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Urban Leaving to Country Living



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Book Beginnings on Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Hop on over there to get a linky to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

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Opening sentence from The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany:

My wife finally understood I needed some time on my own . . .

My thoughts: hmmm – what’s he up to? Would you read on?

* * * * *


Friday 56 photo Friday 56_zps0btxjm5r.jpg The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice.The only rules are to grab a book (any book), turn to page 56 (or 56% in your ereader) and find any sentence or a few (no spoilers) that grabs you and post it.

Here’s an entry from page 56 of The Automobile Club of Egypt:

My life stretched before me like a long road, but I could see where it led. Then, suddenly, it changed course. It is strange how that can happen unexpectedly due to some small matter or a passing word, going down some street at a particular hour or turning right instead of left or appearing late for work and bumping into someone–any such thing has the potential to change everything.

Intriguing! What are your thoughts?

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten Childhood Characters I’d Love To Revisit As Adults


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This is the first time I’ve joined in and I picked a week with a topic that I’ve struggled with. The Broke and the Bookish explain that these characters might be someone I’d like to read about in a novella or something to see what they grew up to be. I couldn’t get to ten – but I got half-way!

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The Saturdays photo Saturdays_zps4h4rm0ci.jpg1. Rush Melendy, one of the four Melendy children whose story I read and reread in Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, and Then There Were Five. I loved all the Melendys but I had a real crush on Rush, right into my teens.

Never mind the novella: I’d like to meet him in person and catch up with what he and his siblings (Mona, Randy & Oliver) have been doing for the last 50 years!

Trixie Belden #1 photo trixie_zpsfm0csi3o.jpg2. Trixie Belden, young heroine of the eponymous series, only 13 books long (the first six by Julie Campbell, and the next seven by Kathryn Kenny) when I was young and reading them. but since taken into syndication. Trixie and I were soul-mates, except that she was athletic, had big brothers, and had rich friends. Okay – I liked to solve mysteries, neither of us were rich, and I thought she was down-to-earth. That’s more of a connection than I made with Nancy Drew.

And, again, never mind the book, I’d like to have dinner with the older Trixie and find out about her brothers, Brian, Mart and Bobby, and her friends Honey Wheeler, Jim Frayne and Diana Lynch.

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3. Holly Hollister of the Happy Hollisters series by Jerry West. (Again, the series was a lot shorter in the early ’60s.) There were five kids in the Hollister family (just like mine!) and we grew up in the same era. I should have identified with Pam because she was the oldest, but Holly had braids just like mine.

I’d love to read a novella set in the ’80s and then present day to see how they all turned out.


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4. Nan and Burt Bobbsey, the older set of Laura Lee Hope’s Bobbsey twins. I suppose I could hear about how Freddie and Flossie made out too.

The first 15 original Bobbsey Twins books were published between 1904 and 1922 (on Kindle for .77 cents) so I guess something set between 1950 and 1980 would catch them up.

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5. Laura Ingalls Wilder from her own Little House series. This one’s a little trickier because Laura was a real person and we know how her life turned out. But rather than read what someone else has said, I’d like to have had her version of events after The First Four Years.

So that’s all I could come up with. Who have I missed? Who from your childhood reading would you like to catch up with?

Friday Afternoon: The View from My Window 29Apr16


A few years ago, I ran a series of pictures with the view from my office window every Friday afternoon. I stopped because I thought there wasn’t enough change week to week to bear recording.

What I’ve decided to do now is to post a picture from the last Friday afternoon of each month. view from my window Friday 29Apr16 photo 2016-4-29 450_zpsuc993unr.jpg
We’ve had a milder winter than a lot of places but April has been cold and spring is still slow to come. I maintain that it’s only the first three weeks of May that are spring in Nova Scotia, anyway.

I’ll be in Ontario for a couple of weeks in May, so I’ll miss a lot of it. Buy–hey!–it’ll be summer when I come home!

And what a difference a day makes: this was yesterday.
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How’s the weather where you are?



This week’s word comes from Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan, the author of Booker Prize winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Death of a River Guide is set in Tasmania and is told by Aljaz, said guide, who has a vision of his father:

(T)here it is, smoking and spluttering, Harry’s celebrated barbeque, spitting and flaring, the griddle full of roo patties on one side and cevapcici on the other(.)

cevapcici photo cevapcici_zpshexytdjt.jpg Ćevapi is a grilled dish of minced meat, a type of skinless sausage, found traditionally in the countries of southeastern Europe (the Balkans), originating during the Ottoman Period. According to Wikipedia, they are considered a national dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and are also common in Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, as well as in Albania, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania. They are usually served 5–10 pieces on a plate or in a flatbread with chopped raw onions.

From Persian kebab, sometimes with the South Slavic diminutive ending -čići.

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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.

Mailbox Monday – 25Apr16


I got books from all over last week: one win, one purchase new, one from the bring-some-take-some fundraiser at my dentist’s office, two library loans, two library sale items, and two from the bring-some-take-some fundraiser at our village post office. In total, I spent $7.00 on the used books.

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The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home, both by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers are two delightful children’s picture books. I’d recommend them for ages 4-8. I borrowed these from my library.

Secret Paris by Zoe de Las Cases is a beautiful adult colouring book I bought from Amazon. It was strictly a cost-saving measure since I needed $10 to bring my order of a new ironing board cover to the free shipping level. Hey – why pay good money on shipping when we can pay the same $10 and get a book?

* * * * *

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Ann Morgan’s Beside Myself is a win from Bloomsburg Publishing via a TLC Book Tour post by Kelly of The Well-Read Redhead. I haven’t started this yet but it promises a whole lot of suspense.

