Monday, 31 July 2017

Beyond the Doors by David Neilsen

In this fun, yet edgy story, author David Neilsen has greatly expanded upon the mystery of what might lurk beyond an un-opened door.

The four young Rothbaum children are homeless after their father is left comatose due to a drastic house fire.  Luckily, at the last minute, a previously unknown aunt, the sister of their long last mother, is located and they're taken to live with her in her  strange castle.

Not that they had any expectations, but living with Aunt Gladys couldn't have been further from what they could have expected.  First off, her house had no doors.  Wait, let me clarify, she had lots of doors, but not a single one was attached in a doorway, they were lying in stacks in the various rooms.  What could their mysterious aunt be doing with them.

I totally enjoyed this story.  At times it had me laughing, particularly with regard to the inept social worker, and at other times I was on the edge of my seat worried with what the children might find behind the next door they opened. Loved the fun names. Why give a character and easy to say name when you can weigh her down with something like Miss Guacaladilla (the earlier mentioned social worker). 

Middle school readers will be entertained by the siblings adventures beyond each door.  Like many siblings, they don't always agree and don't want to obey the eldest, but they do look out for each other and try to keep them safe.  This tale definitely has some creepy characters  and a fair share of scary moments.  It would be best to read with your room door firmly closed and with  a spare door knob tucked in your pocket.

Also by David Neilsen:

Dr. Fell and the playground of DOOM

Guest post by author David Neilsen

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Feed by M. T. Anderson

They met during a spring break trip to the moon. It should have been a short romance, but when both of them, along with several friends are infected with a man-made virus, their relationship changes and deepens.

At first, Titus takes this in stride, but then it becomes all too real and he pulls back.  Violet wants to have a meaningful relationship in a world where most people are quite shallow and only concerned with their next purchase that will keep them in the current style.

It is sad to think that there are many who see this reality as our best possible future.  An Internet like feed directly into our brains.  Already we are inundated with advertising and the push to consume even more.  Too often we are willing to let others do the critical thinking for us.  Hopefully this book will serve as a wake-up call to it's readers.

I'll admit, I didn't really like this story at the beginning. The language was difficult to understand and most of the characters were two dimensional.  Lingo and jargon are hard to get a grasp of if you aren't a part of it's community.  But then the story changed, the kids got sick and removed from their feeds.  Then I started to see the real people buried beneath the technology.  By the end of the book I was consumed by their stories.

This is a good cautionary tale.  Should appeal to teen and young adults,

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by David Aaron Baker.  5 hours 5 minutes

Cover image courtesy Candlewick Press.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Needlework Tuesday: Learning the ins and outs of something new

 When I am stitching, I find it easiest to stay in my comfort zone and work with materials I know and with techniques I've used before.  This week I branched out and am using 2 inch strips that I cut from an old sheet.  I was going to throw the sheet in the garbage, so why not give it a try.  First, I cut the sheet on the bias using scissors.  Not going to cut the whole thing that way, so I folded it with the bias edge lined up, and used my rotary cutter and matt and had it reduced to strips in a matter of minutes.  The ended of each piece were already cut on an angle making it easy to overlap and stitch together on the sewing machine.  I am using a 9mm crochet hook and started by following a pattern for the flat base.  It wasn't really working, so I decided to add increases as required.  It is mostly round.

When it measured about 13 inches across, I switched to doing the single crochets only in the back loop. After I completed that round, I switched to double crochets.  It is hard going working with the cloth.  I had to play around with the best way to hold the hook so as not to tire my hand.  I can't stitch too long without a break, but it is progressing.

At this point, it looks like it's make a nice cat bed, but since I don't have a cat, I'll keep going with the plan to make it a basket for my current knitting project.  I'm glad I gave this a try though I don't know that it will become a favourite technique as it is harder on my hands.  It might work better with a different size or style of hook.   I'll have to shop for a larger hook and see how it feels.

 Taking a break from the brown basket, I felt I had better finish these dish cloths.  While I like the look of them, particularly the two colour one, they have a lot of spots where they need to be tacked down.  If you don't take them down, then they'll shift all over the place in the wash.  I think that once they are washed and the shrink, they will make pretty hot matts.

 I spent more time sewing down buttons.  It is still exciting to see how each button added changes the look.  So far I am at 172 buttons.
Here's a close up of the one leaf point that is full.  might be space yet for a bead or two later.  This is such fun, not instructions nor a pattern to follow, just my own instincts.  My kind of needlework.

Most of use tend to follow instructions or patterns when we are learning. Some of us veer off onto our own path once we have learned the basics and some of us only follow patterns.  Nothing wrong with either approach.  As long as it's fun and no one gets hurt, then follow the approach that works for you and enjoy.

