Tuesday, December 15, 2015

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR 2015: #AMonthofFaves : Favourite Holiday Decorations

I'm combining two blogging events today: #AMonthofFaves, and The Virtual Advent Blogging Tour hosted and revived by spritewrites. However you got here, welcome!

Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

Even though Christmas is about spending time with family, the decorations that we bring out each year hold their own memories of people and places. I'm not a big decorator, but I make that little bit of effort at Christmas. We won't put the (real) tree up til this weekend, but until then, here are a few of my favourite Christmas things.

New house in 2015, fireplace and mantel to decorate. I love these reindeer and being able to have them as the center of the mantel. The little penguin on the left is our newest addition.

Fresh poinsettia, surrounded by those annual stuffed toys from Sears from when the kids were little.

The poinsettia was from a fundraiser, supporting our nephew's hockey team. Christmas is a time of helping out.

thanks Pinterest for the decorating ideas!

I also love having a staircase for decorating. The garland looks particularly nice with the white mini-lights at night, and Santa hats are stored in the basket.

The three little kittens who lost their mittens, hand made (from a kit) by my sister and I when we were kids, almost forty years ago. Momma cat stands a little further along in the bookcase, safe from people.

A Christmas tea pot that was my grandmothers. She loved china and pretty things.

Pictures of my three children from that adorable age (6-8 months) when they can sit up on their own, but not get anywhere. Each has a little Ty Christmas teddy that I always put with their pictures.

I wish I had more of these little wooden Christmas birds.  So cute!

Box of Christmas books for seasonal reading - one of the best is the Christmas I Spy book, and the homemade quilted book by Nana with the little Santa which moves on each page.

I love Christmas Lenox ornaments. Maybe someday they will have shipping to Canada.

Beautiful cross-stitch Christmas scene, made my a former girl-friend of an uncle of mine. Also, self-portrait.

Merry Christmas !

Monday, December 14, 2015

#AMonthofFaves: Reading Outside My Comfort Zone – Surprise Find(s) This Year

A Month of FavesTop 10 Tuesday

Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

Today on #AMonthofFaves, we are talking about reading outside our comfort zone or surprise finds this year. 

Surprise! I don't like reading outside my comfort zone and instead, settled into a whole bunch of police mysteries or cozy mysteries. This becomes my Top Ten Tuesday (a day early) about the top mysteries I read this year. (I'm not quite ready to list my top reads of the year.)  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. 

Oh wait. I could say my surprise read was discovering Miss Marple, who I never liked, and I refused to read back when I first discovered Agatha Christie. I was all about Poirot and the little grey cells. By waiting, I had the whole series of Miss Marple to delight in this year.

Best Police  Mysteries of 2015

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
The first Miss Marple, and the one I think liked the best, although they were all very good. I listened on audio to nearly all the books. But maybe Caribbean Mystery or Nemesis was better? 

Cobra by Deon Meyer
A new Bennie Greisel mystery, the Johannesburg SA police officer struggling to get through one day at a time.

Gone by Mo Hayder
Skin by Mo Hayder
These two books along with Ritual form a mini trilogy within the Jack Caffrey series, forcussing on Flea Marley, a police diver.

Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri
I visit Sicily each year with the latest Inspector Montalbano mystery. Always fun, always makes me hungry and want to visit Italy.

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe
Great Canadian mystery with the wonderful police chief, Hazel Micallef, who fits the classic model of a police officer whose own life is so messed up, but who solve crimes.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Annual visits to Three Pines and newly retired Chief Inspector Gamauche never disappoint

Murder at the Savoy by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Book 6 in the classic, crime series starring Martin Beck, but also providing social commentary in Sweden in the late 1960s.

Fractured by Karin Slaughter
New author! New series! Will Trent in Atlanta, former foster child works for the Georgia version of the FBI. This second book was even better than the first.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

CHALLENGE: Read a Second Book by that Awesome Author

Once and Again logo.jpg

I've made my own personal challenge. I've read one book by the author, and loved it. I've been meaning to go back and read another of their books.

