Friday, December 21, 2012

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

In The Cutting Season, Caren Gray is the manager of Belle Vie, a pre-war plantation turned tourist attraction. Like all of the land around it, the plantation is in danger of being bought out and dismantled by the neighbouring farm/conglomerate. When the body of a female migrant worker is found in buried on the property and the police turn their attention to a young man on staff, Caren suspects that they are heading in the wrong direction. She decides to do some investigating herself and discovers that this present day murder is somehow connected to the long ago murder of her great-great-great-grandfather, a slave who worked on the plantation.

I loved this book. It contains an incredible story of one woman's mission to get to the truth, while reconciling the past, finding her way in the present and setting her path for the future. The mystery was so interesting, gripping, and suspenseful that I didn't want to put the book down.

The story takes place mostly in the present, but it does have little forays into the near past and distant past. I just love the way Locke expertly combines the present with the past events. The transitions between the two flawless. I also loved how she brought in the background information on the present day characters.

I found the whole story fascinating, especially the parts about the working plantation and the lives of the slaves who worked on it. I've read a few fictional books about slaves and their struggles, but that period in history still isn't that familiar to me. I'm going to have to make a point of reading more books set before the American civil war.

I really enjoyed reading about all of the characters, especially Caren. I really liked and admired her for raising her daughter, Morgan, on her own and for being a strong woman. I didn't quite understand her ex, Eric, though. The same goes for their relationship. That part of the story didn't draw me in as much as the mystery did.

New words:
apologist (page 12): defender
antebellum (page 20): before the Civil War
haints (page 333): ghost (Southern US)
magniloquent (page 341): using important-sounding words
obsequiousness (used with previous word on page 341): sweet talk

I loved the endpapers that feature a map of the Belle Vie grounds. There's an antique feel to it that was just perfect for this story. Besides being beautiful to look at (I love maps!), they helped me see where everything on the plantation was situated. I was able to follow and understand the story better.

I've also read Locke's other book, Blackwater Rising (my review). While I enjoyed it, I liked this one a lot more. That's probably because I found this story more interesting and accessible. I could see myself visiting Belle Vie, enjoying the grounds and learning more about the history of the place.

Highly recommended. I hope to read many more books by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author and her other book, please visit Attica Locke's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke, HarperCollins ©2012. ISBN 9780061802058(Hardcover), 372p.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Christmas Decorations - 2012

Tami over at Just One More Thing... posted some photos of her lovely Christmas decorations.  She asked if others could post photos of their decorations.  

I don't usually decorate a whole lot for Christmas. I almost envy those who do, until I remember that they have to put all of that stuff away and store it for 11 months of the year.  Last year was an exception: we had 5 Christmas trees (the one pictured below, one made out of books and three tiny ones). 

My photos are fairly close up so you can't really see the much of the house at all. I didn't really do that on purpose.  However, I didn't finish putting back all of the boxes yet, so maybe I did it subconsciously so I wouldn't have to clean up.  ;)  

The Tree






















This year we only put about 1/5 of the decorations on the tree.  We usually fill it so full you can barely see the tree.  However,  I didn't feel like doing more. It sits in the dining room.

The Nutcracker collection















My husband got one for Christmas a few years back. It then just took off from there. Generally, we find one or two on sale after Christmas to add to the collection. This year, we found some nice ones for a decent price before Christmas, so we bought 4 or 5.  That'll probably be it for awhile.  They sit at the bottom of the stairs.   You'll notice that there's 13...eek.  We can't have that, so there's a nutcracker candle in cellophane on the window ledge. 

The Mantle






















...on the fake fireplace.  Yes, those candles are also still in cellophane. They are too pretty to burn. Maybe one day...  I usually put the nativity set on the mantle, but this year I wanted to do something different.   It needs a picture hanging behind the Santas or something else to fill up that blank wall.  I'll have to think about it.    

In addition to these, we have blue outdoor lights on the front part of the main floor of the house and two sides of the garage.  Those are the parts that face the road.  We also have some "tomato cage" trees in the windows of the third floor. This last addition is thanks to Tami who posted some on her blog. Mine didn't turn out nearly as nice as hers did. I'll have to use her picture for reference next year. Sorry, there are no pictures of these decorations. 

Well, that's it.
Merry Christmas!  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Tree Skirt

Heather over at Books and Quilts posted a photo of her tree skirt and asked others do the same. She suggested that we share our story about the tree skirt.

So here goes... I've never had a nice tree skirt.   For years, I used an old bedsheet. Then when my husband's mother moved into a nursing home and we were cleaning out her house, I came across a Christmas-themed round tablecloth. No one else wanted it since no one (including me) had a round table. I knew immediately I was going to use it as a tree skirt.

To make it work, I cut a long slit from edge to the middle, then cut out a small circle in the middle. Just enough to fit around the "trunk" of our artifical tree.

It's not beautiful, but it hides the tree stand and lighting cords.   Maybe one day, I'll have one as nice as Heather's.    

Here's it is:















I guess I could have straightened it out a little before taking the shot.  Oh, well....

If you post a photo of your tree skirt on your blog, be sure to visit Heather's post and add your link to Mr. Linky.

Tomorrow I'll be posting pictures of the tree and a few other Christmas decorations we've put up.

Needlework Tuesday - Afghan

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a photo of my leftover-yarn afghan. Well, here's the current photo:
















It's really growing on me, especially since I can really see the stripes now.   I finished tying all of the bits and pieces of yarn together, so from here on in it's just knitting.  I only have a bit more yarn, so it's going to be rather small, but that's ok.  I might start calling it my afghan-ette.

This is the first time I've used a circular needle. It's ok, but I'm not crazy about it.   I like that I don't have to stitch any panels together, but the needle seems to get twisted and I end up fighting against it. Every few rows or so, I try to twist it back into a good position, but it's still not perfect.

My other knitting project, the sky scarf, is also coming along, but since I started this project, it's sort of on the back burner.  I'm behind on the knitting, but I'm still writing down the sky colours each day, which isn't too hard because we've had so many grey and/or snowy days.   I hope to post a photo of it in two weeks. 

Happy Needleworking!

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Optical Illusions by DK Publishers

Optical Illusions contains 50 optical illusions to enjoy while learning about how the eyes and brain work.

This is such an awesome book. It's written for pre-teens (7-12 year olds), but can be enjoyed by the whole family. Not only do you get to see some terrific illusions, you also get to learn about how they work and how your eyes and brain see them.

The book contains a few classic illusions that I've seen before, but it also has a number of new-to-me ones. I haven't seen some of the classic ones for awhile and it was nice to revisit them and learn more about them. The new-to-me ones were amazing and fun to try out and read about.