From the boxes at my dentist’s office where the fundraiser benefits local hockey activities, I picked up a classic “dime novel”: Murder Racquet, edited by Alfred Hitchcock. I’m a sucker for Hitchcock mystery pulps, and those published under the auspices of ‘Ellery Queen’.

From the small sale table at the library, I bought The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, and Caro Peacock’s Foreign Affair:, which seems to be the first in the “Liberty Lane” series.

The former is meant for fans of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and the latter is set in 1837 when “Queen Victoria, barely eighteen, has just ascended to the throne”. The promise of a young Queen Victoria sold me on this book. These two books were .50 cents each.

The sale “table” at our post office has grown over time and actually occupies a couple of bookcases as well as the table and windowsills. The books there are gems but the prices are the highest of any the places I obtained books last week.

I spent $3 on Accordian Crimes by E. Annie Proulx. I read this story that follows the life of a “little green accordian” through a century of American history, about 20 years ago and have been wanting to reread it.

M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans needs no introduction and has been on my TBR list for a while now. It cost $2

Do any of these interest you? What was your favourite book acquisition this week?

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Go on and visit Mailbox Monday and have a look at the wonderful goodies in other people’s mailboxes!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking through on them, I will earn a small percentage of the sale.

Friday Link-Ups – 22Apr16: SWANN


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Book Beginnings on Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Hop on over there to get a linky to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Opening sentences from Swann: A Literary Mystery by Carol Shields:

As recently as two years ago, when I was twenty-six, I dressed in ratty jeans and a sweatshirt with lettering across the chest. That’s where I was. Now I own six pairs of beautiful shoes, which I keep, when I’m not wearing them, swathed in tissue paper in their original boxes. Not one of these pairs of shoes cost less than a hundred dollars.

My thoughts: I’m so curious to find out how the narrator got from point A to point B! Would you read on?

* * * * *


Friday 56 photo Friday 56_zps0btxjm5r.jpg The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice.The only rules are to grab a book (any book), turn to page 56 (or 56% in your ereader) and find any sentence or a few (no spoilers) that grabs you and post it.

Here’s an entry from page 56 of Swann: A Literary Mystery:

The news they imparted was good, wholly positive, in fact: the lump removed from my mother’s side this morning was not, as they had feared, the pulpy sponge of cancer but a compacted little bundle of bone and hair, which, they told me, was a fossilized fetus, my mother’s twin sibling who somehow, in the moths before her own birth, became absorbed into her body. A genuine medical curiosity, one of the devilish pranks the human body plays on itself from time to time.

Shades of My Big Fat Greek Wedding! (Swann  predated the movie by 15 years.) What do you think?

Wondrous Words: Colours!


I ran across this week’s words while reading the latest installment in Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Murders, Clouds in My Coffee. The protagonist, Ellsion Russell, is an artist living in 1974 Kansas City, Missouri.

The world around us faded like a watercolor painting left in the rain. The soot, the brilliant leaves–burnt umber, orange-red, gamboge, and the Tyrian purple of the now-trampled pansies in my hosta beds dimmed.
gamboge photo gamboge_zps9zakbkbu.jpggamboge: a gum resin from various Asian trees of the genus Garcinia, used as a yellow pigment; yellow or yellow-orange.

From New Latin gambog-, variant of cambog-, after Cambodia

Tyrian purple photo tyrian_zpsteot2gzt.jpgTyrian purple: a crimson or purple dye obtained by the ancient Phoenicians from gastropod mollusks (sea snails); also known as Tyrian red, royal purple, imperial purple.

Phoenicia, which roughly corresponded to modern-day Lebanon, was noted for its Tyrian purple dye, named after the city of Tyre, a maritime city of ancient Phoenicia. Tyrian purple was the most precious dye of its time, in large part because of the labor required to produce it.

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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.

Mailbox Monday – 18Apr16


Everything that landed in my mailbox this week was ebooks: one ARC from NetGalley and two purchases.
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I was most excited about Julie Mulvern’s Clouds in My Coffee, due for release on May 10, 2016. This is the third installment in the Country Club Murder series set in 1974 Kansas City, Missouri.

The protagonist, Ellison Russell, widowed and “on the cusp of 40”, is smart and funny; and the electricity between her and Homicide Detective Anarchy Jones could run the lights in my house for a year. This time out, it seems someone is trying to kill Ellison, although no one can figure out why.


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Wednesday’s BookBub mailing tipped me off to to Michael Alvear’s Eat it Later: Mastering Self-Control and the Slimming Power of Postponement on sale for $1. Although the title makes this sounds like a diet book, the author insists that it’s not, and I think he’s right. No doubt putting into practice what he advises will result in weight loss in the long run; but the goal, as Alvear say, is well-being.


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I should write these things down because I’m getting old and forgetful: I can’t remember what twigged my attention to Karen Charlton’s Detective Lavender mystery series, set in Northumberland England in the early 19th century. Whoever it was, was talking about Charlton’s second or third book but intrigued me enough that I actually bought (at full Kindle price!) the first in the series, The Heiress of Linn Hagh.

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Go on and visit Mailbox Monday and have a look at the wonderful goodies in other people’s mailboxes!

WEEKEND COOKING – Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert


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Weekend Cooking 16Apr16, 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.

Patty at Books, Thoughts and a Few Adventures has mentioned the wonderful recipes in the cookbook Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert a few times over the last few months. So when I saw a copy of it discounted at Book Closeouts, I snapped it up.
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Sheet Pan Suppers is a beautiful book to behold: all glossy photos and heavyweight papers, although I do wish it would lay flat so that I could more easily stay on the recipe. But, of course, the true test of any cookbook is the recipes. And the recipes look wonderful!