I left the list short and manageable, but these are authors I've been meaning to read for quite a while. Sometimes, the book I haven't read is the one that made me notice the author in the first place, but I ended up reading a different book first. Which I loved! So read the second book already!

Feel free to make your own little list. Keep it short. Anyone else remember that TV show, Once and Again? It was made the same people that made thirtysomething. I watched it during the three years it was on.

1. Emily St John Mandel
Read Station Eleven. Always meant to read Last Night in Montreal

2.Tom Perrotta
Read Little Children. Always meant to read The Abstinence Teacher or The Leftovers
- The Leftovers was very good and I'd read another by Perrotta for sure

3. E Lockhart
Read We Were Liars. Always meant to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
- loved Frankie! great book, boarding school stuff, feminist awakening, girl not putting up with stuff

4. Claire Messud
Read The Woman Upstairs. Always meant to read The Emperor's Children
- I took this out from the library, and read about 15 pages, but I just wasn't getting into it. It seemed long and I wasn't enticed that early in the book. I had seem some poor reviews as well on LT, so returned the book. I may try it another time, or maybe try a different book by Messud

5. Jane Harris
Read Gillepsie and I. Always meant to read The Observations
- Lots of similarities between Gillespie and I and The Observations - possible unreliable narrator, 1800s, Scotland. Good read, suspenseful, with twists

6. Allegra Goodman
Read Intuition. Always meant to read The Cookbook Collector
- another well written novel, with interesting and real characters. Nice use of 9/11 to tie up the book. I'm not sure how to classify Goodman. character driven stories with some moral dilemmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

#AMonthofFaves: 5 New Authors

A Month of Faves

Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

Today on #AMonthofFaves, it is 5 New Authors (to me) from 2015. Most of my reading has been tried and true favourite authors, but a few new writers hit my radar. Some were very good and I'd like to read more, like the authors below:

Laura Lippman
Book club choice of Hush, Hush was very good! This book landed me right in the middle of an established mystery series, but I would certainly read more of Tess Monaghan. Loved the Baltimore setting.

Karin Slaughter
Another mystery series, this one set in Atlanta. I actually read two books this year (Triptych and Fractured) by Slaughter, and there are more Will Trent books just waiting for me. *rubs hands with glee*

Sandra Gulland
Another book club choice, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. I didn't know I enjoyed Napolean/French history, but this book about Josephine (before she became Josephine) was very good, and the first in a trilogy.

Melissa Bank
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing was a delightful surprise! Written kind of like Olive Kitteridge, connected short story chapters about one person. I'll be talking about this book more before the end of the year.

Jenny Offill
The delightful Dept. of Speculation was so engaging and such a quick listen, that I should probably listen again. It was that quick and delightful, that I just might! It reminded me of The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan in that the story is not linear, but the pieces make up the story.

Familiar with any of these? What's a new author find for you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

#AMonthofFaves: 5 Must Haves for Winter Survival

A Month of Faves

Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

I'm in Canada. I feel I must let you know that piece of information before I tell you my Must Haves for Winter Survival. We had 549 cm of snow last winter on Prince Edward Island. (Go check your conversions, that means 18 ft. I'm not lying.) So thinking of survival can literally mean survival - enough food and water if your street doesn't get plowed for 4 days. Four Days! And the only reason it got plowed that day was for a medical emergency (not overly serious, but ambulance was needed) down the street. We were lucky - we had food, were prepared, never lost power, and can live peacefully together. But the following can make winter somewhat bearable:

Storm chips became a thing on social media last year, but they have always been around. When a storm is forecast, Islanders head to the stores (grocery and liquor) to stock up for a few days, in case. Milk, beer, butter, bread, the essentials. But people also get a treat or too (maybe that is the beer?) like chips. Personally, to make it a real treat means to buy some Kraft Onion Dip, but that brings to mind babysitters from when I was a kid. Sorry, I digressed 
Some nights before storms, the chip aisle is pretty depleted. I think everyone always bought them, but it became a tweet, sort of letting people know we were ready. For another storm. And last year, there was always another storm.
Favourite brand - Lays Ripple Wave (if dip is planned), or sour cream and onion

In trying to cut down on pop (diet has the aspertame, regular has the sugar: you can't win) I started drinking tea in the evening. Caffeine free herbal teas, or roobois, or green tea. Nice warm cuppa.
David's Tea is a Canadian company that keeps me in fancy teas.