I'm a huge fan of books that come with moveable and removable pieces. I know that the removable ones can become lost or damaged, but I still like them. This book has only two pieces that can be completely removed from the book, so it should be fairly easy to keep track of them. The moveable pieces include: pop-ups, pullout tabs, and other moveable parts to help the reader enjoy the illusions. These are all pretty cool!

There's even a section at the back to build your own illusion. The instructions are pretty straightforward (if you read them correctly, which apparently I can't do) and there are no extra tools required. It really well constructed and should last a long time if it's put together (and put away) carefully. It looked pretty cool, but I couldn't get it to work, like the instructions said it would. My only guess is that I constructed it incorrectly or I'm a dunce. ;)

The cover of the book is one of my favourite parts. It's been sitting on my desk and I've been playing with it for days (ever since it arrived). It's sort of hard to explain. Even though the cover is flat, it appears to have dimension. Both the title and circles seem to pop out at the reader. I guess it's 3D, but there are no special glasses required. It's so awesome.

The whole book is well constructed with thick reinforced pages. This is especially important because of the moveable and removable parts. It should last a long time even if it's repeatedly played with. It might even last long enough to hand down to another child.

Highly recommended. This book would make a great Christmas present for a pre-teen, who can then share it with the rest of the family.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Optical Illusions by DK Publishers, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756691891(Hardcover), 31p.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Knotty Afghan

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was making an afghan with some leftover yarn which I cut into short lengths and tied back together. Trying the strands is so tedious and is taking forever. However, I had enough to at least start. Why oh why did I start with a big project???

I went with stocking stitch for the knotty variegated yarn and made sure all of the knots ended up on the right side. If I'm going to have them, I might as well make them visible. I also figured that they might catch on something on the wrong side when I used the finished afghan. I figured the yarn would be most visible with this stitch.

Because I didn't have enough of the knotty variegated stuff to make a whole afghan, I had to use some full skeins of yarn, which were also laying around without a purpose. I used seed stitch on those rows because I figured some texture and variety might be nice. Those are the grey and burgundy rows. I'm mixing bands of plain yarn with bands of varigated yarn.

I'm not entirely happy with the results so far. I didn't envision is looking like this...rather chaotic and unsightly. I really like order and pattern, so I tied the strands back together in a pattern (colour 1, colour 2, colour 3, colour 4, colour 1, colour 2, etc.) hoping that it would show up in the finished work. No luck. Also, since I cut each of the strands roughly the same length I was hoping that the knots would also form some kind of pattern. No luck there either. *huge sigh* It's all kind of random and has me feeling anxious.

The only thing I'm happy with is that some of the cut up yarn matches the plain bands, although you can't see that in the photo below.  

Anyway, here's the first photo of the thing:






















It's not laying flat because I'm using a circular needle to knit the whole thing in one shot. At least, I hope that's why it's not laying flat. Hopefully, when I have more done I'll be able to get a better shot.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

In The Casual Vacancy, councillor, Barry Fairbrother dies leaving a seat on the parish council empty. As his friends, family and foes come to terms with Barry's death, they must decide who's going to take his place. Like other small towns, it seems that everyone knows and is somehow connected to one another. That doesn't mean they agree, though. They definitely hold differing opinions on what to do with The Fields, a rundown development plagued with problems, and an addiction treatment facility, which happens to be located in The Fields. As people choose sides and the discussions heat up, many secrets are unearthed as the battles between husbands and wives, parents and children/teenagers, rich and poor, and teachers and students, reach a boiling point.

I loved this book!!! It's definitely one of the best I've read this year. There was something about the characters and the story that drew me in from the very first page. It definitely wasn't a happy book, but I found it strangely compelling. It's definitely not short on devious paybacks, dirty deals, and snarky comments. Scattered throughout the book are little bits and pieces of Rowling's cheeky, wry humour. I thought those were brilliant! It was one of those books that I didn't want to put down and looked forward to picking up again when I got a few minutes to read.

I had heard that there are lots of characters in this book, so even before I began, I armed myself with pen and paper to keep track of them. I counted 31 characters in the first 40 pages! Sure, not all of them turned out to be major characters (some of them were only mentioned that one time), but still you don't know that when you are reading. That's a lot of people to keep track of. As if that wasn't bad enough, even more characters were mentioned later on. At first, I had to refer to my list all the time. After awhile, though, I really got to know the characters and didn't really need it.

Speaking of the characters, I loved them all! With over 30 characters, you'd think there would be some that I didn't care for or didn't want to read about. However, that's not the case. They were all terribly flawed, but each one was believable and had interesting characteristics. There were several that stood out, but one of my favourite was Kay, although, I'm not entirely sure why. I do know that I loved reading about her dealings with Krystal, Terri and Robbie. It was incredibly sad situation, but in some ways interesting, too.

I loved the way Rowling tied events together, even those that were seemingly many times removed from each other. I really, really want to list my favourite here, but I'm afraid it's a bit of a spoiler. I'll just say it has to do with the Prices' computer. It's also another example (I think) of Rowling's sense of humour.

At 501 pages, it's quite a long book, but didn't feel like that. I'm a slow reader and keeping track of everything slowed me down even more. I didn't mind, though. I loved every word.

New words:
friable (page 39): crumbly
hessian (page 41): canvas
truculent (page 44): hostile
quixotic (page 49): idealistic, unrealistic
obstreperous (page 53): disruptive
coprolites (page 54): petrified dung
hirsutism (page 120): atypical growth of hair
vertiginously (page 164): dizzying
pusillanimous (page 190): timid
bolshy (page 225): uncooperative
inchoate (page 295): unclear
gurdwara (page 301): Sikh place of worship
gormless (page 347): stupid
bowdlerized (page 389): censor
chimeric (page 423): in this instance, probably chimera-like, figment of your imagination or daydream.

Just a small word of warning: Even though Rowling has written books in the past for young people, this one is definitely for adults, or at least older teens. There's lots of swearing and illicit behaviour, so it's probably best to keep the little ones away.

Highly recommended. I hope she writes many more books for adults.

For more information about this book, please visit Hachette's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group Canada for this review copy.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ©2012. ISBN 9780316228534(Hardcover), 501p.

P.S. I purposely stayed away from mentioning her wildly popular...ahem...Harry Potter...ahem...children's books.

Max Your Memory by Dr. Pascale Michelon

Max Your Memory contains exercises, tools and tips on how to improve your ability to remember things. It's a visual guide that's filled with simple exercises designed to be fun, while increasing your memory.

This is a fantastic book! It's packed with interesting, informative and easy-to-understand explanations about all aspects of memory. The pages are nicely laid out with colourful, appealing and plentiful illustrations. The exercises are simple, yet effective, and feature easy to understand instructions. Many of the exercises require you to write things down and there's not always room in the book to do so. I'd suggest keeping a pencil and paper nearby. This is also important if you don't want to write in the book or if you'd like to do the exercises more than once.

