Wednesday, 11 October 2017

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

 I could not put this book down.  It is a totally captivating re-imagining of the modern world.

What if the influence of the British Empire had not waned, and if Victorian morality and courtly practises still held.  Author E. K. Johnston imagined that Queen Victoria devised a plan to weld the Empire together through strategic marriages of her children and grand children to nobility throughout her kingdom, not to that of neighbouring European countries.  Generations later, the plan has proved successful and the Empire thrives with a very mixed races population.

The current crown princess Victoria-Margaret is about to come of age and assume her duties.  Before undertaking those responsibilities, she wants one summer to live among and with her future subjects.  She travels incognito to Toronto to stay with her glamorous cousin Elizabeth.  She soon meets her family  friend Helena, to whom she is instantly attracted and they become the best of friends. This sets in motion a chain of events that they could never have imagined.

I loved everything about this story. The characters were young, just venturing into adulthood.  They thought they knew what they wanted, but when they walked through that doorway, they realized that there was far more to consider than their younger selves had imagined. 

I could not imagine having paid staff in my house such as a butler and an attendant to help me dress, though a cook would be most amazing.  I suppose if I had been born into that type of world, it would be common place, but to read about it and try imagining myself there, I don't get very far.    Ms. Johnston did a great job of re-creating the modern world as part of the Victorian era.  It felt authentic to novels I've read that were written in that time period.

I highly recommend this book.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Needlework Tuesday - The Pleasure of Learning a New Stitch

It is much easier to stay in ones comfort zone instead of stepping out and trying something new.  Why put yourself to the stress of learning a new skill when the old one will do.

As I was searching for a pattern for the next cup cosy to stitch, I found that I kept being attracted to the ones made up by The Enchanted Ladybug.  It was the stitch she was using for the body of the cosy that was so attractive.

After printing out the free pattern and reading, I found that it was actually quite straight forward.  Alternate single and double crochets, turn and do the same again.  It was easy and I think it looks great.  Benefit for a cup cosy is that it is more dense that just rounds of single crochet.

Sure, this is an easy stitch, but new to me.  I'm glad I took that leap and learned how to make it.  I can see myself using it again and again, especially as this designer has lots of free cosy patterns.

Which are you: do you stick with what you know or do you try new skills in your projects?  When was the last time you learned a new stitch/skill, what was it?

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

 Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster

Sleeping sickness is the scourge of the land.  While the government fights to keep it's citizens safe and healthy, the enemy from Kamar continues to further spread the infection. 

Jiang-Sev is the last member of her family.  Her mother's body is displayed in  perpetual sleep as a warning to the citizens; she had been accused of bringing the sickness into the city.  Sev's status has been striped and she is being punished for the sins of her mother.  When a bomb explodes in the city, Sev is labelled guilty  of the crime and must flee or die.

I found it hard to get into the story and figure out what was going on in this stratified society.  While I did enjoy reading about her escape from the city and her journey across the outside, it wasn't enough to overcome the confusion of the plot.  There was too much subterfuge among leading characters.  Too many times I felt I could love or hate a character only to find out a few pages later that their history was a lie or fabrication.  I didn't form an attachment to Sev as she, herself was confused much of the time.

I wanted to like this dystopian novel, but it didn't connect with me.  I didn't care about the characters, whether they lived or died.  I did like the dancing and the explanation of why they danced.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 6 October 2017

Acceleration by Graham McNamee

This is a well told tale that captured my imagination from the first chapter.

Like many high school students, Duncan is less than thrilled about his summer job.  He spends his days well below street level working in the Lost & Found department of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). 

One afternoon, he picks up a leather bound book with no title.  Curious, he browses several pages to which are attached a bunch of news clipping about animal mutilations.  Not a book Duncan wants to read.  As the days pass, he is drawn back to the book and it's gruesome writings.  He finds that it is clear that the author of the journal has escalated from killing animals to targeting women.  It isn't long before he draws his friends Vinny and then Wayne into his research about the books contents.

Author Graham McNamee has created a realistic group of friends.  I could easily imagine these young men and their banter.  Their approach to solving the mystery of the author of the journal made total sense.  A trip to the local library is often a great place to begin.

