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Urban Leaving to Country Living

Mystery Books Read in December 2014



I read a small but enjoyable selection of mystery books this month.

Any of these tickle your fancy?


The Impersonator by Mary Miley photo c7a9de6c-ff90-464e-925d-c84c46d1696e_zpslvczc3ds.jpg1. The Impersonator by Mary Miley (Fiction, Roaring Twenties Mystery #1) 4 star rating

Shades of Brat Farrar! In the 1920s Oliver Carr, an uncle to missing heiress Jessie, approaches vaudeville actress Leah Randall with a proposition: impersonate the missing woman, for whom she is a dead ringer, with the aid of his coaching, and split the fortune.

Well thought out and suspenseful.

4 stars

An Early Retirement by Sue Ann Jaffarian photo a43d2d0d-0caf-4b87-a045-e95dc54cf891_zpshzaf7d3b.jpg
2. An Early Retirement by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Fiction, Mystery, eShort story) 4 star rating

A standalone eshort story by the author of the plus-size Odelia Grey mysteries.

This would have been a ringer to be included in Alfred Hitchcock or Ellery Queen magazines.

4 stars

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah photo a87e562c-487f-44e4-9505-64f5da35a954_zpsr2ujxvgo.jpg

3. The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah 3.5 star rating

Is there a mystery reader out there who didn’t know about the waves this book made: the first Hercule Poirot novel written by a ‘ghost-writer’ for the late Agatha Christie? Feelings ran high in anticipation, and reactions were mixed.

I thought Hannah’s Poirot was right on the money, but the mystery itself was a little convoluted.

3½ stars



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 November 2014


books read
While I was coming to terms with the long-term tenancy of my step-daughter and two grandsons, I got back to some really good reading this month, discovering a book that has become one of my all-time favourites.

1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (Fiction, Modern classic, Pulitzer Prize winner) 5 star rating
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck photo f6d36950-3c1a-41fd-a42c-0455e93f70d5_zpswqlcl668.jpg

Although Pearl Buck was born in the United States in 1892, her parents moved to China as missionaries when she was just a few months old. She continued to live in China for most of her life before 1934. According to Wikipedia, her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

Amazon says: “This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-Lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century.”

In 1938, Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature “for the notable works which pave the way to a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries and for the studies of human ideals which are a great and living art of portraiture”.

Indeed the themes of work, land and riches explored in The Good Earth are universal and timeless.
5 stars

2. The 100—Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Fiction, Contemporary, Satire) 4.5 star rating
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson photo 27e9e3bc-a29a-4abd-9a85-a779f791b740_zps3knt912i.jpg
As you might be able to tell from the title, this book, translated from Swedish, is told in a breezy, almost tongue-in-cheek style.

After ‘escaping’ from a nursing home, Allan Karlsson, much like Forrest Gump, encounters a series of adventures that become more outlandish as the book progresses.

Lots of fun.
4½ stars

3. Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman (Fiction, Contemporary, Afghanistan War) 4.5 star rating
Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman photo 2b509e95-2b41-46b2-a293-0eefca3978f6_zpsj0xzxb8m.jpg
Due to circumstances, young Afghani teen Aziz must join the Special Lashkar, a US-funded militia. As he rises through the ranks, Aziz becomes mired in the dark underpinnings of his country’s war, witnessing clashes between rival Afghan groups—what US soldiers call “green on green” attacks—and those on US forces by Afghan soldiers, violence known as “green on blue.”

Ackerman brilliantly sets up the hopelessness of living in war, and he has us cheering on the protagonist in his concluding decision.

Well-written, riveting, and hard-hitting.
4½ stars

4. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense) 3.5 star rating
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty photo 7ecda2ab-08ef-4839-a772-d87b0d2f39b8_zpsoxt5rxjv.jpg
Amazon says: “Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over—she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade.”

So here’s the thing: I must have enjoyed this at the time since I rated it 4 stars then, but I’ve forgotten it so thoroughly that I didn’t even remember reading it at all.

Hmmm . . . Guess I forgot what Alice forgot. I wish it had been more memorable.
3½ stars

5. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (Non-fiction, Social Issues) 3.5 star rating
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich photo cbc6de61-5946-4adb-ac39-f24e34463e58_zps8pao4nbn.jpg

Ehrenreich posed as a waitress in order to discover how the working poor in America cope financially. I expected to find an examination of the cost of living, but instead found the flip-side: the difficulty of making a living, earning an income.

As with any such journalism of this type, it’s hard to truly capture the desperation of not having the luxury of back-up, knowing that, at any time, you can return to another life, job, and bank account. Ehrenreich does acknowledge these limitations.

