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ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in September 2014

December7

books read
September 2014 was a busy month. On the 5th, Bill’s daughter arrived with her sons: six years old, and two months. Having a new baby in the house was a different experience for us and while we were getting used to that, we were at the same time making final arrangements for our 25th anniversary trip to southern France. My reading totals for this month and next are fairly low.

 
Sweetland by Michael Crummey (Fiction, Literary, Atlantic Canadian) 5 star rating

Sweetland by Michael Crummey photo 372ca78b-8aea-4fda-b2c9-fcb71ec295cc_zpsf3ywx9xs.jpgMoses Sweetland, “one crazy coot”, lives on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland in a community that has been served for decades by a Government-funded supply boat. Now the government wants to cut the boat run so they’ve offered generous packages for the islanders to resettle on the mainland. The catch is, all the residents must agree to the scheme, and Moses doesn’t want to go.

Faced with mounting pressure from the government and the community, he signs the deal and then fakes his own death so that he can be left behind on the island.

Crummey is a poet first and that is evident in his prose. But his story is every bit as good as his form. I highly recommend Sweetland. 5 stars
 

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (Fiction, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner photo ed29c98e-2e12-45ec-a144-e9f6574f1437_zpsm2itrhcz.jpg From Amazon: “The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island, Nova Scotia for three hundred years, blessed with the bounty of the sea. But for the Kings, this blessing comes with a curse: the loss of every first-born son. Now, Woody Kings, the leader of the island’s lobster fishing community and the family patriarch, teeters on the throne, and Cordelia, the oldest of Woody’s three daughters, stands to inherit the crown. To do so, however, she must defend her island against meth dealers from the mainland, while navigating sibling rivalry and the vulnerable nature of her own heart when she falls in love with her sternman. Inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Lobster Kings is the story of Cordelia’s struggle to maintain her island’s way of life in the face of danger from offshore, and the rich, looming, mythical legacy of her family’s namesake.”

This was excellent Atlantic Canadian literary fiction until it gave way into thriller mode at its climax. 4 stars
 

The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman (Fiction, Rom-Com)
The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman photo e908de97-d7a6-45f8-a7e3-081e821f77c2_zpsrjqkkysu.jpg

Amazon: “It’s 1962 and all across America barriers are collapsing. But when Natalie Marx’s mother inquires about summer accommodations in Vermont, she gets the following reply: ‘The Inn at Lake Devine is a family-owned resort, which has been in continuous operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles’

For twelve-year-old Natalie, who has a stubborn sense of justice, the words are not a rebuff but an infuriating, irresistible challenge.”

My first Lipman. It’s very ‘pretty’ but a little too predictable. 3½ stars

 

*   *   *   *   *

 
Since there are so few books in total this month, I’m including the mysteries I read in this post.
 
Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn (Fiction, Mystery, Animal-Narrated) 4 star rating
 photo paw and order_zpsud0zb7vm.jpg
#7 in the Chet Bernie detective series

Bernie goes to Washington D.C. to visit his love, Susie Sanchez who has snagged a reporter’s position at the Washington Post. The boys get involved in political intrigue due to their association with Susie who is following a controversial story.

Most of you probably know that I love the voice of Chet, the canine half of this detective duo, and I appreciate the solid mysteries that our boys investigate. 4 stars
 

A Dog at Sea by J.F. Englert (Fiction, Mystery, Animal-narrated)4 star rating
 photo dog at sea_zpsdcof21vq.jpg
#3 in Bull Moose Dog Run series featuring chocolate Lab Randolph and his master Harry

Randolph and Harry book on a pet lovers’ cruise following clues that they hope will lead to the whereabouts of the long-lost Imogen, Randolph’s mistress and Harry’s beloved girlfriend.

Although Randolph is far from pessimistic, the ache for Imogen dampens his natural doggy enthusiasm, as exemplified by Chet in Paw and Order. He’s very likable though (“overweight, overly-intelligent”) and this also has a first-rate mystery. 4 stars
 

The Dog Did It by Jim Toombs (Fiction, Mystery) 3.5 star rating
 photo dog did it_zpszue2ep8y.jpg

Gabe Chance has just inherited his mother’s estate – but with one catch: he must keep her Jack Russell Terrier and live in her house in Brandt in the Texas Hill Country, even though he wants nothing more than to return to California.

I didn’t care for Gabe at first and was prepared to not like this first in the series. But both Gabe and Tigger the dog grew on me, and I enjoyed the sinister murder mystery. I have the next installment loaded on my Kindle. 3½ stars
 


There’s not much there, but Sweetland made the month worthwhile. Anything else catch your eye?

 

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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SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION from Revolutionary Road

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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

6 Degrees of Separation December 2016 photo 2016-12 Revolutionary Road_zps9i7cdlfy.jpg

December’s starting book is Richard Yates’ 1961 classic Revolutionary Road. This is another starting book that I haven’t read yet. Amazon tells me that “It’s the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner.”

1. Revolutionary Road came into my sphere of awareness about the same time as Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwarz, which has nothing at all to do with Yates’ novel, except that I confused them in my mind for a couple of years. Reservation Road is the story of man who accidently runs over a young boy and flees the scene. It was made into a movie with Mark Ruffalo in 2007.

2. In 2011, the sequel Northwest Corner by the same author was published. It tells the story of the same man, after he is released from prison some years later and is trying to start his life over. I won a copy of this in a blog giveaway and read it in January 2012.

3. Another book I read in January 2012 was Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion 1917 by Sally Walker.

Imagine the greatest manmade explosion in history prior to the atomic bomb. That was what was detonated in Halifax Harbour in December of 1917, killing two thousand people, leaving more than six thousand wounded, many of them blinded by flying glass, and over 9,000 homeless. Relief efforts were hampered by a blizzard the day after the explosion.

The style of this book is a middle-school textbook but it’s well worth the read.

4. Since The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy is set throughout the year of 1917, in France and in Chester Nova Scotia, just a few miles outside Halifax, I expected the Explosion to play some part in the story. I was disappointed that it rated only a passing reference near the end of the book.

5. The explosion also has a bit part in Ami McKay’s The Birth House. The bulk of this story takes place in the years 1916-1919, in Nova Scotia, this time on the Bay of Fundy shore.

The protagonist, Dora Rae, is befriended and mentored by the community’s midwife/herbalist. Over the course of her life, Dora’s house becomes the birth house—or the place where the women of the community go to have their babies, rather than taking the sometimes dangerous trip into the nearest town where ‘modern’ male medicine suits their needs somewhat less.

