Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready

Time travel, romance, art history and kick ass shoes, what more could I want in my summer reading.  This book has it all.

Art historian Campbell Stratford wants to clinch a major promotion and determines that the best way to do it is to secure a substantial donation to the museum and to publish a tell all book about 17th century Felmish painter  Anthony van Dyck.  In the midst of her research she inadvertantly ends up in the studio of Peter Lely in 1673 London, England.  From this point the story takes all sorts of unexpected twist and turns.  I'm not telling you any more as I don't want to spoil the story line.

I found this book totally enjoyable.  I was absorbed in it from the first pages and read it with hardly a break.  It was fun, light but with enough depth of the main characters to keep them interesting.  The ending was a surprise as I just didn't expect that it could end that way.  I guess if I could suspend reality for time travel to exist, then I should have considered that the ending was also a possibility.

I will definitely be looking for further books by Gwyn Cready.

Thanks to Bostick Communications  for this review copy.

Author Gwyn Cready's website

Photo Credits:
Portrait of  Charles II  by Anthony van Dyck - The National Gallery
Portrait of Moll Davies by Peter Lely - Wikitree
paint brushes from - and protest
artist at easel - Art Room Update
animal print shoes - Clueless Fashionista
book Painted Ladies from Gwyn Cready's website

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Needlework Tuesday

I am pleased with my knitting progress over the past two weeks.  I did about ten repeats of the pattern.  I love the way it's looking and how thick and warm it's going to be.  Not the best when its hot in the house, but I am enjoying watching the progress.

The top is now finished for my Wild Blue Yonder quilt.  The triangle border added whatever was missing.  I am so glad that I put in the extra effort.  I don't know how I am going to quilt this, though it won't be  stitch in the ditch.  Since it is so angular, I am going to go with curves, but not swirls.  I'll use an 80-20 cotton/poly batting and will be looking for some sort of floral fabric for the backing.  Note that this picture is far too yellow.  The border fabric is really a creamy beige, I was having trouble with the flash on my camera.

If you are joining me for the first time, this block pattern is from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks magazine that was published earlier this year.  It is pattern #97 "Wild Blue Yonder" designed by Scott Murkin of Patchwork Possibilities.   If you have made this same block, please send me a pic as I'd love to post it here.

I'll be back next week with progress on the Betty Boop fabrics that I showed two weeks ago.  I did go shop for another print, but alas, we had all the ones that that store carrys.  Guess that will have to be good enough.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

City of Night: A Novel of the House War by Michelle West

This is the second book in The House Wars series.  In the first book we met Rath and his ward Jay.  Jay has now left Rath's care and moved into her own dwelling along with the nine other members of her den.  These are fellow orphans that were trying to find their way in the hard area of Averalaan.  The newest member of the den is Angel; recently orphaned, he has chosen to display a hairstyle distinctive of his northern heritage.  (I wonder if his hairstyle will play a significant role in a future book(s) in this series).

The den members continue to forage in the undercity for artifacts until it becomes too risky to venture below ground.  Rath continues in his pursuit of those engaging in demonic practices/alliances and political intrigue. 

The introduction of Angel into the story widen my view of the city.  The port area was barely mentioned an not explored in the first book.  I enjoyed learning more of the peoples who live and work there.  After this engaging view of Angel and the port I expected him to play a more pivotal role for the rest of the story.  I guess I'll have to wait for him to show his colours in  book three, of which there is no doubt that one will be forth coming.

Author Michelle West continued to build the complex city of Averlaan and its varied inhabitants.  We learned more about the Order of Knowledge and the abilities of its members.  More about the tailor Haval is revealed, though it seems there is an even greater mystery to him than I suspected.

While I enjoyed reading this installment of The House War, it left me with a feeling of marking time.  As though there is something big coming but that the reader still needed to learn more about Jay and her den as well as more about the powerful members of society before we would be ready to read further.  I will be back to this series as I need to know how Jay develops her skill and whether Angel and his unique hairstyle live up to the role of my expectations.  Michelle makes reference to the next book in the series in a recent post on her website.
This is the follow-up to The Hidden City click for my earlier review.

Thanks to Penguin Canada for this review copy.

