Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Banned Book Week

I can't imagine that I would ever tell you, my readers, that they must not read a particular book because I have found something offensive to me within its covers. I don't understand how others think that they can dictate to me what books should be available to me and my children.

I encourage you to inform yourself about 'Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read' and to read some of those books that have found they way onto the 'we want this book banned' list.

Visit the American Library Association website.

I have also learned about an intriguing film, "The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film " . Visit the website to check whether there will be a screening in your area. It looks fascinating. Just last week I watched the movie "Fahrenheit 451". Not quite as moving as the book (in my opinion), but very thought provoking.

I am curious, when I hear of a book being challenged for removal from libraries, my first reaction is "I have to get hold of a copy and read it myself". Please leave a comment and let me know how you respond.

Thanks to Petty Witter for reminding me that 'Banned Books Week' is this week.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Needlework Tuesday

It was a good stitching week. I worked diligently on my son's scarf. That's the black one using the pattern 'Iwona's Groovy Scarf'. The mesh part is now 67 inches long and I guess that should be enough. Now I am stitching the I-cords that will be woven in. Its 8 stitches on 8mm needles so it goes very quickly. The challenge is to have this scarf completed in about 3 weeks for son's birthday.

As promised last week, I have started piecing my 'Dear Jane' blocks.

The first photo shows block A-6 Uncle Homer
I selected a light muslin and it washed up nicely so I have used it.

Fairly easy block, but I have to remember to pay close attention to the cutting sizes as these blocks finish at 4 1/2 inches, an unusual size for me.
View Tropical Screamer's Version.

I needed to come up with an approach to choosing blocks otherwise I would never have started. I paged through the book and listed blocks that are based on either a 4 patch or 9 patch and will work on those for the first while.

The second picture shows block B-13 Four Corner Press. My daughter had chosen the spider web fabric for a pillow case last year, and I felt it was perfect for the centre of this block. View Tropical Screamer's Version.

The third block I-1 Ralph & Nelda's Wedding combines both the 4 and 9 patches. Smaller pieces but not a problem.

View Tropical Screamer's Version, also in orange.

The fourth blocks M-10 Simple Simon was the easiest of the week and was actually the first one that I made. View Tropical Screamer's Version.

The four blocks posed together look rather nice. This is going to be a very orange quilt. I will try and remember to put in enough of the rusts and almost browns to keep it toned down a notch.

I have already selected the fabrics for the next 2 blocks. So come back next week and see which they are.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was browsing the list of audio books I could download and came across this title. I was curious about it after hearing of the movie of the same title, so I downloaded it. It is a book of 3 short stories: 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', 'The Diamond as Big as the Ritz', and 'O Russet Witch'. I listened to these over the course of 2 weeks as I have to listen to 'O Russet Witch' 2 times.

I thoroughly enjoyed Benjamin Button. Benjamin is born old, approximately 70 years, and his father has a hard time adjusting to this and he keeps trying to treat Benjamin as a baby. I thought that his father did a good job of finding ways to accept his son's 'condition'. The person least able to adapt was his grandson who kept wanting Benjamin to 'stop it' and be his real age. I plan to watch the video when I get the chance as I am curious to see how the age changes are handled.

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" is pure fantasy. Imagine a mountain that is one entire diamond. This vast wealth creates complications for the family who owns the diamond and for all who come in contact with them. Interesting look at wealth and the extremes that people can go to to keep secrets.

"O Russet Witch" was a confusion for me at first. I missed the first paragraph due to traffic noise and was confused for the next 1/2 hour. I started it again and everything made sense the second time. Merlin Grainger works in a book shop and one day his neighbour enters and his life changes from that moment. For the rest of the story Merlin is looking/yearning for what he doesn't have.

You can read "O Russet Witch" online.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Society

All in all, I enjoyed listening to these stories and am inspired to re-read "The Great Gatsby" which I last read quite some time ago in highschool.

Thank you to for the cover photo.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