The midwives offered onion juice as a tonic to their expectant and new mothers.

6. Another book where onions have medicinal purposes is Holes by Louis Sachar, a 1999 multiple award winning children’s chapter book. Our protagonist Stanley Yelnats has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center in the desert, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day, digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep.

There’s a mystery told in flashback so the reader is always ahead of Stanley but just, and there’s piecing together for the reader to do too. It’s actually quite a bit of fun. (The onions play a part in the flashback bits.)

So there you have it: from 1950s suburbia to a 1990s boys’ detention centre, via the first world war. What do you think?
 

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to Rush Oh!

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 December 2016

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The last day of November was beautiful with our first major snow, heavy & fluffy and clinging to to branches. December 1st was a bleak, chill day with a rain-like snow that the photo didn’t capture.

iew from window 2016-12-01 photo 1-view 2016-12-01_zps7bnpj2x4.jpg

The Weather Network was telling me it was 3C (37F) with no precipitation but it was snowing, I tell you!

So dreary.

What do you see where you are?

 

Mystery Books Read in August 2014

November30

 

In August 2014, a number of the mystery books that I had reserved to read in June, in my “get to know France” foray, finally came into the library for me.

 

 

A Tail of Vengeance by Spencer Quinn (Fiction, Mystery, eShort) 4 star rating
A Tail of Vengeance by Spencer Quinn photo 189e6316-94a4-497c-8509-6e6d3cc288fe_zpsmhrhuzj7.jpg
I can’t remember a lot about this entry in the Chet & Bernie series, and that’s a little unusual for me with these books.

So even though I seemed to have enjoyed it (I rated it 4 stars when I read it), it’s perhaps not quite up to the usual sparkling standards for this series.

4 stars anyway

 

The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle (Fiction, Mystery) 4 star rating
The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle photo 5228e934-3595-4e4d-ac1b-c78e4dfd8063_zpsqfx3pxom.jpg
Peter Mayle, author of the perennially popular A Year in Provence also penned a less well-known four book mystery series featuring former lawyer and wine connoisseur Sam Levitt.

In Los Angeles, wine collector Danny Roth engages Sam after he is the victim of a wine heist. Sam follows leads to Bordeaux and Provence.

The France and wine details themselves made this worth the read, but there is also a decent mystery. 4 stars
 

Death in Truffle Woods by Pierre Magnan (Fiction, Mystery, Translated)3.5 star rating

Death in the Truffle Woods by Pierre Magnon photo 70f523cd-9805-4320-ae39-1d3dfaa2e5c6_zps1lsyxy78.jpgThis is the first book in the Commissaire Laviolette series, first published in French in 1973 but only recently translated into English.

This first adventure brings the Commissaire to 1960s rural Provence to investigate the disappearance of five people, within a climate of centuries-old superstition and secret and animosity, and gets him involved in the local politics and disputes. 3½ stars

 

The Messengers of Death by Pierre Magnan (Fiction, Mystery, Translated) 4 star rating
Messengers of Death by Pierre Magnon photo 9b9b459d-98b6-49c4-b646-14da298a00fa_zpsxtsaufjv.jpg
Commissaire Laviolette is lured out of retirement to help investigate the bayonet murder of an avaricious spinster. As Amazon says “the theme of this is as old as Cain and Abel”.

The characters in this seemed alive and the mystery is decent. This second entry in the series surpasses the series debut A Death in the Truffle Wood.

4 stars
 

Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner (Fiction, Mystery, Translated) 3.5 star rating
Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner photo 9da24021-cb69-4d66-afbe-b09c6cb61f56_zpspunhxxgh.jpg

This first in a series had the promising premise of an amateur sleuth in the person of 1889 Parisian bookseller Victor Legris. Legris investigates the deaths of several people, all apparently of bee stings, in connection with the newly opened Eiffel Tower.

The historical facts are carefully researched and there are wonderful details of the literary world of the time, but the whole thing was just a little flat.

Izner is the pseudonym of two sisters who are second hand booksellers in Paris. 3½ stars

 

I was especially pleased to read the translated books. Do you know any other translated mysteries set in France?

 

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.

Nonfiction November – Week 5

November28

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

The 2016 edition of Nonfiction November is wrapping up. This week’s link-up is hosted by Lory at The Emerald City Book Review.

Lory asks: Which of this month’s amazing nonfiction books have made it onto my TBR?

 

NEW TO MY TBR LIST THIS MONTH:

 Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia by Sara Jewell

 photo field notes_zps1xgvqn8y.jpgAmazon: “Field Notes includes forty­-one essays on the differences, both subtle and drastic, between city life and country living. From curious neighbours and unpredictable weather to the reality of roadkill and the wonders of wildlife, award­-winning narrative journalist Sara Jewell strikes the perfect balance between honest self-­examination and humorous observation.” Plus, Jewell lives just an hour down the road from me!

This was recommended by Naomi of Consumed by Ink. I already have it reserved at the library.
 

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

 photo bucolic plague_zpsp8iaqz2l.jpgKilmer-Purcell writes with dramatic flair and trenchant wit, uncovering mirthful metaphors as he plows through their daily experiences, meeting neighbors, signing on caretaker Farmer John, herding goats, canning tomatoes, and digging a garden, as he and his partner fix up their 205-year-old house near the hauntingly beautiful town of Sharon Springs, N.Y.

JoAnn of Lakeside Musing recommended this to me. My library ‘holds’ list now also includes this title.
 

When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins

 photo when in french_zpsu7onyj3w.jpgAmazon: “What does it mean to love someone in a second language? Collins wonders, as her relationship with her French boyfriend Olivier continues to grow entirely in English. Are there things she doesn’t understand about Olivier, having never spoken to him in his native tongue? Does ‘I love you’ even mean the same thing as ‘je t’aime’?”

Language, French – this is for me! I first saw this book on Kathy’s blog at Bermuda Onion, and Kate at Parchment Girl also recommended it to me. I’m so looking forward to this!

 

Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live by Peter Orner

 photo am i alone here_zpsyfrnor2q.jpgAmazon: “‘Stories, both my own and those I’ve taken to heart, make up whoever it is that I’ve become,’ Peter Orner writes in this collection of essays about reading, writing, and living. Orner reads—and writes—everywhere he finds himself: a hospital cafeteria, a coffee shop in Albania, or a crowded bus in Haiti. The result is ‘a book of unlearned meditations that stumbles into memoir.'”

This was on one of Deb’s lists at ReaderBuzz.
 