Each of the chapters (or sections) focus on a different aspect of memory: short-term, long-term, imagination, organization, remembering names, and remembering numbers. Each one has check-in exercises, which measure your current abilities and check-out exercises, which measure your (hopefully-improved) aptitude. I love that the exercises relate to everyday situations and not to some abstract idea. While not every example pertained to me, I could imagine how it could in the right or different circumstances.

The super techniques are designed to improve the different aspects of memory. There's at least one of these in each chapter. First, it explains the technique, then it offers instructions and exercises on how to practice that technique. One technique called "The Linking System" connects new facts to remember to old ones by creating associations (real or artificial) between them for storage and retrieval. I won't go into any more specifics. You'll have to get the book for that.

The last chapter connects health and memory by focusing on how to optimize your body and mind by reducing or managing stress, getting proper sleep and eating foods good for you. It explains how each of these affects your memory and gives lots of tips on how to keep yourself functioning at your peak.

I love that the book is designed so that the reader can focus on one aspect of memory by working on one chapter or work on all aspects by going through the whole book. If you're having trouble in one particular area, you can start with that chapter after reading the introductory chapter. If you just want to improve your memory generally, you can work through the whole book. It's going to take some time, though. I want to improve my overall memory, so I started at the beginning. After just a few simple exercises, I was exhausted. Almost more tired than if I had worked out (physically) for an hour. My brain definitely needed some down time. Thinking is hard work. ;)

I thought my memory was pretty good (in some areas), but this book proved me wrong. While some stuff was easier than others, I had lots of trouble with some of the exercises. It was still fun, though, and I saw improvements in many areas. I also learned that I need to practice more and keep working at it.

The table of contents is terrific. It not only lists the major sections, but it also lists all of the exercises and topics with page numbers. At the back of the book, there's a list of useful websites as well as a list of books for further reading. The index is extensive and should help the reader find what they are looking for.

Highly recommended for those wanting to improve their memories and learn more about how it works.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Max Your Memory by Dr. Pascale Michelon, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756689650(Soft cover), 192p.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Energizing Workout by DK Publishing

Energizing Workout presents twelve workouts in one of three different categories: dance, calorie burning, and stretching. Each workout can be done in 15-minutes and is designed to be done at home. The accompanying DVD features 6 of these workouts.

I liked this book, There's plenty of variety in workouts and all can be done in a relatively short period of time. There are tons of photographs, which are very necessary in a book like this. Each stretch, step or move is explained in text as well as one or two photographs. Most of the photographs are large, clear and easy to see.

Each section starts with an introduction specific to those workouts. All of them are well worth the read. Twelve different workouts are featured in the book:
• Stretching workouts include: wake up, posture, flexibility, strength
• Calorie Burn workouts include: Boxing, Aerobics, Running, Freestyle
• Dance workouts include: Salsa, Ballet, Jazz, Street

Each of the three sections is written by a different author. I like that! I'd like to think that I'm getting an expert on that particular workout type.

I love stretching, but I don't do it nearly often enough. Because of that, the stretching section is my favourite. Not only does it best translate to the page (because the stretches are more static than say an aerobics step or a dance move), but it shows you how to modify some positions if you are just starting out. It also shows you have to fit it in while you are doing different daily activities. Even though the aerobic and dance sections don't translate to the page as well, there's an accompanying DVD, which features two workouts from each section. It should help explain the dance and aerobic sections better and help the reader understand what's going on.

Many of the workouts include a "at a glance" page where all of the stretches, moves or steps for the workout are photographically presented together in a layout that spans two half pages. I think this would be really beneficial once the reader/exerciser/dancer learns the routines and just needs a quick reminder as to what comes next.

If you want to mix up your workouts or learn new ones from time to time, this would be a great book to use. However, this book may not be for everyone. Some people might find it hard to learn from a book and might be better off in a class at their local gym or fitness centre. However, if you're not ready to join a class or find a teacher, this book is a good place to start.

The Table of Contents has major sections listed and is broken down into stretches/workouts and other items. It also marks which items are featured on the DVD. I love that!!! The index is pretty good and should help find some items in the book. Only one of the three sections, the Dance workouts, features a glossary. It's unique in that a few of the ballet terms are illustrated with photographs.

The book also has a list of some useful resources at the back of the book. I was pleasantly surprised to see some Canadian references.

Recommended. I'm hoping to learn and use at least one of these new workouts.

This book was previously released as 3 separate books.

Note: The cover on this book is slightly different that the cover shown above.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Energizing Workout by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756675663(Soft cover, with DVD), 272p.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Complete Classical Music Guide by DK Publishing

The Complete Classical Music Guide explains the terms used in Classical music, discusses the music and instruments of each period and gives details of the lives and works of almost 300 composers. It's "the essential listener's guide to more than a thousand years of western Classical music".

I loved this book! This gorgeous book is one of the most beautifully presented books I've ever seen. It's simple, yet very elegant. The book itself is white with gold lettering; clean and crisp. It's encased in a protective three-sided box shaped like a grand piano top.    


















The inside of the book is no less beautiful. It's nicely laid out, has small, but relevant photographs, and is jam-packed with tons of information about Classical music. The sections are colour-coded and are laid out in interesting and appealing ways. The instrument photographs are labelled and annotated. A few of them are a little small, though.

The book starts off with a terrific introduction that features the basics of music, the instruments and performances before launching into the history of Classical music. The history part is broken down into different musical periods: early music, Baroque, Classical, etc. Each of these sections starts off with an introduction before getting into the major players of the era. There are also sections on opera and the national schools grouped by nationality rather than style.

I loved all of the information on the composers. Some of it was basic: birth and death dates, nationality, number of published works and milestones in their career. For the more well-known or more accomplished composers, there was also information on their key works and influences.  Some of these span many pages.

Some of the information presented was familiar to me as I used to attend the symphony quite frequently. I also used to study/play the flute (strictly as a hobby, no performances). Even though there was stuff I already knew, the books also contained lots of information that was new-to-me. I learned so much about the different composers and musical elements.

My favourite musical period is Baroque, although I do like a few composers from the Classical period. I loved reading about Vivaldi, Bach and Handel, but also found a bunch of less-known-to-me composers that I'm going to check out.

The book contains some wonderful quotes about the artists or spoken by the artists themselves. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:
We cannot despair about mankind knowing that Mozart was a man. (Albert Einstein, page 110)
Keep your eye on him; one day he will make the world talk of him. (Mozart, on hearing the 17-year-old Beethoven, page 114)
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. (Oscar Wilde, page 132)
It is unnecessary for music to make people think...it would be enough if it made them listen. (Claude Debussy, page 234)
The table of contents is a bit sparse. It only lists the major sections. I quite enjoyed reading over the glossary, which explains some of the terms used in Classical music. The index is extensive and should be very helpful in locating items in the book. It lists the composers, their well-known works and lots more.