The setting for this novel is the remote Mexican village of Tres Camarones where the adult male population has been dwindling for the past several decades. Nineteen year old Nayeli has noticed that there are very few men in town and no babies. She is not the only one to notice, drug sellers have realized that there is no one left to defend the town and they intend to take it over and run their drugs un-opposed.
While watching the classic movie The Magnificent Seven at the local theatre, Nayeli gets the idea to travel to the United States to recruit some Mexican men to return with her to live in and protect her village.
With the help of Tacho, her boss, Yoloxochitl (Yolo) and Veronica (Vampi) her best girl friends they set off with the villagers' blessings.
I was fascinated by this story. I couldn't believe the hassles and risks that the four took as they travelled across their own country. It is almost impossible to imagine that you would not be safe on a cross country bus trip on well travelled roadways. Unfortunately their troubles do not end there. Their crossing of the border could fill a whole book on its own.
I enjoyed pondering three main themes found in this story.
We each must take care of our responsibilities, whether it be our spouse, our children or our communities.
Women can be strong both physically and mentally. Nayeli and her Aunt Irma and excellent examples as their strengths come in different ways and at varying points in their lives.
This story includes a cast who are not afraid to be themselves even though there are many who would prefer they conform. Nayeli studied martial arts when most young girls wanted to learn formal dance steps. Tacho does not deny that he is gay and manages to turn it into a strength and not a weakness for anyone to exploit.
I have never met a Samurai, but if I ever should, Atomiko will spring to mind. I loved his character and can imagine him showing up in a Manga comic in the future.
Of course you can read this book without considering these messages and still have an amazing read. The story moves quickly and covers a lot of ground, though at no time did a feel lost, I felt as though I could have been the fifth member of the group.
Visit Luis Alberto Urrea's website to learn of his other publications.
Read my review of The Hummingbird's Daughter also by Luis Alberto Urrea.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Now fifteen, Will is of age to be apprenticed in a trade should any of the Craft masters select him. This is the fate/opportunity of orphans in the lands of Baron Arald. Will, who was orphaned at birth wants to go the Battle school as he believes his father was a warrior. He is in for quite a surprise when it is his turn to face the Baron and the Craft masters.
I really can't tell you any more or I will spill too much plot. Suffice to say that this was a captivating read. I hardly put it down once started. Yes, it is written with teen readers in mind, but there is enough in the story to keep adults interested. I enjoyed the interplay between the 5 orphans. Watching them 'find' themselves withing their apprentices rang true to the life.
This has been a wildly successful series in Australia and has spread worldwide. It is now in it's 9Th novel.
This book would be welcomed by any youth who likes a bit of mystery and magic in their reading. My daughter has asked for the boxed set of the first 3 books for Christmas. I have recommended to my daughter's librarian that she preview it online at John Flanagan's 'Ranger's Apprentice' Australian website.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Needlework Tuesday

I have been stitching away this past week. Mostly on the knitting needles, though I did get to my machine once, that was to mend a bed sheet. I had been sitting there for a few weeks and I couldn't face it there any longer. It took all of 5 minutes once I sat down and now it's folded again and back in the closet.

I finished the knitting on that very colourful tube scarf. Now it needs its fringe and then you see a pic.

Good progress on my son's scarf I showed you last week. Its over 2 feet long now and the stitching is going better. Much more used to the knitting 3 stitches together and the continual casting on of stitches in the next row.

I was visiting Anya at Hills Creek Quilter last week and admiring her blocks for her 'Dear Jane' Quilt. If you don't know the story of the Dear Jane Quilt, then please visit the website. I had commented to her that I had bought the book many years ago, but that I hadn't sewn a stitch. She commented back to me that it starts with just one block. Well, that sounded like a challenge. So I pulled my book out and pondered fabrics and colour choices. I could have gone with 1930's fabrics, of which I have tons, or started with Civil War which I would have to buy, but I think I will use oranges, my eternal favourite. I want to use an unbleached muslin type for the background. Once I buy this I will get started. This will be a long term project, but which of my quilts isn't.

Hopefully I'll have a block to show you next Tuesday. Let me know if you are working on the 'Dear Jane' quilt. I'd love to see pictures.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

What Kind of Reader are You?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Friday, 18 September 2009

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

I was totally enchanted by this audio book that describes how Peter Pan and the Lost Boys came about. It is full of wondrous magic, pirates, a giant crocodile and even the fairy dust that makes Peter fly.
My daughter insisted that I listen to this book. Her teacher read it to her at school a few years ago and held her class in rapt attention. I am so glad I finally listened to her.
I am not going to tell you anything that happens in the book as I don't want to spoil a thing for you.
If you are looking for a book to read to your child or if you want to relive a magical part of your childhood, make this the next one on your list. I can't wait to start listening to 'Peter and the Shadow Thieves'.
If you would like to explore this version of Neverland further, then visit the 'Peter and the Starcatchers' website.
Thanks to for the use of the cover photo.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz

I loved this book from the very first line: "Moments after his death, an event he had failed to notice, Gordon Small sought new employment." He is hired by Heaven Book Company and sets to work as a proof reader of Romance novels.

From there, his new life could commence and follow a day to day routine, but Gordon notices inconsistencies; the cigarette package that never empties, employees who wear the same thing everyday and bring the same sandwich for lunch etc.. As he wasn't satisfied in life, Gordon isn't satisfied in death. He sets out to get himself published and when he does succeed all of Heaven panics.