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey photo wild snail_zpsy8vvfj50.jpgWhile an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world.

An Adventure in Reading‘s raider girl told me about this one, which is now also on my library ‘reserved’ list.

 
A couple of great recommendations that also made it to my TBR list came in after I wrote this post but this represents one new book for each fabulous week of Nonfiction November 2016! Are you adding any of these to your TBR list?

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 August 2014

November25

books read
In August 2014, we were busy getting ready for the arrival of my husband’s daughter Laura and her two young sons who were coming to stay for two weeks, and ended up under our roof for two years.

Nonetheless, books I had reserved at the library over the past couple of months were piling up, so I had my reading cut out for me!


 

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky (Fiction, Short Stories, Atlantic Canadian) 4.5 star rating
Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky photo 3fb20fb4-d498-462e-a470-5e27a81bf682_zpszdlpfj8j.jpg

From Amazon: “From the caretaker of a prairie amusement park to the lone occupant of a collapsing Newfoundland town, from a travelling sports drink marketer with a pressing need to get off the road to an elevator inspector who finds himself losing his marriage while sensuously burying himself in the tastes and smells of the kitchen, these are people who spin wildly out of control, finding themselves in a new and different world.”

Whirl Away was the winner of the 2013 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, was shortlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was a finalist for the 2012 BMO Winterset Award.

I highly recommend this collection. 4½ stars
 

I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant (Nonfiction, Bibliophilic, Kindle Single) 4 star rating
I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant photo f2a446d7-531a-4b79-8736-928841674047_zpsppnmso8t.jpg
When Grant downsized her living space in 2013, she had to purge thousands of her books from her personal library, started when she was a child.

Amazon says: ”Both a memoir of a lifetime of reading and an insight into how interior décor has banished the bookcase, her account of the emotional struggle of her relationship with books asks questions about the way we live today.“

The author is an award winning novelist and nonfiction writer, so this is a well-written and fascinating treatise. 4 stars

 
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Fiction, Children’s Chapter book)4 star rating
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White photo c8e3d8c2-4ac2-43d4-a048-f799581922c4_zpsyfdgx6cx.jpg
I must have read this as a child but I’m certain that I didn’t remember how it ended.

It begins as a charming enough tale, with the saving of Wilbur the pig and the talking animals that welcome Fern, the young girl that saved him, to the barn. But it becomes something else that more mimics life.

This is deservedly a much-loved children’s classic. 4 stars
 

When Things Get Back to Normal by M.T. Dohaney (Nonfiction, Memoir, Canadian)4 star rating
When Things Get Back to Normal by M.T. Dohaney photo db35ef02-5e27-4499-82d4-c28e45f4e68a_zpspg12qxfj.jpg
I mentioned this book in my comments about The Hatbox Letters in June 2014.

Blurb: “One Friday evening, M.T. Dohaney’s husband went out to play hockey with his friends. She never saw him alive again. To help herself through this catastrophe, Dohaney recorded a year’s worth of pain and anger as well as her gradual and unexpected healing in the journal that became When Things Get Back to Normal.”

This was a reread because I wanted to be certain that it was indeed more useful then The Hatbox Letters. It was, very much so. 4 stars
 
The Care and Management of Lies: a Novel of the Great War by Jacqueline Winspear (Fiction, Historical, WWI) 3.5 star rating

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear photo 8b6aa75f-06ce-4a5c-a543-9673b6710671_zpsqyjp4ktu.jpg Two women have been friends since childhood. Now adults, one marries the brother of the other and moves to the family farm. War erupts and Tom enlists, and it falls to Kezia to run the farm, without much help because all the other young men are also enlisting.

Interesting in that regard, but otherwise unmemorable and too easily tied up at the end. 3½ stars
 

Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time by Lisa Tracy (Nonfiction, Memoir) 3 star rating
Objects of Our Affection by Lisa Tracy photo 0fdec56f-21b3-43da-96dc-d21587a8669f_zpsh7oqgfk5.jpg
Blurb: “About the history of certain carefully collected heirlooms and why we hold on to the things we keep and how we let go of the ones we lose.”

Lisa Tracy found herself, along with her sister Jeanne, responsible for cleaning out her deceased parents’ home, jammed full of the belongings they had gathered over a lifetime. I also had to clear out my mother’s house, full of her possessions. But there the similarities end.

Tracy’s parents collected museum quality antiques with high dollar value, and lovely family stories attached. I, sadly, couldn’t relate.

Recommended for someone whose parents are well-to-do and will be leaving a house that someone (maybe them!) will need to clear out.
3 stars

 
I’m going to post separately for the five mysteries I read.

I was heavy on nonfiction this month. Any thoughts?

 

 

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.

WONDROUS WORDS: Howard’s Hobby

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In Melissa Harrison’s lovely At Hawthorn Time, I also met Howard, retired from his city job and keeping from going bonkers in the country with his hobby of restoring vintage wireless units.

First, a sound I know you’ve heard, but perhaps didn’t know the word for.

Heterodyne hɛt(ə)rə(ʊ)DINE/: Electronics of or relating to the production of a lower frequency from the combination of two almost equal high frequencies, as used in radio transmission.

Slowly he began to scan through the frequencies, adjusting the dial minutely, listening, waiting, listening again. Pops and crackles, garbled speech, snatches of music, and between it all the otherworldly heterodyne wails.

 

ceiling boss architecture photo boss 1_zps3bvut443.jpgBoss: a knob or protrusion of stone or wood. Bosses can often be found in the ceilings of buildings, particularly at the keystones at the intersections of a rib vault. In Gothic architecture, such roof bosses (or ceiling bosses) are often intricately carved with foliage, heraldic devices or other decorations.

The church was cool and empty, its roof timbers with their curved bosses lost in shadow, the air it held within it very still.


I’ve seen ceiling bosses scores of times, and never thought about the name for them.
How about you?

 
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.

Nonfiction November – Week 4

November21

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

This week’s link-up is hosted by Julz at JulzReads. The prompt for this week’s Nonfiction November entry is expertise.
 

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that I’m choosing to be the expert on moving-and-starting-over a new life in the country.
 

1. Country Matters: The Pleasures and Tribulations of Moving from a Big City to an Old Country Farmhouse by Michael Korda

 photo country matters_zpsx8tokudv.jpg From Amazon: “With his inimitable sense of humor and storytelling talent, New York Times bestselling author Michael Korda brings us this charming, hilarious, self-deprecating memoir of a city couple’s new life in the country.