The first recipe I tried was Lemon & Herb Sole on Crispy Potato Rafts. Gilbert notes that haddock, halibut and cod are also good choices for this dish so I used the wonderful frozen cod I get from the “fish guys” who come to my door in their truck once a month. I substituted dried thyme for the fresh and I skipped the capers because I didn’t have any on hand. I’m sure that made some difference in the finished product but the recipe still came out a keeper.

Fish & potato rafts photo sheet pan - fish amp potato rafts_zpsv9wgl58p.jpgMy seven-year-old grandson whose usual comment on my cooking for the past year-and-a-half has been consistently only “good”, pronounced these potatoes as “GREAT”. I’d have to agree. As Gilbert says: “They’re hot and crisp and supremely garlickly, a noble base for the delicately light, flaky, herb-, lemon-, and butter-flavored fish fillets.”

You can find the recipe here.


Mailbox Monday – 11Apr16


It was a strange week last week: I brought home no library books, I didn’t download any ebooks (nearly unheard of!), and I didn’t have one book come in the mail. It’s mainly because I’m trying to read my own books this year, but still – when I have had this kind of willpower before?
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But, just as I was coming up empty for Mailbox Monday, I visited our local Caper Cafe where there is a bookshelf of “bring some, take some” books in support of an insect rescue/restoration fund. There I found this paperback. Look! Carol Shields? Check. Mystery? Check. Literary? Check. All my boxes were ticked before I even got to the cover: a vintage fountain pen, with a journal and a leather-bound book(!!)

There was no question I had to make a donation and bring this book home and, what’s more, begin reading it immediately!

Go on and visit Mailbox Monday and have a look at the wonderful goodies in other people’s mailboxes!

Six Degrees of Separation from “A Prayer for Owen Meany”


This is the first time I’ve joined in this meme. It’s 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.

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April’s starting book is A Prayer for Owen Meany. The Vietnam War plays a large part in the adult lives of the two main characters John & Owen, and I haven’t yet read a better book to explain (from the side that wasn’t protesting for peace) the emotions and politics of that war in the USA than Altamont Augie. It’s nothing if not thought-provoking.

The Headmaster’s Wager shows the life of the South Vietnamese people during that War, particularly the headmaster of an elite school. Seeing troubles on the horizon Percival Chen, said headmaster, sends his son to live in China, from where his parents emigrated decades earlier, not realizing that China is undergoing even greater change under Mao than Vietnam.

Those changes are only alluded to at the end of Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer prizewinning novel, The Good Earth set in mid-twentieth century China. Peasant Wang Lung’s very life is tied up in cycles of that earth that he works so diligently to acquire.

That same question of whether a person owns the land, or vice versa, is a central theme in The Meadow set in the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado/Wyoming border. The author, James Gilman, brings home the hardship of winter, a theme addressed more comedically, in Cathie Pelletier’s The Weight of Winter. It’s the third book in her Mattagash, Maine trilogy. I’ve just finished reading the first title: The Funeral Makers. (I hate reading books out of order, but this just happened.) That finishes up my version of this month’s Six Degrees of Separation – in Maine, next door to Irving’s New Hampshire where we began our journey.

So what six connections can you make from A Prayer for Owen Meany? Visit Kate’s blog and see how she got to Fates and Furies.

ANYBODY OUT THERE? . . .there . . . there . . .


I have been absent from my blog for many, many, many months although I have been trying to keep current in the blogosphere, reading your posts and sometimes (alas, infrequently) commenting on them.

I had been keeping myself from a presence here until I could get all of my books records up to date but they are getting so far behind now that the thought is overwhelming (although I do still intend to finish them up) and I’ve decided to break radio silence and start posting again without meeting that goal first.

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So, this is just to notify you that I will be turning up in your readers and inboxes again, if there are any of you still out there. I won’t be posting every day, or maybe not even every week, but I’d like to at least make your acquaintance again.



I’m still unpacking the things I brought back from my mom’s in Ontario -and somewhere in there are the notes I made about the books that I read last October through December. I need to find those so I can finish off 2013 and start on 2014. This, just to explain why there might be another gap in posting here.

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In the meantime, I’m also busy pinning all (or, at least the ones I remembered to record) of the books that I’ve read in the last 17 (that’s right – I said seventeen) years. I have only three years to go (2007-2009) but I just thought to tell you all. You can find me here if you want to follow along while I finish up.

Books Read in September 2013


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I can’t really remember what was happening in my life last September although I do remember all the books that I read. I guess it was just an “ordinary” month of life in Nova Scotia.

The four mystery books that I read are detailed in a separate post.


1. THE MOUNTAIN AND THE VALLEY by Ernest Buckler (Literary Fiction, Vintage, Canadian author, Atlantic Canadian) 4.5 star rating

Published in 1952, this is an Atlantic Canadian classic and is set in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, in the years leading up to WWII.

The Mountain & the Valley photo mountainandvalley_zps503b17b8.jpgIt’s the story of three generations of the Canaan family, particularly David Canaan of the last generation, and illustrates the eternal struggle between generations and the subsequent breakdown of families.
For example, while David and his father are working together outside, David’s father thinks: “Someone of my own name will always live in my house,” while David is thinking of how he can’t wait to leave.

But David must sacrifice his dreams of being a writer to stay and work the family farm.

Read this if: you enjoy the novels of John Steinbeck. 4½ stars


2. OPEN ARMS by Marina Endicott (Fiction, Contemporary, Canadian) 4 star rating
Marina Endicott is a multi-award winning Canadian author who read her work at the 2013 Read by the Sea festival in River John, Nova Scotia. When I heard her, I realized that I’d completely missed reading her work, so I determined to begin with her first book and read on!

