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Urban Leaving to Country Living

More Rural French Cooking – à la Bruno – and Les Américains


The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker Bruno photo crowded grave_zpsxh0jh4yd.jpg

As I’ve said before, one of my favourite mystery series is Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police. The books are set in Dordogne in southern France.

In the latest book that I’ve read, The Crowded Grave, Bruno is entertaining a visiting Spanish official and introducing him to the foie gras that the region, particularly neighbouring Sarlat, is so justly famous for.

He cut the baguette into five portions and brought out a small pot of onion marmalade he had made the previous autumn.

“Bon appétit, and welcome to the gastronomic heartland of France,” he said to Carlos. He took some of the yellow duck fat he had used to preserve the foie and spread it on the baguette before adding a healthy slice of pâté and a small dab of marmalade.

I happened to read this shortly after finishing a charming memoir-of-sorts by “Les Américains” called Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse. In it, Marty Neumeier tells the story of how he and his wife Eileen McKenna, Americans from California, ended up buying a house in Dordogne, in the very same area that the fictional Bruno lives. It was very intriguing to see French country life from the point of view of real-life North Americans.

Beginning French by Les Americains Neumeier photo beginning french_zpsikc9nfv1.jpgThe couple is joined by their daughter Sara who is a chef, which is a happy circumstance considering that they are now in the “gastronomic heartland of France”. (see above)

I loved Marty’s accounts of the town and village markets, particularly the night markets of which I was not previously aware, and which add to my list of reasons for revisiting southern France. At one of these night markets, the family enjoyed duck burgers with an onion jam.

There are several actual recipes in Beginning French. Many involve using duck breast and other ingredients which are not readily available in rural Nova Scotia, but I was intrigued by the instructions for the onion jam which Sara replicated when she returned to the house.

Onion Jam

Sara’s note: We keep this on hand especially for duck burgers, but it’s also good combined with goat cheese in baked stuffed vegetables, or as a condiment with other roast meats or cheese.

6 large red onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Confit d'Oignon photo onion jam 300_zpsq0m43b8g.jpg Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and beginning to turn golden, about 15 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until onions are a rich brown, 20-30 minutes. If during cooking onions begin to stick to the pan, add a few tablespoons water (or wine) and stir with a wooden spoon to dislodge any brown bits.

Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

We had no duck burgers or foie gras to try our onion jam out on, but it was delicious on our sausages in a bun.

And I will be sure to have this delightful book with me when I next stay in France. Our rented stone cottage had a full kitchen and I’m sure I’ll be able to source the proper ingredients for a genuine French feast.

P.S. The Crowded Grave goes on:

“This is wonderful,” the Spaniard mumbled through a mouthful of fresh bread and foie gras. He took a sip of wine, and his eyes widened. “Magnificent. They were made for each other.”

The wine that “the Spaniard” is referring to is Monbazillac, a sweet white wine produced in the village of Monbazillac on the left bank of the Dordogne River just across from the town of Bergerac in SW France.

I’m going to be sure to get some of that when I’m there, too.


Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.




P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.
Also, I received my copy of Beginning French courtesy of NetGalley and the author. This did not affect my review.


Wondrous Words & WHAT ARE THE CHANCES? Middens


question mark photo question-mark_zpslnbg5ouw.jpg

When I think of the history I learned in school—Marco Polo and then the exploration of Canada in grade school, the Magna Carta et al in Grade 9, and a local history course in tenth grade—I do not recall ever hearing the word midden.

A MIDDEN is a community garbage heap—perhaps today we’d say “town dump” (in North America at any rate). They are a rich source of information and relics for archaeologists. And it is the unusual-to-me word that came at me in consecutive reads this month.


In Martin Walker’s Bruno Chief of Police #4 The Crowded Grave (pg. 19) I read:the crowded grave by martin walker photo crowded grave 75_zpsvfvrxrqs.jpg

“Teddy had an interesting idea he wanted to pursue”, said Horst. “He was looking for the midden, the latrine, the place where people threw their rubbish, and he assumed it would be away from the water supply.”

Of course, in so doing, Teddy discovered a more recent body than should have been at that archeological dig site.


the last kashmiri rose by barbara cleverly photo last kashmiri rose 75_zpspxdmaz4k.jpgNext book up was The Last Kashmiri Rose that, despite its title, is not romance but a solid detective/police procedural set in 1922 British India, and is the first in Barbara Cleverly’s Joe Sandilands series.

I had barely begun to read when on page 12, I saw:

Though no stranger to the midden that was the East End of London- he’d not, by a long way, been able to accept the poverty that surrounded him [in Calcutta].


So, what are the chances of these bizarre reading coincidences? Pretty good it seems.


Wondrous Words Wednesday photo wondrouswordsWednesday_zps7ac69065.png


A day late and a dollor short, I’m linking to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at Bermuda Onion.



P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in April 2014


books read
I spent another month at home in Nova Scotia, recovering from the work thus far going through my mother’s house and belongings. I guess I was busy socializing because my magazines were caught up and still managed to read only four books.

BRAT FARRAR by Josephine Tey 4 star rating

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey photo a0935c85-56d2-43ec-be0d-80490cdb2779_zpsqdreqx94.jpgThe three best known and lauded books by author Josephine Tey appear to be Daughter of Time, The Franchise Affair (both in the Alan Grant series), and Brat Farrar. The last of these, a stand-alone novel, was my favourite book in April 2014.

Brat Farrar poses as Patrick Ashby, the heir to his family’s fortune, who disappeared when he was 12 and was thought to have drowned himself. Brat had been coached in Patrick’s mannerisms and childhood by a school friend who had grown up with the Ashbys.

Although you will probably figure out the fly in the ointment early on, as I did, you will not be prevented from feeling the suspense build as the story works its way toward its climax. 4 stars


HARVEST by Jim Crace 4 star rating

Harvest by Jim Crace photo 14f504a7-43ce-436f-8e92-94db44c347c6_zpsnqdrkugt.jpgHarvest focuses on the inhabitants of a remote English village at an undetermined time in what is likely the past.

The village is well-established and the routine of the people remains fixed year after year. But two changes occur that unsettle the village: a group of strangers sets up camp at the edge of the village land; and a surveyor sent by the master is taking notes and measurements about the land and village, setting off rumours that their fields of grain will be converted to meadows for grazing sheep.

This book will take you by surprise: while nothing seems to happen, an entire civilization (in miniature) will unravel within a week. It was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. 4 stars

VITTORIA COTTAGE by D.E. Stevenson 3 star rating

Vittoria Cottage by D.E. Stevenson photo vittoria cottage_zpsq40jhapl.jpg The work of D.E. Stevenson was recommended to me by our head librarian on one of my brief visits to our beautiful relatively new village library. We found on the shelf Vittoria Cottage, published in 1949 and the first of a trilogy.