At once entertaining, canny, and moving, Country Matters does for Dutchess County, New York, what Under the Tuscan Sun did for Tuscany. This witty memoir, replete with Korda’s own line drawings, reads like a novel, as it chronicles the author’s transformation from city slicker to full-time country gentleman, complete with tractors, horses, and a leaking roof.”

 
2. From Stone Orchard: a Collection of Memories by Timothy Findley

 photo stone orchard_zpsudjll6yr.jpgFrom Amazon: “As they say, if only the walls could talk …

The walls have never talked so eloquently or endearingly as they do in From Stone Orchard, a collection of Timothy Findley’s Harrowsmith columns – revised and expanded – plus new writings, all on life at a 19th-century farm just outside of Cannington, Ontario. Here are tales of the farm’s past, both distant and recent: the comic coincidences leading to the naming of the swimming pool, and why Margaret Laurence would never dip her toe in it. Or the night dinner party guests went outside in the twilight, dressed like royalty, to watch a herd of majestic deer pass through the gardens.”

 
3. Heading Home: On Starting a New Life in a Country Place by Lawrence Scanlan
Heading Home by Lawrence Scanlan photo heading home_zpsvgcqeq7x.jpgFrom Amazon: What harassed and harried city-dweller has not dreamed of escaping to a quiet place in the country? With his wife, Scanlan moved from the city of Kingston to a 19th Century frame house on the Napanee River in the village of Camden East, Ontario (pop. 250).

Heading Home plots their transition from city to country, with its challenges and comic twists. The book’s twelve chapters, each devoted to one month, chronicle a year in the life of the village. Scanlan points to a wide range of data and interviews dozens of people who have opted out of city life–all to show that a major demographic shift is underway.

As lyrical as it is practical, Heading Home shows the way to a new life beyond the freeways and high-rises. Heading Home is the perfect book for all who have lived in the city but who yearn to start over–in a country place.

 

I could add to this list, but these three provide enough of a foundation for you to know if the country life is really for 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

Books Read in July 2014

November18

books read

Back at home in Nova Scotia, I eagerly anticipated the annual Read by the Sea Literary Festival in nearby River John in mid-July. I enjoyed readings by, and panel discussions with, Russell Wangersky, Steven Galloway, Frank MacDonald, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Sharon Butala and Sylvia McDonald. You’ll find books by some of them in my reading over the next couple of months.
 

The Glass Harmonica by Russell Wangersky (Literary fiction, Atlantic Canadian) 4.5 star rating
 photo glass harmonica_zps8oavdopq.jpgSet in St. John’s Newfoundland where the author lives and works as editor and columnist for The Telegram, The Glass Harmonica is the story of a neighbourhood. In the present, a man witnesses his neighbour shot and killed by a pizza delivery person, but the back story is woven in pieces by various neighbours, back and forth over the course of 40 years. Wangersky has been called a craftsman storyteller. I concur.

This book won 2010 BMO Winterset Award for the outstanding literary work in any genre by a Newfoundlander or Labradorian.

Read this if: you’ve ever walked down your street and wondered what goes on behind closed doors
4½ stars
 

A Possible Madness by Frank MacDonald (Literary Fiction, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating
 photo possible madness_zpszzkimdnf.jpg
Frank MacDonald is one of Cape Breton’s most celebrated writers.

A Possible Madness is set in the fictional mining town of Shean in Cape Breton which has seen its fortunes fall as the coal has been used up. Now a global corporation plans to build a seawall offshore and exploit the remaining coal. It’ll mean jobs but will the town agree to let it happen?

Read this if: you’d like to gain insight into the economics and everyday life of residents of a closed mining town, or you like literary fiction with a surprise twist. 4 stars
 

The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe (Literary Fiction, Canadian) 4 star rating
 photo englishmans boy_zpslzhyopwi.jpgAmazon: “It’s a story within a story–a shimmering romance about the myth of movie-making in Hollywood in the 1920s and an account of a real-life massacre of First Nations people in Montana in the 1870s. Linking these two very different stories is Shorty McAdoo, an aging cowboy, who as a young man acted as a guide for the American and Canadian trappers who perpetrated the massacre, and who is now going to be the subject of a no-holds-barred blockbuster set to rival D.W. Griffith’s epic Birth of a Nation.” (My note: The massacre actually took place in Saskatchewan but was spearheaded by American wolf-hunters from Montana.)

Winner of the 1996 Governor General’s Award for Fiction (beating out Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace), this is the first in a loose trilogy, although each book stands alone. Brilliant writing.

4 stars
 

The Bear by Claire Cameron (Literary Fiction, Canadian) 4 star rating

(True story:) In October of 1991, a pair of campers was attacked & killed by a black bear in Algonquin National Park, in northern Ontario, Canada. Author Claire Cameron was a counsellor at a summer camp at Algonquin that year. “The Bear [the novel] is based on my memories of and research into this bear attack. I added the kids.”

 photo bear_zpsnkkk1gp8.jpgThe Bear (the novel) is told through the eyes and voice of five year old Anna, one of those kids. She and her two year old brother Stick are the survivors of an attack that kills their parents.

With her dying words, her mother tells Anna to leave the island in a canoe, and thus begins the children’s sojourn alone through the vast wilderness that is Algonquin. The tension as the children suffer through each tribulation (hunger, thirst, mosquitos, shelter, and so on) rises steadily. I couldn’t put this down.

Read this if: you want to know if the children survived; or you think you ever want to go wilderness camping.
4 stars
 

A Traveller’s History of France by Robert Cole (Nonfiction, History) 3 star rating

 photo travellers history_zpsp0m95dtw.jpgI struggled through this for the sake of our planned trip to France, starting in June and not finishing it until nearly the end of July.

It’s dense and reads like a textbook: empires and republics ad nauseam. A great Paris-centric overview if you’re studying the history of France but for someone interested in traveling to France for a three week visit and who wants to understand the regions of France and their attitudes, it was not so useful.
3 stars
 

The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White (Fiction) 3 star rating

I read this on my Kindle over a period of three months; it just took that long to get through.

There is some beautiful writing but, even though there’s a hint of a murder mystery, the story doesn’t go anywhere. I kept reading because I thought something must be going to happen, but I was disappointed. Nothing did. 3 stars

 

*   *   *   *   *

 
My lone mystery this month was

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage) 3.5 star rating
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart photo circular staircase dover edition_zpsgvjr9cxh.jpgMary Roberts Rinehart was considered the American Agatha Christie and for many years reigned as queen of the American mystery genre. The Circular Staircase was her second published book (1908) and featured the second, and last, outing of the tart-tongued middle-aged Miss Cornelia Van Gorder. Miss Van Gorder has invited her niece and nephew to accompany her to a country house for a relaxing summer. But instead of rural quiet they found murder and hijinks.