Photo Credits:
the gold eye - from
viking ship from DayMix
roman gods from Karen's Whimsy
demon from A Phoenix Reborn
underground city  - Kaymakli Castle at
farmer's market from Ukiah Blog

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Sorry to be Absent

So sorry to be absent for the past week.  Life was getting rather busy and then computer issued raised their ugly head. I am still dealing with those, but am seeing some improvements.  Hopefully will get this all sorted and be back with some reviews, food and needlework. 

Thanks to those who have popped in to check that all is well.  I appreciate your concern.


Thursday, 17 June 2010

Recipe Thursday - Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

A few weeks back while reading some BEA related posts, someone mentioned that they had Lemon Ricotta Pancake.  My mouth started watering; I had to have some of them.  A quick search of the internet turned up hundreds if not thousands of recipes.  I selected one from the Canadian Living website and made a shopping list.  This past weekend son was home and daughter had three of her girl friends over, the perfect victimes to try a new recipe. 
My daughter and son are familiar with me yelling at them "stop, don't eat that yet, I need a picture" but the friends weren't sure why I was yelling.  Daughter explained the blog bit and they chuckled with that Oh, one of those old people things, accompanied by the roll of the eyes bit.  Yes, they humoured me as you can see daughter's plate with the berry compote arranged artistically on top of her lone pancake.

Hubby loved these as well.  Would make a perfect start to your father's day morning.  Dad won't have any trouble following the recipe and serving you a nice warm meal.   To print a copy of the recipe visit Canadian Living.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

How to Make a Bestseller

Given two books of equal breadth and quality, why does one stagnate in sales and the other soar and become a bestseller.  That's the question that book activist and author Catherine McKenzie is trying to answer.  She has recently set up a Facebook group to determine if it is possible that the efforts of a bunch of bloggers, book reviews, and readers can turn a selected book into a bestseller.

I learned of this movement while visiting at The Savvy Reader and immediately clicked through to the Facebook Group and decided to join.  Next step was to call my local independent book store, Wordsworth Books, and order Jessica Z by author Shawn Klomparens.   Being a special order, it took about two weeks to arrive.  Well worth the wait according to the early reviews I've read.  This book has been added to my early summer reading list and I will post a review when completed.  Let me know if you decide to read this book as a result of my post, or if you join Catherine's Facebook Group.  You can also find Catherine at Good Reads.
My review of Jessica Z is now posted.

As I was thinking about what makes one book a bestseller and another not a bestseller, the phrase "tipping point" came to mind.  Malcolm Gladwell's debut book The Tipping Point has been waiting to be read for far too long.  I have also added it to my summer reads and perhaps it will help me with some insights into this bestseller quandry.

As an aside, Mr. Gladwell is from Elmira, Ontario, which is a short ten kilometre drive from where I live.

Since I have been talking about my summer reads, I want to give you a heads up on a book launch I will be attending on Saturday.  Author Della vanDokkumburg will be reading from her children's book The Shoe Tree at the St. Jacobs Country Gardens at 10am - 11:30am.  I'll be taking pictures and hopefully speaking with Della about the challenges of writing a children's book.

Photo Credits:  I borrowed the poster for The Shoe Tree from Della's website.

The cover photo of The Tipping Point is from my book and the coffee ring on it appears to be a contribution from my hubby. 

Needlework Tuesday on Wednesday

Ever have one of those frustrating weeks where you want to get to your needlework but something always gets in  the way.  I did sit at the machine one day and sew, but that was it.  I didn't knit a single stitch either. 

I am being optomistic this week.  I have pulled out several new fabrics for projects for my son.  He selected most of these fabrics.  He also wants me to purchase the Betty Boop in New York City fabric.  Once I get them pre-washed I'll get started cutting out the pieces.

Any guesses what the two projects wil be???

Monday, 14 June 2010

FIFA World Cup Soccer Reading Suggestions

Are you wondering what to do with the balance of your day while you are not watching soccer.  I recommend picking  up a book written by an author from one of the countries featured at the World Cup this year.  If you are not up to date on your international writers, check the list below for suggestions of authors and their novels.  Links to author websites will be included where possible, highlighted book titles lead to my reviews or those of my online friends.

If you wish to learn more about the participating countries, check the book Who Owns the World by Kevin Cahill with Rob McMahon. 

Corrections and additions to this list would be greatly appreciated.

     The Prince and the Passage of the Iron Doors

Olga Orozco
     Engravings torn from Insomnia

     No Highway
     A Town Called Alice
     The Lieutenant     

      Birds for Demolition

     The Savage Detectives

Cote d'Ivoire
     As the Crow Flies
An interesting article from the University of Western Australia about female writers from Ivory Coast.