I really enjoyed this story with it's mainly teenage characters.

If you enjoy books for teens with serial killers, you might enjoy:

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Agents of Chaos - X-Files #1 by  Kami Garcia

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Needlework Tuesday - The Best Dressed Coffee Cup

 Somehow, Tuesday got away from me again.  As we all know, life gets busy and family takes top priority and blogging falls nearer the bottom.

I did do some stitching I want to share.  I found a cute pattern for a cup cosy that I wanted to try.  I really like the idea of a re-usable cup cosy as opposed to the throw away paper ones. Not that I purchase a lot of coffees while I'm out, but they do add up over the year(s).

This one is from a free pattern, Zigzag Crochet Cup Cozy from Red Heart yarns.  It uses a small amount of two yarns and was really easy to make and took very little time.  My only concern, is whether it is thick enough when used with a take out cup.
 I made this one ages ago and used it a few times, but it has a fatal flaw, the ribbing.  It just keeps getting wider at the top and the cup could easily slip out.  Am going to try and add a round of single crochet at the top to firm it up.

Any suggestions/recommendations for cup cosy patterns?  Have you knit/crocheted/quilted one or several.  What worked best for you.

I started on the next pair of fittens and am most pleased with my yarn selection.  Just looking at the aqua and blue together makes my heart sing.

What a difference it makes when you love the materials you are working with.  I find it hard to be excited by a project when I don't like the materials. Those are the projects that linger and often don't get finished.

Cup cosies in fun yarns will be a joy to make and then give away.  I look forward to your comments and pattern suggestions.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

 Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Highland Promise by Alyson McLayne

 Isle of Sky 1452

When Darach MacKenzie  spies his enemy Laird Fraser abducting an unconscious female, he springs to her rescue regardless of the repercussions.  Even if he'd known before hand what the cost of rescuing Caitlin would be, he still wouldn't have left a female in Fraser's grasp.

Caitlin is an innocent in all sorts of ways.  She is like a breath of fresh air into the tight family group.  It was fun seeing how she could shake up their daily lives just by being herself.  At first it appears that she has been rescued by Darach MacKenzie, but as the story continues, I began to wonder who was doing the rescuing.

Darach and his four brothers were raised by their foster father Gregor McLeod with very little female influence.  They are all well versed in caring for the safety of their clans, but they know little of the emotional needs of their families.  Caitlin has much to teach them.

Author Alyson McLayne makes great use of humour in this book, she had me laughing along with the characters, especially with the perplexed Darach.  The addition of the wee kitten was heart warming.

While the story mostly focused on Caitlin and Darach, we are introduced to his foster brothers.  I learned just enough about them to want to read more.  Fortunately, this is the first book in a five part series, The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, one book for each brother.  Yippee.

Once I knew that the men were wearing kilts in this story, I was all over it, but those who need a bit more persuasion, following is an excerpt from Highland Promise.