Roberts Rinehart wrote with humour and a great sense of place and time, but I found it just a little too madcap.
3½ stars

 

I read great Canadian fiction this month! Does anything look interesting 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.

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WONDROUS WORDS: Jack’s Navigation

November16

In Melissa Harrison’s lovely At Hawthorn Time, I met Jack, an itinerant farm worker who navigates his way across the England by a combination of memory and instinct. Here are a couple of words that give some insight into his methods.

 photo worker_zpsl8nmogip.jpg
 

Telluric: (təˈLOORik) of the earth as a planet, of the soil; a telluric current, or Earth current, is an electric current which moves underground

Usually he navigated by a kind of telluric instinct, an obscure knowledge he had learned to call on even when the land he walked through was unfamiliar(.)

 


Perturbation:
(pərdərˈbāSH(ə)n) 1. anxiety; mental uneasiness. 2. a deviation of a system, moving object, or process from its regular or normal state of path, caused by an outside influence.

The last two times he’d slept he’d felt the perturbation of a large town not too far ahead running like static through his dreams.

I couldn’t decide if that used the first or the second definition of perturbation. What do you think?

 
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.

Nonfiction November – Week 3

November14

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

This week’s link-up is hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves. The prompt for this week’s Nonfiction November entry is to make a pairing of a non-fiction book and a related novel.

The best match I can think of is Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse and the Bruno, Chief of Police series. Both are set in the same area of southern France. But I’ve talked about those books before.

So instead I’m going to present some of my reading from last year and suggest
Alan Turing: The Enigma Man by Nigel Cawthorne photo alan turing_zpssuudhnyh.jpg

 

Alan Turing, the Enigma Man by Nigel Cawthorne which supposedly was the book that the movie The Imitation Game was based on.

It’s not the most interesting lifestory I’ve ever read but it’s not bad, and it’s short.

 

 
Blackout by Connie Willis photo blackout_zpsoll3v2g9.jpg

I’d follow that up with Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. Although these are two separate books, they’re not really, being just one long story that had to be divided up for publishing. Both concern time travel from the year 2060 to WWII England – London, Kent, and Bletchfield Park among other locales.

Willis’ time travel is complex but, in the end, it all makes sense. I did so enjoy both of these books.

 
Do you have interesting nonfiction/fiction pairings for me?

 

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

What are the Chances? Falling Trees

November13

what are the chances photo question-mark 100_zpsc52w0w9q.jpgIn our side yard, we have the (remaining of two) biggest poplar(s) that anyone I know has ever seen. It is at least 100 feet high (30 metres) tall. Muriel, who lives next door, is 93 and grew up in the house where we live. She tells us that those trees were big when she was a child. Another family member told us that the fishing boats used to use the trees to guide them into the harbour that is just over the hill.

But poplar trees don’t last forever, and over the past 13 years, we lost all of one tree, in pieces, until we finally cut down the dead trunk. Sad to say, but the remaining tree is going to follow soon.

 photo hurricane arthur 2014 450_zpsqnt8pcyv.jpg
Two years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Arthur, a large limb came down, breaking a window on the house and narrowly missing doing more damage.

 
2016 Oct tree down photo 2016-10-23 tree down 2 450_zps85uuoshl.jpg
Then, near the end of October another big windstorm took down another large (double) branch of the tree, this time sending it in the opposite direction, across the driveway.

 
But I think you’ll agree that the chances of limbs coming down from that tree in a windstorm are pretty good, so what’s this post about?

Sunday morning, we awoke to the tree down on our property and Tuesday evening, I read in His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay:

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay photo his whole life_zpsez41gl2w.jpg

 

Less than an hour later, (the storm) was over. They could see the near trees, the shoreline, the first island, the far shore, and in that moment the biggest tree of all came crashing down less than thirty feet away. . . The shoreline wasn’t shoreline anymore, it was fallen tree.

 
It was a giant hemlock that fell in the book, but I was struck by the description because that’s how it was: The driveway wasn’t driveway anymore, it was fallen tree.

So what are the chances? Ever have life and your reading collide?

 

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 June 2014

November10

books read
In June 2014, I was on the homestretch of what I could do with my mom’s things in Ontario, and I was starting to think ahead to our planned trip to France in late September-early October.

I thought I would read to learn a few things about it, and to set the mood.
 

Paris to the Moon   by Adam Gopnik (Non-fiction, Travel)
5 star rating

In 1995, Adam Gopnik, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, along with his wife and infant son moved from NYC to Paris.

From Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik photo 211686ce-fb8b-46ef-9e73-04f0426431e1_zpscunxnxnm.jpgThis book is a collection of his award-winning “Paris Journals” that he filed for the magazine. But unlike other books that are an assemblage of essays, this book is not choppy or undisciplined. It’s an intelligent, heartfelt look at the most beautiful city in the world at the turn of the twenty-first century. (Gopnik was there for Y2K but returned to America shortly thereafter.)

Some critics have complained that Gopnik’s essays are outdated, but I think they transcend time. He has captured the very heart of Paris culture and attitude. It’s well worth reading whether you’re planning to visit Paris or not.

I loved this book. 5 stars
 

The President’s Hat   by Antoine Laurain (Fiction, Translated) 4.5 star rating

The President's Hat by Antoine Lauraine photo 2b7e2c32-ecb4-4dd1-ad51-cd6c24a85c90_zpsdxq5qcw0.jpg What could be more French than a book that was popular with the reading public there and concerns the hat of the President of France?

Amazon describes this as a “charming fable”. It’s set in the 1980s when Francois Mitterrand was President. After dining in a restaurant one night, Mitterrand forgets his hat. The hat then starts on a journey that changes the lives of everyone who wears it.

This is a light book, easily read in an afternoon and is, indeed, charming. 4½ stars
 

The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France   by John Baxter (Non-fiction, Food) 4 star rating

John Baxter is an Australian who has lived in Paris for more than twenty years and gives literary walking tours through the city. The result of those tours is contained in The Most Beautiful Walk in the World.

In The Perfect Meal which Amazon calls “part grand tour of France, part history of French cuisine” he takes “readers on a journey to discover and savor some of the world’s great cultural achievements before they disappear completely.”

