found dead and eleven-year-old Sebastian, is accused of the crime. Daniel Hunter, a London solicitor takes the case and does his best to defend Sebastian. Daniel, too, was a troubled young man and this case reminds him of his own youth and Minnie, the woman who raised him.

I really enjoyed this book. The story is split into two parts: Daniel as a youngest with his caretaker, Minnie; Daniel, the solicitor, defending Sebastian. I enjoyed both parts, but I preferred the latter. I found it really interesting the way the court case was conducted and how it played out. I liked seeing Daniel as a young troubled kid, though, and thought it was interesting how his past affected his defence of Sebastian.

I liked Daniel. After a troubled youth he pulled his life together and became a successful young solicitor. Sebastian, the accused, was a bit scary for an eleven-year-old. I questioned his guilt all the way through the book. He definitely needed some help. The most compelling character for me was Minnie. I really felt sorry for her. She had suffered a great loss and always did what she thought was best for Daniel. The estrangement between her and Daniel and the cause of that separation brought tears to my eyes more than once. It was actually painful to read. I wished their story had a happier ending.

I’ve seen the terms “solicitor” and “barrister” before, but didn’t know what the differences were. According to what I’ve read, a barrister argues before the court, while the solicitor does not. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. These are British terms and we do use them here in Canada, but I not sure we make these distinctions.

I think this would make an excellent book club book. I’m sure it would stir up all kinds of interesting discussions about troubled kids, the treatment of young offenders (Young Offender's Act or the newer Youth Criminal Justice Act here in Canada), and the foster child system as well as much more.

Highly recommended.

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

For more information about the author, please visit Lisa Ballantyne's website.

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

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2012. ISBN 9780062195517(Trade paperback), 451p.

Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie

In Close My Eyes, Geniver Loxley lost her daughter Beth 8 years ago. She’s still trying to come to terms with Beth being stillborn. When a stranger shows up at her front door stating that Beth didn’t die all those years ago and is alive, Gen goes into a tail spin. Against the advice of her husband, Art, her family and her friends, Gen is determined to uncover the truth and find out what happened to Beth.

I really enjoyed this one. It’s quite an unusual story with several twists and turns that I didn't see coming at all. I really liked how the story unfolded; not quite linear with bits and pieces of the back story revealed slowly. This style added lots of suspense to the book and had me quickly turning pages dying to know what would happen next.

I liked Beth and really felt sorry for her. I didn't really like any of the other characters, though. However, I don't think I was supposed to love them all anyway. Lorcan, Art's old friend, was okay, but his motives weren't always clear. If I were Geniver, I wouldn't have trusted him. Morgan, Art's sister, was definitely a piece of work. Was she supposed to be mentally ill? Because that's the way it came across. As for Art, Geniver's husband, I didn't quite understand him. I wanted him to grow a backbone when it came to Morgan.

There were a couple of things about the storyline that I didn't like. I didn’t like the short sections written in italic type. I understood what the author was trying to do, but it didn’t work for me. It was obvious is was someone younger or at least immature “speaking”, but they didn’t come across as believable. The other thing I didn't like was the revelation near the ending. Parts of it were a bit too odd, twisted and mean spirited to be believable. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that.

The last couple of pages were pretty chilling and compelling. All things considered, it was a good way to end the story.

I must have missed the reference to the title, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why the book has the title that it does.

This book might make a good book club book. Parts of the story are sure to bring about some interesting discussions. It's probably not for those highbrow literary book clubs, though.

Recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

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

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

Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie, Simon & Schuster UK ©2013. ISBN 9781471111723(Trade paperback), 390p.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Garden Craft project.

Sorry, I haven't been doing any needlework again this week.  I guess it's been a couple of weeks since I reported any progress on my garden craft projects.  I've been busy, busy, busy painting up a storm. Here's my first post on these projects.    

While I was painting rocks for the Tic-Tac-Toe game, I figured I'd make a few more and create a "Garden Checkers" game.  The only problem is that I miscounted and don't have enough made yet.  When I pull out the primer and base coat paint again, I'll have to do another 8 or so.  (I'm figuring a few might get lost, so I'm making a few extra.)   The game board(s) hasn't been created yet.  I hope to do that within the next two weeks.   (idea from Pinterest.)