     Smilla's Sense of Snow
Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen
     Out of Africa
     Babette's Feast   reviewed by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

J. M. Barrie
     Peter Pan

Alexandre Dumas

Hermann Hesse ( I read both these book when I was in highschool, excellent)
     The Glass Bead Game
Gerbrand Bakker
     The Twin  review printed in The , review by Rob at Winstonsdad's Blog


     Zorba the Greek
     Freedom or Death


Umberto Eco  (read both of these many years ago, highly recommend)
     The Name of the Rose
     Foucault's Pendulum

Haruki Murakami  (listened to the audio book, excellent description of why he runs)
     What I talk about when I talk about Running

Korea DPR

Korea Republic

     The Devil's Highway  reviewd by Amy at Amy Reads

New Zealand
     The Bone People
     Guardian of the Dead  (on my soon to be read list)
     Mr. Pip

     Monday Morning
     The Icarus Girl
     Say You're One of Them
     Things Fall Apart


     Barnacle Love
     The Elephant's Journey available September 2010
     In Blindness

     Gotz and Meyer


South Africa
     Homing  due out July 2010
     The Carpenter's Pencil reveiw by Stu At Winstonsdad's Blog


Ida Vitale   poet
     Reason Enough

United States of America
Edward P. Jones
Slash with Anthony Bozza

Comprehensive list of Women Writers in Africa from the University of Wollongong, Australia
Amy at Amy Reads is hosting a mini Nigerian Reading Challenge.  She has listed several authors and invites all readers to join in and learn more about Nigeria.  She has posted a brief overview of several authors.

Stu at Winstons Dad's Blog is reviewing writers in his "World Cup of Writers"  from each of the participating countries.  To date he has featured the host country South Africa,  England, Nigeria, Ghana  

The Savvy Reader has put together a list of the Top Ten Books to Celebrate Soccer World Cup.

Thanks to Della of Cones to Go Press for her author and book suggestions.
The FIFA logo has been borrowed from the official FIFA website.

Who Owns the World: The suprirising truth about every piece of land on the Plant by Kevin Cahill with Rob McMahon

I have found this a hard book to review.  Its not your typical book with pages of prose that you can read along.  That part of the book comprises about 60 pages.  The balance is charts and table of statistics which are not meant to be read in one sitting, rather to be re-visited frequently or when you hear about a country in a book, on a show or in the news.  You can pick up this book and quickly learn more about it.

I have been telling my family and friends about this book over the past months and they have found the basics are rather eye opening. 

"Land is the single most common characteristic of wealth worldwide."  According to Mr. Cahill, to own land is to be on the track toward wealth, yet 85% of the worlds population is excluded from owning land (due to lack of money).

Who holds this land is what keeps it from being owned in a more balanced fashion.

Queen Elizabeth is the world's largest land owner.  She owns all the lands of the Commonwealth, 9,000 million acres, of which approximately 6,600 million acres have her name as sole owner  This essentially means that if the Queen wants the land on which my house sits, she can take it. 

The Pope rules over all the land owned by the Catholic church, some 177 million acres world wide.  With that much wealth, why are churches in Ontario allowed a tax free status? 

The balance of the book is filled with tables and sections for each country.  I opened the book and looked at Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean midway between Central America and New Zealand.  Population is 44 people, size is 8,772 acres which calculates to 199.4 acres per person.  Approximately half the residents own land.  Big in the news right now is South Africa.  Population 46,430,000 people, area 301,243,520 acres which calculates to 6.5 acres per person.  The country owns all the land and individuals hold land by deed registry (the government does not guarantee title). 

The book is filled with fascinating reading.  It is one I will be keeping on hand for frequent referrals.  Where many readers pick up dictionaries to look up new words, I keep my atlas at hand, I'll now be keeping Who Owns the World nearby.

Take a quiz designed for readers of this book

Why write Who Owns the World, comments by Kevin Cahill

Additional information regarding this book can be found at the website: Who Owns the World

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for providing me with this review copy.

Reviews by my fellow bloggers can be found at:

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A Lesson before Dying by Ernest J. Gains

 I listened to the audiobook version adapted by Romulus Linney and performed by the L.A. Theatre Works.