The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France by John Baxter photo daa6d910-dd3e-4c57-9c10-1e145bea02e9_zpsqltdspxr.jpg Thus he tracks down and eats bouillabaisse, foie gras and truffles and many other delights. I learned the right way to eat a croissant (it’s “not eaten dry—it is dipped in coffee”), what fleur de sel is (“dust-fine ‘flower of the salt’ skimmed from the topmost layer of the pans where seawater is evaporated”) and when to drink café crème (“one never drinks café crème after midday any more than we eat cornflakes”) among a host of fascinating tidbits. (He also mentions how “sweet, cold white wine such as Monbazillac . . . marr[ies] so perfectly with goose liver”.)

This is a wonderful treat for foodies, Francophiles, and readers of mysteries set in various parts of the French countryside. 4 stars
 

A Year in Provence   by Peter Mayle (Non-fiction, Memoir) 4 star rating

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle photo 68f7e0f6-aa37-480a-b4aa-b25c34844f32_zpsbuhjh4kt.jpg First published in 1989, this account of Englishman Mayle’s life in the countryside of Provence is a modern classic.

Mayle’s writing is warm and witty, and I’m sure has made thousands fall in love with the idea of buying an old stone farmhouse in France.

4 stars
 

The Hatbox Letters   by Beth Powning (Fiction, Atlantic Canadian) 3.5 star rating

The Hatbox Letters by Beth Powning photo d1539246-67fd-454f-90bc-9b5de4d22bf2_zpsf0vupwog.jpg Because Powning is “almost local” I read this when it was first published in 2004. I was disappointed on that first reading, expecting the letters of the title (letters her grandparents wrote to each other in the nineteenth century) to play a bigger part.

But the book is really about grieving. Kate Harding, 52, is facing her second winter since the untimely death of her husband.

A personal friend of mine, not much older than Kate, facing the same situation mentioned that this book really hit home with her so this reread was to pick up what I had missed the first time around. This was the only “non-France” book I read this month, but it was important to me to try to understand.

But even knowing the real theme of the book, I was not particularly touched by Kate’s emotions. Of course, each situation is unique, and I have not gone through losing a spouse but even so, I found Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking or M.T. Dohaney’s When Things Get Back to Normal both more adept at capturing and relaying a widow’s sorrow to me. 3½ stars
 

Ooh La La: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day   by Jamie Cat Callan (Non-fiction, Beauty) 3.5 star rating

ooh la la by Jamie Cat Callan photo ooh la la_zpstvpxrqdq.jpg Callan spent time in France interviewing and visiting French women in their milieu to try to crack the code to their famous French sensuality.

She presents a list of findings, each with its own chapter. From the mundane (always carry your handbag on your wrist) to the obvious (wear pretty underthings) to the very French (discover your perfume and wear a signature scent), it was all interesting.

Although it wasn’t a life-changer, I really enjoyed this little book which was a quick and easy read. 3½ stars
 

Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down   by Rosecrans Baldwin (Non-fiction, Travel) 3.5 star rating

Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down photo e1e0033d-9046-4960-9590-6a506db7fd50_zpsusnvpnam.jpg In the mid-aughts of this century, Rosecrans Baldwin and his wife moved to Paris when he as offered a job at a Parisian ad agency―even though he had no experience in advertising, and even though he hardly spoke French. In this book, he draws a picture of their 18 months living in the French capital.

The Baldwins ran into some of the same problems that the Gopniks did (bureaucracy, endless paperwork) but met them with much less grace. In fact, the entire book, articulate as it is, seemed to me to be one big complaint that things in Paris aren’t done the same way they are in the good ol’ USA. (But isn’t that why he was there?)

I learned a few things I didn’t know before, but spent most of the time reading this exasperated at Baldwin’s attitude. 3½ stars
 

* * * * *

 
 Unfortunately, stuck between libraries as I was out-of-province, I had a hard time sourcing mysteries set in France. (Four that I placed holds on show up in my August reading.) Thus, there were only two and I’m including them in this post.

 

A Man in Uniform   by Kate Taylor (Creative Non-fiction, Historical, Mystery, Canadian author) 4 star rating

A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor photo f6039e96-5e01-42b4-afef-e6b2811e0f46_zpsdbxttwxb.jpgSome of you may be familiar with the infamous Dreyfus affair but before this month in 2014, I would have sworn I had never heard of it. Of course, since then, I’ve seen countless casual references to it so it was probably around me all the time.

Wikipedia says: “The Dreyfus affair (French: l’affaire Dreyfus) was a political scandal that divided France from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice, and remains one of the most striking examples of a complex miscarriage of justice, where a major role was played by the press and public opinion.” I might add that it seems a prime case of anti-Semitism as well.

The mystery in the event is: if Dreyfus didn’t do it, who did? Kate Taylor has written a fictional account of the affair, although from what I’ve learned since, it seems to paint a very accurate picture of the situation. It was a very enjoyable way to take in history!   4 stars
 

The Alchemy of Murder   by Carol McCleary (Fiction, Mystery, Historical) 3 star rating

The Alchemy of Murder by Carol McCleary photo c6eb944a-8cf9-484e-9b9c-f4bfe8b80fa1_zpsdqkc1gye.jpgThis is the first in McCleary’s series featuring the real-life reporter Nellie Bly, who was famous in the early part of 20th century for her expose of conditions in Bellevue Asylum for the Insane in NYC, and for her round-the-world trip, a la Jules Verne, made in 72 days.

I wanted very much to like this series since seeing the one woman play by a local author Gary Blackwood “Two Hours in a Madhouse”. But there is just too much fiction, too much suspension of belief asked (that Nellie would be involved in a murder investigation in Paris, okay; but that she would meet and have a relationship with Jules Verne was the breaking point for me).

You might enjoy the mystery in this but don’t count on it to learn anything about the real Nellie Bly.

3 stars

 

I think I did manage to get a bit of flavour of France from this reading. Does anything interest 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.

Nonfiction November – Week 2

November7

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

This week’s link-up is hosted by Rachel at Hibernator’s Library. The prompt for this week’s Nonfiction November entry asks what I look for in nonfiction reading.

Heading Home by Lawrence Scanlan photo heading home_zpsvgcqeq7x.jpg
More than anything, I want to learn from NF. I want to investigate ideas or times or places that I’m not familiar with. And I tell myself I’m particularly interested in anything to do with Canada, some things France, history, country living (especially moving to the country), or things bibliophilic. But what I’ve actually read over the last ten years leans toward food and memoirs. Oops!