Bee rocks
Rocks painted to represent bees.

Ladybug rocks
Rocks painted to represent ladybugs. 

The next thing I tackled were a few butterflies.  I'm extremely pleased with how these turned out.   My husband, who's getting quite good now with the skill saw has cut out 10 of these.  It's taking me a lot longer to paint them than I originally thought.  I had planned to make at least 30, but that might not happen, so for now I've told him to stop.   It's hard to tell how big they are from this photo, but I think they are about 12" across.    They don't have their antennae yet, but I don't know that I'm going to bother with that.   I still have to spray them with a protective coating and find a place for them in the yard or garden.  (I got this idea after seeing the memorial butterfly garden at Machray School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This link and photo doesn't do it justice.)
First two butterflies completed. 

Lastly, I primed and painted two old small windows.  I then used silicone to attach glass gems to the glass on one of them  Since this has a bit of weight to it, it's going to be a little more tricky to find a spot to install it. We are still working on some ideas. I'm a little disappointed with this as the glass gems didn't react with the sunlight as I would have expected them to. While the light did go through them, it wasn't refracted nor did it cast any interesting shadows or light patterns onto the deck. Oh, well. Despite this, I like the way it turned out and will probably do a few more. (idea from Pinterest.)
Old Window
The first of the windows completed.

For the next two weeks or so, I'll be making more rock insects, painting more butterflies and making at least one more window thingy.   I'll have another update when I have something to report.   

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Eleven Pipers Piping by C.C. Benison

In Eleven Pipers Piping, Father Tom Christmas isn’t that excited to attend the annual Robert Burns supper at the hotel. He’s even less excited to eat the haggis that is traditionally served. As the chaplain to a traditional Scottish pipe band, he’s been invited to deliver the grace and is obligated to attend. As the supper commences, Will Moir, the hotel owner, goes missing and is later found dead. When the cause of death is determined to be poisoning instead of the initial suspected heart attack, the town comes alive with gossip. Suspects and suspicions abound as Father Christmas’s keen sense of observation leads him to the killer.

I really enjoyed this second book in the Father Tom Christmas mystery series. This traditional British “cozy” mystery is evenly paced; never hurried or rushed. At 470+ pages, it’s a tad long but it really didn't feel like there was anything extraneous, even though Father Christmas did a lot of things other than look into the mystery. The story takes place around two ceremonies/celebrations: Robert Burns supper and wassailing. I didn’t know much about either, so it was interesting to read about them.

The other major event that takes place in the story is a heavy snowfall. I loved Benison’s descriptions of all of the piles of snow and how people were responding to it. Something I can definitely relate to.

I especially loved the letters by Madrun, the Vicarage housekeeper, to her mother. She's hilarious! I loved how the author used these letters to sum up the parts of the story as well as add some new information. A lot of authors use this technique, but aren’t always as successful as Bension. He does a fantastic job of making them fit right in.

One addition I would have liked to see in this book is a map of the village, even a crude artist's rendition. I had a little trouble picturing how the various locations in the story were situated in relation to others. The author did describe the locations quite well, but I'm a visual person and love maps.

Father Christmas is one of my favourite amateur detectives. He’s a young widower raising a young daughter in a small town in the UK. He doesn’t really do any traditional investigating. He basically just goes about his life and duties all the while making keen observations about the people he talks to and the things he sees.

My favourite quote from the book:
The taste was compounded of damp grass, prawn casings, and iron filings with boiled liver notes and a dishwater finish. (page 305, a description of the tea that Molly served Father Christmas)

I love learning new words. Here's a sampling of the new-to-me words in this book:
apostasy (page 23): renunciation of faith/political belief or allegiance
epenthetic (page 46): adding a sound to a word
abrogated (page 91): do away with something
sclera (page 131): tough outer coating of the eyeball
cranachan (page 143): traditional Scottish dessert
opprobrium (page 146): scorn
cagoule (page 172): lightweight anorak (UK)
adipose (page 200): fat
quotidian (page 204): commonplace
tabaccanalia (page 291): Hmmm...I couldn't find a definition for this one
uxorious (page 300): excessively devoted to your wife
cheder (page 341): Jewish religious education classes
ruana (page 356): poncho
cresset (page 360): a metal cup or basket containing something flammable
invidious (page 430): unpleasant

I've read two other books by C.C. Benison. Here's the review for Twelve Drummers Drumming. I read the other one, Death at Buckingham Palace, before I started blogging. You can read what I thought of it over at Bookcrossing. I'd highly recommend them both. I have a few other books by Benison on my to-be-read shelf. I hope to get to them one day.