I always have cold hands, so I always have mittens. I keep a pair of mittens or gloves in the pockets of every coat and jacket I own. I am never without mittens.

We bought my parent's home when they downsized to an apartment last year, so inherited a garage. Garages are the best! No clearing off the car in the morning, no scraping the window. Between the garage and the heated seats in our latest vehicle, I am a much happier winter camper.

Roots Tuff boots
Gotta wear the Roots Boots, with all the time I spend in a rink. (Two girls, each on two ringette teams. Plus, I mentioned the snow, right?) I got my boots seven years ago. They are warm, comfortable, and fashionable.

Funny story. My son was in grade seven and not interested in boots. I knew from teaching at high school that these boots were the kind teenagers might wear, if they wore boots. Since his feet were exactly the same size as mine at that point, I offered to buy him these boots. He wore them (lots of other kids have these boots, he mentioned one day) and then his feet grew. Lucky me! The next year his feet were his father's size, so we got son another pair. His father and I are stocked in boots for a long time. The only problem now is daughter has same size feet as me, so sometimes we both want to wear them!

What are your winter survival items? (It was understood that books are required, right?)

Monday, December 7, 2015

#AMonthofFavs: Most Unique or Memorable Read

A Month of Faves

Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

Today, the topic is Most Unique or Memorable Read, for good or bad reasons. Luckily, mine was for good reasons.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

A Corner of White - Jaclyn Moriarty
Other authors: Fiona Hardingham (Reader), Andrew Eiden (Reader), Kate Reinders (Reader), Peter McGowan (Reader)

I've read Jaclyn Moriarty before, wonderful young adult fare set in Australia. Some have different titles in different countries which can make it hard to keep track, but The Year of Secret Assignments and Feeling Sorry for Celia, loosely connected books, were very cute. I tried another book, The Spell Book of Listen Taylor, which didn't work for me and I didn't finish. Witches were too weird. Then, this summer, I got A Corner of White from YA Sync, paired with Dracula by Bram Stoker. Short story long, I didn't know which book to expect.

Two parallel stories. Cambridge, England. Maybe Australia (Cello felt like Australia). Parallel worlds. Lots of science. World-building. Family problems. Colours that attack. Yeah, it got weird there.

While it took a while for me to get into this one, I persevered because the individual stories were interesting. There are two worlds, which have to be developed and set up with characters and back stories which was took a while. One in Cambridge and the other the kingdom of Cello. Once the two worlds connected however, I was hooked. Madeline found a note in a parking meter that was from Elliot in Cello. There is a crack in the space-time continuum connecting Madeline and Elliot. It takes a while for Madeline to understand that there is a real, other land, if she ever does. (Elliot already knows about our world - it's part of the history in Cello.) The pen-pals share their problems of being teenagers in difficult families.

And really, that's the strength. The characters of Madeline and Elliot, although young adult, where very real, and facing tough decisions. Their developing friendship and trust was delightful. Madeline and her mother have run away from her father, so are now living in much reduced circumstances. Elliot's father disappeared in a purple attack, but his uncle also died and the beautiful young teacher also went missing, making the death suspicious. Madeline is making new friends and having difficulty with her new life. Elliot is trying to clear his father's name. The letters between the teens were so good.

Cello was a different world, with colours. Now, me just telling you about them is weird, but the development that happened in the book made them make sense. Good world-building, right? The different 'colours' have different effects, and purples are terrorizing the land. (reminded me somewhat of dementors) There is also a Butterfly Child that comes each year and can be caught, bringing good luck, it taken care of properly. 