Highly recommended. It's a classical music lover's dream. It's beautiful enough to leave out on the coffee table rather than hidden away on a shelf. If you have a classical music fan in your circle of family and friends, this would make a terrific Christmas gift.

The book was previously published as Eyewitness Companions: Classical Music.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Complete Classical Music Guide by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756682568(Hardcover with hard protective cover), 352p.

Doodlepedia by DK Publishing

Doodlepedia is part encyclopedia, part colouring book and part doodling pad. This book doesn't just allow readers to draw or doodle in the book, it encourages it, all the while learning about a variety of subjects.

I really enjoyed this book. While I don't generally doodle in books, I like books that allow me to do so. I love how it connects activities with facts. It makes the learning fun and just might make the information easier to remember.

The book doesn't go into much depth with any one subject. Rather it's more like a list of facts on a bunch of different subjects. Even though it's a little short on information, there's plenty of things to colour and lots of room to draw. It could provide the reader with hours of reading, drawing, doodling and colouring fun.

The order of the pages appear to be random. That is there's no apparent order to the subjects. On one page you are learning about (and drawing your own) International Space Station (ISS). On the next, you are digging for diamonds. After that, you're learning about the poles, then shapes. I really liked this! The book doesn't have to be completed in a certain order, either. The reader is free to jump around to whatever they find interesting or feel like doing at the time.

I really like the style of the drawings in the book - cute and cartoon-like. They should be very appealing to the target audience, 6-12 year-olds. The text is large and easy to read, but some of the words might be a little challenging for the youngest readers. There were some words I didn't know! Most are explained (crenellations - gaps at the tops of castle walls), but a few of them are not (plinth, which I learned was a pedestal or platform.)

The book doesn't contain a table of context, an index or even page numbers. It really doesn't need them. However, if you are looking for specific subjects to learn about, that could be a drawback.

The one other drawback is that once the book has been coloured and doodled in, it's not going to be as much fun the next time or for the next reader. Although, once it's completed it might make a nice keepsake of the child's artwork for parents or grandparents if they are into that sort of thing.

Highly recommended.  It would definitely make a great Christmas present!  If you wrap it up with some art supplies or even just a pencil, it'll keep them quiet while you go back to bed. ;)

There are a few other Doodlepedia books available from DK. I haven't seen them, but if they are anything like this one, they'll be terrific.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Doodlepedia by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756690113(Paperback), 112p.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

In The Prisoner of Heaven, it's Christmas in Barcelona, 1957. Daniel Sempere's close friend, Fermin Romero de Torres is about to get married. Everyone is happy until a stranger visits Daniel's bookstore and leaves an ominous item behind that threatens to reveal a long kept dangerous secret. This leads Daniel and Fermin into the past, the 1940s, where the events that are revealed will change them and everything they know.

Since I haven't read the first two books, I don't have frame of reference or background information on the story or its characters. I read the book as a standalone volume and thoroughly enjoyed it. Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a very talented storyteller and has created the most wonderful characters. His writing is lyrical and very descriptive.  I like all of the characters in the book, but I especially liked Fermin.

The book takes the reader on a journey to dark and ominous time and place; the early days of Franco's dictatorship in Spain. The story was interesting and very compelling; I had a hard time putting the book down. I loved every minute of it.

The story definitely wasn't a pleasant one. Some of the details of prison life were harsh and terribly gruesome. It was almost hard to read at times. However, there are some lighter moments that brought a smile to my face.

This is the third book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The first two books are: The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. The beginning of this book says that the books can be enjoyed in any order. Since I've yet to read the first two books, I'm hoping that statement is right. From reading other reviews of this book, the stories of all three books are closely linked and interconnected. I'm sure that I'm going to want to reread this one after I've read the other two books.

New Words:
sumpter (page 29): pack animal
putative (page 30): generally believed to be
anaemically (page 44): weak
rapacious (page 85): greedy
emolument (page 178): ointment
quixotic (page 207): idealistic

I have the first book, The Shadow of the Wind on my to-be-read bookshelf, but I've yet to read it. I've heard such good things about it, so I'm hoping to change that soon.

Highly recommended.  I can't wait to read more of this author's work.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Zafón's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Harper (HarperCollins), ©2012. ISBN 9780062206282(Hardcover), 278p.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

In The Secret Keeper, 16-year-old Laurel witnesses her mother brutally stabbing a man to death in their yard. Laurel doesn't recognize the man and is baffled as to why her loving mother, Dorothy, would do this. Fast forward 50 years, Laurel is now a famous actress. Her Mother, in poor health with a failing memory, is about to celebrate her 90th birthday. Laurel knows that she has one last chance to find out the truth about that man and how he came to die right in front of her eyes. Skipping between past and present, Morton tells their story taking the reader through WWII England to the present day.

I absolutely adored this book. I've read two of Morton's other books; this one is her best yet! I'm in such awe of her storytelling abilities. How does she come up with these stories and characters? It's nothing short of amazing. The suspense, particularly in the chapter endings, had me reading past my bedtime more than once. There's an overall sadness to the book with some very disturbing events, but it's such a wonderfully written book, I would read it all again in a heartbeat.

The present day story followed Laurel as she tries to solve the mystery, while the parts in the past followed Dorothy (Dolly), Vivien and Jimmy as they lived through the Blitz and went on with their lives the best they could.   Usually, in books like this, I typically like the historical part better than the present day parts. However, in this case, I liked them both equally.

I generally find that long books like this (450+ pages) have a middle section that lags a bit and loses my interest. Not so with this book. Each and every page held my interest until the very last page.

Speaking of the end, this book contains one of the best endings I've ever read. Really! I couldn't believe what was happening. In fact, I had to read a few sections at the end more than once to make sure I'd read them right. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. It's going to take some doing to top it. While the ending didn't make me cry, I did hug the book for some time after I finished it. I really wasn't ready to let go of the story or these characters, not after that spectacular ending.

New words:
charabanc (page 75): coach for pleasure trips
eisteddfods (page 79): Welsh festival of music and poetry
moue (page 81): pout
plimsolls (page 87): shoes
fulsomely (page 126): excessively complimentary
pilchard (page 140): small ocean fish
obsequious (page 190): flattering
fossick (page 199): rummage or look for something
stultifying (page 265): very boring
anodyne (page 328): bland
muniments (page 331): documents that support claim
fervid (page 332): showing enthusiasm
theistic (page 361): belief in God
upbraided (page 387): scold
moribund (page 405): declining

I read two other books by Morton: The Forgotten Garden (my review), and The Distant Hours (my review). I loved them both and would highly recommend them both.  I also have The House at Riverton on my to-be-read bookshelf.