I did enjoy the mid-twentieth century English village setting, but the plot was a little too much of a romance for me to be crazy about this book. 3 stars

RETURN TO OAKPINE by Ron Carlson 3 star rating

Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson photo 907a7b92-8878-43cc-87ec-386e8bdd6699_zpssw1h33oc.jpg This is the story of four middle-aged friends who once played in a band while growing up together in small-town Wyoming. Two eventually moved away and two stayed in Oakpine. But when the friend who became a famous musician comes back home to die, the friends get together to play again.

Return to Oakpine was a little too commercial for me, but if you like a story that follows comfortable and predictable lines, then you might quite enjoy this. 3 stars


* * * * *


So that’s it for April 2014. Are you interested in any of these?

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

The View from My Window: Early September 2016


We were on a road trip to Ontario during the last week of August, so I missed getting my end-of-August photo. Here’s one from earlier this week.

View from my Window Sep2016 photo view early sep 2016 450_zpsoqhbsjyg.jpg

I’ve heard dozens of flocks of geese pass overhead since we’ve been home. Flying south for the winter. Already.

Autumn is creeping in even though it’s been hot and humid (very UN-Nova-Scotia-like) for the past few days.

Is the sky as blue where you are?


Books Read in March 2014


books readIn March 2014 I flew home to Nova Scotia for a much needed break, leaving my late mother’s house in complete disarray.

I didn’t get very many books read this month, because I had three months of magazines waiting for me. I don’t know about you, but I read magazines like a book: from cover to cover. There were 23 of them: Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Style at Home, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, House Beautiful, Saltscapes, Rural Delivery . . . It took half the month.

I decided I subscribed to too many magazines and now get only Rural Delivery and Saltscapes, both Atlantic Canadian magazines.

1. PAINTED GIRLS by Cathy Marie Buchanan (Fiction, Historical) 4 star rating
Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan photo painted girls_zps1j11soih.jpg
This is the story of sisters Antoinette and Marie van Goethem, who live with their widowed, absinthe addicted mother and younger sister, Charlotte, in Paris in 1878.
Little Dancer by Edgar Degas photo 200px-Dancer_sculpture_by_Degas_at_the_Met_zpsbktqkt60.jpg
The only way out of their dire situation is if Marie makes it into the Paris Opera (her older sister Antoinette tried, but didn’t have the talent) as a ballet dancer. While at the dance school at the opera house, Marie comes to the attention of French Impressionist Edgar Degas. Subsequently, she serves as the model (clothed, and naked) for the artist’s famous statue, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

This was an eyeopener for me as I had always associated ballet school with the well-to-do. This was not so in nineteenth-century France. 4 stars

2. TEA BY THE NURSERY FIRE by Noel Streatfield (Non-fiction, Historical) 3.5 star rating

Tea by the Nursery Fire by Noel Streatfeild photo tea by the nursery fire_zpsjrenv3wk.jpg

Doesn’t that title evoke a cozy picture? Indeed, subtitled A Children’s Nanny at the Turn of the Century, this is a charming little book.

From Amazon: “Emily Huckwell spent almost her entire life working for one family. Born in a tiny Sussex village in the 1870s, she went into domestic service in the Burton household before she was twelve, earning £5 a year. She began as a nursery maid, progressing to under nurse and then head nanny, looking after two generations of children. One of the children in her care was the father of Noel Streatfeild, one of the best-loved children’s writers of the 20th century. Basing her story on fact and family legend, Noel Streatfeild here tells Emily’s story, and with her characteristic warmth and intimacy creates a fascinating portrait of Victorian and Edwardian life above and below stairs.” 3½ stars


* * * * *

Since there’s a total of only five books this month, I’m including the mysteries in this post.

1. THE TALK SHOW MURDERS by Steve Allen (Fiction, Mystery) 3.5 star rating

I found this book in mother’s attic and decided to give it a go.

The Talk Show Murders by Steve Allen photo talk show murders_zps3dz4n359.jpgI remember seeing Steve Allen on game shows in the 1970 and liking him, even as a teenager. He seemed to be to be a ‘gentleman’ and he seemed madly in love with his wife Jayne Meadows.

Now I learn that he was a ‘renaissance man’ of sorts. He not only wrote a series of murder mysteries centred on television shows, but he was a composer (This Could Be the Start of Something Big and hundreds of others) and the first host of The Tonight Show, where (Wikipedia informs me) “he was instrumental in innovating the concept of the television talk show.” Who knew?

In the book, Toni Tenille is hosting the television talk show where a guest is murdered on national TV and no one knows who did it.

This book is clever and certainly kept me entertained while I was reading it. If I had more of the series, I’d read them. 3½ stars

2. CHARLES JESSOLD, CONSIDERED AS A MURDERER by Wesley Stace (Fiction, Mystery, Historical) 3.5 star rating

Charles Jessold, Presumed a Murderer by Wesley Stage photo charles jessold_zpsjawynoms.jpg

From Amazon: “On the eve of his revolutionary new opera’s premiere, Charles Jessold murders his wife and her lover, and then commits suicide in a scenario that strangely echoes the plot of his opera—which (gentleman critic Leslie) Shepherd has helped to write.

Shepherd first shares his police testimony, then recalls his relationship with Jessold in his role as critic, biographer, and friend. And with each retelling of the story, significant new details cast light on the identity of the real victim in Jessold’s tragedy.”

This was one of The Wall Street Journal’s best fiction books of 2011, but it didn’t blow me away. The ending is phenomenal but the rest of the books is slower than molasses in January (and for all you young, hip city-dwellers: that’s pretty darn slow).

3½ stars


3. COLD COMFORT by Charles Todd (Fiction, Mystery, Historical) 2 star rating

Cold Comfort by Charles Todd photo cold comfort_zpsyy7e5fqa.jpg An Inspector Ian Rutledge e-novella set in France in 1915. I suppose the Todds are thinking of mysteries for their character that are set during the war rather than after it, and the only way to write it is in flashbacks.

But my comments for myself when I was finished this were “What was the point of this?” Although I want very much to like the Ian Rutledge books, I was not impressed with this entry. 2 stars

* * * * * * * * * *

Of everything I read this month, I think I enjoyed my Saltscapes magazines the most. {sigh} Ever have reading months like that?


P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.



Crazy for CanLit


The folks who run Canada’s Scotiabank Giller Prize have released a list of the CanLit books published during the past year, thereby making them eligible to be 2016 prize winners. They’ve encouraged one and all to make “Crazy for CanLit” lists.

This list – books by authors I’ve read before – is the only one I’m going to publish on my blog. You can find eight more on my Pinterest boards.


1. Gail Anderson-Dargatz
The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz photo spawning grounds_zps4pka87pu.jpg
In August 2012 I read Anderson-Dargatz’s sweet story, A Recipe for Bees.