Open Arms photo openarms_zpsf92d5e7a.jpgOpen Arms, a finalist for the 2003 in Canada First Novel Award, centres on Bessie Smith Connolly, 17, who has been living with her grandparents in Nova Scotia, but has come to live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with her renegade mother Isabel. Isabel delivers newspapers in the early morning to pay the rent, and haunts the clubs at night, hoping to have a chance to “sing with the band” (any band). When Isabel goes missing, Bessie and her Nova Scotian grandmother go on a road trip to track her down. I loved Endicott’s writing and am definitely going to continue in her canon.

Read this if: you enjoy stories that explore the relationship between mothers and daughters without unnecessary sentimentality. 4 stars


3. REGENERATION by Pat Barker (Fiction, Historical, WWI) 4 star rating

I eagerly anticipated Pat Barker’s WWI trilogy that starts with this novel, a Booker Prize nominee.  photo regeneration_zpsa2bc6464.jpg But I wasn’t aware that Regeneration is based on real-life decorated British officer, poet, and pacifist Siegfried Sassoon.

It turns out that I’m not that interested in Sassoon and would rather have had a good plot than good history. Regeneration is good writing, but I was much more moved by fictional pacifist Robert Ross in Timothy Findley’s The Wars.

Read this if: you’re interested in finding out about Sassoon and the numerous soldiers, both officers and enlisted men, who questioned the morality of the Great War as it was being fought. 4 stars


4. CRAMPTON HODNET by Barbara Pym (Fiction, Vintage) 3.5 star rating

Crampton Hodnet photo cramptonhodnet_zps572e2e81.jpgOne of Pym’s favourite subjects is the behaviour of anthropologists as they study the behaviour of others. In Crampton Hodnet, she again examines this through a young anthropologist who has moved into her mother’s village home in North Oxford to complete a paper. She cannot help observing the inhabitants of the community. This, of course, serves as an outlet for Pym’s observations of human nature. This story is a little more “tied-up” than some of her others and was first published posthumously in 1987.

Read this if: you enjoy sly humour about the human condition. 3½ stars


5. LIFE ITSELF: a Memoir by Roger Ebert (Non-fiction, Memoir) 3 star rating

Roger Ebert is probably the best known film critic in the English speaking world. Until his failed surgeries following thyroid cancer that left him unable to speak, eat, or drink, he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times (and was syndicated around the world) and appeared on television for thirty-three years critiquing the movies of our time. Life Itself photo lifeitself_zps9055525d.jpg When a full-page photo of his face without his jawbone was published after a magazine interview, he went public with what was happening in his life.

There are several chapters about his childhood and early career, three or four chapters on specific celebrities (I enjoyed the one on John Wayne), a chapter on Siskel (from which you likely will not learn much), one on (unnecessarily) justifying that he married a black woman, and then a few chapters on his illness and how things went off the rails. You might find facts to interest you, but don’t expect a great deal of deep introspection, despite the book’s title.

Read this if: you are a huge fan of Ebert. 3 stars


Do any of these appeal to you?


: I am an affiliate of Book Depository and if you purchase there after clicking on any of the above links, I will earn a small percentage of the sale.

I choose to link to Book Depository, where possible, because they have reasonable prices and free shipping JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
Generally, I link to the lowest priced version of each book (which is usually paperback) but in many cases hardbacks and audio books are available.

BOOK DEPOSITORY has free world-wide delivery:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

OR: Pick up some bargains at

Mystery Books Read in September 2013



I continued with series debuts in September – and one series epilogue that introduced me to an author that I must read more of!

Any of these tickle your fancy?


RING IN THE DEAD by J.A. Jance (mystery/Crime Fiction, Police Detective, Novella, Epilogue) 4 star rating
This was a Kindle novella that I received free as part of a promotion for Jance’s work. It’s also available in paperback.

Ring in the Dead photo ringinthedead_zps2b5f1059.jpgThe protagonist, J.P. Beaumont, is retired from policing when some papers belonging to his deceased ex-partner surface and raise perplexing questions. J.P. reminisces about a particular case with said partner and does some current sleuthing to find the answers.

I thought the whole package—J. P., the mystery, the writing—quite classy. This is my first Jance and it did the job it was intended to do: I’m starting at the beginning of this series of 21 books and if the first couple live up to the promise displayed in the novella, I will happily read the series through, and meet up with J.P. in retirement again.

Read this if:
you’ve never read Jance’s Beaumont series and want the perfect intro; or if you’ve read the series through and mourned when J.P. hung up his gun – here’s a tidbit more for you. 4 stars


by Gary Corby (Mystery Fiction, Amateur Sleuth, Ancient Greece) 3.5 star rating

Pericles Commission photo periclescommission_zpsb39063d1.jpgThis stars Nicolaos, a young Athenian in 461 BCE, just after the (still unsolved) assassination of Ephialtes, the man credited with bringing democracy to Athens.

It’s cozy mystery meets history lesson. Corby presents a plausible solution to the real-life crime.

Read this if: you want a fun introduction to ancient Greek, particularly Athenian, culture & political history. 3½ stars


(A Novel Idea Mystery) by Lucy Arlington (Mystery Fiction, Amateur Sleuth, Cozy, Bibliophilic) 3.5 star rating
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Lila Wilkins, out of her journalist job at 45, moves to a small North Carolina town where she obtains work reading manuscripts at the local literary agency, A Novel Idea. This is a cozy mystery with the attendant plot coincidences.

Since it’s been some months since I read this, I really can’t remember much more about it but, at the time, I rated it 3½ stars.

by Scott Thornley (Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Canadian) 3 star rating

Erasing Memory photo erasingmemory_zps2f462715.jpgOkay, this one I remember – but not fondly. MacNeice, police detective in the southern Ontario Canada industrial city of Dundurn, investigates the murder of a beautiful young musician.