Highly recommended. It's not only the best book I read this year, it's earned a spot on my list of all-time favourite books. I can't wait for Morton's next book.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Kate Morton's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2012. ISBN 9781439152805(Advance Reading Copy), 463p.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Needlework Tuesday - On Wednesday - Stalled

Well, it turns out that after making 5 scarves, I was all scarf-ed out, so I didn't even pick up knitting needles this week. I still managed to plan and work on my next project, but didn't really get that far.

In The Knitting Book (my review), I saw a nifty technique where you recycle yarn from an old sweater, cut it into lengths, then knot it together with other yarns to form a "new" variegated knotty yarn. I didn't have an old sweater (or other knitted item) to use, but I did figured I could try the same thing with leftover yarn from various other projects. I might have been able to make a few mittens/hats/scarves, but it's been sitting for over 20 years (labelled Eatons* and Baycrest, UGH!)...it was time to do something with it.

So this week, I've been sitting in front of the TV cutting up yarn into foot long lengths. I was hoping to make a afghan, but I'm not sure I have enough yarn. So far, I have about 11 ounces or just over 300 grams. I could go into my stash, pull out a few full skeins of yarn that hasn't been designated for anything else yet and cut them up, but I'm not sure I want to do that. It, too, has been sitting, but I'm hesitant to cut up a whole skein. I could either make a smaller item (pillow?) or I could still make an afghan, but in alternating stripes of solid colour and new knotty variegated yarn. I'll have to give it some thought this week.

Whatever I decide to do, it's going to be a very simple pattern because any fancy cables and such will likely be unrecognizable with the knotty yarn. I'm thinking all seed stitch because it's my favourite, but I might opt for garter stitch or stocking stitch.    Also, the knots may irritate me so much that following a complicated pattern may make the project unbearable. I certainly don't need any more unfinished projects. ;)

Anyway, here's a photo of the cut up yarn I have so far:























Crappy shot, I know.  I should have made the whole photo more in focus.  Anyway, you can sort of tell that the colours (burgundy, pink, black, brown, cream, grey, blue, white/pink) don't exactly all go together.  But, that's what I have and that's what I'm going to use.   

*Eatons was a department store in Winnipeg that closed down many moons ago. I'm not sure about Baycrest, but the yarn I have is ancient.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

In Forgotten, Emma Tupper, a young lawyer, becomes stranded in Africa after a terrible earthquake. Instead of the planned one month trip, she spends six months in a remote village, unable to contact those back home. When she finally returns home, she discovers that everyone she knows thought she was dead. They've moved on with their lives. Her apartment has been rented to someone else; her boyfriend is seeing someone new; her office is occupied by someone else. Getting her old life back is going to be harder than she thought.

I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it. I know McKenzie writes chick-lit (not a genre I normally read), but the premise was so interesting, I wanted to give it a shot. As it turns out, it was a little too fluffy and a little too farfetched for me.

Several things in the story struck me as unbelievable. For instance, she returns home to find that her apartment has been rented to someone else. Instead of going to live in her mother's house which sits vacant, she chooses to live in the apartment with the stranger.   Besides that, doesn't someone need to check on the house after her six month absence? This isn't even mentioned. I really wanted to hear more about the grief she suffered over her mother's recent death as well as her struggles in Africa.

Having said that, there were parts of the book I liked. With McKenzie being a lawyer herself, she's definitely writing what she knows and it shows. Parts of the story dealing with the law practice appeared realistic, as least to me. I also really liked the parts where Emma and her colleagues were trying to figure out how the piece of art was stolen from the museum. Those parts read like a cozy mystery and peaked my interest. Unfortunately, they weren't a large part of the book.

I've also read McKenzie's Arranged (my review.)

Even though I had a few problems with the story, I'm sure McKenzie fans and fans of chick-lit will enjoy this one. It might make a good beach read.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Catherine McKenzie's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie, HarperCollins, ©2012. ISBN 9780062115416(Trade paperback), 420p.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Scarves Again

I can't tell you how happy I am to be knitting again. I need to find more projects (maybe a bigger one) to keep me busy through the winter.

This week I started and finished two ruffle scarves.

The first one is a variegated blue one from the Frill Seeker yarn I showed you last week. It's a little shorter than the others I made, but it's just perfect for tucking into a light jacket.

Here are a close up:
























The second one is made from Bernat Truffles yarn. I love this yarn. It's similar to Red Heart's Ribbon yarn and so much easier to work with than say Red Heart's Sashay or the Frill Seeker one because there's a really clear spot where your needle is supposed to go. No guessing as you do with the others. Anyway, I didn't need more yarn, but I was in Walmart the other day and saw this yarn. I love it's fuzzy edge. If I buy any more, I'm going to have to start hiding it from my husband.  ;)

I didn't follow the pattern on the paper band because it was going to be too thin and too long.  I made the following changes:  11 stitches instead of 6 and I knitted into every hole instead of every second one.    This is basically the same pattern for the Red Heart Ribbon scarf I did a couple of weeks ago. 

Here are a close up of this one:























Finally, here's a shot of the two of them together:
























This week, I'm probably going to make another scarf.   I know, no surprise there.  This time I think I'm going to try making another one that's knitted from end to end rather than across the width. I said I was going to wait until I found more of one specific yarn, but there's no reason that I can see why I can't try it with one of the others. It might work.

At some point, I want to start knitting something that isn't a scarf. I don't know if it's going to be this week, though. I'll have to give it some thought.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith

In The Charming Quirks of Others, Isabel Dalhousie, moral philosopher and editor/owner of the quarterly journal, Review of applied Ethics, is asked to investigate, with discretion of course, three candidates for the job of headmaster at a boys' school. The school received a letter hinting that one of the candidates shouldn't be hired. However, it failed to state which one. As Isabel looks into their lives and backgrounds, she finds out some amazing things about the three candidates, herself, and others around her.

This is the seventh book in the Isabel Dalhousie series, but the first one I've read. I enjoyed it immensely. Alexander or should I say Sandy, the name he goes by, creates the most wonderful stories filled with terrific characters. This one is no exception. It's less about the story, though, and more about the characters.

Even though this book is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone book. I didn't feel like I was missing any crucial background information to explain anything in this book. Having said that, I really want to go back and read the other now because this one was so good.

By the way, the 9th book in the series is already out in hardcover. According to his website, there's also an eBook original story featuring Isabel.

Speaking of Isabel, I just loved her. She can go off on a tangent like no other person or character I know, then somehow make her way back to the subject at hand. It's quite extraordinary. Since this was the first book I read, I had a little trouble figuring out her age, until her husband, Jamie and small son, Charlie came onto the scene. I especially loved her ponderings on moral philosophy, It's funny, I dropped out of 1st year philosophy in university because it was a snooze-fest. Yet, it was the philosophical bits in this book that I found the most intriguing.

