Monday, December 31, 2018

LIST: Best Books of 2018

Top Five Books of the Year
1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
2. A Gentleman in Moscow
3. I'll Be Gone in the Dark
4. Big Little Lies
5. The Ghost Map

31 nonfiction: 127 fiction = 158 books
95 female     60 male;  1 collection of assorted; 1 mother and son;
76 audiobooks      15 ebook     29 library   

Best Mystery
To Die But Once - Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs)
-excellent return to form for Maisie Dobbs and friends

Honourable Mentions Best Mystery (because I read a lot of mysteries)
A Study in Charlotte - Brittany Calvello
-fun take on Sherlock Holmes

Best Start to a Series 
The Dry by Jane Harper (Aaron Falk mysteries)
-I liked it so much I read the second, Force of Nature, and I'm on request for the unreleased next one.

Best End to a Series
The Penderwicks at Last - Jeanne Birdsall
- the kids all grew up in this series

Best Historical Mystery 
Hugh de Singleton - 14th century surgeon/PI in England
-I read three in the series this year:
The Unquiet Bones, A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel, A Trail of Ink

Best Recommended Book 
The Golden Boy: A Doctor's Journey with Addiction by Grant Matheson
-recommended by lots of local people

Best Childrens 
The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate
Al Capone Does My Shirts - Gennifer Choldenko

Best Young Adult 
The Hate You Give - Angie Thomas
To All the Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han

Best Book by a New to Me Author
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- fabulous audio that I devoured, lots of fun

Favourite Characters
-Eleanor Oliphant and her good friend Raymond, who becomes the catalyst for her change

- the women in Big Little Lies and their friendship

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy
Saga by Brian K Vaughan
- so far I've read 7 of the 9 volumes

Best Historical Fiction 
A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
- worth the hype; I went back and listened to the first half again to catch all the intricate plotting that I missed

Best  Book by a Tried and True Author 
Beartown by Fredrick Backman (A Man Called Ove)
- another one worth the hype

Best Apocalyptic/Dystopian
The Power -  Naomi Alderman
- women get electrical power

Best Short Story Collection 
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Best Short Story 

Almost Midnight: Two Festive Short Stories - Rainbow Rowell

Canadianity: Tales from the True North Strong and Freezing  by Jonathan Torrens and Jeremy Taggett

Most Heartbreaking
Girls Like Us - Gail Giles

Creepiest Novel
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
- creepy kids book, about bees

Best Debut Book
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
- my favourite book of the year

Most Unique Book (lol, I picked two)
Number 11 - Johnathan Coe
- I like the connected stories and characters, and how each story had the number 11 as a significant idea; ending was a bit weird, but the other made it worth while

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss
- all the classic 19th century novel character's daughters mashed up into one story

Best Re-read
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
- I listened to the audio on this re-read, and it was as good as been recommended; Cassandra Campbell never disappoints as a narrator

Best Audiobook 
(other than my fav books already listed: A Gentleman in Moscow, Eleanor Oliphant, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, and Big Little Lies)
Sing, Unburied Sing - Jesmyn Ward
-hearing the accents and pain of the characters made this better than if I had read it

Best Nonfiction (since I read so many nonfiction this year, I have broken this down a little more)
Best Nonfiction: science/history
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic, and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World - Steven Johnson
- cholera epidemic in London; I'm not even sure how to characterize this book

Best Nonfiction: travel
What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago - Jane Christmas
- made me think about a hike
Best Nonfiction: memoir/autobiography
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death - Maggie O'Farrell
- I loved O'Farrell's voice and her stories of growing up female

Best Nonfiction: politics
Harry's Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It - Harry Leslie Smith

Best Nonfiction: true crime
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer - Michelle McNamara
- scared the bejeebus out of me late one night; then the Golden State Killer was caught about a month after a finished the book

A few books I loved by couldn't find a category for!
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell
The Woman Next Door - Yewande Omosoto 

and last but not least...

