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Urban Leaving to Country Living

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


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.





I ran across this “foodie” word in The Crowded Grave, the fourth in the Bruno, Chief of Police series.

“If’s there any cruelty, blame Mother Nature. Ducks and geese always stuff themselves to fill their livers before they fly off on winter migration. That’s how they store their energy . . .

From the look on Teddy’s face, it didn’t appear to Bruno that he knew that gavage, the force-feeding of the birds, was also a natural process.”

geese photo geese_zpsbm6yrxkj.jpg

gavage: the administration of food or drugs by force, especially to an animal, typically through a tube leading down the throat to the stomach.

is a French word pronounced ɡəˈväZH and hardly needed that definition after the book excerpt. The Internet images for gavage are not pretty, so I chose the picture of these charming geese instead.

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

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

Books Read in May 2014


books readIn the winter of 2013-14, while I was living in Ontario in my late mother’s house, my husband was home in Nova Scotia and had to deal with the death of both of our dogs. Wes, our Labrador Retriever, was old and arthritic and we had known that that would be his last winter. But Farlow, our Valley Bulldog mix, was still young and vital, and died suddenly of a cancerous tumour that burst.

If you have, or have had, dogs, you know the heartache we suffered: Bill, alone with the dogs and decisions; and me, a thousand miles away, not being able to say goodbye at all.

All this to explain why, in May, I chose to have dog-themed reading month, as a tribute to all the faithful canine companions of my life.

1. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Fiction, Contemporary, Animal-narrated) 5 star rating

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein photo art of racing in the rain_zpsitleltjb.jpgThere are two books that I read in May 2014 that I rated 4½ stars at the time, but that have stayed with me so that I now, at this review, I have raised the ratings to a full five stars. The Art of Racing the Rain is one of those books.

It’s narrated by wise old dog Enzo, who has learned from his master Denny about race car driving. In turn, Enzo now has much to teach Denny.

This is never saccharine nor manic and, if you are going to read only one animal-narrated book in your life, this should probably be it. Beware, though: the ending is only bittersweet. 5 stars

2. Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (Fiction, Literary, Contemporary) 5 star rating

the dogs of babel by Carolyn Parkhurst photo dogs of babel 2_zpsmzqouq7w.jpgThis is the second book on which I’m raising the 4½ stars to a full five. This book continues to haunt me.

From Amazon: “(A)fter his wife Lexy dies after falling from a tree, linguistics professor Paul Iverson becomes obsessed with teaching their dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Lorelei (the sole witness to the tragedy), to speak so he can find out the truth about Lexy’s death(.)”

Some reviewers have taken exception to the extent of Paul’s obsession, in my opinion missing the point of what it really is: a brilliant journey into the mind of a deeply grieving man. 5 stars
3. White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse (Fiction, Recent Historical, Literary) 4.5 star rating

White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Morse photo white dog fell from the sky_zpsxahihthq.jpgIn mid-1970s apartheid S. Africa, medical student Isaac Muthethe has himself smuggled out of the country into Botswana. He is in danger in his home country because he witnessed the murder of a friend by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has followed her husband to Africa. The white dog of the title is a stray that shows up just when Isaac is dropped off in Botswana, and that attaches itself to the young man.

This book made me aware of the issue of cattle-farm fences across Africa, which cut off wildlife from their families and from water supplies. It also sharpened my understanding of the apartheid situation in South Africa, especially after Isaac is extradited and tortured.

This is not Precious Ramotswe’s Botswana. This is a powerful and moving book that should have received more attention than it did. 4½ bright stars
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon (Fiction, Literary) 4.5 star rating

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon photo curious incident of the dog in the nighttime 2_zpsbwiuqods.jpgAmazon says: “Narrated by a fifteen-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions.”

Christopher finds the body of his neighbour’s dog, murdered by a pitch fork and decides to track down the killer. His canvassing of the neighbourhood uncovers secrets that the reader understands but Christopher probably does not.