This new novel, The Spawning Grounds, by the two-time Giller-shortlisted author, is “an intimate family saga rooted in the Thompson-Shuswap region of British Columbia, and saturated with the history of the place. A bold new story that bridges Native and white cultures across a bend in a river where the salmon run.”

2. Alan Bradley
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley photo thrice the brinded cat_zpsnwkz47g4.jpg

Bradley is the creator of Flavia deLuce, the intelligent, feisty, funny, and down-to-earth pre-teen budding chemist who solves mysteries in her village in rural England in the early 1950s.

I’ve read every book in this series, and I won’t be missing Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d either.


3. George Elliott Clarke
The Motorcyclist by George Elliott Clarke photo motorcyclist_zpsrgre7lwa.jpg

Back in my pre-blogging days I read both Execution Poems (poetry) and George & Rue (prose), accounts of Clarke’s mother’s cousins who were executed for killing a man in 1940s New Brunswick.

This new book, The Motorcyclist, was inspired by the life of Clarke’s father, set in and around Halifax, Nova Scotia. “In vibrant, energetic, sensual prose, George Elliott Clarke brilliantly illuminates the life of a young black man striving for pleasure, success and, most of all, respect.”


4. Emma Donaghue
The Wonder by Emma Donaghue photo wonder_zpso7vvifqd.jpgWho hasn’t read Donaghue’s great novel-turned-movie Room? The summer I read it, many of my friends were saying they couldn’t read it because they were afraid it would be too dark.
But, on the contrary, this is a book about the indomitability of the human spirit, the capacity to adapt, and the power of love.

Her new book, The Wonder, is about a village in 1850s Ireland where a little girl appears to be thriving after months without food. The story of this ‘wonder’ has reached fever pitch.


5. Joy Fielding
She's Not There by Joy Fielding photo shes not there_zpsjysxctoh.jpg

I’m amazed to see from my records that I’ve read four of Fielding’s books: Grand Avenue, The Other Woman, Lost, and See Jane Run, all in pre-blogging days.

Her 2016 entry, She’s Not There, is about a woman who, fifteen years after her infant daughter was kidnapped in Mexico, is contacted by a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter.


6. John Irving

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving photo avenue of mysteries_zpsxbz72zys.jpg

I’ve read five of John Irving’s novels over the years. Nearly all were set in New England so his 2016 offering Avenue of Mysteries sounds a little different.

Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past–in Mexico–collides with his future.”

Will wrestling or bears make their appearance?


7. Maureen Jennings

Dead Ground In Between by Maureen Jennings photo dead ground in between_zpsrpwdjqlg.jpgJennings is probably best known as the author of the series featuring Detective Murdoch, set in nineteenth century Toronto, Ontario. The books are the basis for the popular television series The Murdoch Mysteries.

In addition to the first in that series, I’ve read Does Your Mother Know?, the first installment in Jennings’ Christine Morris series.

Dead Ground In Between is the fourth entry in her D.I. Tom Tyler series, set in WWII Britain. I haven’t sampled this series yet but it’s said to be a “must-read for fans of Foyle’s War, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, and wartime dramas.”


8. Margot Livesey
Mercury by Margot Livesey photo mercury_zpsq502b2rg.jpg

Hmmm . . . Scottish by birth, American by residence, Livesey must use a Canadian publisher, else why would she be on this list?

I’ve read The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre.

Mercury is said to be “a taut emotional thriller about love, obsession and the secrets that pull a family apart.” Mercury is a horse.


9. Yann Martel
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel photo high mountains_zps7byaluo3.jpg

How does one follow up such a smashing success as Life of Pi, which I read in my pre-blogging days?

The High Mountains of Portugal is a suspenseful, mesmerizing story of a great quest for meaning, told in three intersecting narratives touching the lives of three different people and their families, and taking us on an extraordinary journey through the last century.”


10. Stuart McLean
Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page by Stuart McLean photo vinyl cafe_zpsyvgbhmqq.jpg

Most Canadians are familiar with Stuart McLean who is a regular voice on CBC Radio’s Vinyl Café. McLean is a superb storyteller, weaving magical tales about the everyday lives of Dave & Morley and their kids Stephanie & Sam.

But “Dave and Morley are growing older; Steph and Sam are growing up. Moving out and moving on. In this brand new collection of Vinyl Cafe stories, The Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page, the more things change, the more things stay the same.”


11. Donna Morrisey
The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey photo fortunate brother_zpstwcdbgly.jpg

I love Donna Morrissey’s books and have read the first three: Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance, and Sylvanus Now, all before I started blogging.

That puts me a couple of books behind before I attend her book signing for The Fortunate Brother at the Fables Retreat in Tatamagouche on September 24th.

The Fortunate Brother continues the story of the Now family: Sylvanus & his wife and their children.


12. Kate Taylor
Serial Monogamy by Kate Taylor photo serial monogamy_zpsao5t3tch.jpg

I thoroughly enjoyed Taylor’s second novel, A Man in Uniform, about the infamous Dreyfuss affair in late nineteenth century France.

I’m looking forward to reading this latest offering A Serial Monogamy, which features a woman writing “a serialized novel based on the story of the 19th-century actress Nelly Ternan, the young mistress of the aging Charles Dickens. (The) novel shifts between Sharon’s Toronto and Nelly’s Victorian England.”


13. Russell Wangersky
The Path of Most Resistance by Russell Wangersky photo path of most resistance_zpsg9ru5xal.jpg

I first became aware of Wangersky when I heard him read at the 2014 Read by the Sea festival in River John, Nova Scotia. I promptly read his novel The Glass Harmonica, and the collection of short stores WhirlAway which was shortlisted for the 2012 Giller Prize.

The publicity for The Path of Most Resistance says it “is an observant and compassionate look at the feelings of powerlessness that we all share, and will have readers silently cringing and nodding in recognition of their own bad behaviour.”


14. Inger Ash Wolfe
The Night Bell by Inger Ash Wolfe photo night bell_zpsnfsgvn53.jpg
I read The Calling, first in the series introducing Hazel Micaleff, in charge of a provincial police detachment 3 hours north of Toronto, in 2012. I had trouble putting it down and rated it four stars which is high praise for me for a serial killer novel. It’s been made into a film starring Susan Sarandon.

The Night Bell, the fourth in the series, is said to be the author’s best yet. I think this is a series best read in order.


15. Richard B. Wright
Nightfall by Richard B. Wright photo nightfall_zpseb54tivs.jpg

Of course I’ve read Wright’s masterpiece Clara Callan, which won three major Canadian literary awards, including the Giller Prize. I’ve also read October and Mr. Shakespeare’s Bastard, neither of which had any chance of living up to the beauty of Clara Callan.