I read this as a fun, light-hearted book. I didn't go searching for deeper meaning or lessons to be learned. Would highly recommend this non-romance novel.

I will definitely be looking forward to seeing this one on 'the big screen.

Visit House of Anansi Press for more information about Emily Schultz and 'Heaven is Small'.

This is my 4Th read for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Needlework Tuesday

On Sunday hubby and I took the dog for a good long walk. He had too much boundless energy. While walking at the Woolwich Reservoir in Floradale I cam across some apples trees in the remnants of an abandoned orchard. Hubby said the apples were a bit tart, but still good eating.

The day prior I attended the knitting show hosted by the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters Guild. Excellent vendors mall. Lots of fancy yarns/wools/silks for sale by individual ball as well as kits.

I was quite impressed by Toronto designer Iwona from the knit cafe. I had been searching for a pattern to make a unique scarf for my 15 year old son. When I saw this pattern I knew it would be perfect. As I brought the pattern to the cash, I found out that the designer was there, so I asked if she would autograph the pattern. You can see her signature and a sketch of a snail along the right hand side.

I am knitting the background mesh in black and will do the strips in white and red.
I started in the mesh today and have about 8 inches done. Its pinned on a piece of yellow so you can see better.

The final picture shows the scarf I told you about last week. Its knit as a tube so all the knotted ends are on the inside. At present it's about 5 ft long, so probably needs 2 more feet. It's really thick. It will have a very colourful fringe to hold the tube closed.

Highland Honor by Hannah Howell

I had picked this one up at a library discard sale hoping that since it featured a Scottish warrior, he'd be wearing a kilt. ah, the disappointment, but that only extended to his lack of kilt.
Nigel Murray is a Scot who is serving as a mercenary in 15Th century France when he comes across Gisele, who is trying unsuccessfully to disguise herself as a page. She is in desperate need of rescue as she has been accused of murdering and mutilating her despot of a husband.
This story moves along quickly, not only in the territory they cover as they flee France, but in the progression of their relationship. Perhaps with a brave knight at my side I would recover from anything rather quickly?
This was a fun, quick read though I did miss it not having a kilt anywhere. ( I love the image of a man in a kilt). This book is labeled for Bookcrossing and will be released into the hands of one of my friends who also enjoys romances.
After a comment from Dorte, I did a bit of digging and turns out that the 'kilt' was not invented till about 1745 thought they were wearing the plaid long before that. You can read this article 'Of Kilts and Bagpipes'.

Monday, 14 September 2009

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e.l. konigsburg

How is it that I haven't read this book before now and it was first published in 1967? My daughter put this book in my hands and said 'Read this book next !!!' I'm glad that I did.

Even given it's age, this book successfully challenges the movie 'Night at the Museum'.

Young Claudia has decided to run away from home. She is going to do it in style, not staying on the streets or in a park, rather she is going to stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She convinces her brother Jamie to join her and the two set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

I loved this book. This book is fun and it speaks right to the child hidden in most of us. Who doesn't wish that they could spend time in a special building once it has been closed to the public? maybe a night in a professional bakery or a quilt store?

Newbery Medal and Honor Books

Update: September 29, 2009

Having been alerted to a movie made from this book, I sought it out at my local library. The movie is titled "The Hideaways" and stars Ingrid Bergman as Mrs. Frankweiler and Madeline Kahn does a guest appearence as the school teacher in the museum.

My daughter and I watched this together and enjoyed it very much. There are several departures from the book, though we felt that they didn't interfer with the telling in any way.
While Mrs. Frankenweiler was visually different than I expected, I still feel that she is a wonderful character and would love to have tea or mac and cheese with someone like her.

"The Hideaways" with Ingrid Bergman

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

So many books, so little reading time. How to decide which books to read and which one to read first.
I visit a number of Book Blogs and have found suggestions for some amazing books. I also enjoy reading reviews of books I have already finished and to see how that reader's views compare with mine.
This is your chance to say 'Thank-you' to the writers of those blogs that you enjoy visiting.
If you are wanting to explore additional Book Blogs, then visit the 'Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog' for a list of approximately 100 Book Blogs.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Zombie Chicken Award

Thanks to my friend Sherrie for conferring on me the 'Zombie Chicken Award'. I've been visiting Sherrie's 'Just Books' blog for the past year and have enjoyed reading reviews of an eclectic assortment of novels.

I'll paste in Sherrie's explanation of this award:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken-- excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all."