A fine effort.
3½ stars

6. The Brandons by Angela Thirkell (Fiction, Vintage, Comedy) 3.5 star rating
The Brandons by Angela Thirkell photo be394189-823d-4857-9609-abfaa868a4b3_zpsxkbewont.jpg
Originally published in 1939, The Brandons gives us a glimpse into the life of “Lavinia Brandon, quite the loveliest widow in Barsetshire, blessed with beauty and grace, as well as two handsome grown-up children, Delia and Francis.”

Somewhat typical Thirkell although perhaps even slower moving than most. About two-thirds of the way through my copy, I found a duplicate of the previous 40 pages (and 40 pages missing). I picked up the story easily even without knowing what happened in the missing section.
3½ stars

*   *   *   *   *

Once again, I’m including the two mysteries I read this month in this post.

1. Miss Dimple Disappears by Mignon Ballard (Fiction, Mystery, Cozy) 3.5 star rating
Miss Dimple Disappears by Mignon Ballard photo bf87226d-14e8-46ea-90d5-4e728e4dd088_zpsnku6cvml.jpg

Set in small-town Georgia USA in 1942, this first in the Miss Dimple Kirkpatrick series sees the steady-as-a-rock first grade teacher kidnapped.

I remember being a little disappointed in this, but I can’t recall anything else about it. Many readers, though, highly praise the details of the setting.
3½ stars

2. Everybody Goes to Jimmy’s by Michael Mayo (Fiction) 3.5 star rating
Everybody Goes to Jimmy's by Michael Mayo photo f3e670c6-395a-4511-b8d8-9c95b0bd391a_zpsfk4ecfc7.jpg

This second in the Jimmy Quinn series (I mistakenly thought it was the first) is billed as a suspense novel but, with its circa 1930 Manhattan speakeasy setting, it seemed more a mild sort of hard-boiled mystery to me.

I did enjoy it though and do plan to read more of the series at some time.
3½ stars


This was the start of a run of several months of good reading. Do any of these appeal to you?


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

Books Read in October 2014


books read
My husband & I spent the first two weeks of October 2014 in southern France (ending with 4 days in Paris), celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a very special trip because we hadn’t traveled often or far before that, and it was perfect. Oddly enough, even though we had ‘rest’ days, I didn’t get much reading in.


1. The Tucci Table by Stanley Tucci (Nonfiction, Cookbook) 4 star rating

Tucci's Table by Stanley Tucci photo c57a1638-7a05-4d71-a001-dacb08ad6389_zpsrhqraen0.jpg I love Stanley Tucci! Whether he’s a hypersensitive tango dancer in Shall We Dance?, the husband of a beloved cooking icon in Julie and Julia, the mischievous Puck in A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, or any one of the scores of other roles he’s had, I think he’s brilliant.

So I was bound to love his new cookbook, written with his wife Felicity Blunt (sister of actress Emily Blunt). And I did!

Tucci combines his love of classic French food (which I was enjoying for the first time that month) with the bounty of food available in North America (especially in larger cities) to present a fresh take on the food that has enchanted generations of eaters.
4 stars


2. Dr.Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party by Graham Green (Fiction, Vintage, Satire) 4 star rating
Dr. Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party by Graham Greene photo 12e40f5b-ab90-44fd-a837-c8c3f96ea945_zpswml0af5g.jpg

A darkly comic novel about a misanthropic millionaire who decides to hold the last of his famous parties, first published in 1980.

At first, nothing seems to happen. Our narrator arrives as an invited guest to find other diners already at the table. There is a strange current in the air, eventually traced to the strange gifts Dr. Fischer has distributed to his guests.

Clever, as you might expect of Greene.
4 stars

3. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Fiction, Literary) 3.5 star rating
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson photo 89892962-0cd8-43e9-8d67-2e419e32f10c_zpsgutpoihm.jpg

“In Gilead, Iowa, our narrator, John Ames, age 76, a retiring preacher, is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. The reason for the letter is Ames’s failing health. He wants to leave an account of himself for this son who will never really know him. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.”

Although this is wildly popular, I found it so-so. Perhaps my age—or study of the Bible—has me in a place in life where Ames’ wonderings seemed self-conscious and/or prosaic.
3½ stars

4. 10:04 by Ben Lerner (Fiction, Contemporary) 3.5 star rating

10:04 by Ben Lerner photo 32cff908-ec3b-4ccd-bb51-f7d3add63e15_zpswjb9lfp6.jpgTo give this books its due, I will note that it was named “One of the Best Books of the Year” by:
The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, NPR, Vanity Fair, The Guardian (London), The L Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement (London), The Globe and Mail (Toronto), The Huffington Post, Gawker, Flavorwire, San Francisco Chronicle, The Kansas City Star, and The Jewish Daily Forward.