Crooked Hearts - Lissa Evans

-could have been best historical novel (World War 2)
-could have been most heartbreaking
-could have been favourite characters
-could have been best by a new to me author

Friday, December 21, 2018

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: Christmas Breakfast

Welcome to another day with the Virtual Advent Tour 2018 as we get closer to Christmas. This is our last school day before Christmas vacation - every teacher's favourite day!

I love breakfast foods and Christmas morning breakfast is no exception. We have my parents over for Christmas breakfast each year before we head to my inlaws' place for Christmas dinner. It was more hectic in the mornings when the children were little, but time is still a bit rushed as the whole morning starts a little later with teenagers.

I tried these Scotty's Nest Eggs one year and we all love them so much, we have hardly changed the menu at all. Some years we try the Christmas Morning Wifesaver, which is also delicious, but we always come back the Nest Eggs. Lots of fresh fruit and some fruit bread toast and breakfast is complete. 

What's great about this recipe is you can make as many or as few as you like. Sometimes after Christmas I even make myself an individual nest egg or two, baked in a silicon muffin cup, to eat while I complete my sudoku.

The recipe was found in my Best of the Best cookbook, from the Best of Bridge ladies. I've written about them before.

For each nest: 

  1. 2-3 thin slices Black Forest ham
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 Tbsp. cream 15 mL
  4. 1 heaping Tbsp. grated Swiss cheese 25mL
  5. sprinkle of dried basil
  6. English muffin

  7.     Preheat oven to 350 deg.F (180 deg.C). Grease large muffin tins. Line with ham and break egg over top. Add cream and sprinkle with cheese and basil. Bake 12-15 minutes. Serve on half a toasted English muffin. (Place water in any unused muffin cups to prevent damage.)

Monday, December 17, 2018


I'm back for another edition of the Virtual Advent Tour hosted by the wonderful sprite writes. It's getting very close to Christmas - one week til Christmas Eve!

Growing up in the 1970s,  I have a few distinct memories. One memory from Christmas time was that we always got Mandarin oranges. Not the Clementines that are everywhere now. My mother would always splurge and get a box of Mandarin oranges. They were wrapped in the green paper, and my sister and I could easily peel them on our own. We certainly got our vitamin C in those days before Christmas. 

The other expensive treat was an Advent Calendar every year. We always had one, and it always was the chocolate one. My sister and I would alternate days to open as we waited for Christmas. Now, advent calendars are everywhere, and can be found quite cheaply so that my kids each had their own chocolate advent calendar when they were young. But my sister and I had to wait every other day to open a door. As the elder by three years, I had the foresight to count ahead and see the largest box was on the 24th, so could oh, so generously offer my younger sister the opportunity to go first. I was being so nice! I'm pretty sure that some years the chocolate advents were too hard to find in Nova Scotia in the 70s, and we would get an advent calendar with just doors and a picture behind them. Could we really have been so deprived?

So Advent Calendars have always been a part of my Christmas traditions. That could explain why I've loved the Virtual Advent Calendar every year and am so glad that sprite  has continued to host this wonderful sharing event.

Now there are so many possible advent calendars to try: Davids Tea has a tea countdown, I've seen Craft Beer Advent Calendars, Star Wars Playmobile Calendars - the list is really endless with food and with toys and anything you can imagine. Here's a few examples I found:

One year when my daughter was probably 6 or 7, I was out shopping Boxing Day sales and came across a Polly Pocket Winter Advent Calendar. It wasn't actually Christmas, just a nice secular winter countdown, filled with winter clothes and accessories for a Polly Pocket doll. And it was half-price, an extra bonus. But the reason this was so perfect was that my daughter's birthday was January 23rd, so we used the calendar to countdown to her birthday party. It was really the most perfect thing I could find. And I never found another one like that to count down to her birthday again. I did however, find Polly Pocket paraphernalia around the house for many years.

Everyone loves an Advent Calendar. I even bought my parents a Starbucks Advent Calendar a few years ago. It was originally filled with caramels but now I refill it every year after a trip to Bulk Barn.