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 July 2017

Knife by R. J. Anderson

Bryony, aka Knife, is a curious young faery. She yearns for the world outside the oak tree in which all the faeries dwell.  On her first mis-adventure outside, she comes face to face with a boy.
This is the beginning of her fascination with the outside world.  Her quest for knowledge about humans leads her to question life in the tree and what happened to change it so drastically.

I was totally captivated by this story and wonder why I hadn't read it earlier.  It is full of strong female characters that I couldn't help but love.  I particularly like Thorn, the Queen's Hunter, who teaches Bryony how to survive out of doors.

This is a good example of history being written by the victor.  Without being taught faery history, the new generations have forgotten their rich past and are struggling to hold on to a future.

And that human boy Paul, he was also changed by that chance encounter with Bryony.  He is a flawed young man, but a good person which makes him  a wonderful addition to the otherwise female fast.  

This book should have wide appeal to young readers and is suitable for parents and kids to read together. 

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by Emma parish. 7 hours 16 minutes.  She did a terrific job of voice characterization and showed excitement and enthusiasm as she read.  

This book was published in the United States under the title Spell Hunter.

My daughter Shannon introduced  R. J. Anderson at a book festival several years ago.  She dressed as Thorn, also her favourite character.

Cover image courtesy Oakhill Publishing


Saturday, 22 July 2017

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Nao is at the beginning of her life and she has lost hope, is aimless.  Ruth has passed most of her life and she is adrift.  Both are writers, Nao at her first story and Ruth at possibly her final.

When Ruth first realizes she has found a diary, she is curious about it's writer.  As she continues to read, she gets pulled into the writer, Nao's life.  Soon the time line becomes blurred and Ruth begins doubting herself and her memory.

This is a story full of choices and their consequences.  (ripple effect).  Time is a also a frequent topic for both Nao and Ruth.  The first has chosen to limit her remaining time while the later ponders how much she has remaining.  Nao's great-grandmother has had the most time of them all, 104 years, which she had learned to use to the benefit of mankind.  She was my favourite character in the book . She seemed so wise and knew the best approach to use with Nao.

At various times while I was listening to this audio book, I experienced widely ranging emotions. I felt compassion for Nao and her trials at school.  I was annoyed with Ruth for her dithering over her writing.  Often I was confused, wondering how the author could possibly tie together the two women's very different stories.

This would be a good book club selection as there are a number of areas I am unclear about that could benefit from discussion.

One of the things that intrigues me about this book, is that the author, Ruth Ozeki,  is a character in the story.  That adds more to my pondering of the time and place of this tale.

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by the author.  She did a wonderful job voicing the characters, particularly old Jiko, the great-grandmother.  Blackstone Audio 14 hours 43 minutes.

The author's end notes in the audio version indicate that the printed version contains additional supplementary materials.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada


Friday, 21 July 2017

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

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

A novella by author Stephen Graham Jones

Twelve your old Junior lives it his mom and little brother in a small modular home.  He is haunted by the loss of his father when he was four.  Now, on the cusp of becoming a man, he has to learn to cope with his feeling about his dad, a man he mostly knows through stories told by his mother.  Using those clues and traditions passed down from his native Indian culture, he weaves a vivid tale of his father's remarkable return to the living and of his brother's downward health spiral.  Or is it just a tale, has Junior broken through the veil to somewhere else, some time else.

I was captivated by this short story and am left wondering which parts were Junior's imagination and which were the truth finally coming to light.  A good mix of reality and mysticism.

Cover image courtesy


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Needlework Tuesday - A Tiny Finish is Still a Finish

The past few weeks I have been talking about making progress even if it is in little steps.  Eventually, all those little steps result in a completed project.  I did manage to finish this little basket yesterday.  I worked on it for about 4 days, doing a bit here and there as time permitted.  As you can see, it is small, that is a 6 inch ruler standing in it.

I used a free pattern from Just Be Crafty.

 The cotton yarn is the same as I have been using for the hand towels and the hot pad.  I still have lots remaining, so next up is a slightly shorter version of this basket.  I'd like to try using the same pattern and instead of worsted weight yarn, use 2 inch wide strips of fabric and a much larger needle.  I'd like a basket to hold my current knitting/crochet project.  Have you tried a knit or crochet project with fabric strips, any suggestions?

Progress continues with the buttons.  In this photo, I believe I have 115 red buttons sewn down.  The spaces are starting to fill in nicely. Since I want to keep track of the number of buttons I use, I had to develop  a process that would work.  I tried ticking off each button as I sewed it on.  Nope, I was starting to miss buttons or double count others.  Next I counted out 25 buttons and added them to the list, then sewed them on.  That worked perfect, so that is the approach I am using.