I was interested in this book chiefly because Dundurn is really Hamilton, Ontario, our “hometown” for 12 years before we moved to Nova Scotia. To my disappointment, the city doesn’t really play much of a part in the story which was a little far-fetched and hard-edged to suit me.

Read this if:
you enjoy tough police procedurals or you’re a long-time Hamiltonian who’s looking for a new series. 3 stars


: I am an affiliate of Book Depository and if you purchase there after clicking on any of the above links, I will earn a small percentage of the sale.
I choose to link to Book Depository, when possible, because they have reasonable prices and free shipping JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
Generally, I link to the lowest priced version of each book (which is usually paperback) but in many cases hardbacks and audio books are available.

BOOK DEPOSITORY has free world-wide delivery:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Books Read in August 2013


books read
I travelled to Ontario in August to attend a niece’s wedding so a couple of the books I read were on my Kindle. I’ve wondered in the past whether I’ve rated books I’ve read on that device lower simply because it’s not my preferred reading experience. Both of August’s books rated 4 stars, though, demonstrating that I can enjoy Kindle reading.

You can find the single mystery book I read at the bottom of this post


1. I DO NOT COME TO YOU BY CHANCE by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Fiction, West African) 4.5 star rating

This is the second book by a Nigerian author that I’ve read this year, and although I’ve given it the same rating I issued Half of a Yellow Sun, this one has a completely different tone.

I Do Not Come to You by Chance photo Idonotcometoyoubychance_zps421611e6.jpgSet in modern Nigeria, this book follows Kingsley Ibe, a young village man, who wants to fulfill the responsibilities of oldest son and is encouraged to do so by his traditional parents, who think that education is still the way to a well-paying job. But rapid changes in modern society have altered “the rules” and Kingsley finds himself turning to a black sheep uncle who involves him in 419 schemes. Despite the subject matter, this novel is almost light-hearted – and outstandingly enjoyable.

Read this if: you’re interested in those ubiquitous emails scams from the “other” side. 4½ stars


2. LIAR AND SPY by Rebecca Stead (Fiction, Children’s Chapter/YP) 4 star rating

Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal winning novel When You Reach Me is one of my favourite children’s chapter books of all time, and so I went into Liar and Spy with unrealistically high expectations.

Liar and Spy photo liarampspy_zps603a5f74.jpg Georges and his parents have recently had to sell their house in Brooklyn and move to a near-by apartment. There Georges meets Safer and his younger sister, and reluctantly joins their spy club.

Liar and Spy reflects Stead’s straight-forward style, and understanding of youngsters in their early teens.
She builds suspense in a very believable situation and has, not one, but two surprises at the end. I highly recommend this for young and older readers alike.

Read this if: you enjoy well-written stories that appeal to younger readers because they’re not quite what they seem; or you’d like a book that both you and adolescent can read, enjoy, and discuss. 4 stars


3. I SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME by Horace McCoy (Fiction, Vintage) 4 star rating

I Should Have Stayed Home photo Ishouldhavestayedhome_zpsc244a391.jpgMcCoy wrote in the 1930s in a contemporary setting. This story revolves around Ralph, a small-town hick who’s come to Hollywood to break into pictures, and his roommate Mona who is equally desperate to become a star. McCoy didn’t sugar-coat the reality of Hollywood life or the effects of the Depression on Americans of all stripes.

I’m not sure who approved the cover of this re-issue but I think it’s very much all wrong.

While I was reading this, I was thinking it felt like The Postman Always Rings Twice meets They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, so I wasn’t too surprised to learn that McCoy did indeed write the latter.

Read this if: you’d like a look at old-time Tinsel Town, stripped of its tinsel. 4 stars


4. UP, BACK & AWAY by K(im) Velk (Fiction, Historical, Time Travel, Children’s Chapter/YP) 4 star rating

Up, Back & Away photo upbackampaway_zps15d6008b.jpgFourteen-year-old Miles undertakes a mission for an ailing elderly friend, and finds himself transported from today’s Vermont to the English countryside of 1928. There he must find “a girl and a secret”. With not much more than that to go on, he bravely sets out to fulfill his mission.

I loved this book and recommend it to readers of any age.

Read this if: you enjoy the time and setting of Downton Abbey; or you’d like to see how a modern teen can adjust to life—and society—of 85 years ago. 4 stars


5. A FEW GREEN LEAVES by Barbara Pym (Fiction, Vintage) 3.5 star rating

 photo fewgreenleaves_zps50a3fbd1.jpgReviewer Trixie says: “After writing about London settings, Pym returns to the small country village of her beginnings. But, this village lacks the comfortable traditionalism of her earlier Some Tame Gazelle. Much of the book dwells on the changes that have come about in the English countryside by 1980.”

A Few Green Leaves
is not depressing, however. It is instead humorously realistic about the incongruities between what people have been raised to expect and what actually is. I greatly enjoyed this, as I have all of Pym’s writings.

Read this if:
you’ve read some other of Pym’s works and would like to see them “gel”. 3½ stars


6. ALL QUIET ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Magnus Mills (Fiction) 3.5 star rating

I read this book to earn 30(!) points in Semi-Charmed’s Summer Reading Challenge in the category of a book by an author born in my birth year (1954). It was my introduction to Mills.
All Quiet on the Orient Express photo allquietonorientexpress_zps80b82dc5.jpg
The protagonist in this work is an itinerant handyman who lands in an Lakes district (England) campground at the end of the tourist season and is engaged by the owner for various odd jobs, most of which seem to involve green paint. As time progresses the jobs do indeed become ‘odd’. The reason for that is eventually revealed, along with an unusual end.

