Friday, 28 April 2017

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is essentially a story in two parts.  First, the political intrigue which I found particularly boring.  How is it that mankind can travel far across the stars yet find the same petty, destructive behaviour. 

The differences in gender and understanding gave much to ponder.  We are so reliant on gender identification that I find it hard to overlook.  Even though it doesn't really matter, a person's gender, it is something I naturally assign.  It takes conscious thought for me to avoid.

The second part was much more captivating; a three month long trip over a glacier is the stuff of nightmares or Antarctic exploration.  This I read with rapt attention eager for their next days travel.  Averaging the two parts, the book makes for a reasonable read.

To learn more about author Ursula K. Le Guin visit her website

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I had read so many good things about this book, bloggers raved about it and reviews said it was the best book they read again and again.  I eagerly started reading, but soon was wondering if I had downloaded the correct book.

This is an odd story.  It is the tale of two sister, the younger who indulges in flights of whimsy and is unable to connect with her neighbours and whose older sister never goes beyond the gardens in their yard.  The entire story was stilted, and never seemed to settle into it's telling.  Perhaps it was the wording that was often awkward with some passages required several readings to make sense of them.

I didn't enjoy this book but kept reading with the hope that it would improve, but it didn't.  I had had this book on my reading list for quite a while, and moved it to the top when  a favoured character in a recent read proclaimed this was her most favourite book ever.  I figured there must be something I was missing if that author loved it so very much.

If you choose to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, do so with a friend and discuss it along the way.  It might help to make sense of some of the happenings.

For those who finished the tale, does it never rain in their village?

Learn more about the author Shirley Jackson at this link.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada. 


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bargello Sunflower Quilt Class with Jennifer Houlden

On Saturday I attended a quilt class with my mom and my friend Patricia.  The class was taught by designer Jennifer Houlden.  I wasn't familiar with her work, but as Patricia's mother used to say, all good Ukrainian girls must have sunflower pictures in their kitchen, I jumped at the chance to make one for myself.
 The petals are made using a bargello technique.

Jennifer is an incredibly organized teacher.  As well as having a printed pattern for each of us, she had this large board of instructions illustrating the steps for making the bargello piece.

 My friend is working hard on sewing her colour strips together while I am wandering around taking photos.  We both decided to go with more traditional sunflower colours while my mother opted for a blues flower.

 After the strips were sewn together, we sliced and diced and sewed them back together with  slight offsets.  I love the pinks of another student.

An even brighter version than mine

My bargello fabrics

Patricia's bargello fabrics
 This is the stage I am at now.  I am working on laying out my flower petals for best effect.  We want the tips of the petals to be light and the other end dark.

Jennifer showed up how to use a light table to layout the petals.
 A few of my fellow students got their flowers layed out ready to fuse onto their background fabric.

 That is Jennifer on the left.  She did a great job of teaching this technique.  She started the class with a group discussion and then did either small group or individual instruction as required as we progressed through each step.  The class was made up of quilters with a wide range of experience and everyone was able to do the project with varying amounts of guidance from Jen.  I wouldn't hesitate to take a class from her again.

 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, 24 April 2017

I Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

 Jamie Grimm is having a tough time settling into his new family and his new school.  Using humour to deal with life in a wheelchair is helpful but it does little at getting the school bully to leave him alone.

At the urging of his uncle, he enters The Planet's Funniest Kid Comic contest.  Even though it's not easy for Jamie to stand in front of his peers and cajole them into laughing, he finds himself doing just that again and again.

This was an entertaining and funny book.  I don't like to read about bullies in stories, but in this case, I learned something by the way Jamie responded/fought back.  Way to go Jamie.

The story contains lots of jokes and I found myself cracking up with laughter at more than a few points, and this is coming from a person whom my kids say has no sense of humour.  This would be a great book for kids who have graduated from the Captain Underpants books by Dave Pilkey.

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by Frankie Seratch.  3 hours 3 minutes.  He did an amazing job of making me thinking I was listening to a middle school student and his friends.