Highly recommended. I’m anxiously awaiting, Ten Lords A-Leaping, which was already mentioned in this book. It should be a hoot!

C.C. Benison is the pseudonym of Doug Whiteway. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, my hometown.

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

For more information about the author, please visit C.C. Benison's website.

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

Eleven Pipers Piping by C.C. Benison, Doubleday Canada (Random House) ©2012. ISBN 9780385670159(Hardcover), 474p.

Our New Vegetable Garden

This year we decided to finally put in a vegetable garden. This spot was an old perennial flower garden that was very neglected by the previous owner. A few years ago, we cleaned it up and moved in a couple more plants. Still, it wasn't a great looking garden and keeping the deer out was a losing battle. Then the flood of 2011 wiped out everything. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise, at least for this spot. It really needed a complete overhaul and the flood accomplished some of that without that much work from us. I would have liked to save some of the plants, but oh, well.

Vegetable Garden
Click on the photo for a better view.  

Last year, we began prepping the area by rototilling it several times and removing some limestone slabs that at one time made up a path to/from/around the garden. This year, we supplemented the soil with mushroom manure, top soil and peat moss then rototilled some more. We knew if there was any chance at all of a garden surviving the munching deer and rabbits it would have to be fenced in. We didn't want anything permanent or too expensive, though, so we bought some stakes and stucco wire to construct our 5' tall makeshift fence.

We were about a week or so late in planting because of the awful spring we had.    We actually planted some of the seeds before the fence went up because we knew we were getting a late start.  Besides, deer don't eat seeds.  ;)  We should have enough of the growing season left to have a bountiful harvest, but I guess that's up to the weather and Mother Nature.    Next year we hope to get an earlier start.

Deciding what to plant wasn't really that hard. We basically planted what we wanted to eat. Both of our parents had vegetable garden when we were growing up, so we started with what they grew then added and subtracted as needed. The wonderful lady at the nursery was a tremendous help and steered us towards some popular crops that we wouldn't have thought of such as kale, spinach, lettuce, and parsnips.

Here's what we are growing:
Tomatoes (3 kinds)
Peppers (4 kinds)
Brussels Sprouts
Potatoes (3 kinds)
Spaghetti Squash

Then on a whim and as an experiment we put in:

So far, everything looks good. All of the crops started from seed have sprouted and the bedding plants are either growing or holding their own. It'll be awhile before we have anything to harvest, but we are hopeful and waiting in anticipation.   

By the way, there are a few other things you can see in the photo besides the garden:
  • long grass - that's our new "meadow", I'll be writing about that in another post. 
  • dead trees - they didn't come back after the flood two years ago.   I'll be writing about that when we start cutting them down. 
That's it for now.   I'll try to provide another update in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guest Post by M.J. Rose

Today, I have a guest post by M.J. Rose, the author of Seduction. I posted my review of her book yesterday.   Before I let M.J. take it away,  I want to let you know that she has one of the cutest dogs ever!  To see a great photo of this cutie, see her Twitter page.  The link is at the bottom.  That's your little reward for reading through the rest of this post.  ;)   

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved -- loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” ― Victor Hugo

Excerpt from SEDUCTION - From Chapter 5 Victor and Fantine
“No one has cared about me for a very very long time,” you said. “I would like to know how it feels again. Even just a bit of caring. I would like to test it and see if it is enough to keep me alive.”

“What an astonishing creature you are. You are offering me a bargain.” You smiled.  “I suppose I am.”

I reached out and touched your beautiful hair, lifting one of the curls. As I did I breathed in your scent again. What a fine perfume. One more suited to a woman seated in front of a silver tea set under a crystal chandelier than to a servant girl walking on the beach in Jersey.

SYNOPSIS of Seduction: From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

About the Author

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.

Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of and

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seduction by M.J. Rose

In Seduction , Victor Hugo's daughter, Didine, drowns and he is devastated. Years later, he tries to connect her by holding a number of séances. While trying to contact, Didine, he makes a number of other contacts, including Jesus, Shakespeare and the Devil. It's this last contact that could lead to his ruin. In the present, Jac L’Etoile, a mythologist, is invited to Jersey by Theo Gaspard. The two had met as teenagers while in therapy in Switzerland, but haven't seen each other in years. Jac wants to investigate the area's Celtic roots, but he wants her to look into something much more sinister and dangerous.

I really enjoyed this book and the way in which it was presented; split between the past and present. When stories are presented like this, I generally like one part more than the other. In this case, I like the present story more than the past one. While I enjoyed reading Hugo's journal, written in the first person, in which he relays his séance and other-worldly encounters to Fantine, I didn't really enjoy the character of "The Shadow of the Sepulcher". A bit too bizarre for me. Overall, though, the story was really good.

As with many books from Rose, this story deals with reincarnation. While I don't know much about it, I find it utterly fascinating. I occasionally wonder about my past lives (which I don't remember) and try to reconcile that notion with my Roman Catholic upbringing. It's an interesting thought, if nothing else. I'm not much of a believer when it comes to séances, so that part of the story didn't resonate with me.

Jac is such a great character. She's a mythologist and skeptical about reincarnation yet has this amazing ability to remember past lives. I loved reading about her and her abilities, but I didn't quite understand some stuff that was happening this time around. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll leave it at that and hope that I'll understand it better in the next book. I really enjoyed reading about her brother, Robbie, and her therapist, Malachi, in the last book. I wish they'd played a bigger part in this one.

This book is part of a series, however, I think it can be read mostly as a standalone book. I do, however, think readers will get a bit more out of the book if they've read the first book (The Book of Lost Fragrances) featuring Jac and her brother Robbie.

I love it when authors use real people in their books. I didn't know much about Victor Hugo at all when I started reading this book. Rose focused on such an interesting aspect of his life that it prompted me to read more about him.

There are a few new-to-me word used in the book. Here they are with their meanings:
mesmerism - hypnotism
manse - large house
menhir - single standing stone
centimes - currency subunit (French)
dolmens - ancient stone structure/tomb
jejune - boring
cabochon - round gem
taboret - low cylindrical stool
craven - cowardly

I did have a little trouble with the electronic copy I downloaded. It's unfortunate, but it affected my reading and enjoyment of this book quite a bit. Part of it was user error and misunderstanding of how eBooks work while the other part, I'm guessing, had to do with my particular model of eReader. I won't go into the details here, but reading this book was a little frustrating. I'm hoping that other readers have better luck that I did.

I've read two other books by Rose. Here are my reviews of those two books: The Book of Lost Fragrances (another book featuring Jac L'Etoile) and The Hypnotist. I enjoyed them both.

Recommended. I'd definitely read another book by Rose and am looking forward to the next book featuring Jac L'Etoile.

This author/book is currently on a virtual book tour with Historical Fiction Book Tours. For more reviews and guest posts, be sure to visit the other stops on the tour.

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

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

Thanks to those nice people at Historical Fiction Book Tours for this eCopy.

Seduction by M.J. Rose Publication Date: May 7, 2013 Atria Books Hardcover; 384p ISBN-10: 1451621507

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by Paul Ruditis

DK is celebrating Father's Day with some discounts on books in its Father's Day Boutique. I'm really late in posting this and I don't know how long the sale is for, so if you are interested hop over there right now and see what they have. Even if it's too late to get Dad the book for today, you could always order it and give it to him another day. Anyway, here's my review of one of the books:
Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary includes material from the 5 Star Trek TV series as well as 10 of the movies. It features labelled photographs and information on many of the things in the Star Trek world.

This is such a cool book. I'm not an avid Trekkie, but I am a fan of the franchise. While I didn't watch Deep Space Nine at all, I did see almost every episode in the other series and all of the movies. Even though I was familiar with much of the stuff in the book, there was lots of new-to-me information. It was all pretty interesting. I loved the little known (at least to me) information on characters, ships and other items. I knew next to nothing about the aliens that the crews encountered, so all of that was new for me. Very cool.