Read this if: you’re a Magnus Mills fan; or you’re in the mood for a literary ‘odd story’. 3½ stars


7. THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe (Non-fiction, Biographical, Bibliophilic) 3.5 star rating

ife Book ClubThe End of Your L photo endofyourlikebookclub_zps79d8f863.jpgAlthough this could be said to about the books that Schwalbe and his mother read and discussed as she underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer, it really is about Mary Ann(e) Schwalbe: her life, and her battle with that cancer. If you know that going in, you might not find this as disappointing as I did.

Read this if: you’re interested in the story of one courageous woman who worked hard for world change, even through the unchangeable diagnosis which resulted in her death. 3½ stars


8. A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Anita Shreve (Fiction, Women’s) 3 star rating

This story turns on an odd premise: Bill and Bridget were college sweethearts who rediscovered one another at their 25th reunion. A Wedding in December photo weddingindecember_zps0177d7ff.jpg Bridget was already divorced; Bill left his family; they’ve booked their hasty wedding—Bridget has breast cancer—at a Massachusetts inn that another college classmate owns. Instead of inviting current friends and extended family, they have chosen to gather their college classmates.

It’s an improbable premise, peopled by the requisite stereotypes, most, if not all, with questionable morals.

Read this if: you’re thinking of attending your college reunion. It should be a warning. 3 stars


9. YOUR DAUGHTER FANNY: The War Letters of Frances Cluett, VAD, compiled by Bill Rompkey and Bert Riggs (Non-Fiction, Epistolary, Memoir, WWI, Newfoundland) 2.5 star rating

Your Daughter Fanny photo yourdaughterFanny_zpsb29b8a48.jpgIn 1916 Fanny Cluett, a nurse from Belleoram Newfoundland, volunteered to serve in the nursing corps in WWI France. During her journey, training, and posting in Europe, she wrote letters to her mother. Many of these have been collected and reproduced in this book, along with a foreword by Nfld politician Rompkey.

Read this if: you’re interested in Newfoundland history; you’re from the Fortune Bay area in Newfoundland; or you’re looking for a primary source document for your research on WWI. 2½ stars


Since I read only one mystery book in August, I’ve decided to include it in this post with my more general reading.


by Jacqueline Winspear (Fiction, Mystery, series) 4 star rating

This is the tenth and latest instalment in the ‘mystery’ series featuring investigator Maisie Dobbs in 1930s London.
Two young immigrants from the Indian community in the city have been murdered. Maisie is hired to find the killer
by the brother of one of these women.
As usual, the mystery is secondary to Maisie and the other players in her life: James, Billy, and Sandra. These relationships and the growth of the characters is the main draw for me to this series.
Read this if: you’ve read the previous books in the series – it’s really best read in order. 4 stars


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Books Read in July 2013


books read
July was another heavy reading month: when the weather gets hot, I slow down. All that beach reading paid off.

I’ve posted the mysteries I read in the month, separately, as usual.

1. SALT, SUGAR, FAT by Michael Moss (Non-Fiction, Health) 4.5 star rating

Salt, Sugar, Fat photo saltsugarfat_zpsfad5aaaa.jpgAs the obesity issue in North America becomes critical, we want to be informed consumers. This fine piece of investigative journalism by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Moss is not so much a shocking exposé of the processed food industry as confirmation of what we’ve suspected all along.

Moss’s intent in writing this book was “If nothing else . . . as a wake-up call to the issues and tactics at play in the food industry, to the fact that we are not helpless in facing them down. . . Knowing all this can be empowering. You can walk through the grocery store and, while the brightly colored packaging and empty promises are still mesmerizing, you can see the products for what they are.”

Read this if: you’re concerned about the growing obesity levels in North America; or you are determined to make informed choices about your diet. 4½ stars

2. A LONG WAY GONE: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Non-Fiction, Memoir, Sierra Leone) 4 star rating

A Long Way Gone photo longwaygone_zps98b5f8a8.jpgWhen the civil war in Sierra Leone came to Ismael Beah’s village, he was a thirteen-year-old boy, doing what other boys all over the world do: hanging out with friends, listening to music and practicing dance moves. In fact, he was in a neighbouring village to enter a competition. He was not able to return to his home village that day and he never saw his family again

Over the next three years, Beah was on the run for his life until he was rescued by UNICEF personnel and rehabilitated.

This is a touching memoir with detail that brought the author’s terror to life.
I would have liked some more information about his life in the USA and the challenges he faced in assimilating into his new life, but that is a small quibble.

Read this if: you want to understand how young African boys become soldiers with guns they can barely carry. 4 stars

3. A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC by Shel Silverstein (Poetry, Children’s) 4 star rating

 photo Light_in_the_Attic_cover_zps6fce6ac5.jpg
This children’s book of verse was one of my daughter’s favourite books when she was growing up – and one of mine too. It’s not just poetry – it’s masterful word play and lots of humour.
As a bonus, the multi-talented Silverstein (singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter, & author of children’s books) illustrated his own work.

It was difficult to choose just one example of his poetry to share with you!

How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live ‘em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give ‘em.

Read this if: you’re looking for a book to encourage a love of words in a youngster in your life; or you’re a young-at-heart lover of words yourself. 4 stars

4. THE SWEET DOVE DIED by Barbara Pym (Fiction, Vintage) 4 star rating

Barbara Pym continues on a path away from the genteel middle-aged ladies of the Anglican church. The Sweet Dove Died is named for a line from Keats:

I had a dove, and the sweet dove died;
And I have thought it died of grieving;
O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied
With a single thread of my own hand’s weaving.

 photo sweetdovedied_zpsafdf0c7f.jpgThis is the feeling encapsulated in Pym’s story.

Lenora, a middle-aged woman befriends well-to-do Humphrey, 60, and his nephew James. Unwilling to admit her aging, she is in love with the 25-year-old nephew while the uncle is enthralled by her. Lenora uses that situation to her best interest until James is enticed away by the young American, Ned.