New words:
solecisms (page 15): A grammatical mistake in speech or writing
platitudinous (page 56): dull or tiresome
mendacious (page 110): lying
prurient (page 127): Having an excessive interest in sexual matters
approbation (page 196): approval
syllogistically (page 211): an argument or form of reasoning in which two statements or premises are made and a logical conclusion is drawn
clype (page 235): tattle-tale

I've read a few of his other books and enjoyed each one. He's written so many books, though, that I'm afraid at this point, I'm never going to catch up. Honestly, he can write faster than I can read. I haven't written reviews for all of the books I've read, but here are two that I loved: Corduroy Mansions and La's Orchestra Saves the World. I'd highly recommend them both.

Highly recommended. If you've read and enjoyed any of his other books, I'm sure you'll like this one, too. I have lots of his other books on my bookshelf that I intend to read...one day.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Alexander McCall Smith's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith, Vintage Canada (Random House Canada), ©2011. ISBN 9780307399571(Trade paperback), 256p.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Unseen by Katherine Webb

In The Unseen, two letters found on a long-dead soldier's body, lead Leah on a quest to solve the mystery surrounding Hester Canning, a reverend's wife, who lived in a Berkshire village in the year 1911. Hester is quite naive and can't figure out why her husband isn't more interested in her. That's about to get a whole lot worse as their lives are turned upside down when Cat, their new maid, and Robin, a visiting theosophist, arrive on the scene. In the present day, Leah searches for clues using the letters as a starting point. What she finds is a fantastic story with plenty of secrets, deception, murder and fairies.

I loved this book. Webb is a wonderful storyteller. I loved the way she used the present day and the past to tell this story. A perfect fit for this type of story. She loaded the present day parts with little clues as to what's going to happen next for the reverend and his wife. This foreshadowing made it really suspenseful and hard to put down. There were lots of interesting side stories that weren't exactly part of the main plot, but I enjoyed reading them nevertheless.

The characters were wonderful. I especially liked Hester and really felt sorry for her. She was so naive when it came to her husband, Bertie, and their marriage/relationship, but how was she supposed to know. I suspect that in that time period certain subjects were not discussed. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that. I also liked the free-spirited Cat with the troubled past.

I've seen letters used like this a lot in other fictional works. In some cases, the letters are too heavily relied upon and it doesn't work. Thankfully, Webb uses them brilliantly. These two letters are extremely intriguing as they only give the characters in the present little bits and pieces to work with. They have to really work to find out the rest of the information.

There's so much happening in the past that at one point I completely forgot about the present day characters and how they started on this investigation (i.e. the soldier's letters). That's not to say that I didn't enjoy reading the parts with Leah and Mark, it's just that I enjoyed the historical parts more.

New words:
plonk (page 343): term for wine that is inexpensive and/or poor quality (UK)
somnambulist (page 384): sleep walker
theosophist (various pages): a believer in theosophy, which is a religious system based on intuitive sight

This edition of the book contains some extra information such as The Story Behind The Unseen, a Reading Group Guide and more. All of it was worth the read, but I was particularly intrigued by the fact that the story was first inspired by the Cottingley Fairies.

I read Webb's other book, The Legacy (my review) earlier this year and loved it. I can't wait for her next one.

Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website. I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Unseen by Katherine Webb, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2011. ISBN 9780062077882(Trade paperback), 447p.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Mirage by Matt Ruff

In The Mirage, it's November 9, 2001 (that's 11/9) and 4 high-jacked jetliners are heading to their targets: the World Trade Towers in Badhdad; the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh; and Mecca. Three of the four planes hit their targets and the UAS (United Arab States) declares a war on terror by invading the east coast of North America. Several years later, a suicide bomber is captured by Homeland Security. He claims that the Arabs are living in a mirage and that the USA is the real super power. In his apartment they find some supporting evidence -- a newspaper -- the New York Times dated September 12, 2001 (the day after 9/11) describing the 4 high-jacked jetliners attacking America. Mustafa from Homeland Security sets out to discover the truth.

There's one line from the HarperCollins description online (Harpercollins.com), which describes the book perfectly: The author has created "...a shadow world that is eerily recognizable but, at the same time, almost unimaginable."

I really enjoyed this one, but it took me a long time to get through it. I'm a slow reader to start with and the Arab names and the subject matter slowed me down even further. Also, I tried to read it during the Olympics, a time period in which I watched a lot of TV, but got very little reading done. Because there were long stretches where I didn't pick up the book at all, it was a little hard to get into at times. I think I did okay, though.

I read this book on Mark's (from HarperCollins) recommendation. I've enjoyed a few others he suggested, so I trusted him on this one. He was right. It was extremely interesting and entertaining to read this book in which the author created a topsy-turvy world in which United Arab States (UAS) is the super power, not the USA.

Reading the book was a little disorienting, though. It's like walking into a room and finding everything upside down. It looks familiar, but something's not quite right. It was hard to get my head around the whole thing. Even though reading about violence (or anything for that matter) in the Middle East or Iraq/Afghanistan usually makes my eyes glaze over, some familiar references in the book kept me on my toes and continually peaked my interest.

In-between chapters, Ruff inserted snippets from "The Library of Alexandria" - A User-Edited Reference Source to explain various terms to the reader. There were much like our Wikipedia entries. Remember this is a world turned upside down, so people like Saddam, bin Laden, Lyndon B. Johnson and Rumsfeld have very different roles that need explaining. So do things like Al Qaeda, the CIA, the green zone, Baghdad, Israel and much more. I loved reading these entries.

I liked the first half of the book (Books One and Two) better than the last half. I'm not sure why, but when it got to explaining what was happening in the US and the key players, I didn't find it as interesting. It could also have been that the newness and novelty were wearing off.

I would have loved to have seen a map of the United Arab States (UAS). I love maps and have a vague idea about the location of most of the Arab countries involved, but a map would have been awesome for reference. I would have also liked a map of North America, too, just to see how the author imagined it might be.

New Words:
abaya (page 49): Arab outer garment
apocrypha (page 54): early Christian writings not included in the Bible
dishdasha (page 96): long robe worn by Arab men
djellaba (page 104): long robe worn in Islamic countries
sigheh (page 145): a Shiite tradition of temporary marriage with a predetermined time frame
niqab (page 213): A veil worn by some Muslim women in public, covering all of the face apart from the eyes.
narthex (page 275): screened off area or entrance hall in a church.

Highly recommended. You'll probably never read another book like this one.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy. Thanks Mark for the recommendation.

The Mirage by Matt Ruff, Harper (HarperCollins), ©2012. ISBN 9780061976223(Uncorrected Proof), 414p.