 

I know I’m not big into how-to or self-help or business and I want my nonfiction to be narrative. Occasionally, I’ll work hard to take in a topic (and feel better for it) but generally I’d like to skip textbook or reference style NF.

For some reason, although the cover doesn’t seem as important to me as it does with the novels I read, the title does. And oddly, sub-titles have huge appeal for me.

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik photo table comes first_zps0w1raiv8.jpgSo books like Lawrence Scanlan’s Heading Home: On Starting a New Life in a Country Place (Canadian, country, subtitle) or Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food (France, food, subtitle!) have huge appeal.

For the record, I’ve read Heading Home more than once and love it, and since I’ve greatly enjoyed at least two of Gopnik’s other NF books (Paris to the Moon and Winter: 5 Windows on the Season) I’m putting The Table Comes First at the top of my TBR list – in fact, I just reserved it at the library.
 

What about you? What do you look for in your non-fiction reading?

 

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

WEEKEND COOKING – The Fibromyalgia Cookbook by Shelley Ann Smith

November5

Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

Weekend Cooking 05Nov16, sponsored by Candace at Beth Fish Reads, is a chance to share the food love. Follow the link to see what delish dishes other bloggers are talking about this week.

My daughter-in-law gave me this book as a gift. Thank you, Lyndsay!
Fibromyalgia Cookbook by Shelley Ann Smith photo fibromyalgia cookbook_zpsmifh71ds.jpg

The Fibromyalgia Cookbook is a small and slender soft-cover book printed on non-glossy paper. There are no illustrations or photos: this cookbook is all business! After a two page introduction in which she succinctly sets out the tenets of her cooking philosophy, and a short, two-page glossary, there are “more than 120 easy & delicious recipes”.

The first recipe I tried was Garlic Chicken Breasts. The glaze for them was made with chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, and garlic, and they were delicious. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo.

So I tried again: this time with Baked Chicken [Thighs] in Yogurt Sauce
Baked chicken in yogurt sauce 275 photo chicken amp yogurt 275_zpsew0t5jxu.jpgThis dish was better than delicious. The chicken was moist and tender, and the sauce cheesy and creamy.

It was easy to make and needed just a few ingredients, all of which I had on hand.

Baked Chicken in Yogurt Sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1½ tablespoons prepared mustard (I used horseradish Dijon)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 tablespoons spelt flour

Preheat oven to 350ᵒ.
Arrange the chicken in a casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, mustard, thyme and chicken stock. Stir well.
In a medium bowl mix the yogurt and flour together. Add the cheese mixture. Stir. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.
Bake covered for 40 minutes; uncover and continue to bake for additional 20 minutes.

Serves 4.

* * * * *

I can’t speak to how using strictly these recipes would affect fibromyalgia but, based on the two I’ve tried, I’m more than willing to incorporate them into my diet. If nothing else, this book seems to be full of easy recipes for yummy dishes. (If only it would lay flat!)

How about you? Do you need your cookbooks to have photos?

 

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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The View from My Window: Early November 2016

November2

I was wrong about all the leaves being gone by now. On sunny days (becoming fewer after a beautiful October), there’s still some gold in them thar hills.

view from window 2 nov 2016 photo view early nov 2016_zpsoszvmnr3.jpg

I expect to see a drastic difference–and little evidence of life–by the end of the month.

What do you see where you are?

 

Nonfiction November Week 1

October31

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

Nonfiction November has arrived and this year I’m going to try to join in.

 

Sheet pan suppers photo sheetpan suppers_zpslz7f7n0x.jpgThis week, we’re all looking back at our year of nonfiction, and for me, that’s pretty sad: my favourite NF books were cookbooks. In fact, the majority of nonfiction I perused this year was about food: cooking it (Sheet Pan Suppers, The Fibromyalgia Cookbook, One Pot French, Edwardian Cooking: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Salad in a Jar, Fermented Vegetables), avoiding it (Minimize Me: 10 Diets to Loce 25 Pounds in 50 Days, Eat it Later: Mastering Self-Control and the Slimming Power of Postponement), or digesting it (Gut: the Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ).

 

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Out of the handful of non-cookbooks I read, I most enjoyed The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose.

Rose chose a shelf of (ironically) fiction books in her library and read each of them, reporting on her progress, the history behind the books, and other literary tidbits.

 

 

Beginning French by Les Americains Neumeier photo beginning french_zpsikc9nfv1.jpg

 

However, the book I recommended the most was a short memoir about buying a old farmhouse in southern France and living there part of each year. Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse by Les Americains is charming and includes mouth-watering recipes. (There we go with food again.)

 

 

Although I read two other memoirs (Wildflower by Drew Barrymore and Paris Nights) and a microhistory (Frozen in Time: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition), I missed reading history or biographies that include history. I’m looking forward to getting some great ideas in that area this month from the other participants in Non-Fiction November.

Bring it on!

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 Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Reading Challenge

October29

As I’ve told you before, I haven’t officially entered any book challenges since 2012, when I entered 63 of them. You read that right: sixty-three challenges. As you might guess, that burned me out of reading lists for a while.

But, from time to time, I do challenge myself: to themed reading months, to the What’s in a Name? challenge now hosted by The Worm Hole, and to Semi-Charmed winter & summer challenges. All of these have the common element of introducing me to books I might have left languishing on the shelf, while being creative and fun.

Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge photo SCWBC16 225_zps5fcodwa5.jpg

 

 

It’s time now to announce that I’m entering the Winter 2016 edition of Semi-Charmed Book Challenge.

 

 

 

The challenge will run from November 1, 2016, to January 31, 2017. I’ve copied the criteria below. I have no idea at this time what books I will use to meet the requirements of the 10 point brand new release or either of the 30 point categories, and I’m open to suggestions.

 
Challenge Categories:
5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.

10 points: Read a 2016 finalist (longlist or shortlist) for one of the following literary prizes: National Book Award, Man Booker or Man Booker International.

10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017).

15 points:
Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you.

15 points:
Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you.

20 points:
Read a modern retelling of a classic

25 points:
Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title.

30 points
: Read a book with a character that shares your first or last name.

30 points: Read two books: a nonfiction book and a fiction book with which it connects. (I must finish both books to get the 30 points! No partial points will be awarded.)

40 points: Read two books: one by an author whose first name is the same as the last name of the author of the other book. The shared name must be spelled exactly the same, no variations. (I must finish both books to get the 40 points! No partial points will be awarded.)

Do you have any suggestions for me, especially in my ‘problem’ categories?