The book features tons of large photographs, many of them annotated. There's photographs and information on: captains, ships, crews, aliens, some technical items (i.e. Klingon Tricorder) and weapons (i.e. Type-2 Phaser). My favourite parts were about the captains and their respective ships. My least favourite were the sections on the aliens. I did like the information on the alien crew members, though, as well as information on the Klingons.

I think it's pretty awesome that the book is presented chronologically in Star Trek years. Rather than start with Captain Kirk and the U.S.S Enterprise NCC-1701, the books begins with Captain Archer and the Enterprise NX-01.

Even though I really liked this book, it is a bit odd. The dust jacket flaps mention the TV series and movies, but after that the book mostly treats this as "real" life. Like these things really exist. No mention of actors, costumes, sets, props, etc. I would have appreciated some "behind-the-scenes" information, but perhaps that wouldn't have fit in with the "dictionary" idea.

Star Trek is a huge franchise, so I was expecting this book to be much longer. With 5 TV series and at least 10 movies, there's so much more that could have and should have gone into this book. Sure, they hit the basics, but hardcore Trekkies are more than likely going to be disappointed that the book is so short.

The table of contents is pretty good, but there's no index. A book like this could use one, so I'm not sure why it's missing.

Highly recommended for fans.

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.

Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by Paul Ruditis, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465403377(Hardcover), 95p.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Sans the Actual Needlework

I haven't been doing any needlework, but I have been brainstorming some projects and gathering supplies for a number of garden related craft ideas. I should probably have done these earlier in the year when I had more time because now I'm really busy planting, mowing, weeding, watering....Working in the garden, though, has been an inspiration.  Most of these ideas are barely off the ground, but I figured I'd share them anyway. Think of them as the "before" photos.

Whirligigs: I've had this first idea for awhile.  I'm not sure where I got these fans from, but I thought they'd make cute whirligigs with a little paint. The plan is to paint them to look like flowers and stick them in the garden. I'm not a great painter, so they are going to be very crudely painted. Unfortunately, they are a bit too heavy and need a really strong wind in order to turn, which in turn knocks them over. I guess I'll have to drive them further into the ground.


Butterflies: I had this idea last year when I was looking for a long term or year-long project. I wanted to make a bunch of painted wooden butterflies to stick on the trees in our yard/forest for a touch of whimsy. I had planned to do some of them over the winter, but that didn't happen. As it turns out, it's going to be a bit tricky to cut them out, so I'm going to settle for fewer of them. Again, I'm not a great painter, so this is might turn out to be an ambitious project.

Butterfly cutout

Garden Window: The idea with this one is to stick the glass gems onto an old window with silicon and place it in the garden. When the sun shines on it, the glass beads will refract (?) the light and add some interest to the garden. (from Pinterest)

Window and glass gems

Garden Board Game: This is another idea I found on Pinterest. I'm going to make a Tic-Tac-Toe game with rocks and a "slice" of wood off a log. I'll paint the rocks to resemble ladybugs and bumblebees and paint a game board on the wood.  It took me awhile to find the stones; I was looking at garden centres and at Wal-Mart. Both of which sold large bags for landscaping. However,  I only needed 20 or so. I finally stumbled upon them at the dollar store. This set here comes glued to a mesh background, which I'll just remove, but I also found a small bag of them. Score!   I think I'm going to save the prettier ones for another project that won't require me to cover them in paint. 

Garden rocks

Chicken Wire Alliums: Another one from Pinterest. This is supposed to look like an allium, a giant onion. However, my version doesn't do it justice. First of all, I couldn't find purple spray paint. The hardware store had one, but it was so dark it didn't really read "purple". I had to settle for orange, which I love, but it's nothing like an allium. Then I used the wrong chicken wire. Mine was the 1" stuff that was too stiff to shape. I think I did okay, but it would have been easier with the 2", which is much more flexible. Then I couldn't figure out how to attach the chicken wire ball on the bamboo stake. It's supposed to be attached just at the bottom, but the ball kept flopping over. My solution to push the stake right through the ball solved that, but again it doesn't look like an allium. Oh, well. Despite all of that, I like them! I made seven of them and scattered them around a large flower bed. Whimsical, no?