This is the story of Jefferson, a youn man living in rural Louisiana about 1948, who has been erroneously convicted of murdering a white shop keeper.  Once his white lawyer has referred to him as a hog, his behaviour reverts to that of an animal.  His Aunt Emma, who raised him, asks the local school teacher, Grant Wiggins, to speak with him and to help Jefferson to regain his humanity and to face his future with dignity befitting a man.
The school teacher has his own challenges.  He hates living in the south, being reminded daily of the poor circumstances of the black man and the mean way in which they are treated. He longs to leave and work elsewhere, but he can't just walk away from the request of Aunt Emma as she was one of the people who helped pay for his college education.

I down loaded this from my library and listened to it on my ipod while driving.  Unfortunately I had it set to shuffle and I listened to the second half of the story first and then the first half.  Yes, I was a bit confused at moments, but it made me listen all that more intently.  I think I might have even gained more listening to it this way. 

This was an incredibly moving book.  Yes, it was bad that an innocent man was railroaded into a convictions for a crime where he was a bystander.  For me this book was more about the actual people of Jefferson and Grant Wiggins.  They had the power to chose the type of man they were going to be, the type of man they would present to those surrounding them.  Jefferson could be dragged to the electric chair or he could walk there with his head up and show that he was a better person than those who put him on that path.  He was able to chose to ignore all those who said he was nothing better than an animal.  He lived up to the expectations of his Aunt Emma and to the many others in his community who were supporting him.  Grant asked Jefferson to become a hero to his people.  To walk with his head up.  Even the teacher is able to learn from the student.

I really enjoyed listening to this play and look forward to reading the novel.

Author Ernest J. Gaines has written at least eight  books and many more short stories and articles.  He has won numerous awards for his writing.  The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has a good biography of Mr. Gaines.

A Lesson before Dying has won the following awards:

The cover photo used in the reading map is from the website of the L.A. Theatre Works.

This is my 11th book for the Read, Remember, Recommend Fiction Challenge being hosted by Rachelle at  The contest runs till April 2011, so there is still ample time for you to join in the fun.

Friday, 11 June 2010

What to Read in June and July

I have quite a stack of books that I have been looking forward to reading.  Most got shoved to the side for the past  month and a half while I read the books shortlisted for the Orange Prize.  Now back to my regularly schedualled reading.

Who Owns the World by Kevin Cahill - I have read most of this one though am stuck on the review, review copy
Bounce by Matthew Sted - won this one in a contest,
my little red book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff - won in a blog contest

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis - selected as the One Book One Community Read for Waterloo Region 2010-11
City of Night by Michelle West - review copy - currently reading
Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready  - review copy  -  read, awaiting review

Photo Credits:
Flirting with Forever from the Author's website
Bounce - Publisher's website.

This list doesn't mean these are the only books I plan to read in the upcoming weeks. Others will undoubtedly creep in such as the audio book (A Lesson before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, radio play by Romulus Linney) I plan to start today, and the cookbook (Cake Keeper Cakes by Allison Hollett) that I downloaded yesterday, and the other audio book  (The Mystery of the Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume)I downloaded. 

If you have read and reviewed any of the above mentioned books, let me know as I'd love to read your review and link with mine.  Thank-you.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

And the Winner is: 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction

I was going to write an entry about the winner, but Petty Witter at Pen and Paper has put it so eloquently, that I am going to refer to her today.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver did win, though I am not convinced it was the best fiction written by a woman. 

Click here for links to my reviews of all six books.

Thank-you to all my readers who followed along as I read these books.  I continue to look forward to sharing more of my reviews with you, though they will be books my my chosing (unless my kids shove a book in my face and demand that I read it, immediately) and not neccessrily from a award list.

update: June 13, 2010

found a blogger group The Orange Prize Project  who have spent the past several months reading and discussing these books.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

I felt so comfortable reading this book.  The words flowed on the page into my head and it just seemed right.  I've never been to Trinidad, though I did live on the island of St. Vincent a few hundred miles to the north.  While very different countries, some of the lifestyle and politics appeared familiar. 