In Wright’s new book, Nightfall, James Hillyer, a retired university professor tracks down the woman he fell in love with so many years ago on a summer trip to Quebec.


16. Alissa York

The Naturalist by Alissa York photo naturalist_zpsnl9umxba.jpg

I’ve read York’s Fauna, which imagines a sanctuary for injured wildlife, hidden in the Don Valley in the middle of Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s largest city.

The Naturalist concerns an 1867 trip by amateurs up the Amazon River.

Isn’t this a gorgeous cover? You can find out what other covers in the list I thought worthy of note, on my “Cool Covers” Pinterest board.


* * * * *

I’d like to read most of the books on this list, but my MUST-READS: Wangersky, Morrissey and Bradley. How about you?


P.S. Although most links in this post will take you to my past reviews, any links that take you to Amazon or The Book Depository are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

posted under Book stuff | 18 Comments »

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES? Onions and Clocks


onions photo onions_zpsoz3hpnjq.jpgAbout four years ago, I read Birth House by Canadian author Ami McKay, which was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, among other accolades. In it two midwives in an isolated village in rural WWI Nova Scotia offered onion juice as a tonic to their expectant and new mothers.
Not unheard of, but surely not the most common treatment either.

The very next book I read was a children’s chapter book and a Newbery Award winner: Holes by Louis Sachar. In it, the peddler Sam went through town shouting “Onions, onions”, because he sold them as medicinal remedies for a variety of ailments. He fed them to his donkey, Mary Lou, who seemed to never age.

question mark photo question-mark_zpslnbg5ouw.jpg
So, as our eight-year-old grandson would say when confronted by something that seems a major coincidence – WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

What are the chances that two so very different books would come into my reading sphere at the same time and include the same minor detail?

I was reminded of onions this week when I read Canadian author Lisa Moore’s Flannery, a YA novel set in Newfoundland. In it, Flannery says:

I have one of those antique clocks in my room with the numerals on little plastic tabs that flick over every minute. The tabs make a shish-click every time they drop down.

flip clock inner workings photo flip clock_zpsucwyxiwz.jpg
But, wait, I said to myself – I just read that. And I had – in the book I was reading on my Kindle at the same time.

In Ocean City Lowdown by Kim Kash, twenty-something reporter Jamie August works part-time in her uncle’s vacation rental business. In his office,

(she) dropped her smiley face and checked the time on the plastic pre-digital clock, the kind with flaps that drop each minute.

Do you remember these clocks (shown here stripped to its inner workings)? My aunt gave me one as a wedding gift in 1972 but I haven’t seen one in decades. I mean, really, what are the chances?

Have you run into similar reading coincidences?


Books Read in February 2014


books readWhen February 2014 rolled around I was in my third month of living at my recently deceased mother’s house and sorting through her worldly possessions.

My mother’s name was Bea – and she used the bee as a theme for her life for 35 years.

She had everything bee – bee jewelry, bee teddy bears, bee wind chimes, bee bee hive photo bee hive_zps3svz6iim.jpgplanters, bee notepads: anything you can name that could possibly have a bee on it, she had. After a few close friends took the bees they wanted (generally the ones that they had given her), I filled five cardboard boxes with bee paraphernalia.

Being in the midst of all those bees, I decided to have a bee-themed reading month too.


1. ROBBING THE BEES: A Biography of Honey—the Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World by Holley Bishop (Non-fiction, Nature, Environment) 4 star rating
Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop photo robbing the bees_zpsjiqyxwko.jpg

From Amazon: “Bishop — beekeeper, writer, and honey aficionado — apprentices herself to Donald Smiley, a professional beekeeper who harvests tupelo honey in the Florida panhandle. She intersperses the lively lore and science of honey with lyrical reflections on her own and Smiley’s beekeeping experiences. . . . Part history, part love letter”

Both beekeeper Smiley and Bishop are highly likeable and I greatly enjoyed this peek into making a living from honey, bottled yourself, before colony collapse syndrome.

Read this if: you’ve ever wanted to keep bees. 4 stars


2. THE BEEKEEPER’S LAMENT: How One Man and Half a Million Honeybees Help Feed America by Hannah Nordhaus (Non-fiction, Nature, Environment, Business) 4 star rating

Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus photo beekeepers lament_zps12q2fcwc.jpg“Award-winning journalist Hannah Nordhaus tells the remarkable story of John Miller, one of America’s foremost migratory beekeepers, and the myriad and mysterious epidemics threatening American honeybee populations.”

Make no mistake: John Miller is not a beekeeper; he is a big-business man. He moves his bees across the United States in climate-controlled tractor trailers, not in a pick-up truck. The honey he collects is blended and homogenized for the honey industry.

Although this book was as well researched and written as Robbing the Bees, I enjoyed it less because of the big-business perspective, enlightening as that was.

Read this if: you want an up-to-date picture of the health of North America’s honeybees (not good) and the impact of that on our ability to feed ourselves. 4 stars


Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh photo telling the bees_zpsbjwlcaet.jpg 3. TELLING THE BEES by Peggy Hesketh (Fiction, American) 3.5 star rating

This is a gentle novel about a beekeeper and life. Ali, who blogs over at Heavenali, posted a great synopsis recently. Rather than retell the story, I’ll let you pop over there if you’re interested.

This was pleasant to read but it didn’t sweep me off my feet. 3½ stars


4. THE ADVENTURES OF MAYA THE BEE by Waldemar Bansels (Fiction, Children’s Chapter, Classic, Translated) 3 star rating

The Adventure of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bansels photo maya the bee_zpsmlkt0gli.jpgFirst published in German in 1912, this series of adventures stars a young rebel bee who leaves the hive despite warnings to the contrary. She encounters good insects and bad, dangers and delights. The overarching theme of the book is a hit-you-over-the-head moral play: obey, work hard, be loyal.

Wikipedia advises that it was originally published as a fable with a political message. “Maya represents the ideal citizen, and the beehive represents a well-organised militarist society. It has also elements of nationalism and speciesism.”

I understand this is now also a comic book and an animated television series with its attendant marketed products. The moral of that series, I’m sure, is not what Bansels originally intended.
P.S. This is a free Kindle ebook on Amazon. 3 stars

* * * * * * * * * *

Since there is a total of only six books this month, I’m including the mysteries in this post.

1. THE BEE’S KISS by Barbara Cleverly (Fiction, Mystery, British)

The Bee's Kiss by Barbara Cleverly photo bees kiss_zpskg2vehob.jpg Although this is #5 in the Detective Joe Sandilands series, it is the first of the series that I have read. Writing about it now reminds me that I wanted to start at the beginning of the series but haven’t yet done so.

Britain, 1926 (I love these books set between the two World Wars). A society matron is murdered and the investigation uncovers—you guessed it—secrets.