It was also the winner of The Paris Review‘s 2012 Terry Southern Prize and a finalist for the 2014 Folio Prize and the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award.

It’s another that I found only ‘meh”. Again, I think perhaps I’m too old.
3½ stars

5. Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Fiction, children‘s picture book) 3 star rating

Maclear imagines Julia Child and her co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as children. They observe that adults have forgotten joy and are a grey and dreary bunch. Julia & Simone concoct delightful food that teaches the adults to be better people.

My goodness, I’m getting crotchety in my old age. I don’t think that children should be celebrated, to themselves at any rate, for teaching adults. This book seems to be saying “kids know better.”

Sorry, I don’t think they do.
3 stars


*   *   *   *   *

I’m including the only mystery I read this month in this post.

6. Death in High Heels by Christianna Brand (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage) 3.5 star rating
Death in High Heels by Christianna Brand photo c4ff71f6-c6c0-4d81-a2a3-a87169134cc7_zpsuoewlu2n.jpg

Christianna Brand, who died in 1988, wrote mysteries that were published between 1940 and the early 1980s. Her work thus overlapped with Christie and Marsh and she is considered by some to be their peer.

Death in High Heels (1941) was her first Inspector Charlesworth mystery and one of her earliest works, and it was my introduction to her writing. I had the feeling that Brand hadn’t quite crystallized her characters yet and, as a result, the book felt a little unanchored to me.

I was glad, however, to finally ‘meet’ Brand.
3½ stars


All in all, France was wonderful; the reading, a little less so. Have you read 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.

Taking a Break


Life is overwhelming me.

Since my surgery (spinal fusion) in September 2015, I have been trying to regain the cleanliness and order in my life that I had been gradually losing over the ten years previous.

too much stuff 95 photo 60c7d882-c5a9-40e1-905a-68345450f8aa_zpsivyjchif.jpg

Add to life in general, the sorting of not only the things I brought back from my mother’s house in 2014, but the items we took out of Bill’s mom’s house a year ago when Ma went to a nursing home and the house she had lived in since 1955 was sold.

Add to that the fact that we are embarking on an extensive reno of our house to prepare for sale when Bill retires in three years, and that we are going to visit friends in Ecuador for a couple of weeks in the new year and I have to learn a least a little bit more Spanish than how to order two beers, and life is overwhelming me.

How, I asked myself, did I ever manage when I worked full-time? And what am I spending my time on now? The answer lies largely in the Internet. It wasn’t there before. And now I spend lots and lots of time reading book blogs and commenting, and posting to, and following up comments on, Exurbanis.

Taking a Break 300 photo acfaf7cd-3aa2-4477-a38a-aabf693a6cb4_zps2hfsnxzq.png

So I’ve decided to take a digital break. I’m not going to post to this blog except for the exceptions noted below. I’m not going to read other book blogs and I’m not going to comment. I’m not going to spend time on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.

I am going to clean and sort and paint. I’m going to clear up backlogged projects, including my “Books Read” record, so you will see those posts as I get them done up (and I will gratefully read all your comments although I may not be able to respond). But other than that, my computer time is going to be severely limited.

 photo 4a58718d-ce92-4980-8cc8-9acbc7b15d45_zpsi66vyhtj.pngI’ll miss you all but please know that my silence isn’t because I don’t love you all. I just need to get my sane world back. I hope to be back by the time summer comes again to Nova Scotia.

posted under Just Me | 20 Comments »

Books I’ve Read in the Past (Feb – June 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 February through June, 1998. My record-keeping was thin on the ground!

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (Non-fiction, Autobiography)

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller photo helen keller_zpsuftcm1nz.jpgWritten when she was 22; includes various letters she sent as a girl and young woman. I was prompted to read by seeing a performance of Miracle Workerat Theatre Aquarius.

It’s really remarkable what this girl learned. In future I’d like to read the books she wrote later in life.

[2016 notes: I’ve known about Helen Keller all my life – well, at least since I saw the Patty Duke version of The Miracle Worker when I was eight years old. Keller was an incredible woman.

I never have gotten around to reading more of Keller’s books, so I guess that’s an oversight to correct.]

The Ragged Way People Fall Out of Love by Elizabeth Cox (Fiction, Southern USA)

The Ragged Way People Fall Out of Love by Elizabeth Cox photo ragged_zpsaaksgbzp.jpgRealistic, but not earth-shattering. I read the last half of the book while I was coming off Effexor [an anti-depressant] and perhaps I was not in a condition to grasp the story. Everything seemed strange.