In 1956 newly weds George and Sabine Harwood emigrate to Trinidad after George receives a promotion.  He immediately falls in love with the island while Sabine can't wait to return to England.  As the three year contract gets extended and extended again, their family grows and they collect a circle of friends, build a house and buy beach property.  George keeps his work life separate from Sabine.  He quickly finds his way there and never intends to leave, even taking Trinidadian citizenship without discussing it with his wife.  In an attempt to fit in and get to know the country, Sabine rides her green bicycle everywhere that she can pedal to.  In a short time she becomes widely knows as 'the white woman on the green bicycle'.  Somewhere in those early years she starts a letterwriting affair with Eric Williams, then prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

I loved every minute of this book.  It read so true to what I had experienced and seen my parents go through while they lived on St. Vincent.  My dad fit right into the community of business men.  My mother took tea with the other expatriate wives.  They wore their fancy clothes to evening parties and smiled as their children learned to speak the local dialects.   Monique Roffey has captured the lives of these transplants perfectly. 

I am looking forward to sharing this book with my family to see if it meshes with their memories of living in the Caribbean.  I've inlcuded a clip of the Mighty Sparrow, a true Trinidad legend.

Dr. Eric Williams - Caribbean Perspectives
Mighty Sparrow - Amie Street
Ship photograph from
Breadfruit -
Green bicycle - Lovely Bicycle Blog

More reviews:
Jill at The Orange Project
Jodie at Book Gazing

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

On August 31, 1939, Anna Sands and her mother are spending a final day shopping for supplies and having a few treats before Anna is evacuated from London.  It is the eve of World War II and thousands of children and being separated from their families in an effort to keep them safe from the anticipated bombings. It is days later when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's declaration of war.

For several years Anna lives at Ashton Park, a large manor house north of York.  There are over 80 children bordered there.  Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton opened their house to the children as they don't have any of their own.  Possibly they hoped to heal those wounds by having so many children living close at hand.  Over the four plus years that Anna lived at Ashton Park she formed a bond with Thomas and one of her teachers.  That bond stayed with her and overshadowed her activities for the rest of her life.

This story explored a page of history that I knew very little about. It was interesting to read how the Ashton's responded to the 'invasion' of their private home and how Anna adjusted to living away from her mother.  I would have liked to hear more about how the other children adapted.  I suspect that there were many who didn't do well and that there were others who thived in such a situation.

Most of the time while reading this book I thought it was pretty good.  As I got closer to the end the tears kept pouring down my cheeks.  I found it all very emotional.  That's me, I'll cry at almost anything. I don't think that neccessarily makes it a better book but it did make the ending memorable.

This final clip is the namesake song of the title.

Photo Credits:
Neville Chamberlain  -
Winston Churchill - ThinkQuest
Braithwaite Hall - National Trust
German bomber -
White handkerchief - Elegant Weddings Plus

Also reviewed by:

Petty Witter at Pen and Paper

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

2010 Orange Prize for Fiction: My Prediction

The Orange Prize for Fiction is awarded to the woman who, in the opinion of the judges, has written the best, eligible full-length novel in English.  The prize is open to any full length novel, written in English by a woman of any nationality, provided that the novel is published for the first time in the United Kingdom between 1 April of the year before the prize is awarded and 31 March of the year in which the prize is awarded.  Although the novel's first UK publication must fall within these dates, it's still eligible if it was previously published in English elsewhere.
Translations of books originally written in other languages are not eligible for the prize.
 From the website of the Orange Prize.

Shortlisted for 2010:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
Black Water Rising by Attica Lock
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

I have read all six books and am working on their reviews which will all be posted .  click here for links to each.
4 of the six reviews are posted as of June 8, 2010 at 11pm.

If you've been following along with my reviews, you'll know that I have removed The Lacuna and The Gate at the Stairs from my consideration.  These books didn't work for me.  I do plan to try another book by Barbara Kingsolver as I have read some excellent reviews of her other works.

While I really enjoyed Wolf Hall, it was rather long and I don't know that it would have wide enough appeal.

It's hard to make a choice from the other three.  I had to consider whether my liking them was a result of their emotional impact or if it was the actual story and how it was told.  My regular readers probably have noticed that I cry at the drop of a hat, so not the best basis for saying a book is the best.  Black Water Rising was a riviting read.  I could hardly put it down.   Great story telling. I learned about lot about the civil rights movement while reading it. 

The blitz in Britain happened ages before I was born and I had not read any accounts of any of the evacuee children. While I like the characters of Anna and cried heaps of tears for her there seemed to be too much missing in her story.  Would she have truly formed such a deep and lifelong relationship with Mr. Ashton that it would still be affecting her sixty years later.