The characters are deftly developed, the plot ingenious, and the reveal stunning. It made me able to calm my OCD regret that I hadn’t started at the beginning of the series. 4½ stars


2. DEATH BY A HONEYBEE by Abigail Kearn (Fiction, Mystery, American, Contemporary) 1 star rating

Death by a Honeybee by Abigail Kearn photo death by honeybee_zps7011tg2e.jpg Kobo synopsis: “Josiah Reynolds, a former art history professor, was once a celebrity with wealth, social position, and a famous husband. Now all of that is gone. The professor finds her circumstances drastically altered. Retired, Josiah is now a full time beekeeper trying to stay financially afloat by selling honey at the local Farmers Market.”

I thought the whole set-up—the award-winning house, the obsession with her (much) younger pool boy, and her other friendships—sounded contrived, and Josiah seemed to be being rough-edged for the sake of being so. Plus, I didn’t think the mystery was that big of a deal.

Yvette who blogs at In So Many Words felt much differently, and said so in her recent review. 1 star
P.S. The Kindle version of Death by a Honeybee is free on Amazon.

* * * * * * * * * *

Did you know that raising bees in the traditional “hive” shaped skep (as depicted in the intro to this post) is illegal in many countries, including the US, because the removal of the honey often causes the destruction of the entire colony of bees?

So, I learned a lot about bees and honey, and discovered a great new-to-me mystery series, in only six books. Not a bad return for my efforts. Plus I seemed to be getting my reading mojo back!

Does anything catch your fancy?

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

My TOP TEN Favourite Book Covers


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish!

Top Ten Tuesday photo toptentuesday_zps1les7hiy.jpg

This week’s topic allows me to share some covers on books that I still have on my shelves. Covers change, shelves change: this is a permutable list!


1. Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada by Stuart McLean

elcome Home by Stuart McLean photo welcome home_zpsxnd8ocmr.jpg

McLean is the host of the very popular CBC radio show The Vinyl Café. McLean’s books of stories from The Vinyl Café have won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times.

Before The Vinyl Café, McLean traveled to small towns across Canada to visit for several weeks in each.

I love this book and I loved the cover on my copy, but when I went to Amazon to find that cover, I loved this cover on the re-issue even more!


2. From Stone Orchard: a Collection of Memories

From Stone Orchard by Timothy Findley photo stone orchard_zpsmvbcu1y1.jpg This non-fiction work was my introduction to this icon of Canadian literature.

Findley and his partner purchased a run-down 19th century farmhouse in southern Ontario, Canada and lived there until his death in 2002. They named their estate Stone Orchard, for obvious reasons.

Even in non-fiction, Findley’s writing was lyrical.

3. The Corrigan Women by M.T. Dohaney
The Corrigan women by M.T. Dohaney photo corrigan women_zpsccg1svix.jpgI love this cover: it represents so well the Atlantic Canadian life I’ve embraced.

Along with To Scatter Stones and A Fit Month for Dying, this trilogy is the story of three generations of Corrigan women: Bertha, Carmel, & Tessie.

Set in a Newfoundland outport, the stories are rich and tragic; the writing superb.

Note: Check out the cover on the recent reissue of A Fit Month for Dying. I love it; it made me laugh out loud.



4. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice photo lost art_zpsierivbmi.jpg

Aren’t these clothes so elegant?

The only complaint I have about this book set in 1950s London is that, after making me salivate at the dresses on the cover of the book, there was very little detail about the party clothes. I’d really liked to have known more than just it was “sparkly mint green dress”!

But don’t let that minor problem stop you from reading this delightful novel.


5. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith photo full cupboard_zpspmkykoyq.jpg

Book 5 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe

There is something very touching about this cupboard, “full” of its stripped down essentials. It makes me think of my kitchen cupboards, and wonder what life would be like in Botswana.

And it’s a beautifully balanced montage.


6. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck photo good earth_zpsx9kpfzx8.jpg

I know that this 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner has had numerous covers in its many incarnations, but this is the one on the copy that I have.

It immediately evokes traditional China, where peasant Wang Lung’s life is tied up in cycles of that earth that he works so diligently to acquire.

And I love the contrast between the gold and red.



7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel photo life of pi_zpsmzxlqnh2.jpg

This cover is perfect.

The blue is the perfect colour. The beautiful contrasting orange is just enough.

The boat is placed in just the right position, slightly off centre.

And there’s no extra text marring the composition.

Beats me why they issued all the digital “stuff” with a different cover.

8. The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart
The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart photo underpainter_zpsmlowwwg0.jpg
This brilliant novel won the 1997 Governor-General’s Literary Award.

The cover of the current edition of this book is different. Why? Oh, why?

There’s that country red again in the flowers.

The flowers imperfect; the cloth imperfect. The vase cut off.

Just beautiful.


9. This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky

This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky photo this cake_zps257aht1u.jpg

So far, this cover is the only one this book has had – and that’s a good thing.

You just know these are not “live happily ever after” short stories, but are about real life.

The broken plate. The crumbs.

Amazing how the imperfect makes it perfect.


10. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury photo illustrated man_zpsolwjc6xl.jpg

This is not a beautiful cover. Frankly, it gives me the creeps.

But, wow, what an impact it had on me when I first read this as a teenager.

That was 45 years ago – and I can still see the cover without seeing it. If you know what I mean.

That blood red. The back of that man. So ominous.

I didn’t do this intentionally, and – honest – I read books from all over the world. But six of these authors (McLean, Findley, Dohaney, Martel, Urquhart, & Selecky) are Canadian. I guess I’m on a theme.

What do you think of these? Do any of them appeal to you? What’s your favourite cover?



P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: Year of Wonders to White Fang


This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain.

Six Degrees of Separation Year of Wonders Aug2016 photo 2016-8 Year of Wonders_zpsg1amj8kk.jpg

August’s starting book is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. You no doubt know that this is a story of the plague in the year 1666. When one village receives an infected bolt of cloth from Europe, they decide to isolate themselves from the world in order to prevent the spread of plague to their neighbours. Year of Wonders is perhaps Brooks’ best known book, but the book the won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is

1. March in which she imagines the Civil War experiences of Marmee’s husband, and the March sisters’ (Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy) father. It is a stunning story, and I believe that Brooks based the character loosely on Amos Bronson Alcott, father of real-life author Louisa May who wrote

2. Little Women (Kindle edition free on Amazon). I’m certain this link did not surprise you. This classic story of one year in the lives of the March sisters of New England during the American Civil War justly holds its place of honour in American literary tradition. We likely all know that the character of Jo March was the author’s alter-ego.

3. In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, the only book in this chain that I have not read, the author Kelly O’Connor McNees, mixes fact and fiction to return to the summer of 1855 when Louisa was twenty-two. The cover promises that it is “a richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created [Little Women]”.