Needlework Tuesday - On Wednesday - October 31

Last week I was telling you about the ruffle scarf I was making. It was a little different than others that I had seen in that it's worked from end to end (lengthwise) rather than side to side (widthwise). Anyway, I finished it. The pattern said to "cast off loosely" and I did so, but I think it wasn't loose enough. The scarf has a bit of a curve down one side because of it. It also makes the scarf twist rather than lie flat. Oh, well, that's the way it's going to be. The yarn isn't forgiving enough that I could rip out the cast off and do it again.

Knitting was a bit tricky, especially after I had done several rows. It got quite bulky and because the yarn was slippery, it threatened to slide off the needles several times. Luckily, I caught it before it did.

I really like the ruffles on this one...vertical and understated.  I have one more ball like this, but I think I'm going to use make a regular (knit widthwise) scarf with it. If I find more of this yarn, though, (on sale of course) I'd love to make another one like this. It wasn't the easiest one to make, but I really like the look of it. I'd sort of like to try that "cast off loosely" thing again. Maybe in a different colour. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled.

Here are two photos of the scarf:






















The next ruffle scarf I'm going to make is out of yarn pictured below from Frill Seeker. I've been procrastinating because I wasn't sure if I wanted to make one or two scarves out of this 200g ball. Since my other scarves are made out of 100g balls, I decided that this one should make 2. I'll probably start this one soon.
























Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rest in Pizza by Chris Cavender

In Rest in Pizza, Eleanor runs The Slice of Delight, a pizzeria, with her sister Maddy. Not far away, there's a book store opening and TV host and famous chef, Antonio Benet has agreed to do a book signing and cooking demonstration for the grand opening. The owner has enlisted help from both Eleanor and Maddy. Things don't work out as planned, though, and Chef Antonio is found at the pizzeria with a knife in his back. Suspects abound as everyone from his assistants to Eleanor and her sister come under suspicion.

I enjoyed this book. I love both pizza and books so the settings were ideal for me. The story charming, light, humorous and easy to read. It's as much about their personal lives as it is about the murder and solving it. I liked reading about the inner workings of a the restaurant and kitchen as the two prepared the pizzas and served the patrons.

I liked both Eleanor and Maddy. Both were hard working and quick on their feet. Running a restaurant is hard work, so I was surprised they had so much time to investigate the murder and do all of the other things mentioned. I'd be really tired after doing all they accomplished.

Rest in Pizza is the 4th book in the Pizza Mystery series, but the first one I've read. In this case, I wish I had read the others because I felt like I was missing a lot of stuff because I hadn't read them. For example, the character of Art Young, a friend of Eleanor's. He drifts in and out of the story without having much, if anything, to do with the plot. I think there were a few other instances where some background information would have helped me. While it's nice for regular readers of this series to have some continuing characters and storylines, it's not that welcoming for new comers. I felt left out.

A couple of things about the story itself left me confused. First of all, I read that the pizzeria "closed for lunch". Huh? I thought they meant that they closed at lunch time. That wouldn't be too advantageous for a restaurant owner now, would it? However, as I read further, quite a bit further actually, I realized that they closed in the late afternoon so that the employees could have lunch before reopening for the evening. I wish that would have been clearer from the beginning. Another thing that left me scratching my head was the logistics involved in the book signing and cooking demonstration. I couldn't figure out who was supposed to be where and at what time. Maybe I just read it too fast, but it seemed confusing to me. I'm glad the characters had it all figured out.

The book left some loose ends (not dealing with the murder) dangling at the end of the book. That's not unusual with books in a series. Perhaps these will be wrapped up or dealt with in the next book.

The author included two recipes for dessert pizza. Both look yummy, but use store-bought cookie dough for the crust. I wish he'd included a recipe for a homemade crust for at least one of them. I also wish that he included a recipe for a savoury pizza.

Recommended for fans of this series. Cozy lovers might also enjoy it, but I'd recommend reading the others in the series first.

Chris Cavender is the pseudonym for an Agatha Award Nominated Author, Tim Myers.

For more information about this book or to read the first chapter, please visit the Kensington Books website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Rest in Pizza by Chris Cavender, Kensington Books, ©2012. ISBN 9780758271501(Uncorrected Proof), 248p. Includes recipes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Needlework Tuesday - More Scarves

I accomplished two things this week with regards to needlework/crafting.

First, I caught up on my sky scarf. When we were busy with yard work in the late spring and all summer long, I really let this thing slide. At one time I think I was about 5 weeks behind. I was still writing down the sky conditions each day, but I wasn't actually knitting. I was just too tired at the end of the day to spend 4 minutes knitting up the row for that day. If I ever wanted to finish this scarf and not have it end up as an unfinished project, I knew that was going to have to change. So, the last few weeks I've been slowly catching up. I'm still not knitting every day, but when I do, I knit for longer periods and do several days in one sitting.

I purchased some additional yarn last week for this project. Two balls: one bright sky blue, the other white. I was afraid I was going to run out of both of these before the project ended. I figured better safe than sorry.  

Here's the latest photo:























Second, I also started another ruffled scarf. While I was waiting for the yarn to be wound into a ball at the yarn store, I spotted some yarn on clearance. My weakness! This one is Frill Seeker Precious Metal Light. It isn't as wide as the other yarns I used last week, so I'm finding it really hard to work with. The pattern I found on their website is different from others I've seen, so I figured I'd give it a try. The scarf is worked from end to end, across the length rather than across the width (if that makes any sense). I cast on 100 stitches and will knit 10 rows before casting off.

Here's the latest photo of that:















It's kind of hard to see because I've only complete one row so far. I'm not loving this yarn at all. Hopefully, that will change as I use it more.

That's it for my knitting week.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

In Summerland, after the traditional graduation beach bonfire on the island of Nantucket, a tragic car accident leaves Penny, the driver of the car, dead and her twin brother, Hobby, in a coma. Two other passengers are physically unhurt, but are troubled by the memories of that night. The twins' mother, who raised the two alone, is devastated. How can she go on when her world has changed so drastically? As time goes by, secrets are revealed about all of the teens and those around them as they learn the truth about what happened that night on the beach and in the subsequent crash.

I loved this book. I've never been to Nantucket or the surrounding area, but I love reading about it. The book is so wonderfully written, I felt like I was transported to the east of the US. It's one of the first book I've read that featured so many teenagers, but wasn't filled with teenage angst or whining. Even though many of the main characters are teenagers, it's not a young adult book and doesn't read like one.

The story is told from many points of view. Rather than being a "he said, she said" thing, it was more like the characters took turns, one by one, in telling parts of the story. The reader got little bits and pieces of who they are and what happened before and after the accident. Even the island itself has a part, speaking for the collective of islanders. The story also jumps around a lot in time. From years before the accident to weeks after the accident and everything in between. With all of the characters and time jumping, it got a little disorienting at times. I found that I really had to pay attention to figure out what was going on. Had I not, I could have easily gotten lost. I could see how others might find this really confusing.