The middle part, once I got hooked, so a bit slower, but then wow! The last couple of chapters really took off, connecting some seemingly unrelated events, leaving the reader hunting for the second book. Only down side is that this book is the first in trilogy. The second book is released, Cracks in the Kingdom, and I hope to read it from my library next year. (Actually, I'm secretly hoping the second one will be on next year's YA Sync list, but I doubt it.)

I loved the references to Newton and science a lot.  No surprise that I loved the science references (Newton studied optics and colour, besides his gravity insights, his Laws of Motion, and inventing Calculus - I'm ignoring you, Leibniz fans) 

So many great elements tied together for the reader who is willing to trust that the author knows where she is taking you. I'm glad I was patient enough to be bought under the spell.

Also reviewed at The Book Smugglers (with deeper analysis, and more gushing)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

#AMonthofFaves: Favourite Things of 2015


What's up today for #AMonthofFaves? Today we are talking about our Favourite Things from 2015.  Favourite things to eat, drink, wear, smell, see, do, enjoy, best thing I bought, most used gift received etc, favorite concert, outdoor activity, place visited, most squee worthy moment of the year, biggest change. I don't imagine I'll do every prompt from the month, but when it catches my eye,....

Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

Activity: I guess 2015 was the year of graduations around here - June involved a grade 12, grade 9, and grade 6 graduation as everyone moved on to a new school for the fall. Proms, semis, and ceremonies over a two week period kept us all hopping.

 Food: My fifteen year old daughter discovered that she liked fish and chips from restaurants. We spend much of the summer eating out and sharing a fish and chips. Keep in mind, we live on the east coast of Canada, so we get lots of fish and chips options. It was delicious and fun!


Event: I started looking forward to the 2015 Art in the Open as soon as last year's ended. In 2014, I happened upon this outdoor festival one evening in downtown Charlottetown. Wandering around downtown and discovering art installations of all kinds, plus the Crow Parade, was so cool. [Crow Parade - people dress in their best crow costumes, lots of kids, and walk together, cawing and cawing, from city center to Victoria Park, returning at dusk just like all the crows in Charlottetown return to sleep at the park. Awesome!] I vowed to be more aware this year, and was able to partake in so much more of it. It only runs from 4-midnight so you have to be organized to see all you want to see. I really think the Crow Parade is the highlight for me, but tramping through the woods at Victoria Park at night and finding a blanket tent, or a whole bunch of keyboards playing low, creepy tones, or the car loaded on the crane over the dinner for two, was so much fun.

Wear: I got a new sweater jacket from LL Bean to get me through the fall sport season. Two field hockey players makes for plenty of cool late afternoons. I liked that it was knit, long and had a hood. As the fall has been mild, it is even doing well for those ringette games at the rink, as long as I have mitts, hat and warm boots.

 See: I started watching The Great British Bake-Off on PBS during the winter and then proceeded to watch all the seasons on youtube That lead to me learning to make pastry and try some tarts and pies. No soggy bottoms!

 Visit: A big change around my house was that oldest son went off to university in Cape Breton. On the map, PEI and CB are pretty close, but going from one island to another is actually about a 7 hour drive. We've made two trips to Cape Breton - one to drop him off in the summer, and one in October to watch his basketball team in their Tip Off Tournament. I hadn't been to Cape Breton in years. We didn't get much sight-seeing done, but the fall drive was beautiful. We have 4 more years of visits to Cape Breton - hopefully I'll meet up with Chrisbookarama on one of my trips.

Favourite time: Summer is my most favourite time. As a teacher, I am not working. I slow right down, spend time at the cottage I share with my sister (watching tennis to start and end the summer), going the to pool with my youngest - she swims, I read; just enjoying the sun. Family get togethers (43rd Annual McNally Golf Tournament), soccer games in the early evening, beach days on PEI, living in sandals, shorts, and tanks, Happy hour every night, great bbq food, fresh strawberries and raspberries.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#AMonthofFaves - 5 Books Worth the Hype


I discovered this cool end of year wrap up for the month of December. Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.  Check out the Event Schedule.