I'm putting my imaginary votes in for The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. I might have choked up for a moment or two while reading, but no tears.  I found that both Sabine's and George's reactions to moving to Trinidad to be very believable.  The descriptions of the political turmoil in Port of Spain mirror many reports I have read of that in other countries in more recent years.  A mother's hopes and dreams for her marriage and for her children never coming to fruition, all very believable.

I've written it down with a few comments, I guess we'll see what the judges think within a matter of hours.

This was a fun but stressful challenge.  Six lengthy books in six or so weeks.  For the most part I'm glad I decided to do this.  I don't generally take list recommendations blindly, but use them as guidelines whereas in this case it was an all or nothing.  Don't know that I'll do this again, prehaps with another prize, or maybe just a few from a long list and hope that I happened to hit on the winner.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga audiobook

Animals aren't intended to live in zoos, so why is that some people seem to be content to live in their self imposed or society imposed cages.

This is one of the questions that Aravind Adiga poses in his debut novel White Tiger. I listened to the audio book over the past two weeks, and found that I never wanted to press the 'stop' button.  If it had been a paper book, I would have carried it around with me non-stop, peeking pages whenever I had a free moment.  Even now, I am planning to purchase at least one copy. 

Balram Halwai was born in a small rural village into a family of the caste of 'sweet makers'.  His father was a rickshaw puller and his brother worked in a teashop.  Balram started out following his brother, though while his brother strictly did his job, he chose to listen to the talk of the patrons and learn more about the world.  He longed for more than cleaning up the slops of others.  Balram decided to become a driver and work his way up in the world.

Balram is telling the story of his life and his rise in status as an entrepreneur in a series of late night letters to the Premier of China, who is schedualed to visit India in the near future.  In his letters he admits to being a wanted murderer and proceeds to explain to the Premier why his earlier actions were warranted.

Mr. Halwai likens his early life to that of a caged animal at the zoo.  His position is that even if you open the door to the cage, the animals will remain inside the bars, that is what they know of life and they expect no more.  It was interesting to see how Balram forced open the doors of his cage and ran out, free. 

I'm not sure why, but I was hooked on this book from the first pages.  It is set in a country that I know little about (India), in a series of jobs that I haven't experienced.  I do think that mostly it was the lilting voice of the reader.  Each time I turned on my player, I didn't want to stop, I wanted to keep hearing that voice. 

At times Balram Halwai reminded me of Jay Porter the main character from Attica Locke's book Black Water Rising.  Both are men who appear to be free, but both are still living within the shackles of their mind.  Locke's book has  been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Audio book from Tantor Media, read by John Lee.

Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Honda City image from Pakauto Car
Red bag image from Gucci Italy

Also reviewed by:

Amy at Amy Reads

This is my 10th book for the Read, Remember, Recommend Fiction challenge hosted by Rachelle at  There are a number of great prizes to be won, as well as monthly book prizes available to all visitors to her blog.

Needlework Tuesday

Last evening was the annual meeting for my local quilt guild.  To encourage members to volunteer as President, we decided that each member could chose to make a block for her at the end of her term.  The outgoing president chose white, yellow and orange for her block colours.  This pattern is called "Shooting Star" and is from Judy Martin's book Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts.  You can read my earlier review.  I have made a number of blocks from this book and each has turned out wonderfully.

I thought I would be done with this quilt, but alas no.  I put it up on the wall with what I thought would be th final borders, but something bugged me.  I just didn't seem finished.  I am now pieicing the next border.  160ish little triangles to be carefully cut and pieced.  Hopefully back next week with the finished top.

I did manage to find a few minutes to knit, but that was about it.  I think I stitched six rows.  This one is a secret so I can only pull it out when hubby isn't around. 
I have been a bit distracted from my stitching the past few weeks.  I have been reading the six novels that have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.  Tomorrow is the big announcement of the winnner. I still have 350 pages left to go in the final book.  eeks.  Before bed tonight I need to finish that and write a review of it and a reveiw of the one I finished monday morning.  As well, I need to make my comments and predicitons on the winner.  To read my reviews of the six nominees, check this post.  Gotta go and get reading, bye for now.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Spotlighted Blogger on

I invite you all to hop on over to  I was surprised this morning to find that Rachelle has spotlighted me and my blog, Books & Quilts, today.  A few weeks ago she introduced me to the concept of reading maps.  These include a picture of the book cover and then an assortment of images that represent the contents of the book or at least those things that have meaning for the reader creating the reading map.  I have been making these for my recent reads and posting them in my reviews.  Yesterday I made one for Rachelle's book Read, Remember, Recommend : A Reading Journal for Book Lovers and she has pictured it for the first time on her blog. I am excited that she likes it.