Haddon brilliantly portrays the mind of an autistic teenager while tying all the threads of evidence together. 4½ stars
5. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (Fiction, Science Fiction, Time-travel) 4 star rating

Amazon says (now pay attention): “To Say Nothing of the Dog is a science-fiction fantasy in the guise of an old-fashioned Victorian novel, complete with epigraphs, brief outlines, and a rather ugly boxer in three-quarters profile at the start of each chapter. Or is it a Victorian novel in the guise of a To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis photo to say nothing of the dog_zpsb2satksn.jpgtime-traveling tale, or a highly comic romp, or a great, allusive literary game, complete with spry references to Dorothy L. Sayers, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle? Its title is the subtitle of Jerome K. Jerome’s singular, and hilarious, Three Men in a Boat. In one scene the hero, Ned Henry, and his friends come upon Jerome, two men, and the dog Montmorency in–you guessed it–a boat. Jerome will later immortalize Ned’s fumbling. (Or, more accurately, Jerome will earlier immortalize Ned’s fumbling, because Ned is from the 21st century and Jerome from the 19th.)”

Confused? I was too. I love time travel but I wish that I had been more familiar with some of the eccentricities of Connie Willis’ time travel before I read this book. Better, I think, to start with Blackout, which I read in May 2015. That said, this is indeed a “comedic romp”, sometimes confusing and extremely clever. 4 stars
6. Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis (Fiction, Science-fiction) 3.5 star rating

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis photo lives of the monster dogs - Copy_zpsozuumd4o.jpgAmazon: “Created by a German mad scientist in the 19th century, the monster dogs possess human intelligence, speak human language, have prosthetic humanlike hands and walk upright on hind legs. The dogs’ descendants arrive in New York City in the year 2008, still acting like Victorian-era aristocrats.”

Although this was well-written and interesting, I wasn’t as caught up in the tragic lives of these dogs as I should have been. 3½ stars
7. The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout (Fiction) 3 star rating

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout photo patron saint of lost dogs - Copy_zps6ycvxhgh.jpgCyrus Mills inherits his father’s veterinary practice and returns to his hometown with the intention of selling the business and leaving again. Of course, his patients change his mind.

The author graduated from veterinary school at the University of Cambridge, and is a staff surgeon at the prestigious Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, so the details are authentic.

This is articulate, light commercial fiction with a happy ending, and a sequel- if you like this sort of thing. 3 stars

8. Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng 2.5 star rating

First, I discovered that the “dog” is really a railroad: where the Southern crosses the (Yellow) Dog is a place where two railroad lines—the U.S. Southern and the Yazoo Delta—cross in Moorhead, Mississippi.

Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng photo southern cross the dog_zpseaz5iqgm.jpgWhich should have been wonderful, since I really love railroads. But this book is a debut centering on the Great Flood of 1927 along the Mississippi, a tragedy that killed 246 people and left countless families homeless. The flood led to the great migration of African American families toward other states, and Bill Cheng’s first novel hones in on one fictional family whose experiences seem to represent an endless cycle of grief and loss.

This was a chance for a rich history lesson for me but, I don’t know, maybe I was just getting worn out again with the sorting and packing. I was greatly disappointed. 2½ stars

* * * * *

I was satisfied with my ‘tribute” and really happy with the range of books this theme brought me, although I would have liked to have included a non-fiction tome. Have you any suggestions 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.


#1947 CLUB: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams


 photo The-1947-Club_zpsncnwxjcr.jpgI have watched with interest as Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings hosted the 1924 Club and the 1938 Club, but was unable because of circumstances to join in. When Simon announced the 1947 Club, I was determined to gain entry (but not so sure I could carry out my plan that I announced that to Simon – sorry, guys).

To find what others have been reading, also published in 1947, visit the Club page.


In the forward to the 2004 edition of A Streetcar Named Desire, Arthur Miller wrote that he vividly remembered the first time he saw the play on stage, before it opened to the public on Broadway in December 1947. How could one forget when the original production featured all the players we have come to so strongly identify with the movie roles of popular culture (except that Jessica Tandy , rather than Vivien Leigh, played Blanch DuBois)?

And yet, it wasn’t the players or their acting skills that Miller commented on, but the writing itself. “On first hearing Streetcar . . . the impression was . . . of language flowing from the soul . . . but remarkably, each character’s speech seemed at the same time uncannily his own.” Miller adds that, “What Streetcar’s first production did was to plant the flag of beauty on the shores of commercial theatre.”

 photo streetcar named desire_zps6g3vw1j3.jpgIf you know A Streetcar Named Desire only from snatched clips or even just your friends’ impersonation of Brando’s “STELLL- AHHHHH!”, as I had, then you’ve missed the quality of this writing. But even if you can’t attend a live production of Streetcar, you can still access the beauty of this play in the written word – a slim 179-page volume that reads quickly and easily and, thanks to many school curricula, continues to be in print.