I would like to bestow this award on bloggers who's sites I enjoy:

Vivian at Green Cottage Gallery
joemmama at Life Happens While Books are waiting
Linda at Living, Quilting and Stuff
Mary at Ox
Elly at Mad for Patchwork

Friday, 11 September 2009

No Mad by Sam Moffie

Aaron Abrams has just spoken with his agent and has heard the best news a writer could hear. He rushes home to share it with his wife only to find her in flagrante delicto with his dear brother.
Distraught, Aaron grabs some basis supplies and his dog and drives off. After consulting with his agent, he sets off cross country to interview his college classmates for 'Yearbook', his next novel.
I loved the premise of this book. While I have lost touch with most of my University classmates, I can't help but occasionally wonder what they're doing.
Is it co-incidence or something more, that Aaron often hears songs that are appropriate to what he is thinking or experiencing at that given moment. Frequently during conversation with my children I have been known to break out in song that compliments the moment. There are approximately 45 song moments throughout the novel and I was pleased to find that I could recall and imagine most of them. The music is playing now, but Aaron recalls it from his past experiences. He realizes that his present life and his future is founded on his past, his history.
I enjoyed meeting his kids and getting to know them through his calls to them while he was travelling. I didn't want his journey to end as I wanted to meet more of his classmates and find out what they had done in college and how that had led to what they were doing in the present. I was getting caught up in Aaron's book and at one point found myself thinking that I couldn't wait for it to be pusblished so that I could read it.
This is definitely a fun book with the musical trip along memory lane, but also a moving story of a father and his relationship with his children. I was thinking that it would be amazing to have a CD with all the songs that Aaron mentions. Thanks to author Sam Moffie for this wonderful trip.
Read joemmama's review at Life Happens While Books are Waiting

Thursday, 10 September 2009

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lional Shriver

When Deanna at the HarperCollins Facebook group suggested during July that we read this book free online at their Browse Inside feature, my first response was to give it a pass. I didn't really want to read about a kid killing his school mates. Out of respect for Deanna I decided at least I would go and read the cover blurb about the book.

That's when I found out that the book wasn't about Kevin, rather it was about his mother and her thoughts surrounding her son and how she raised him and ultimately whether as his mother she was somewhat responsible for his actions.

After the first few pages I was hooked. Yes, it is a tough subject matter, but it is part of our reality so I read on. I found that every so often I could identify with Eva. I suspect that many parents could if they are honest with themselves.

I appreciated the way Ms. Shriver doled out the details of 'Thursday' bit by bit. Too much at once could have overwhelmed me. As it was I could digest the bits and was prepared when the next letter revealed more. The book is presented as a series of letters to Kevin's father.

The last chapter was my undoing. The gift that Kevin gave to his mother on the two year anniversary of the murders had me crying. Up to this point I was convinced that Kevin was a psychopath with no chance of redemption and then he puts that box on the table. He does have feelings for what his did. I am convinced that he had been carefully listening to his mother all his life but that he had fought against her at every turn, now he was ready to end that fight and really listen.

A very good read, though I won't recommend it for very sensitive readers or for someone who is feeling depressed.
Browse Inside 'We Need to Talk about Kevin'

Marie's review at Daisy's Book Journal

Thanks Deanna for suggesting this book.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Needlework Tuesday

Will I surprise you all if I tell you that I have started on a new scarf?

Well, I did. This is going to be another very colourful one. I am using more of the small ball of bits and pieces that I used for my daughter's scarf that I showed you last week. Difference is that there are 70 stitches, using 5mm 40cm long round needle. Every 10 rows I switch yarns. So 10 rows of the colourful stuff and then 10 rows off one solid ball.

Most of the yarn is worsted weight.

I am trying to knit 20 rows a day. Don't know how long I want this scarf to be, but as its rather bulky in my mind that means it has to be longer. And this one will have fringe on the end. Since its a tube, the fringe will serve to keep the ends closed.

Its going to be a nice snugly scarf for someone in the family...

I hope to get back to some sewing this week. Its been ages since I have put any blocks together. All I've done lately is a wee bit of mending and that's not really satisfying.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini

Lindiwe's neighbour, 17 year old Ian, has confessed and is convicted of killing his step-mother. After a year and a half, the conviction is quashed and he is released. Lindiwe and Ian meet up again and establish a sort of relationship. It all seems very casual and innocent, except that this is the period of Zimbabwe independence and there are tensions everywhere. Between whites and blacks, between blacks and coloureds, between army and non army.

Lindiwe is coloured and Ian is white. She is still a school girl and Ian is an ex-con. Lindiwe continues with her education at University while Ian travels to South Africa and finds himself work as a photo journalist. Years later Ian returns to Zimbabwe and bumps into her and they resume their 'friendship'.