As in life, the situation leads only to unhappiness all around. I love that Pym didn’t sugar-coat the outcome.

Read this if: you enjoy tales that look honestly at relationships between men and women, in a satiric fashion. 4 stars


5. GOOD KINGS, BAD KINGS by Susan Nussbaum (Fiction, Social Issues) 3.5 star rating
Good Kings, Bad Kings photo goodkings_zps3a3f257b.jpgI didn’t really understand what this book was about before I started it, and had expected a story set in a home for “juveniles with disabilities” to be darker than this ultimately is.
The author, who was the 2012 winner of Barbara Kingsolver’s PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, does a marvelous job of making her young characters come alive and ‘investable’ to the reader.
The only drawback is (what I thought to be) a weak ending.

Read this if: you want to better understand what it is like to live ‘disabled’, especially as a teenager in a care institution. 3½ stars


6. BOBCAT by Rebecca Lee (Fiction, Short Stories) 3.5 star rating  

Rebecca Lee is the kind of author Bobcat photo Bobcat_zpse995ec70.jpg who weaves words into art so lovely you’ll be bewitched by her language even when her stories don’t have the impact you wish they did.
Set mainly in academia, Lee’s short stories are of “infidelity, obligation, sacrifice, jealousy, and . . . optimism.”

Read this if: you’re an admirer of words and beautiful sentence structure; or you enjoy intelligent insights into university life. 3½ stars


7. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (Popular Fiction, Suspense) 3.5 star rating
Gone Girl photo gonegirl_zps5cbae3d9.jpg
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? “Nothing” is probably best.
I went into this already knowing—or guessing—some of the story, and that really deflated the suspense for me.

I admit Flynn is skilled in conveying how evil can come in Amy’s pretty package, but I didn’t get the sense of wickedness in Nick that others seem to have found.

Read this if: You’d like a character-driven thriller; or if you’re going to see the movie – you should always read the book first! 3½ stars


8. THE CRANE WIFE by Patrick Ness (Fiction, Literature, Magical Realism, Fable) 3.5 star rating 

The Crane Wife photo cranewife_zpsb9357fce.jpgBeautifully written, this modern-day story feels like a folkloric myth and although it is based on Japanese lore, it has universal appeal and could easily be Ukrainian, Finnish, or Native American.

Middle-aged & lonely George Duncan helps an injured crane that lands in his garden one night, and then finds his life changed by the appearance at his shop the following day of a beautiful Japanese woman. The story depends on magical realism so be prepared to suspend disbelief.

WARNING: one character in particular uses profanity including that word that begins with the sixth letter.

Read this if: you enjoy folklore or fairy tales; or you are a fan of beautifully crafted prose. 3½ stars

Note: I won this in a contest held by Tracey at Carpe Librum. She mailed it all the way from Australia (to Nova Scotia, Canada) for me! Thank you again, Tracey!


9. INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE by Maggie O’Farrell (Fiction) 3.5 star rating

Instructions for a Heatwave photo instructionsforaheatwave_zpse08ae10e.jpgThe adult children of Robert & Gretta Riordan converge at their mother’s house after their father disappears one morning on an errand to the corner store.
Instructions for a Heatwave is a pretty standard ‘family-issues’ novel centering on an Irish immigrant family in London. It’s well-written but I think I would have appreciated it more if I was British.

Read this if: you’re interested in stories that demonstrate the continuing strength of origins on immigrants. 3½ stars


10. CRISS-CROSS by Lynne Rae Perkins (Fiction, Young Readers) 3 star rating
What was the last book you read in which a main character was named “Debbie”. Ah-ha! I thought so: it is—or never was—a popular name for heroines.
Criss-Cross photo crisscross_zpsbda45870.jpg
In this novel for young people Debbie is a fourteen-year-old in 1973, waiting for something to happen in her life. Hector, 14, is also waiting. Together with three other teenagers they gather weekly in one teen’s father’s truck to listen to a radio show called Criss-Cross.
Ultimately, this is a sweet but unmemorable story. It won the Newbery Medal for Best Children’s Literature in 2006, but I’ve read stronger winners.

Read this if: your name is Debbie & you’re participating in a reading challenge like Semi-Charmed’s Summer Event; or you’d like a gentle, realistic tale that will take you back to the early 1970s. 3 stars


11. ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO by Jonathan Tropper (Popular Fiction) 3 star rating

One Last Thing Before I Go photo onelastthing_zps99005626.jpgDrew Silver’s life is in the toilet: he’s divorced from the woman he loves, estranged from his teenage daughter, and he’s living in a community of other pathetic lonely divorced men who are also waiting for their wives to take them back. When he’s diagnosed with an aorta that’s going to split and kill him, he opts to not have surgery since he feels his life isn’t worth living. Instead, he’ll use the remaining time to repair relationships with the people in his life.

It’s just a notch above formulaic and mundane.

Read this if:
you need a reminder to pay attention to the people in your life while you still have time. 3 stars
## – Although I completed many of the 2013 reading challenges that I “unofficially” entered, for the rest of my 2013 reading record here I’m going to desist with noting which books fulfilled what requirements. I suspect that nobody but me really cared anyway.

: I am an affiliate of Book Depository and if you purchase there after clicking on any of the above links, I will earn a small percentage of the sale.
I choose to link to Book Depository because they have reasonable prices and free shipping JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
Generally, I link to the lowest priced version of each book (which is usually paperback) but in many cases hardbacks and audio books are available.

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Mystery Books Read in July 2013


July’s mystery reading was comprised of four series debuts, two historical and two modern-day. They took me to three U.S. states and the English country-side. I feel as if I’ve been traveling in time as well as distance.

