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ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in June 2014

November10

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

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

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

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

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

Some critics have complained that Gopnik’s essays are outdated, but I think they transcend time.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

I loved this book. 5 stars
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars

 

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

 

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

Nonfiction November – Week 2

November7

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

WEEKEND COOKING – The Fibromyalgia Cookbook by Shelley Ann Smith

November5

Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baked Chicken in Yogurt Sauce

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

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

Serves 4.

* * * * *

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

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

 

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

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The View from My Window: Early November 2016

November2

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

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

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

What do you see where you are?

 

Nonfiction November Week 1

October31

Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

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

 

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

 

 photo the shelf_zpsxtvy30cu.jpg

 

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

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

 

 

Beginning French by Les Americains Neumeier photo beginning french_zpsikc9nfv1.jpg

 

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

 

 

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

Bring it on!

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

The Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Reading Challenge

October29

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 points:
Read a modern retelling of a classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

October27

Cliff Simon

with

Loren Stephens

on Tour
October 24-November 2
with 

Paris Nights 

Paris Nights:
My Year at the Moulin Rouge

(memoir)

Release date: July 15, 2016
at Waldorf Publishing

ISBN: 978-194384892-8
197 pages

Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Paris Nights Cliff Simon

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Loren’s website: Write Wisdom

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

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

***

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Enter here

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

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

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS AND AN EXCERPT

Paris Nights banner 450 photo paris nights banner_zpsnwz58izq.jpg

 

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

October22

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.

 

 

WONDROUS WORDS: Gavage

October19

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.

Gavage
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

October15

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 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.

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#1947 CLUB: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

October11

 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

October8

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.

 photo france200_zpsyk6obdkg.jpg
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

October5

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

October1

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

September29

 photo Books Ive Read text 400c_zpsrnpovccu.jpg
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

September25

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.
 

CONFIT D’OIGNON
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.

NOTE:
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

September22

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

September19

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

September8

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

August24

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.

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