The story was suspenseful, but not terribly fast-paced. Now that I think about it, not much happened. Besides the accident, most of the story focused on what Penny found on out the beach that night and what pushed her to the point of no return. Nevertheless, the story was wonderfully entertaining, albeit a bit sad.

I found it interesting that the author didn't give Penny part of the narrative. Well, at least, I don't remember one. That would have truly cleared up any assumptions about her frame of mind and explain what happened that night. That's what would happen in real life, right? After an accident like this, the families are left with lots of questions and no clear, solid answers. Very clever on Hilderbrand's part.

New words:
quoins (page 182): outer corner of a wall
effete (page 183): weak
ameliorate (page 222): improve (I'm know I've seen this word before, but I keep forgetting what it means.)
perspicacious (page 268): insightful

I've read two other books by Elin, Castaways and more recently Silver Girl. I'd definitely recommend them both.

Highly recommended. I'm pretty sure I have one or two books from her backlist on the to be read shelf. I'm looking forward to reading these and others by this author. I'm happy to say that Hilderbrand is becoming one of my favourite authors.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Hachette's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ©2012. ISBN 9780316099837(Hardcover), 388p.

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark

In Guilt by Degrees, deputy D.A. Rachel Knight discovers that the murder of a homeless man is connected to the murder of a LAPD cop from a few years back. The suspect, a beautiful woman, in the first murder was acquitted. It's up to Knight and Detective Bailey Keller to decipher the connections and track down the killer while staying out of his or her way.

I liked this book and found it entertaining. It's Clark's second book featuring Rachel Knight, but the first one that I've read. It was reasonably well-written and contained a good fast-paced story. It kept be interested until the very end. The short chapters added to the suspense and allowed me to read just a few pages in between other activities. (I don't like breaking in the middle of a chapter.) I really liked the shifting points of view and the shifts from first person to third person. A perfect fit for this type of book.

I liked both Rachel and Bailey. Both were strong women who didn't cower at the thought of chasing down a psychopath. I also really liked the side story about her sister Romy. It's too bad there wasn't more of it in this book. Maybe I'll find out more about it when I read the first book or maybe I'll have to wait until subsequent books some out.

While I enjoyed this book, I didn't love it. The story just didn't stick with me. I remembered what was happening while I read the book, but as I write this review I'm having to depend on the notes I took. I could probably reread it at some point and be surprised some of the things that happened. Also, I had a little trouble with some of the slangy verbs Clark used: beefed, jacked up, popped off, nailed. The problem is that many of these have or could have multiple meanings. Sure, I can probably decipher their meanings from the sentence in which it was used, but after awhile it got a little annoying. I didn't like some of the abbreviations either for the same reason: eyewit, uni.

As a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney and lead prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson murder case, Clark no doubt saw her fair share of murder cases. I don't really know the roll of the DA (or deputy DA in this case), especially the ins and outs of what they do outside of the courtroom. The book left me wondering how much of this book represents the job of a real-life deputy DA.

Favourite quotes:
Seething done in private can keep anger burning, but like a pot of boiling water, once you take the lid off, the heat dissipates and the boil turns to a simmer. (page 306)
New word:
immolate (page 303): kill as a sacrifice

Recommended. Even though I didn't love this book, I picked up Clark's first book featuring Rachel Knight, Guilt by Association recently and hope to read it soon. If that goes well, I'll be looking for more books by this author.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Hachette's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Marcia Clark's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group in Canada for this review copy.

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark, Mulholland Books (Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)), ©2012. ISBN 9780316129534(Hardcover), 438p.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Look at Me! I'm knitting.

It feels like ages since I picked up some knitting needles and knit something. Oh sure, I'm still doing my sky scarf, but at 4 minutes a day (two rows) it hardly feels like it. Progress is soooooooooooooo slow. I'm a bit behind, too, so I'm really not knitting every day.

Anyway, since those ruffled scarves are the "in thing" to knit these days, I figured I'd give it a try. I love scarves, but don't wear them too often. I'm hoping to change that. I bought yarn from a few different manufacturers to try a few different styles. I may keep them for myself (most likely) or I may give one or two away (depending on how they turn out). So far I've made two. They knit up fairly quickly.

The first one is made from Red Heart Ribbons and was fun to make. The yarn is a bit slippery, but other than that it's structured and quite stable, so it's easy to knit with. I love this scarf! I hope to make a couple more like this. The photo below shows a close-up of the scarf doubled up.
























The second one is from Red Heart Boutique Sashay. This yarn is more challenging to work with. It's a bit flimsy as well as being slippery. The stitches came off the needles more than once. I had a hard time starting this one and resorted to YouTube for some visual instructions. After about 6 tries and rip-outs, I finally got it and was able to get more than a few rows done. Since I have more of this yarn, I will be making another scarf, but I'm going to try a shorter/wider one next. The photo below shows a close-up of the the scarf doubled up.
 























Finally, a shot of the two of them together. Ribbons on the right, Sashay on the left.  























That's it!  It feels good to be making stuff again.  I've missed it.  I recently moved my craft room from a second floor bedroom to the basement, where there's a lot more room.  I thought it was going to be a good idea, but now I'm having second thoughts.   Maybe it's because everything is still packed in boxes and the thought of organizing it is daunting.  That's going to be a winter project. 

Wish me luck!

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Antiques Disposal by Barbara Allan

In Antiques Disposal, Brandy and her mother Vivian, discover a vintage cornet in a storage unit they bought. When they return to pick up the rest of the contents, it's empty except for a body. Later an intruder breaks into their house to retrieve the cornet. There must be something about the horn that worth killing over, but what could it be? It's up to these two to figure it out the reason and get to the bottom of things.

This is such a fun book to read. It was hilarious and had me laughing-out-loud many times. It's the 6th one in the Trash 'n' Treasures mystery series, but the first one I've read. I love the casual style in which it's written. It was almost like they were talking directly to me. I also loved the many acknowledgements to the reader and the references to the book itself as well as their other books and cases. Very cool!

I appreciated the hand drawn map at the beginning of the book. I love maps, even ones that are tongue-in-cheek and not very useful for navigation, like this one.

The book also contains some cute, yet informative, tips for attending storage unit auctions. Although I will probably never attend a storage unit auction, I do watch some of those shows on TV dealing with them. I appreciated the tips and had fun reading them.

I have Antiques Roadkill, the first in the series, on my to-be-read shelf. Now that I know what this series is like I can't wait to read it as well as others in the series.

Barbara Allan is a pseudonym for Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins.

Highly recommended for cozy mystery fans and fans of those storage unit auction shows on TV.

For more information about this book or to read Chapter 1, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the authors and their other books, please visit Max Allan Collins website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Antiques Disposal by Barbara Allan, Kensington Books, ©2012. ISBN 9780758263605(Hardcover), 230p.