4. From the LOST summer, we move a link to LAst Summer in Louisburg by Claire Mowat. The fortress of Louisburg is on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s been partially rebuilt and is a National Historic Site which employs scores of young people every summer to act in character throughout the fort. This book is a novel for young teens and centres on fifteen-year-old Andrea Baxter who obtains just such a summer job working in the fort.

Claire Mowat was the wife of Farley Mowat, famed Canadian author, who left a prodigious oeuvre of non-fiction books about Canada, its people, its wildlife, and its geography. He is perhaps best known for The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float and

5. Never Cry Wolf. This book is based on naturalist Mowat’s work for the Canadian government’s Wildlife Service which in the 1950s sent him north to assess the slaughter of caribou by wolves. Mowat is dropped alone onto the frozen tundra, where he begins his mission to live among the howling wolf packs and study their ways.

Never Cry Wolf should be required reading in every secondary school in Canada, and perhaps the US. It was made into a movie starring Charles Martin Smith and Brian Dennehy in 1983.

The cover on this reissue of Never Cry Wolf is a crime and I wonder how people in publishing who have never read a book are allowed to choose a cover. Nonetheless, the cover leads me to my last link:

6. White Fang (free Kindle edition on Amazon), a classic novel by Jack London first published in 1906. It takes place in the Yukon Territories and Northwest Territories of Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. White Fang, whose mother was half-wolf, is a fighting dog (hence the cover) who inherits a new owner who domesticates him.

So that’s my chain of six degrees: from a seventeenth century English village to nineteenth century Arctic Canada in six links. What do you think?

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Muse?

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Challenge: COMPLETE


Semi-Charmed 225 photo Semi-Charmed SBC16 225_zps7fb8g3py.jpg

Well, I’ve finished the Semi-Charmed’s Summer 2016 Challenge. Not in time to be in any of the winning spots, but well before the August 31st deadline. Here are the books I read:


5 points:
Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long. Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti

10 points: Read a collection of short stories or essays.
The Body in the Library edited by Rex Collings

10 points: Read an adult fiction book written by an author who normally writes books for children.
Kiss the Joy As It Flies by Sheree Fitch

15 points: Read a book set in Appalachia.
Appalachian Daughter
by Mary Jane Salyers

15 points: Don’t judge a book by its cover! Read a book with a cover you personally find unappealing.
Ocean City Lowdown
by Kim Kash

20 points: Read a book that you have previously only seen the film (movie) of. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum

25 points: Read a book with a punny title. The title can be a play on another book title, movie title or a common expression. MacDeath by Cindy Brown

30 points: Read a micro-history.
Frozen in Time:Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Geiger

30 points: Read one book with a good word in the title, and one with a bad word.
Sea to SKY by R.E. Donald
The Gray & GUILTY Sea by Scott William Carter

40 points: Read two books that contain the same word in the title, but once in the singular and once in the plural.
Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


The View from my Window – 29Jul16


Time for the monthly update on the view from my office window.

The past three weeks have been sunny and hot, as many other places have been. It was beginning to look as if we would have a “mini-drought” but yesterday the clouds moved in:

View from my window jul16 photo IMG_3735 450_zpsss9syrtz.jpg

And then it rained – one of those beautiful summer rains that come straight down so that you can keep all the windows open and hear it drip from the eaves, and smell that wonderful warm-earth-meets-rain smell called (very unromantically) petrichor.

View from my window Jul16 rain photo IMG_3746 450_zpsm31irdph.jpg

It rained gently into the night. Today promises to be sunny and hot again – perfect for the beach!

How’s the weather where you are?;

Canadian Reading Challenge


This year, I’m doing something I’ve been meaning to do for years: joining the Canadian Reading Challenge.

Hosted by John at the Book Mine Set, the goal is to read at least 13 Canadian books between July 1st (Canada Day) and June 30th. John tries to read a book from each province and territory (hence 13 books) but, although I’ll try to mix it up, I’m not committing to that.

The kicker of this challenge is that not only do I have to read the books, but I have to review them online. So I have another incentive to get my blog caught up with my 2014 and 2015 reading.

10th Canadian Book Challenge photo 10th Canadian Book Challenge 450_zpsmgzauten.jpg

This year marks the 10th year of the challenge: a milestone. Within the digits of the logo are logos from the past 9 editions.

Have a look at the challenge—join us if you’re brave. I’m always ready to help with suggestions for reading, especially in Atlantic Canada.




Mystery and Crime Fiction FREE BOOKS


In case any of you aren’t on an author’s mailing list and missed seeing this huge giveaway of mystery, thriller and Suspense eBooks, check it out.

There’s everything from cozy craft or culinary mysteries to hard-boiled, and psychological thrillers. Plus you can enter to win a Kindle Paperhite or a $50 gift card. Open world-wide.

This is NOT an associate link – just a passing on of information. The giveaway is on only until Friday July 29th.


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WONDROUS WORDS – Smokers of the Past


This week’s words come from two stories in the anthology A Body in the Library edited by Rex Collings, published 1991.

The first is from the story By the Sword by Selwyn Jepson, first published in 1938

“Alfred shifted restlessly in his armchair and banged the dottle out of his pipe against the hearth.”

dottle photo dottle_zpsw9rauag6.jpgdottle: the plug of tobacco residue or ashes left in the bottom of a pipe after it is smoked.

The origins of dottle are straight-forward: late Middle English, dot: denoting a plug for a barrel or other container.

* * * * *

The second word is from the story Superfluous Murder by Milward Kennedy, originally published in 1935, in the same anthology.

vestas photo vesta_zpsjg1ce5j0.jpg “He filled his pipe and struck one of the wax vestas.”

A vesta is a short wooden match. Its derivation is also straight-forward. It is Latin and derived from the name of the Roman goddess of the hearth, Vesta.


These stories were both written in the 1930s. I suppose that we’re not so familiar with these words today as pipe smoking is relatively rare now. Had you ever heard these words before?


Wondrous Words Wednesday photo wondrouswordsWednesday_zps7ac69065.png
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. It’s hosted by Kathy at Bermuda Onion. Hop on over and see what wondrous words other bloggers have discovered this week.

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

The Daylilies are in Bloom Again


(Does anyone remember Katherine Hepburn’s famous line in Stage Door, 1937: “The calla lilies are in bloom again.”)?

When we moved here, there were several daylily plantings that have all thrived and grown. They really need to be divided this fall!

daylilies photo 2016-07-24 daylilies 2 400_zpss6aofcbp.jpg

A sea of colour. Unlike many parts of the country (I’m thinking of you, Ontario) we had lots of rain and cool weather in June so the garden is somewhat lush.

daylilies with bench photo 2016-07-24 daylilies w bench 400_zpsryhlv7rb.jpg

A sunny spot to sit for a minute.