Chicken Wire Decor

Early in the spring, my husband built two window boxes to spruce up the tool and garden sheds. I painted them a couple of weeks ago, but now I hope to add a stencil to the front of them to jazz them up a bit. Yay, more painting.

Window box

I just realized that the majority of these project involve decorative painting.  Hmmmmm....I might have to revise some of these as time goes by.  With the exception of the window boxes, everything needs a coat of primer first.  Guess what I'll be doing this week?  

Finally, I've also been tinkering around with Zentangles that Heather mentioned on her blog a number of weeks ago. I don't have any good ones to show, but I really like doing them and hope to do a lot more in the future.

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

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Spring into Gardening with DK Publishing

Over the last couple of days, I've been posting reviews for books in DK's Spring into Gardening promotion. I just love gardening, so reviewing books about it has been a blast. Besides the books I recently posted about, I've previously reviewed a few others on the list.  Here are the links to those reviews:

Growing Vegetables
What's That Tree?
Growing Plants in Pots
Home Herbal

I'm a little late in posting this so if gardening is your thing and you need some gardening books for help, motivation or inspiration, hop on over to DK's website for some great deals on gardening books.

If you've never peeked into a book published by DK, you are missing out on some of the most beautiful books on the market. 

Happy Gardening!!  

Garden Design by DK Publshing

DK is celebrating spring with its Spring into Gardening promotion. I'm a little late in posting this so if gardening is your thing and you need some gardening books for help, motivation or inspiration, hop on over to DK's website for some great deals on gardening books. Here's my review on one of them:

Garden Design guides the gardener through the design process of creating a perfect outdoor space. It also includes practical advice on implement the plan by picking the best plants and materials.

This book is awesome! It's packed with large wonderful photographs and useful advice. It provided me with tons of inspiration and ideas for my garden that just might keep me busy for years. The book is separated into four logical sections: how to design, choosing a style, making a garden, plant and material guide.

The how to design section starts off things to consider before starting. It then goes through reading plans, using shapes and layouts as well as other design elements. It talks about colour and materials for "hard" items, such was surfaces, screens, structures, etc. and the "soft" items (plants) in general terms. The creating a site plan part goes through some key aspects of creating a plan and looking at options. A planting plan is next. I absolutely loved all of the examples given as well as the case studies, but the rest of the information was a little too brief for me to get a good handle on it.

The choosing a style section briefly explains the different styles. It then launches into more detailed explanations of each one featuring key design elements, influences, garden to visit (for inspiration) before showing some examples. In all, the book goes through 14 different styles. They include: formal, cottage, Japanese, urban, country, modernist, and many more. I have such eclectic tastes that I can't decide which one I like best. I love the clean, straight lines and minimalism of the modernist; the beauty and simplicity of the Japanese; the quirky and fun fusion garden; the originality of the concept garden; and even though I don't have children, the functionality of the family garden. Maybe when I win the lottery I can have one of each.

The making a garden section offers practical information on following through with the plans. The building garden structures part has how-to information on laying a path/patio, building a deck/fence/pergola, as well as putting in a pond. The planting techniques part looks at how-to plant and care for your garden.

Finally, the plant and material guide, suggests options for what to put in your garden. The plant part suggests options for the "soft" item, like trees, shrubs, perennials. I love that the legend for the symbols used is on every other page. No flipping back and forth! For each plant, there's a photo along with a general description. It also lists the size, sun/shade needs, water requirements, and hardiness. Unfortunately, this book doesn't use the hardiness zones we use here in Canada. Instead, it describes plants as being "fully hardy" or "hardy in mild regions/sheltered sites". That's nice, but I'm not sure what that means exactly. There's also a list of suggested alternatives.

The materials guide suggests options for the hard landscaping items in your yard; surfaces, walls and railings, screen and gates, structures and storage, and more. For each option, there's a photo, general descriptions, low/medium/high cost, durability, and colour options. Some of these options are just gorgeous. I had no idea that some of them even existed. I could get really carried away. Unfortunately, my budget has limits.

The table of contents is pretty good. It lists the four main sections along with major items within those sections. The index is quite extensive.

Highly recommended.

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.