[2016 notes: I cannot express how glad I am to be free of that incapacitating condition (clinical depression), and I’m sorry that I can’t comment further on this book.]

How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto (Fiction, Women’s)
How to Make an Ame4rican Quilt by Whitney Otto photo quilt_zpslzihb8g4.jpgA good, quick read. I thought sometimes that the sections of “instructions” were overdone and too ethereal. But the stories of the people pieced together in this small town were fascinating.

[2016 notes: I remember little of this book, but it was made into a 1995 movie with Winona Ryder, Anne Bancroft, Claire Danes, Ellen Burstyn and Maya Angelou. I don’t think I saw the movie.]


Dogs Never Lie About Love) by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Non-fiction, Animals)

Dogs Never Lie About Love photo dogs_zpsyncct9f5.jpgThis was really interesting for the first half-dozen chapters, then it seemed to become a lot of padding and unsupported theories. In the end, no one really knows what dogs think or feel – we are limited by being able to think only in human terms. This I knew before I read the book!

[2016 notes: I had a spurt of rating my books around this time, and I see that I gave this only 2 stars out of 5.]

That’s all for the first half of 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

Weekend Cooking: Middle Eastern Tomato and Feta Baked Eggs


When the days get shorter and I’m making supper when it’s dark outside, I want to make something cozy. It’s then that I often turn to eggs.

I could – and do – make scrambled eggs and toast, or fried egg sandwiches, but even my eight-year-old grandson recognizes these as a “last resort” supper. This classic egg dish, on the other hand, never raises his suspicions.

The recipe for this Middle Eastern dish, also called shakshuka, ran in Canadian Living magazine a couple of years ago. The flavours are beautifully intense, and two eggs and the sauce are surprisingly filling as a single serving. I serve it with crusty or garlic bread to mop up the extra sauce.

Middle Eastern Eggs photo IMG_3517 450_zpsfwpkijlg.jpg

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
half sweet red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. sweet paprika
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 can (796 ml/28 oz) diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
6-8 eggs

1. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and red pepper, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and light golden, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in garlic, cumin, paprika, half each of the salt and pepper, and the cayenne pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

3. Scrape into 12-cup (3 L) casserole dish; sprinkle with all but 2 tsp of the feta cheese.

Using a spoon, make 6 -8 wells in the tomato mixture; crack one egg into each well. Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper over eggs.

Bake in 375ᵒ oven (190ᵒ) until whites are set but yolks are still slightly soft, 15 to 18 minutes.

4. Remove from oven; tent with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining feta cheese and chopped parsley (if desired).

Note: To my mind, the tomato paste is an essential ingredient but I’m loathe to put out three times the money for a tube (great idea) as for a can of the same size. My solution is to divide a can into 3 or 4 “servings” and freeze them in baby food jars or small plastic containers. When a recipe calls for a small amount of tomato paste, I slip a container out of the door of the freezer and into a bowl of warm water until the paste is thawed enough to slide out of the container.

Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.

Books Read in September 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*   *   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dog Did It by Jim Toombs (Fiction, Mystery) 3.5 star rating
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Gabe Chance has just inherited his mother’s estate – but with one catch: he must keep her Jack Russell Terrier and live in her house in Brandt in the Texas Hill Country, even though he wants nothing more than to return to California.

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

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


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


SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION from Revolutionary Road


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The View from My Window: Early December 2016


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

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

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

So dreary.

What do you see where you are?


Mystery Books Read in August 2014



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



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

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

4 stars anyway


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

4 stars

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

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

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

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


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


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

Nonfiction November – Week 5


Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

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

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

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

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

Books Read in August 2014


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

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


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

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

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

I highly recommend this collection. 4½ stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was heavy on nonfiction this month. Any thoughts?



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WONDROUS WORDS: Howard’s Hobby


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Nonfiction November – Week 4


Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Books Read in July 2014


books read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*   *   *   *   *

My lone mystery this month was

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

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


I read great Canadian fiction this month! Does anything look interesting to you?


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


WONDROUS WORDS: Jack’s Navigation


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

 photo worker_zpsl8nmogip.jpg

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Nonfiction November – Week 3


Nonfiction November photo Fall-festival-300x300_zpssui2awry.png

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

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

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


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

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


Blackout by Connie Willis photo blackout_zpsoll3v2g9.jpg

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

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

Do you have interesting nonfiction/fiction pairings for me?


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

What are the Chances? Falling Trees


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Books Read in June 2014


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


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

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