Books Read in January 2014


books read
I rated these books when I read them, but don’t recall a lot about some of them. I probably didn’t at the time either, as I was going through life in an exhausted haze, still sorting through my mother’s things, all day, every day.


THE CROOKED MAID by Dan Vylata (Fiction, Literary, Canadian Author) 4.5 star rating

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta photo crooked maid_zpsug4c87th.jpg From Amazon: ” Mid-summer, 1948. The war is over, and as the initial phase of de-Nazification winds down, the citizens of Vienna struggle to rebuild their lives amidst the rubble. . . .

Two strangers, Anna Beer and young Robert Seidel, meet on a train as they return to Vienna . . . Determined to rebuild their lives, Anna and Robert each begin a dogged search for answers in a world where repression is the order of the day.

Before long, they are reunited as spectators at a criminal trial set to deliver judgment on Austria’s Nazi crimes.”

This was a Giller Prize finalist in 2013. It seems that I liked this well enough at the time, but don’t remember a lot – maybe I should have rated it only 4 stars?

4½ stars


DEATH OF A FELLOW TRAVELLER by Delamo Ames (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage) 4 star rating

Death of a Fellow Traveller by Delano Ames photo death of a fellow traveller_zpsvujtv3qr.jpg Aka, Nobody Wore Black.

I know someone put me on to this series, but the only references I can find are on My Reader’s Block and In So Many Words, both of which appeared after I read this. Anyway, this is the fourth (published in 1950) in this series which features the young English couple Jane and Dagobert Brown. Jane is a struggling author and very fond of her husband who one would consider to be a no-good layabout apart from the fact that he’s tremendously charming.. Still they travel (I believe this book took place on a skiing holiday in the Alps) and generally have fun. It’s a solid mystery.

4 stars

THE UNIVERSE Versus ALEX WOODS by Gavin Extence (Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary) 3.5 star rating

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence photo universe vs alex woods_zpsr8051jce.jpg

This ended up in my reading stack because I had ordered it at the library to fill in the author “X” on that unofficial A-Z reading challenge I had going.

Alex is very fond of his early-seniors neighbour and finds out that he is dying.

Death and death choices figure large in teenage angst, and this is a perfect book to help teens explore emotions. But I can’t condone a teenager leaving the country without telling his parents.

3½ stars

OUR MOTHER’s HOUSE by Julian Gloag (Fiction) 3.5 star rating

Our Mother's House by Julian Gloag photo our mothers house_zpsninco83q.jpg I read this book this month because, well, I was living in my mother’s house after her death.
Originally published in 1963, this was one of my favourite books when I was a teenager in the sixties.

In pre-internet days, books were harder to find, even though I was enjoying the adult library lending privilege of six books at a time. And it was rarer still for me to own a book and this, being definitely an adult book with child protagonists, made me feel grown-up while still identifying with the kids. So, it was a favourite even though it really isn’t all that good.

In 1960s London, not wanting to be put in an orphanage and split up, a family of seven children bury their mother (dead of natural causes) in the backyard and say that she is too sick to receive visitors. Shades of The Death of Bees, but darker.

I gather this was made into a 1967 film by British director Jack Clayton. 3½ stars


Does anything in this paltry offering appeal to you?


P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Top Books Set in Atlantic Canada – with fewer than 2,000 Goodreads Ratings


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish!

Top Ten Tuesday photo toptentuesday_zps1les7hiy.jpg

This week’s topic asks for books set outside the USA. I’ve combined that with the challenge from two weeks ago (books with fewer than 2,000 GoodReads ratings) to make you a list of Atlantic-Canadian-set books you may not have heard too much about. These books come from my reading of the last ten years, and the list is, of course, subject to change as life goes on.


1. River Thieves by Michael Crummey
1,381 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 5 stars

River Thieves by Michael Crummey photo river thieves_zpse7s0tzco.jpgIn Newfoundland in the early 1800s, explorer David Buchan wants to establish communication with the last of the Beothuks–the native peoples.

The expedition goes “horribly awry” and it becomes clear that there is no way these people can avoid extinction, as long as “white men” continue to settle.

The book exposes the senselessness of such extinctions, and the baseness of human nature.

2. Downhill Chance by Donna Morrissey
419 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 5 stars

Downhill Chance by Donna Morrissey photo downhill chance_zpszutinpyu.jpgSet in Newfoundland fishing villages c1940-1955, this is a heart-rending story of how war affects families and communities.

Morrissey writes beautifully. Her characters are brilliantly real–likeable but flawed, every one.

This is also the story of women – Sare, Clair, Missy, Hannah. Even the things the men did were presented in the context of how it affected a woman, or women. But, trust me, that does not make this a women’s novel.

The Corrigan Women by M.T. Dohany photo corrigan women_zpsnawl24ic.jpg3. The Corrigan Women/To Scatter Stones/A Fit Month for Dying by M.T. Dohaney
30/12/15 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 5 stars

Set in a Newfoundland outport, this trilogy is the story of three generations of Corrigan women: Bertha, Carmel, & Tessie. The stories are rich and tragic; the writing superb. I was sad to see this series end.

4. Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark
820 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4½ stars
Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark photo latitudes of melt_zpsv2ocbroi.jpg

Also set in Newfoundland, this near Cape Race throughout the 20th century.

Baby Aurora is found floating on an ice pan in the North Atlantic Ocean. We later learn that she had been on the Titanic.

The book follows Aurora’s life and that of her daughter and grand-daughter. It’s lovely, almost lyrical writing.

5. Ivor Johnson’s Neighbours by Bruce Graham
6 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4½ stars
Ivor Johnson's Neighbours photo ivor johnsons neighbours_zpsppb4yxvf.jpg
This is, in my opinion, the best of the four novels by Graham that I have read.

It has a great Nova Scotia small town setting (Parrsboro?) and realistic characters. The plots and sub-plots are skillfully woven together.

How the lives of the residents of Snake Road intertwine over the years!

6. A Forest for Calum by Frank Macdonald A Forest for Calum by Frank MacDonald photo forest for calum_zps210b2lxo.jpg
52 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4½ stars

Wonderful book set in Cape Breton (Nova Scotia). It explores the relationship between grandfather and grandson, and the need for a purpose in life.

No sugar coated endings.

Also, some lessons in Gaelic.

7. Tarcadia by Jonathan Campbell Tarcadia by Jonathan Campbell photo tarcadia_zpsuhcpwti9.jpg
7 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4 stars

The summer of 1974 in Sydney, Nova Scotia through the eyes of 13-year-old Michael.

The premise that leads to his family’s breakdown might seem bizarre if you didn’t live through that time of “free love” and “open marriage”. I found it disturbingly realistic.