Garden Design by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2009. ISBN 9780756642747(Hardcover), 360p.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Canadian Gardener's Guide by DK Publishing

DK is celebrating spring with its Spring into Gardening promotion. I'm a little late in posting this so if gardening is your thing and you need some gardening books for help, motivation or inspiration, hop on over to DK's website for some great deals on gardening books. Here's my review on one of them:

Canadian Gardener's Guide is filled with helpful advice, ideas and techniques for the Canadian Gardener.

This is a great book. I love that it touches upon many aspects of gardening. From designing and planting to growing your own veggies, troubleshooting problems and selecting the right plant for the right location or look. It really is a terrific book.

It starts off with the basics for the beginning gardener. However, even seasoned gardeners will find useful advice in this section.

The design section takes the gardener though the different designs focusing on the key aspects of each one. Whether it's a place to entertain, a productive garden, a family garden or something else, each 4-page spread features an explanation of the space, a labelled layout, and photographs/explanations of the items that fit with that style. The section also includes how-tos for fence posts, paths or patios, decks, and pergolas.

The plant your garden section features more general information on plants. It's not a how-to guide for planting. It focuses more on designing with the "soft" items (i.e. plants) with style in mind.

The grow your own section uses a hands-on approach. It talks about tools and equipment, preparing the site and other things the gardener needs to know to start growing their own vegetables. The vegetable crop planner (page 202-205) was interesting, but I needed more information on what it meant. The time frames for sowing/planting/harvesting some of the veggies were definitely not meant for the prairies. Harvesting in December? The only thing we harvest in December is snow! My favourite part of this whole section is the information on the specific crops: tomatoes, lettuce, beans, peas, kale, Brussels sprouts. This is going to be invaluable because we planted a vegetable garden this year for the first time. There's a similar section for fruit.

The care for your garden section lists general gardening activities for different seasons, shows the gardener how to water, how to save water, how to plant in containers, how to prune, as well as propagation techniques and care advice for lawns, meadows and ponds.

The help and advice section offers troubleshooting advice for problems in the garden. Whether it's weeds, pests, or deficiencies, the book can help the gardener diagnose what's wrong and potentially fix it. My favourite parts of this section is the A-Z list of common pests and the A-Z list of diseases and disorders. Extremely informative.

The final section is called plant chooser. There are 30 lists for different situations, soil conditions, garden location, etc. Included are: plants of summer containers, water and bog plants, climbers for shade, structural plants, plants for hot, dry sites, and many more. Each of the lists include photos, descriptions, size, sun/shade needs, and water requirements. I absolutely love that the legend for the symbols used is in this part is on every 2nd page. No flipping back and forth. Each of these lists also features some alternative suggestions for plants.

The hardiness zone maps on the endpapers are large and fairly easy to read. It's very cool to see how the zones change radically from west to east and north to south in this country.

The table of contents is huge! It not only lists all of the major sections, but also all of the topics, projects, and whatnot within each section. I love that. The index is pretty extensive. That should help the gardener find information quickly.

Highly recommended.

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.

Canadian Gardener's Guide by DK, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 978155631781(Hardcover), 448p.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gardening Shortcuts by Jenny Hendy

DK is celebrating spring with its Spring into Gardening promotion. I'm a little late in posting this so if gardening is your thing and you need some gardening books for help, motivation or inspiration, hop on over to DK's website for some great deals on gardening books. Here's my review on one of these awesome books:

Gardening Shortcuts breaks down gardening tasks into small chunks so that you can accomplish things in your garden in a relatively short period of time. It has step-by-step instructions for projects as well as plenty of other advice to get your garden, yard and patio looking ship-shape in no time.

This is such an awesome book. Sometimes large project feel daunting because it can be awhile before you see progress, so I love the idea of breaking up the projects into smaller pieces. It makes me feel like I've accomplished something and motivates me to do more. It also allows me to spruce up or fix one part of the yard at a time without having to invest a whole afternoon.

The introduction includes some information on soil type, ground preparation, containers, seeds and buying plants as well as basic tools needed. This stuff is presented up front to avoid repetition later on in the book.