PARIS NIGHTS by Cliff Simon with Loren Stephens: Review and Giveaway

October27

Cliff Simon

with

Loren Stephens

on Tour
October 24-November 2
with 

Paris Nights 

Paris Nights:
My Year at the Moulin Rouge

(memoir)

Release date: July 15, 2016
at Waldorf Publishing

ISBN: 978-194384892-8
197 pages

Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

A memoir by the critically acclaimed actor Cliff Simon.
Paris Nights, the memoir of a South African soldier turned performer in the world’s most famous cabaret, delivers in a hugely entertaining way.

Little did Cliff Simon know that a single phone call and a one-way ticket to Paris would ultimately change his life forever.

Now the acclaimed television and film actor shares his journey from Johannesburg to the Moulin Rouge to Hollywood in his debut memoir, Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge.

From a young age Cliff Simon knew he was headed towards big places. Having grown up as both a skilled gymnast and a competitive swimmer, performance was in his blood. But with the onset of Apartheid and the looming threat of war, he and his Jewish family soon retreated from Johannesburg, South Africa to the London countryside. Before he knew it, he joined the British swim team and was near Olympics-bound with a full-ride offer to a United States university.

But something wasn’t quite right. Instead, Cliff returned home and enlisted in the South African Air Force. Cliff’s habit of impulsive risk-taking would continue but ultimately pave the foundation for an experience most of us would only dream of. After he was honorably discharged, twenty-seven-year-old Cliff worked a series of odd jobs at a resort near the Indian Ocean until he received a phone call from an old friend inviting him to join him at the iconic Moulin Rouge.

Here begins the story of Cliff’s meteoric rise at the Moulin from swing dancer to principal in the glamour filled show, Formidable; his offstage encounters with street thugs and diamond smugglers; and the long nights filled with after parties and his pick of gorgeous women. Encounter the magic, the mayhem, and the glory that was and still is the Moulin Rouge.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Paris Nights Cliff Simon

 
Cliff Simon
is a well-known television actor, born in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He appeared for 7 seasons on the sci-fi thriller, Stargate as the evil Ba’al. Some of his recent appearances have been on CSI, 24, the Americans, and in the film, Project Eden.
 

Paris Nights Loren StephensLoren Stephens
has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize for the Best American Short Story,and her essays and short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Peregrine, the Montreal Review, to name a few.

Her novel “All Sorrows Can Be Borne,” set in Japan will be published in 2017.

Visit Cliff’s website and his fan page
Follow Cliff Simon: Facebook, Twitter

Visit Loren’s website: Write Wisdom

Follow Loren Stephens: Facebook
Follow Waldorf Publishing on Twitter | on Facebook

Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Target

***

My Thoughts

Not being a television watcher, I was previously unfamiliar with Cliff Simon, a successful actor who is well-known in the UK and to US watchers of Stargate. This was thus my first exposure to him.

The memoir was easy to follow. Once the introductory piece set up his move to Paris, we are taken back to Simon’s childhood, teen years and early adult life. There are no distracting spelling or grammatical errors either.

As one can imagine, Paris nightlife can be “colourful” and Simon’s varied background stood him in good stead dealing with fellow dancers, audience members, and various hangers-on. Although Simon stayed for only a year at the Moulin Rouge, no doubt he could have had a long and illustrious career there.

While his year at the Moulin Rouge was indeed interesting, it was but a small part of his exciting life and career, and thus not as major a part of the book as I expected.

Cliff Simon’s fans will no doubt find this well-written memoir of great interest.

I received this book free of charge from the author/publisher.

***

You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway – international:
Five (5) winners will receive a kindle/mobi copy of this book

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS AND AN EXCERPT

Paris Nights banner 450 photo paris nights banner_zpsnwz58izq.jpg

 

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WEEKEND COOKING: Fish & Chips & Dressing (with Gravy!)

October22

Last week I accompanied my husband while he made a business trip to St. John’s Newfoundland. We had a wonderful time, in summer-like temps that seemed to descend for the week on most of Eastern Canada, and I may share some bits of our trip with you in future posts.

But right now I want to talk about fish & chips. Specifically, fish & chips in Newfoundland where you often find them served with dressing & gravy. When Bill told me about this after a previous visit to St. John’s, I was skeptical. Nonetheless, last week I ventured to try this dish myself: not once, but twice in five days.

 photo McMurdos Lane 150_zpsl5kxdnbx.jpg The second order was at the Duke of Duckworth, a downtown St. John’s institution of sorts. It hides on McMurdo’s Lane, a stairway that climbs the cliff between Water Street (below) and Duckworth Street. I’m afraid my attempt to photograph it doesn’t do it justice. Fans of CBC’s uber-popular Republic of Doyle may recognize the location.

Duke of Duckworth sign photo Duke of Duckworth sign 150_zpsdrfpgqkh.jpg
West Jet Magazine advises:

This popular downtown pub, just a few steps down McMurdo’s Lane, [ .  .  .] is a star in the show (the Doyle brothers actually “own” it, and the distinctive orange office building above the bar is the exterior of the Doyle PI office).

 

But back to the food at hand. Doesn’t this look terrific? It was!

fish & chips & dressing photo fish amp chips amp dressing 450_zpswxt2uths.jpg

The dressing was light and fluffy, and the gravy was the perfect topping.

It’s important to note that this is ‘dressing‘, not ‘stuffing‘, the matter being one of terminology only, I believe. Newfoundland was the last province to join Canada – in 1949 – and retains a lot of its British roots, as my family did when I was growing up in 1950s and 1960s small-town southern Ontario, Canada. As far as I can remember, the only place I heard ‘stuffing’ then was in books, or in reference to plush toys.

The language of most mainland Canadians has been so strongly influenced by American culture and advertising over the last five decades that one seldom hears ‘dressing’ these days. I’m reminded how my Floridian cousin was highly amused to hear my teenage self refer to the ‘chesterfield’ in the living room. That’s another Britishism of my youth that has been replaced in everyday speech, by the American ‘couch’ or ‘sofa’.

But enough of my Heritage Minute and back to the food.

Although the dressing and gravy were wonderful, the absolutely best part of the Duke’s fish & chips is the fish itself. You can see that there’s some on my fork: as soon as I tasted that moist, white flesh I knew I had to blog about it and dragged out my phone to take this photo.

If you are lucky enough to get to Newfoundland in this lifetime, be sure to try the fish & chips & dressing & gravy. If you are in St. John’s, get them at the Duke of Duckworth!

 

Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.

 

 

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