Highly recommended.

8. Alligator by Lisa Moore
1,188 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4 stars

Alligator by Lisa Moore photo alligator_zpsqly7enka.jpgSet in modern day St. John’s, Newfoundland, this book tells its story through alternating chapters about Colleen, a seventeen-year-old would-be eco-terrorist, her mother Beverly, Beverly’s sister Madelaine, and Frank, a benevolent young man without a family.

Moore’s word pictures shine. Through them, and many seamless flashbacks, she provides character development, background and plot advancement simultaneously.

is a Canadian best seller, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canadian and Caribbean region), and a Globe and Mail Book of the Year award.

9. Cold Clear Morning by Lesley Choyce
11 Goodreads ratings – my rating – 4 stars
Cold Clear Morning by Lesley Choyce photo cold clear morning_zpsiutkjq2k.jpg
Set in fictional Nickerson Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Man returned to his boyhood home after his wife fatally ODs, due to Hollywood lifestyle. Man finds roots, memories including the cold clear morning.

Beautifully written.

10. There You Are by Joanne Taylor
13 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4 stars

 photo there you are_zpsfshfpxey.jpgTwelve-year-old Jeannie Shaw lives in the Margaree Valley on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia in the 1950s. Amazon says: “Lonely and isolated in her small, post-World War II rural community, she longs for a friend, a longing that verges on obsession. When a new family moves in, her hopes are raised, then dashed, and a near tragedy yields unexpected results. Taylor has done a fabulous job of painting a vivid picture of life on Cape Breton Island.”

This is a middle-grades novel that I would recommend to readers of any age.

Bonus #11. Losing Eddie by Deborah Joy Corey
53 Goodreads ratings; my rating – 4½ stars
Losing Eddie by Deborah Joy Corey photo losing eddie_zps50x665xh.jpg
This is a brilliant first novel about how the death of teenage child affects family dynamics.

“Deborah Joy Corey captures the voice of . . . poverty and the voice of a single, struggling family” in rural New Brunswick.

Eloquent insights into family relationships.

* * * * *


Of course, there a myriad of other Atlantic-Canadian books I could recommend as well as those set elsewhere in Canada. Perhaps another post, if anyone is interested?

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Books Read in December 2013


books read
Derailment! On the first of December, I flew to Ontario from my home in Nova Scotia, after receiving word the evening before that my mother had died at home, suddenly and unexpectedly.

My mother was the next-thing-to-a-hoarder and her house had four floors stacked from top to bottom, and wall to wall with STUFF. It fell to me to move in and start going through it. I worked 12-14 hour days on this project and was usually too exhausted to read when I finally got into bed. When I did find the time, I found it very hard to concentrate—a natural grief reaction.

Here is the sum total of my reading for the month, and–YAY–that’s 2013 DONE.


SUITE FRANCAISE by Irène Némirovsky (Fiction, WWII, French) 4.5 star rating

 photo dad5f90d-cefd-4646-971a-f7954dc22782_zpsbrfbajpx.jpg This is the first two parts of what the author evidently intended to be a five part opus. Némirovsky was arrested in 1942 and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. This manuscript, then, was written in the early years of the war in Occupied France, in which she set the novel.

In Storm in June, wealthy Parisians flee the city before it falls. The second “movement”, Dolce, concerns the complicated relationships between the inhabitants of a French country village and the German soldiers who are occupying that village.

This is lyrical writing, sustained in the translation from the French by Sandra Smith. How I wish the author could have completed this work!

Read this if: you enjoy beautiful writing. 4½ stars


LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson (Fiction) 4 star rating

 photo 43e7f4a2-12b3-47e8-a37a-2daed50e6c8c_zpsp2ouq3cp.jpg Wow – how to classify this book? By now, you’ve either read the book or heard the premise: Ursula dies at birth, is reborn and this time does not die; Ursula drowns at age 4, we try again and she doesn’t drown; and so on. (So many ways to die!)

But the book is not as linear as it sounds. In fact, it’s not linear at all, and by the conclusion of the book, although we have many versions of Ursula’s life, none is the ribbon-tied ending you might have expected, and none is so awful that it couldn’t be borne. Extremely well-done.

Read this if: you loved those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid; or you just want something to think about. 4 stars


LIFE AFTER LIFE by Jill McCorkle (Fiction, Contemporary) 3.5 star rating

 photo 83a54767-0cfc-4d12-a7b3-c48c9a43d44a_zpscfhfcihg.jpg Published in 2013, within two weeks of Atkinson’s book of the same title, McCorkle’s novel seemed to have gotten buried.

This Life After Life is about the residents and staff of a nursing home for the elderly, each of whom had a life before their life in the facility.

Enjoyable to read, but not really any new ideas.

Read this if: you think you’re going to get old one day (it’s either that or the grave). 3½ stars


WAYS OF GOING HOME by Alejandro Zambra (Fiction, Literary, Chilean)

 photo 9eb47f0c-97b7-4843-9c94-33bfd59ced92_zpsnasthpmo.jpg This book showed up in my library inbox in late November because I was trying to complete an unofficial A to Z Reading Challenge using authors’ last names.

Amazon tells me that the book “begins with an earthquake, seen through the eyes of an unnamed nine-year-old boy” in Santiago, Chile. I vaguely remember that, but nothing else.

I plead extreme fatigue. I plead grief. I plead the passage of 2½ years. This may well be “A brilliant novel from ‘the herald of a new wave of Chilean fiction’” but I can’t remember and can’t rate it.


As I said at the beginning of this post – that’s 2013 done. Wish me success completing 2014.


P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.



This week’s words come from the the story Lord Chizelrigg’s Missing Fortune by Robert Barr, published in 1906. It’s in the anthology A Body in the Library edited by Rex Collings, published 1991.

“I take it a thousand sheets were supplied, although of course it may have been a thousand quires, which would be a little more reasonable for the price charged, or a thousand reams, which would be exceedingly cheap.”

As book-lovers you are no doubt familair with these words, as I am. But I must admit that, if pressed, I couldn’t have defined them accurately. And I love the etymology of these words.

quire photo quire_zpsl3hlkpb4.jpgQuire: a set of 24 or 25 sheets of paper of the same size and stock, the twentieth part of a ream.

The word quire originated from Old French: quaer, a book of loose pages, which can be traced to the Vulgar Latin quaternum, paper packed in lots of four pages.

Ream: a quantity of paper varying from 480 sheets (20 quires) to 516 sheets.

Ream can be traced to the Arabic: rizma: a bale or packet.

Do you have any other “book words” to share?


Wondrous Words Wednesday photo wondrouswordsWednesday_zps7ac69065.png
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. It’s hosted by Kathy at Bermuda Onion. Hop on over and see what wondrous words other bloggers have discovered this week.

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

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