Enjoy as we continue to count down on the Virtual Advent Tour.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#AMonthofFaves: Books worth the Hype

WED. | Dec. 5 – #AMonthofFaves Popular Books Worth the Hype (and/or Not Worth the Hype)

How do you know if a book is hyped? My standard is that I've heard of it more than once, I've read a lot of people talking about it, or I've  seen it on lists. These are books where I picked them because I've heard of them, and then I loved them.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman (audiobook)

Definitely worth the hype - I loved Eleanor Oliphant! It was delightful and heart-breaking. 

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer - Michelle McNamara (audiobook)

I got caught up in this one and freaked myself out one night. And then the Golden State Killer was caught in the month or so after I read it. That made it super cool, but the writing and story and diligence of McNamara make this nonfiction book worth the hype.

The Golden Boy: A Doctor's Journey with Addiction by Grant Matheson
This is a local book and I've heard other Islanders rave about it and when I finally read it, I couldn't put it down. How quickly a person can fall into addiction, even one who seems to have it all. 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The audiobook of Big Little Lies was over 15 hours long and I couldn't stop listening. I think I burned through this book in a couple of days because I was obsessed. I know it is a show on HBO but I haven't seen it at all. Big Little Lies was definitely worth the hype! Great friendships and a mystery. 


Virtual Advent Tour 2018 is hosted at Sprite Writes. It is not too late to sign up and join in.

I don't have a particularly festive post today, but December 6th is an important day in Canadian history. Two huge events that are still remembered each year happened on December 6th: the Halifax Explosion, and the Ecole-Polytechnique Massacre.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, the largest man-made explosion until the atomic bombs in 1945. Two ships, the Mont-Blanc and the Imo, collided in the harbour. One of the ships was filled with explosives and thus the terrible devastation.

There are several great reads about the Halifax Explosion, particulary Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan. It was written as fiction, but is based on the facts. This year I listened to The Blizzard of Glass by Sally M Walker, a nonfiction read geared to young adults. Like all good nonfiction, it includes all the facts, but incorporates personal stories into the narrative.

I can tie the Halifax Explosion to Christmas! Every year, the province of Nova Scotia sends a huge Christmas tree to the city of Boston in remembrance of the help and support Boston provided to Halifax after the explosion. The Maritimes and 'the Boston states' have always had a close relationship as many Maritimers moved to Massachusetts to make their living. Many eventually returned, and few people from here don't have distant relatives in the Boston states. The gift of the tree is a tangible recognition of this connection.

Canadians grew up watching a great Heritage Minute about Vince Coleman, the telegraph operator who realized what was going on and was able to send a message to an incoming train to warn them of the disaster in Halifax, saving hundreds of lives. We used to love watching this with our kids, because each week, they would hope Vince would survive, but alas, he never did.

The second event commemorated on December 6th is the murder of 14 young women at the l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. The only reason they were killed is because they were women. Women studying to become engineers. 

December 6th is now a day of remembrance and action on violence against women. It is also a reminder that Christmas is not a wonderful time for everyone - some people are scared and in danger in their own home. The image of peaceful Christmas around the tree is not for all.

I was in university, and my sister was studying engineering at a different university in 1989. It was one of the first gun massacres and mass shootings, ten years before Columbine. It was so shocking and horrifying. There was changed gun control legislation as a result of this massacre. 

While both these events were terrible days in Canadian history, remembering them each December 6th is a part of leading up to Christmas, a time of hope and promise.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Cozy/Wintry Reads

Winter has arrived far too early here on PEI. We have already had several storm days with school being cancelled and the storm last week had power out across the Island for up to a few days. We were lucky and had it back after ten hours, but it was the first big power outage we've experienced in many years. It looks like the snow is here for good, which is pretty much a month earlier than usual. 

As a result of the snow days and the weather, I'm in a Christmas mood already. During the snow day last week, I got Christmas decorating done around the house - very much a record. It's usually been a goal, but never achieved. We had a family Christmas dinner with my aunts and uncles and cousins that live on PEI. We eat out at a nice restaurant and enjoy visiting. Shopping has begun and the Virtual Advent Tour is in full swing. (It's not too late to sign up and join in the fun - go see sprite writes)

The topic this week is Cozy/Wintry Reads, which to me this week, is Christmas reads. I've already read a few - two Anne Perry Christmas novellas, and An Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber. It was my first Macomber, and probably my last. Are they always this corny and ridiculous? At least I learned all those Debbie Macomber books can be avoided, which decreases the potential books in the world to read by several hundred, lol.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
Delightful collection of interlocked short stories written by top YA authors,  set at Christmas. 