Books I have reviewed by James Patterson
Along Came a Spider
House of Robots

Books I have reviewed by Chris Grabenstein
House of Robots
Home Sweet Motel: Welcome to Wonderland #1
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library


Cover image courtesy Hachette Book Group.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Born at Midnight by C. C. Hunter

She made one bad decision and her sent her off to a summer camp for troubled teens.  Shortly after her arrival, Kaylie learned that the camp was actually for teens of a different nature: werewolves, vampires, witches, shape shifters and faeries.  Before that day, she hadn't even imagined that these type of people existed, let along that she might be one of them.

She quickly learned that the purpose of the camp was for the kids to explore their new reality and powers and for them to forge strong ties with member of the other races.  To complicate matters further, teenage hormones came into play.  Kaylie had to come to terms with her supernatural heritage, accept the differences of her new friends and figure out this boy thing.

I really enjoyed this novel.  For me, summer camp stories tend to invoke fond memories of  camps I attended in the past.

**spoiler alert
It was inspiring to see people who would naturally be mortal enemies instead become friends and in fact become fierce protectors of each other.

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by Katie Schorr.  She dis a good job of both the female and male voices.  I had no trouble telling them apart.  It was a little harder to tell that the camp leaders were older than the kids, but then again, they weren't all that much older...

The Shadow Falls series continues in Awake at Dawn.

C. C. Hunter is the pen name of Christie Craig.

 Cover image courtesy Macmillan Publishers.


Friday, 21 April 2017

First Nations Friday: Flight by Sherman Alexie

This book starts out strong and just keeps getting better.

At only fifteen years old, Zits has already lived in over 20 foster homes.  He's lost hope of any one ever truly caring for him and of becoming a member of a family.  The only person who seems to care about him is Officer Dave.

As he is about to commit a heinous act, something happens and Zits finds himself somewhere else, some time else and some one else.  What follows reminded me of  the late night trips Mr. Scrooge took in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, though I found the events and emotions provoked in Zits' trips more poignant.

I was captivated by this novel and by the trips that Zits found himself trapped in.  He was confronted by some serious situations which he found he couldn't control.  By the time I reached the final trip, I was so caught up in the tale that I could hardly see the words on the page due to my streaming tears.

Zits thought he knew much about life and why his was so rotten.  As he travelled into other lives, he had the opportunity to learn that other people who's lives might look great have secrets within that an outsiders can't know and that because of them we each have serious decisions to make.  In the end, Zits has to think about what he is doing and learn how to make his own decisions.  Thanks to author Sherman Alexie for making me care about a character who didn't care about himself, for leading me to cheer for him and wanting him to find his way.

First Nations Friday is an occasional post where I review books by First Nations, Metis and Inuit authors.

Cover image courtesy Grove Atlantic


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows

It's too easy to hate the pretty girl, to gossip and speculate about the new girl and make fun of anyone who is different from you.  One thing that is hard to do is to keep hating the dead girl, especially when she is or was your step sister.  As much as she hated her when she was alive, Emma couldn't keep hating Quinn once she was dead.

Quinn took an immediate dislike to Emma from the minute they met.  Yet, their mothers were in love and they all moved in together with the hopes of becoming a happy family.

It was difficult to read of the experiences of the new sisters.  At first I thought there was a chance of them bonding, but it was not to be.  Quinn seemed to have an ulterior motive for everything she did.  And once Emma was burned by her, she kept her distance.

This book made me stop and really think about the many events that had happened and how I had accepted the easy interpretation, that Quinn was just plain mean.  Just like Emma, I didn't look deeper and question why she had acted as she did.  It takes time to get to know someone and realize that our first impressions might not be correct.

Both girls came from broken families though they were clearly loved by their parents.  Unfortunately neither of them came through the situations unscathed and neither were at their best when they met.  Not a good basis for combining their families.  I liked how author Eva Darrows handled the conclusion of the tale.  It helped me feel better about all the bad things that had occurred in the earlier parts of the book.    This would be a great book for class room discussions.

Eva Darrows is the pen name of author Hillary Monahan.

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

Cover image courtesy Harlequin Teen.