RULES OF MURDER ## by Julianna Deering (Mystery Fiction, Amateur Sleuth, 1930s English manor house) 4.5 star rating

Rules of Murder photo rulesofmurder_zps114200b4.jpgThis is a new series starring Drew Farthering, a young member of the gentry, who is pressed into service as a detective when an obviously murdered body turns up at his parents’ country estate during a weekend party. This first offering is set in 1932.

Although Publisher’s Weekly trashed this book, I think the author captures not only the setting, but also the pace and sensibility of a Golden-Age mystery such as those written by Christie or Marsh, while being a little camp a la early Allingham.

The title refers to the “Ten Commandments of Mystery Writing” set out in 1929 by Ronald Knox. It’s great fun watching the author flaunt (or is that flout – you’ll have to read the book to find out) the rules one by one.

Rules of Murder is a clever debut and I’m looking forward to reading the next in this series.

Read this if: you’re an Agatha Christie fan; or you can never get enough Downton Abbey 4½ stars


by Bernadette Pajer (Mystery Fiction, Historical, 1900s Seattle, Amateur Sleuth) 3.5 star rating
A Spark of Death photo sparkofdeath_zps51c2c426.jpg
This is the first in the Professor Benjamin Bradshaw mysteries set in early 20th century Seattle. “When U(niversity of) W(ashington) Professor Bradshaw discovers a despised colleague dead inside the Faraday Cage of the Electric Machine, the police shout murder–and Bradshaw is the lone suspect. To protect his young son and clear his name, he must find the killer.”

I confess that I didn’t understand the electricity issues and, even though the mystery was fairly clued but not obvious, and Bradshaw himself is likeable, I probably won’t continue in this series.

Read this if: you understood those high school physics classes about volts and resistance; or you’re a UW or Seattle fan. 3½ stars

CLAIRE DEWITT & THE CITY OF THE DEAD by Sarah Gran (Mystery Fiction, Detective, New Orleans) 3.5 star rating

A friend of mine described Claire deWitt to me as “180 degrees from Nancy Drew”; I have to agree many times over. This debut of the series is set in New Orleans one-and-one-half years after Katrina and concerns a man who went missing during that hurricane.
Claire deWitt & the City of the Dead photo cityofdead_zpsef2ea07b.jpg
Claire uses the I Ching, vivid dreams and a book written by her dead French mentor to be “the best detective in the world”. The only way you’ll come close to finding this solvable is to follow Claire’s mantra to believe nobody and trust nothing.

There is a dark side to both Claire and to post-Katrina New Orleans (the titular city of the dead) but I can’t help but think that Claire’s tongue is firmly in her cheek a lot of the time.

Read this if: you’re interested in Katrina’s devastation in the poverty-stricken Lower Ninth Ward; or you want a fresh new voice in a mystery series and don’t mind the spiritistic elements. 3½ stars


A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE ## by Edith Maxwell (Mystery Fiction, Amateur Sleuth) 3 star rating

 photo tinetolive_zps59ccd01e.jpgCameron Flaherty, downsized from her corporate job, has moved from the city to take over her inheritance: her great uncle’s farm in rural Massachusetts. There, she sets up a Community Supported Agriculture project. In this first of a planned series of “local food mysteries”, a killer strikes on Cameron’s property just in time for her customers’ first produce pick-up.

I found the characters typical for a cozy mystery, but the murderer in this story was so obvious that I discarded him as a suspect.

While the mystery was less than stellar, I did very much enjoy the premise of the series: leaving the city, and going back to the land. After all, that’s what Exurbanis is supposed to be about!

Read this if: you’d like a look at how a (albeit idealistic) Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is run. 3 stars


## I received The Rules of Murder and A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers

: I am an affiliate of Book Depository and if you purchase there after clicking on any of the above links, I will earn a small percentage of the sale.
I choose to link to Book Depository because they have reasonable prices and free shipping JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
Generally, I link to the lowest priced version of each book (which is usually paperback) but in many cases hardbacks and audio books are available.

BOOK DEPOSITORY has free world-wide delivery:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

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SAD TIMES or Why I’ve Fallen of the Face of the (Blogging) Earth


Okay, so I was never the most regular of bloggers and I was way behind in 2013, just giving you my monthly reading summaries.
It was July when I posted “Books Read in May”.
It was October before I posted “Books Read in June”.
But I was this close to posting July’s books in November – and truly, really, catching up before the year-end.

And then my mother died. Very suddenly, very unexpectedly. If you’ve lost your mom, you know what a life-changing event this is. It’s like losing the solid ground you’re standing on. And , for good or for bad, we will all go through it.

 photo rug-pulled-out-warning_zps2b8c6dd2.jpg

To add to my unmooring, I became responsible for sorting through Mom’s things, a task that took five months half a continent away from my husband, my friends, and my home.

And while I was gone, we lost both of our dogs. One, to old age: an expected ‘put-to-rest’, but the other to an agonizing death due to a cancerous tumour on his spleen that burst at the worst possible time to obtain veterinary help.

Thus, I’ve reeled through the past seven months. And, it may seem, I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.

It’s very possible that no one out there cares, but I’ve come to rely on my blog as my personal record of books read. So for my benefit, if for NO one else’s, I’ll be posting throughout the next few weeks to at least catch up last year’s reading record.

It’s part of rebuilding the ground under my feet.

Literary Blog Hop Giveaway WINNER


 photo winneris_zpsf53a251e.jpg
I turned to trusty and drew the winner of my contribution to the ninth Literary Blog Hop Giveaway hosted by Judith at Leeswammes’ Blog

Congratulations to

Aloi at Guiltless Reading

who has elected to receive Adaobi Tricia Nwabani’s I Do Not Come to You by Chance.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who entered this giveaway.

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