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Two loner kids meet over the Christmas holidays in New York. I've always loved this cover, and discovered The Strand, a goal if I ever get to New York City.

An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor
I always enjoy this easy going series, set in a Ballybucklebo, in Northern Ireland in the early 60s. This is the third in the series but not much really happens in any particular book. Delightful!

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb
Sweet book that has a bit of a Christmas Story look back at a Christmas in the 50s when the narrator was young. 

Dave Cooks the Turkey by Stuart McLean
I bought this short story in a hard cover edition so I could read it every year, but see if you can find an online version (maybe a CBC podcast) with the late great Stuart McLean reading it for the full flavour. I hear Stuart in my head when I read it. Fully hilarious story.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
Short reminiscence of life in Wales. It's a classic for a reason and I'd recommend a read, or a re-read.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
A children's story with the meaning of Christmas hidden amongst the funniest story. You will not forget the Herdman's.

Christmas With Anne by LM Montgomery 
This is just any short story, or chapter from a novel, with a Christmas connection. Montgomery is excellent at the pathos and the happy ending. Also includes the puffed sleeves episode. Are you watching Anne with an E on Netflix? I highly recommend it for Anne fans everywhere. Extremely well done!

To Everything There is a Season by Alistair MacLeod
Alistair MacLeod is considered on a Canada's greatest short story writers and this one set in Cape Breton is charming. As you grow, you realize a lot more about your family.

A New York Christmas by Anne Perry
Some of these Victorian novellas are better than others, but I like how Perry picks some of her peripheral characters to focus on in these shorter stories. If you've read her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, or her Monk series, you will also enjoy these slight mysteries.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Week 5: (Nov. 26 to 30) – New to My TBR (Katie @ Doing Dewey): It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book

Ah, the best part of Nonfiction November is getting those recommendations based on other readers. A few of these books were on my radar, but reading about other bloggers opinions makes it an easier decision. A few other books I had never heard of and I was intrigued. Thanks for all the great Nonfiction Sharing and thanks to the hosts for once again running Nonfiction November.

A quick glance at last years New to My TBR post shows I haven't read a single one, so I am not exactly sure how effective these lists are. I have Bad Blood on request at the library, so surely I'll read it sooner than later.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start Up by John Carreyrou

Educated: a Memoir by Tara Westover

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Any Ordinary Day: What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life? by Leigh Sales

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy Heather Thompson

A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova  (Russian memoir)
Rennie at What's Nonfiction

Any of these books look interesting to you?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

REQUEST: Virtual Advent Sign-ups

It's the most wonderful time, of the year - the Virtual Advent Tour. Check out sprite writes if you are interested in joining in to our virtual countdown. Sprite is keeping everyone organized, and the more the merrier. 

Share your customs, Christmas or otherwise, tell a story, be creative, or write a memory. Let Sprite know which date you would like to participate on and be sure to read all the wonderful posts. I've got December 6th picked out!

My kids from last December

In 2017, I shared a local song from a charity album, and, a physics Christmas haiku activity
In 2016, I shared the lights of my town, and a recipe for Spumoni shortbreads
In 2015, I shared my Christmas decorations in our new home
In 2014, there was no tour
In 2013, I shared a Christmas series of novellas by Anne Perry that I listened in audio
In 2012, I posted some favourite Christmas mystery  books
In 2011, I posted a 'recipe' for fruitcake that my grandmother had given me.
In 2010, I took a humorous look at some local events on Prince Edward Island.
In 2009, we played 'guess the carol'
In 2008, I played a game of 'guess the movie', and my favorite Christmas picture ever.
In 2007, it was the original 'guess the carol' game, with your vocabulary tested, and my whipped shortbread cookie recipe.