The rest of the book is kind of a mish-mash of ideas and projects. It has some project pages with step-by-step instructions, equipment lists and photos. There are also 2-page spreads that show you how to achieve a certain look in the garden. It lists the plants and elements need to impart a particular style. Other 2-page spreads feature advice on general maintenance. They list a number of jobs and/or projects for the different areas of your yard or garden.

There are a few pages that deal with the garden over winter. Since snow isn't mentioned, I can only assume that this book isn't meant for the Canadian prairies where I live. That's ok. There's enough for me in the other pages to make it a worthwhile read.

The book is filled with wonderful projects and ideas. Here are a few that I picked out to try:
  • DIY patio canopy (page 34). I don't have a pergola yet, but I hope to in the near future. This will provide a little shade and some privacy on the deck. Did I mention we don't have a deck yet, either? That's coming soon, too.
  • Privacy screens (page 36). Because many of the trees have been cleared around our house (previous owners, not us), our yard is wide-open and not that private. I'm hoping to use some of these ideas to create a few private areas in our yard.
  •   Lawn into meadow (page 102) and Wildflower meadow (page 170). We have a large section (just over an acre) in our yard that we don't use for much. We are hoping to turn it into a wildflower meadow. That is, if we can keep the weeds down. So far, we left the grass long, mowed a path so that we could walk around it, and threw down a bunch of wildflower seeds. There are still a few tasks, like weed control, that need to be done, but now it's pretty much just wait for the grass and wildflowers to grow. I can certainly do that.

The table of contents is extensive. It lists all of the projects/ideas/tasks in all of the major sections. The index is pretty good, however, I think it's missing some entries. When I was looking for the "meadow" pages, I couldn't find them. Since there are two of them, I would think that warrants an index entry.

Highly recommended.

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.

Gardening Shortcuts by Jenny Hendy, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756689780(Softcover), 192p.

Great Canadian Plant Guide by DK Publishing

DK is celebrating spring with its Spring into Gardening promotion. I'm a little late in posting this so if gardening is your thing and you need some gardening books for help, motivation or inspiration, hop on over to DK's website for some great deals on gardening books. Here's my review on one of these awesome books:

The Great Canadian Plant Guide offers information on over 3,000 plants for Canadian gardens and lots of general information to help gardeners achieve great results.

This is a great little book with lots of photos and information on more plants than I knew existed. It not only covers perennials, but also annuals and bedding plants. For each plant, there's a short description of the plant and/or bloom as well as information on cultivation, sun and moisture requirements, hardiness zone and size. All of this information is presented with a photo.

The book starts off with a really good introduction on shopping for plants (how to get the right ones, healthy ones), preparing the soil and planting. Closer to the back of the book, there's a planting guide which features a number of plant lists for various conditions, seasons and garden designs. The lists include: plants for poor soil, plants for spring color (which should be "colour"), plants for clay soil, cool color schemes, plants to attract garden birds, and many more. It even includes lists for containers, baskets, and bulbs.

It's small size, roughly 4.25"x5.25", could be really handy for some gardeners. It's small enough to pop into a purse or tote bag or even just carry around the garden store. However, I found it a bit unwieldy to handle. It's small format made the book almost 2" thick, which made the book an odd shape. I don't even think it would look nice on a bookshelf when not in use. The photographs and type are large enough for me to see clearly, but the plant hardiness zone maps on the end papers are not. If the format was enlarged to 8"x10", it thickness would be cut down, which might make it easier to handle.

The book uses the botanical (or Latin) names for many of the plants. There are references to the common names in some cases, but not enough for my liking. For example, in order to find information on a "plume poppy" that I wanted to purchase, I had to first go to the internet to look up the Latin name, "Macleaya cordata", then look that name up in the book. However, since I had already looked it up on the internet, I just read about it there.

Like many other garden books, this one uses symbols for soil moisture preferences/tolerances, sun/shade preferences/tolerances, and hardiness zones. I marked the legend with a little sticky note so that I could easily reference that page when I forgot what the symbols meant.

The table of contents is extremely short, with only 6 entries, if you count the introduction, index and acknowledgements. That leaves only 3 entries for the meat of the book. I'm not sure it's going to be much help. The index, however, is quite extensive and should help the gardener find what they are looking for.

Recommended, even with its shortcomings.

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.

Great Canadian Plant Guide by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9781553631774(Softcover), 704p.