I have the selected buttons laid out on my sewing table.  Then I thread the needle and tie off the ends.  Sew on a button, pull the needle up to the next spot, loop through the fabric a few times to secure, then sew the next button.  I use a long length of thread and can sew on about 6-8 buttons before re-threading.  When I get tired or need a break, I just leave the project on the table and walk away.  It's all ready for the next little bit of time I have.  So, even it I just have time to sew on 2 or 3 buttons, I am making progress.  When I am out, I keep looking for more red buttons, I want a few more character/shape buttons.  I have a few flowers and some with rhinestones, but would like an animal or two and a little car. Have seen these before, but not in red.  I'm sure I'll come across them at some point and will then add them in.

You might think that it would be tedious sewing on all those buttons, but I am finding it to be rather methodical and almost meditative.  Up and down each hole three times, then across the back, up again, loop to secure and start again.  With the placement of each button, I can envision the finished project just a little bit closer.  It might also help, that sometimes, I listen to an audio book while stitching.

I hope that you have been making little bits of progress on your stitching this past week.

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.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

 Three teens; Allie, Juliet and Rob, live life on the fringe.  They thrive at night when most others are asleep.  No, they are not vampires, they have a rare genetic defect known as XP - Xeroderma Pigmentosum.  Any exposure to sunlight will leave them with sever skin damage or worse.

Knowing they have a shortened life span, they seek out thrilling activities hat will push them to the edge.  One night while practising Parkour at a neighbouring apartment block, Allie catches a glimpse through a window of what she thinks is a murder.  This sets the three on a series of encounters that risk theirs and others lives.

For me, one of the most satisfying things about reading, is learning something new.  I'd never really thought about how confining life would be if I couldn't see the sun.  Fortunately, the three don't have any fond memories of the sun and have developed their own lifestyle that gives them the freedom of the darkness.  Together they are friends and their own support unit.

This is a fast paced story that kept me anxiously waiting for the next chapter.  It was practically agony each time I had to put the book down.  When I reached the end, I was left hanging.  I have some suspicions but will have to wait for the next book, What We Lost in the Dark, for answers.

Also by Jacquelyn Mitchard:

Two if by Sea

Cover image courtesy Soho Press Teen.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Chase by Linwood Barclay

After the death of his parents in an horrific plane explosion, Jeff Conroy is taken in by his seemingly indifferent Aunt Flo.  Even though he is only 12, he toils long days to help run her summer rental cabins.  Because his aunt doesn't like dogs, he was forced to give away his beloved dog.

Life is looking down until he meets Emily, daughter of the owner of a several nearby rental cottages.  Their friendship is in the early stages when Chipper, a run away dog, bounds into their lives.  They soon learn that Chipper is a very special dog, with state-of-the-art computer implants.  The people who created him are most anxious to get him back and will do almost anything to achieve that goal.

It may seem far fetched to have a dog with such skills and intelligence, but in the hands of talented author Linwood Barclay, I had no trouble accepting Chipper and his gifts.  I have always wondered what dogs thing about and what they would say if they could talk with us.  This is a fast paced story that is sure to capture the imagination of middle school readers.  They will be able to identify with Jeff and the troubles he is having adapting to life with his aunt.

The only problem with this book is that it ended to soon.  I'm hanging off the cliff with no idea when the next part of the story will be published.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Needlework Tuesday - I don't need any more project ideas!

 I've been trying really hard to stick to the three projects that I talked about last week.  Honestly, I don't need any more new ones to work on.  I did add some more buttons to the maple leaf wall hanging.  In the upper left areas, you can see some clustering starting to happen.  At this stage there are 65 buttons attached.  I am having fun with this; I could easily devote my entire week of stitching to just this one project.   In all practicality, that would never happen, I would need to see some progress on the other items laying around.
 After finishing the knitting of the second hand towel, I still had oodles of this cotton left, so started what the pattern calls a dish cloth.  eeks, too pretty a design and too thick for a dish cloth.  It would never dry before it rotted away or became stinky.  I know it will make a wonderful hot pad for the table.  The pieces are now ready for assembly.
Even after I finished 2 hand towels and 2 hot pads, I'll still have an abundance of these cottons.  I bought them last year at the tent sale at Spinrite yarns in Listowel. It was too cheap not to buy knowing how much the small balls cost in the regular stores.  Do you have a favourite pattern that calls for cotton yarn that isn't clothing?  Please share the link.