But while the reading is quick and easy, the story that unfolds is anything but. Williams’ classic play begins with Blanche DuBois’s arrival in New Orleans to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Stanley Kowalski. Blanche puts on airs of gentility and seems shocked and shaken by Stanley’s frequently aggressive behavior. But Blanche has a secret past that is catching up with her, and the knowledge of it in the hands of her brother-in-law wrecks her last chance at happiness. Not satisfied with that, Stanley also physically assaults Blanche, driving her over the edge of sanity.

Look at the original cast list. Find photos of Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Jessica Tandy and Karl Malden in the 1940s. Then read the play and enjoy the language. You owe it to yourself.


Have you read this? Seen the movie? Attended a live production?


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: A Taste of Dordogne with Les Americains


Beginning French by Les Americains Neumeier photo beginning french_zpsikc9nfv1.jpgIf any of you have been enjoying my recent Weekend Cooking posts from rural France, then you may enjoy looking at this menu supplied to me by the author of Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse.

I featured a recipe from that book in this post.

Now, here’s the whole shebang, an easy three course dinner: A Taste of Dordogne.

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Sara, the chef in the family, will walk you through these recipes so you can easily succeed on your first try.

Interesting note: The French call this area La France profonde, or ‘deep France’. It’s famous for its flavorful produce and unspoiled landscapes.

Thanks to Eileen and Marty – and to chef Sara!


Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.




P.S. I received my copy of Beginning French courtesy of NetGalley and the author. This did not affect my review.


SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: I Love New York – from New York City to New York City


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

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

Six Degrees of Separation October 2016 photo 2016-10 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close_zpsitfy3g83.jpg

October’s starting book is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s the story of nine –year-old Oskar who is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York City. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I haven’t read this book but I have read the first novel by this author:

Everything Is Illuminated which is a very busy, self-conscious novel. The main story concerns a young American Jew named Jonathan Safran Foer (yes, the same name as the author, though the book is fiction) who travels to the Ukraine searching for the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis in 1941. At the risk of giving you a spoiler, I will tell you that there is a grand betrayal waiting at the end of this tale.

Betrayal is the underlying current in Vasily Grossman’s autobiographical novel Everything Flows. Part of the book features a series of informers who step forward, each making excuses for the inexcusable things that he did—inexcusable and yet, the informers plead, in Stalinist Russia understandable, almost unavoidable.

Life under another Communist government—this one Mao’s China—is examined in Waiting, a novel by Ha Jin. The author portrays the life of Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family’s village.

While we’re talking about love and bad government, let’s move to Lily Tuck’s The News from Paraguay. Amazon describes this: “The year is 1854. In Paris, Francisco Solano –the future dictator of Paraguay—begins his courtship of the young, beautiful Irish courtesan Ella Lynch with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and a horse named Mathilde. Ella follows Franco to Asunción and reigns there as his mistress.”

Another strong woman, married to a famous man, and in a Latin American setting, Frida Kahlo was a real-life artist. Barbara Mujica’s Frida is a haunting and powerful fictional account that chronicles Kahlo’s life, from a childhood shadowed by polio to the accident at eighteen that left her barren, from her marriage to larger-than-life muralist Diego Rivera through her tragic decline into alcoholism and drug abuse. This is the book that inspired the movie of the same name but I don’t recommend either to anyone sensitive about strong language.

(Did you know that you can buy Frida Kahlo paper dolls on Amazon?!)

And finally, my last link – from one artist to another (or two). Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon tells a story set in 1939 New York City, where budding magician Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and Sammy and the artistically-gifted Joe team up to produce uber-successful supermen.

There you go – NYC to NYC, albeit in different time periods. What do you think?

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Book of Royal Lists?

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 October 2016


Last week when I made the trip to town I saw only a branch or two turned colour. This week, entire hillsides are red and gold. The trees I see from my window are late performers, I guess, although the green they’re wearing is looking mighty tired. Even the sky looks washed out.

View from my window Oct 2016 photo 2016 Oct_zpshuu9a7xf.jpg

The afternoon shadows are so long so early!

By the first of November, I expect the leaves to be gone, so you’ll likely miss the colour show.