I loved reading how these two develop their relationship. It just sort of seems to happen. A meeting and a soda, a visit to a museum, another day, a drive home from school. Other seeming random meetings.
There didn't seem to be any one moment when it went from a casual friendship with a neighbour to a 'relationship'. That matched how there were no specific rules for how the whites and coloured citizens related to each other. Each character in the story seemed to follow their own set of guidelines of how they chose to interact with each other.

Lindiwe attended a mixed school and by the time she was a University she had a very mixed assortment of friends from a number of countries. She is very secure in her interactions with them regardless of their race or career. When it comes to Ian , she is wondering if he finds the white girls and their smooth hair more attractive than her black hair. I didn't view this as a racist issue, rather of one woman comparing herself to others woman and wondering how she ranks in her lover's eyes. I enjoyed their moments of tenderness and Ian's concern for Lindiwe that was always evident. I felt that together they made a terrific pair that was much stronger than the two of them separately.

While many secrets were revealed in this book, why Ian's mother left him, what both fathers did in the military, others we were only left with clues. Rather like the country itself, it was still in the building process at that time and it had secrets that would only be reviewed in time.

For a reading guide, visit Irene Sabatini's site and click on links.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Having started fencing in the past year, I decided that I needed to read some novels with fencing as a main theme. Where better to start than with the famous classic "The Three Musketeers". I downloaded and audio copy from my library and followed the many adventures of the four men.

This is such a well known novel that I'm going to assume you know the basic plot. The King of France, Louis Thirteen is on the throne, Anne of Austria is his wife, and Cardinal Richelieu is at the head of the church. The King's guards are headed by M. de Treville and the Cardinal has his own guards who ever seem to be in opposition to M. de Trevillle. D'Artagnan has travelled to Paris to seek out M. de Treville in order to petition to join the guards. If you want to know details of the plot and other than main character, please visit the Wikipedia site.

D'Artagnan seemed to me to embody all the good that one might hope to find in a young man. He was intelligent, generous, kind and chivalrous. I loved each of his companions, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The other character who most caught my attention was Lady de Winter. She was the most despicable character I have encountered in many a book. As I was listening to the audio, I would mutter to no one in particular, "Kill the Bitch, stab her through her black heart'. It was my daughter who pointed out to me that the author must have been a really good writer to have created such a character that I could hate her that much.

I did have some interesting discussions at fencing class. I wanted to know if a fencer could sustain multiple thrusts through his body and live to fight another day. My coach determined that it would depend on where the hit occurred. That many would indeed be survivable barring infection.

This was a very long book (over 20 hours audio), but definitely worth the read. Now on with my quest to find more fencing novels.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Needlework Tuesday

It's been a while since I have written a proper Needlework Tuesday blog entry. Summer has kept me busy and not always doing what I want to be doing. The past two weeks I was back and forth to my neighbour's many times. She is expanding her restaurant to include a banquet room and needed lots of new linens. She is a practical women so figured it was better to make them herself.

I helped her and her mom cut table clothes (80 ish) and napkins (250 ???) and showed them how to do a rolled edge on the serger, which neither of them had ever used previously. What and adventure. They feed me Greek Coffees with tons of caffine until I couldn't re-thread the machine for them. Even though it was difficult, we still had a good time and she knows that I'll help her out any time.

I did manage to fit in a bit of knitting. A few weeks back I said that I was going to knit a 'Harry Potter' type scarf for daughter on her little circular knitting machine. Thought I had better try it out on some scrap yarn first. That's her in the first picture wearing the result. Yes, rather colourful, but she loves it. I did have some problems with the yarns catching on the needles and its rather skinny. Will do the 'Slitherin' scarf on regular needles.
After that was finished I started on my new scarf. I used 2 skeins of Koigu KPPPM fingering weight Merino. I absolutely love the feel of this wool. Will have to find another project to use more of it. I had bought this wool to make another scarf, but there was something wrong with the pattern. Wrote the pattern designer, but never heard back from them. I ripped it out and tried another pattern that my sister gave me. Didn't like all the yarn overs and knitting 3 stitches together, so ripped that out. I picked up a 4.5 mm long round needle, cast on 320 stitches and proceeded in stocking knit stitch for 10 rows. Then I switched to reverse stocking knit stitch (is that the correct term, now the bumps are on the front side) for another 10 rows and then kept switching every 10 rows. I am thrilled with how it turned out. Its going to look great with my brown shearling jacket.

I have yarn/wool bought for 3 more scarves, so you'll be seeing more knitting in the next while.