What are hyped books? I decided to look at librarything.com's Hot This Month's list of books. Of the top ten, I actually read 5 this year so I feel qualified to discuss 5 Hyped books.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir
I am in the middle of reading this novel this week, but it is definitely worth the hype. I didn't let myself see the movie because I wanted to read the book first, natch, and then I waited quite a while for the book from the library. But I am devouring it, and loving it. Mind you, I am a science geek, so I enjoy this stuff, but just the suspense, and the ethical issues of sending people so far in space, makes it a great read. Plus because the movie has already been cast, I get to picture Matt Damon while I read. 

4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
As a suspense novel, this really worked. I loved the unreliable narrator, unreliable because of her own poor drunken memory. It was hard to watch her make such terrible decisions, but enough possibilities for the murderer were presented, and the events just kept rolling along. I read this on a stormy, stormy March break and it was the perfect unputdownable book.

5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
I also read this on the March Break last year, and I rated it highly at librarything, but my over arching memory isn't as high, but I know I really liked it as I read it. It was a quiet, family drama of a family getting over a tragedy. The book starts with the line "Lydia is dead." and proceeds to unravel what led to this point. 

9. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.
Technically, the last book I read in 201a4 but so close! This is a somewhat optimistic look at a future after a deadly flu wipes out the world. I really liked the Shakespearean troupe that travels the land like something right out of the Elizabethan era. Mandel's world building was fascinating, and how the flu spread, the terror at the beginning was really good. Following people that were associated with an actor who died on stage in a play in Toronto was good perspective. 

10. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, read by Zach Appelman
I keep saying I don't want to read any more WW2 novels, but then another one comes along with hype, and I succumb. Two children, a young blind French girl, and an older orphan German boy are getting through the war in occupied France. There is art history, small town French resistance, evil Nazis, (there are always evil Nazis) and two parallel stories that are hurtling towards each other. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#AMonthofFaves - My Reading Year


I discovered this cool end of year wrap up for the month of December while over at Chrisbookarama's blog Join hosts  GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge in looking back at the year that was, sharing your favs.
 Check out the Event Schedule.

 Tue. | Dec. 1 – #AMonthofFaves {My Reading Year} – 

Some numbers first: 107 books so far
59 audiobooks
Most read author: Agatha Christie, all 12 Miss Marple mysteries on audio
most book month: July, 17
least book month: October, 3
female: 73
non-fiction: 17
5 books from the 2015 Bailey Prize list
15 books that I owned before 2015
library books: 23
bookclub books: 9

Audiobooks have really changed my reading. The last couple of years I've read 83 and 94 books, so numbers are up. (They also contribute to my Candy Crush playing, as I turn on a book when I find myself starting to play. Just the right balance of attention to game and attention to book.)

I read a good number of books in continuing series; Louise Penny's The Nature of the Beast; Mo Hayder's Skin and Gone; Jacqueline Winspear's A Dangerous Place; Rhys Bowen's  Naughty in Nice;
 Alexander McCall Smith's The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe; Deon Meyer's Cobra; Alan Bradley's As Chimney Sweeper's Come to Dust; Andrea Camilleri's Game of Mirrors; Inger Ash Wolf's The Taken. 

Did you check out the number of female authors this year? Two thirds of the books I read were by women. It's not something I actively look for; it's more that my favorite authors are women and that's what I read. Between the library, bookclub, and audiobooks, I don't ever buy too many books. Adding to that I read a good number of books that were bought in other years, and reading any books I bought this year as I got them, my acquiring of books has been very low. 

My twelve year old daughter also had a good reading year, and she discovered the joy of reading series. After finishing last year with Harry Potter, she moved on to the Dear Canada series, a wonderful set of historical Canadian fiction written as young girl's diaries. Each book is written by a different author as well. After she ran out of those, she moved on to the Owls of Ga'hoole books, a fifteen book series about Owls. Her next series was supposed to be Anne of Green Gables, but she stopped after the first one, and decided to reread Harry Potter. I can't fault her on that - Harry Potter will be her generation's great book series. 

It has been a great year of reading, and I'm looking forward to sharing some more favourites throughout the month.