What do you see where you are?


Books I’ve Read (in the Past): January 1998


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I first started keeping track of the books that I read in 1997 when I was already in my ’40s. These early records are incomplete, and some of the brief comments are laughable. But, inspired by JoAnn of Lakeside Musing who has shared her older journals in a series that she has named Pages from the Past, I’d like to share my journals with you. Herewith, a small sample from January, 1998.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Fiction, Semi-autobiographical)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath photo bell jar_zpsdpv7jrnq.jpgFinally got around to reading this ‘classic’. Plath’s description of Esther’s descent into depression was so accurate a mirror of my own feelings, it was at once frightening and comforting. How far I could have fallen!

[2016 notes: I suffered from severe clinical depression for several years and read this while I was crawling out of that black hole.]


Away by Jane Urquhart (Fiction, Historical, Canadian)

 photo away_zps8dm6s6ig.jpgRecommended by my daughter. My first Urquhart. Set between Ireland and Canada in the mid-1800s. Thought-provoking and enjoyable. Made me want more specific history.

[2016 notes: I still remember the complete break-down of the Irish peasant farmer’s food supply (which was much more than potatoes) when the potatoes failed. I’ve since read many more Urquhart novels; she is a favourite of mine.]


Box Socials by W.P. Kinsella (Fiction, Historical, Baseball, Canadian)

My first Kinsella. I had to reread the first chapter, since I was so busy paying attention to the run-on sentences the first time through that I lost their meaning. A look at life on the Prairies in the ‘40s – non-idealized, I think. Well worth the read.

Box Socials by W.P. Kinsella photo box socials_zps2tapyymx.jpg[2016 notes: Amazon says “Here’s the story of how Truckbox Al McClintock, a small-town greaser whose claim to fame was hitting a baseball clean across the Pembina River, almost got a tryout with the genuine St. Louis Cardinals — but instead ended up batting against Bob Feller of Cleveland Indian Fame in Renfrew Park, Edmonton, Alberta.”

It’s odd I didn’t remark on the baseball in my notes because I love baseball!]


That’s all for January 1998. 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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onion Jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. The Crowded Grave goes on:

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

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

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


Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.




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


Wondrous Words & WHAT ARE THE CHANCES? Middens


question mark photo question-mark_zpslnbg5ouw.jpg

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Wondrous Words Wednesday photo wondrouswordsWednesday_zps7ac69065.png


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



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

Books Read in April 2014


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

BRAT FARRAR by Josephine Tey 4 star rating

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

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

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


HARVEST by Jim Crace 4 star rating

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

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

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

VITTORIA COTTAGE by D.E. Stevenson 3 star rating

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

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

RETURN TO OAKPINE by Ron Carlson 3 star rating

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

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


* * * * *


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

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

The View from My Window: Early September 2016


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

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

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

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

Is the sky as blue where you are?


Books Read in March 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3½ stars


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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *

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


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



Crazy for CanLit


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


6. John Irving

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

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

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

Will wrestling or bears make their appearance?


7. Maureen Jennings

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


16. Alissa York

The Naturalist by Alissa York photo naturalist_zpsnl9umxba.jpg

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

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

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


* * * * *

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


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

posted under Book stuff | 18 Comments »

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES? Onions and Clocks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you run into similar reading coincidences?


Books Read in February 2014


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *

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

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

Does anything catch your fancy?

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

My TOP TEN Favourite Book Covers


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

Top Ten Tuesday photo toptentuesday_zps1les7hiy.jpg

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


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

elcome Home by Stuart McLean photo welcome home_zpsxnd8ocmr.jpg

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

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

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


2. From Stone Orchard: a Collection of Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



4. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

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

Aren’t these clothes so elegant?

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

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


5. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

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

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

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

And it’s a beautifully balanced montage.


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

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

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

And I love the contrast between the gold and red.



7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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

This cover is perfect.

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

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

And there’s no extra text marring the composition.

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

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

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

There’s that country red again in the flowers.

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

Just beautiful.


9. This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky

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

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

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

The broken plate. The crumbs.

Amazing how the imperfect makes it perfect.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: Year of Wonders to White Fang


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Challenge: COMPLETE


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The View from my Window – 29Jul16


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

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

View from my window jul16 photo IMG_3735 450_zpsss9syrtz.jpg

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

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

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

How’s the weather where you are?;

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