While you are visiting be sure to check out the contests that Rachelle is hosting as there are some great prizes to be won.

You can read my review of her journal.

Friday, 4 June 2010

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

What's one year in your life.  When an average american lives 70 - 80 years, how much impact can the events of one year have on those remaining.  As 20 year old Tassie Keltjin finds out, they can be monumental.

At the beginning of that one year period Tassie starts a part time job as a babysitter for a newly adopted, mixed race baby girl.  Over the following weeks and months, Tassie find herself being totally immersed in another world.  This is one alien to the life she lead at home, which was that of the eldest child of a specialty vegetable farmer in a rural farming community.

At university she takes classes that introduce her to wider aspects of her world; wine tasting, Sufism, the music of war.  A boy friend with an unknown past.  Lots of doors opening and Tassie passes through most of them, even tumbling the occasional time.

As the year progresses these doors start to slam shut.  The first occurs when Tassie returns home for Christmas and finds that her role within the family has changed.  She's not the person she was a few months earlier.  The visit to the first adoption agency seemed promising, but again, the door slammed shut rather quickly.

This book was like a bad roller coaster ride.  It had all the uphill expectations of a big stomach wretching drop, but once you reached the peak, it just kinda coasted gently and didn't seem to go anywhere.  Then another buildup and nothing.  Usually the ride up the hill is exciting as the higher you get the more you see, but in this case there just wasn't much new to see. It stayed the same.  There were lots of bits and pieces added in such as the mashed paperwhite bulbs, the scooter, playing the bird of prey while her father is cutting crops, that I found as distractions. Was I supposed to read more into them with my own reflections. Perhaps they would make more sense if I sat with several  bookclub members and discussed them with a glass of sauvignon blanc as Sarah and Tassie did whenever they had a 'serious' conversation.

This story never seemed to find it's stride. It kept trying, but failed for me.  Sure, the end had a big emotional punch, but that was about it. 

This is the fourth book I have read of the six tht have been shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize for fiction.  I'm ranking it at the bottom of my stack.

An interesting article about Lorrie and this novel at Ithmus: The Daily Page - "Lorrie Moore at long Last".

A Gate at the Stairs has been shortlisted for :
2010 Orange Prize for Fiction
2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Visit Petty Witter at Pen and Paper for her review.

Les Paul guitar image from

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Recipe Thursday - Camping and Cooking

Back to the campground.  Yes, I still had to feed the family even while they were taking a break.  Last year all our cooking was done over the fire.  Enough of that phooey.  This year we are taking appliances: crockpot, electric frying pan, electric grill, and next time even the capaccino machine etc.  It took a bit of searching in the cookbooks to find a casserole that could all be done without the oven.  I figure that putting the lid on the deep dish frying pan would sort of work out and it did.
In the first picture is hubby, daughter who is hamming it up and her friend.  They were fed well all weekend even though we had to make a trip to Collingwood to pick up pie.  Friend had brought an awesome apple pie but it  inadvertantly got left on the kitchen table.  That sure made us sad.
Picture two shows a general table shot, notice the books that I reviewed earlier this week sitting near the bottom of the photo. 
I have made a few things out of Company's Coming: Most Loved Cassroles, though this was the first time for this one.  We have put this one on the repeat list, though with more black olives for topping and even more cheese.

My daughter took pictures of me making "Zesty Beef Casserole".  (click on the recipe name for a printable copy)  It was very easy and wonderfully tasty.  My only change from the directions was to cook for about 1/2 an hour in the skillet with the lid on instead of in the over for 1 hour.
The recipe does call for a package of taco seasoning.  I find packages too salty, and choose to make my own mix instead.

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp oregano
4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder

Mix together and store in a sealed container.  Use approximately one tablespoon per pound of beef.  I used about two tablespoons in the "Zesty Beef Casserole".

Daughter rounded out our meal with a lovely fresh fruit salad that included strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and for juice added a can of baby oranges.
Click on over to Beth Fish Reads to her "Weekend Cooking" meme.  Visit all the food related postings for the week and add your own.   Beth is also hosting a contest this week to win a yummy sounding cookbook and a 3 month foodie membership to The Six O'clock Scramble.