Author Alyson McLayne


“I’ll not be marrying the lass, Oslow, but if I did, she’d more than likely give me daughters. All of them looking like her, causing trouble. I’d be an old man in my grave before I was forty.”
“Nay. She’d give you sons. Braw lads as strong-minded and fearless as her. But if you’re not interested in the lass, I’ll introduce her to my Angus. He needs a wife, and I’m sure he’d be as smitten with her as Gare and Brodie.”
The blood heated in Darach’s veins, flushing his face. He looked toward the field, trying to make out what Caitlin and the two younger men were doing. Naught of consequence. Just playing with the kittens.
Playing with the kittens—like hell. Brodie was a right rogue with the lasses, and Gare was such a pitiful lad, caught betwixt man and boy, she’d want to save him just like she’d saved the baby bird. Most likely he’d try to make himself look as pathetic as possible with the hopes of ensnaring her, the devil.
Darach stood abruptly and made his way across the rocky shore to the field. Lachlan’s snort followed him. Sure enough, Gare and Brodie sat beside her, hanging on to every word. Scoundrels, both of them. He frowned, and they jumped to their feet. Let Caitlin see who was master and laird here—the most dominant MacKenzie male.
After sending them to Oslow, he sat on the grass beside her. She looked pleased to see him. Maybe now would be the time to tell her the kittens were going to the miller’s. He willed himself to begin, but one of the cats tumbled into his lap and mewed up at him. Bloody fiend.
“Och, would you look at that. He loves you, Darach. Maybe he will be called Justice, for he is drawn to you and you are the most just man I know.”
He puffed up and deflated at the same time. ’Twas a good decision to send the cats to the miller. Not only did it show Justice, but also Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance. Surely she would see the right of it.
The kit ran up his body and batted his hair. Darach started in surprise. Grabbing it, he held the wee thing in front of him. The cat reached out and swatted his chin.
Caitlin fell sideways onto the grass, laughing. “You’ve ne’er had a cat before, have you?”
Darach grunted and brought the kitten closer. He had to admit it was sweet—big eyes and downy, soft fur. It suckled the stubble of his beard, and his heart turned over.
“They’re starved, poor babies,” she said. “He’s trying to nurse. All we had was water. It helped, but their bellies are empty.”
There would be lots of milk at the miller’s.
“Caitlin, I doona think…”
She gazed at him, her eyes wide, trusting. A happy glow surrounded her, and the words stuck in his throat. Maybe she could keep the kits ’til they were old enough to be on their own. House them in the kitchens and out of his sight and the sight of his dogs for a week or two. Then they could go to the miller.
“Aye, Darach?”
“’Tis naught, lass. We’ll be home soon and they can have their meal.”
Picking up a kitten, she held it close. “I think this little lass will be Temperance, for she’s the only female and needs to have much restraint to live with three brothers. It must be a trial, doona you think?”
“I lived with four brothers, and aye, ’twas a trial.”
A wistful look crossed her face. “I did so wish for a brother. Or a sister. But my parents were not blessed with bairns after me. Instead, I had lots of pets—cats, dogs, horses, and pigs.”
“Aye, pigs are wonderful pets. Although I caused such a fankle when my father wanted to butcher the dear thing, I was ne’er allowed to bond with a pig again.”
“And what happened to it?”
“I doona know. I lost more than just my parents the night of the fire. Verily, ’twas a torment. I longed for pets after that, but I feared to show favor to any creature, lest my uncle hurt the animal. I was verra careful when I fed Cloud apples. The guards who followed me knew, I’m sure, but one older guard in particular didn’t mind.” She turned to smile at the stallion tethered with the other horses. “I’m thankful you saved him too.”
His stomach soured at the insight into her life after her parents’ death, at how afraid, alone and sad she must have been. Yet she’d shown none of that to him or his men. And he knew she must have felt it—her heart was as big as the loch.
“I want you to have, Cloud,” he said suddenly. It was the least he could do.
Her eyes grew round. “Truly?”
“Aye. But wait to ride him until we return to the keep. I doona want him to spook and throw you out here. Let him get used to you in the stables first, aye?” Where he could have a healer on hand and spread out some hay to soften her fall.
With an excited holler, she threw her arms around his neck and almost knocked him backward. One arm settled around her waist, the other hovered just above her hair. The devil take him, he wanted to touch her, to hold her still for his kiss.

Cover image and author photo courtesy Sourcebooks.

 I received and advanced readers ecopy of this book from Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Accused: Theodore Boone #3 by John Grisham

Theodore Boone is facing his biggest case yet and it's one he can't solve on his own.  In desperation, he turns to the one man he can trust, his Uncle Ike.  Together, they take some pretty big risks to prove the suspect's innocence.

I loved this book.  It is the best of the series so far.  I really can't tell you a thing about the plot as it will give too much away.  This is one book that you just have to jump into and trust that it will capture your imagination and transport you right into this challenging case.

Adult fans of John Grisham will find this a complex legal tale as you'd expect from him, but in a shortened, kid length novel.  I found myself eagerly waiting for the next plot development.

The bond between Theo and his Uncle Ike deepens.  Readers learn a bit more about Ike, but there is still the biggest mystery about him yet to be revealed in future books in this series.  The story continues in The Activist.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.