I didn't work on the fittens, project 3.
I didn't knit on my sister's socks, project 4.
I didn't really start project 5, not really started, almost true, well kinda.  I did watch part of the video and did start drawing out the chart for the crochet, but I haven't picked up any wool nor a crochet hook (well I did look but didn't find the correct size). So, I can't really count this one as started...  I have a YouTube feed thing, it sends me emails when my favourites post a new video.  Esperanza and Ana Celia Rosas do the most amazing crochet and they post videos that show every step in details.  I don't understand what they are saying beyond the simple counting of stitches, but I can follow along quite well.  They are showing a new project, how to crochet feathers.  They are stunning and much nicer than ones I've been seeing on pinterest lately.  I am going to have to make at least one as I chart the pattern.  Here's the video:

Do I have you hooked now on both the ladies and this technique.  I have some left over sock yarn that I am going to try it with.  The self striping will avoid having to work in too many ends.  Will let you know how it goes. (and if I finish it before my next post it doesn't really count as having started a new project?)

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, 10 July 2017

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan

World War II has reached England and the small town of Chilbury on it's east coast hasn't escaped it's ravages.  Most of the able bodied men have enlisted, leaving the women to fill their traditional roles.  It comes as a shock to some of the women in Chilbury when the vicar announces that due to the lack of men, the esteemed village choir will close.

Primrose Trent, the new music tutor, soon after re-opens the choir to the mixed reactions of the women.  Some of them can't imagine a choir without male voices and other realize that they can't stop living just because the men have left to defend their freedoms and very lives.

I enjoyed the interplay of the characters, particularly how being a small town and in an extra-ordinary  situation helped batter down the barrier of the social classes.  I could easily imagine stuffy Mrs. B. looking down her nose at Prim and predicting doom for the new choir.  As much as there were many characters to love, there were also those that you loved to hate, mainly Edwina Paltry, the mid-wife, and the nasty Brigadier Winthrop (why wasn't he doing anything constructive for the war).  Many of the other women I would have been most at home with for an afternoon of tea and conversation. 

The mixing of fact and fiction makes for an easy to learn some British war history.  An all women's choir was a new thing and the women involved gained strength from participating.  After lives spent being in the shadows of the men, women were finally given the opportunity to show that they were capable of a great many tasks previously thought above them. 

At first, I tried listening to the audio book and found I didn't like it at all. Even though there were different voice actors, all the characters sounded the same.  I thought they were all 40 years old, and they all seemed to be putting on these pretentious, snotty upper class accents.  The effect of the letters and diary entries was totally lost by not seeing them in writing.   I was going to give up the book entirely when I spoke with a co-worker who read the paper version and loved it.  She encouraged me to give it another try.   I'm glad she did, the paper version was wonderful.  I was better able to enjoy the format of the correspondence and get a true image of the characters particularly fourteen year old Kitty and ten year old Czech evacuee Silvie, both of whom I had thought were middle age ladies on the audio.

This is a well told story that had me cheering for the successes of the women and mourning with them at their losses. This is a wonderful debut novel by author Jennifer Ryan.  I look forward to her future works.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Most mothers I know say they would do anything for their children. What does that mean.  Would they hurt someone, would they kill someone, would they take a bullet to save their child.  Author Gin Phillips explores such a situation in her latest book Fierce Kingdom.

Joan and her four year old son Lincoln have spent a pleasant afternoon at the zoo and are packing up his toys when they hear several sharp bangs, or are they loud pops.  They don't think much about it as they are walking toward the exit.  It is almost closing time and they don't want to be locked in.  As they approach the gate, Joan realizes something is wrong, very wrong.  With Lincoln gathered in her arms, she flees back into the safety of the darkening zoo to escape whatever/whoever is threatening her son.

Thus starts the three hour whirlwind of a story.  Prior to picking up this book, I made sure that my day was clear as I knew that once I started, I would not be able to sleep until I had read to the final pages.  Throughout my day, the pace of the story quickened and my anxiety/exhilaration increased.  Would the two be able to hide and escape detection or was someone hunting them, were there any other survivors.  Questions flew through my mind of what I would do should I be in the same or a similar situation.  Did I have it in me to put my life at risk to save my child.

The concept of this story is chilling; it's a parent's worst nightmare.  It seemed quite realistic that so many thoughts and experiences passed through Joan's mind as she struggled to stay alert to the risks and to plan possible routes of escape.  The only trouble I had with this book is that I didn't make a connection with Joan.  As a mother, I felt her pain, but I didn't really care about her; she seemed somewhat standoffish.  There was nothing about her for me to latch onto, such as a shared interest or goal.  She was a blank slate, the only thing we knew about her at the beginning was that she was a mother. 

Even though I didn't care for Joan, I was riding an adrenalin high by the final pages.  My heart rate was elevated, my flight or fight impulse was raging and I wanted to hug my children and hid them away somewhere safe.  If you are looking for a thrilling read that will cause your blood to race, this is the book.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.


Friday, 7 July 2017

Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham

Theodore Boone plans to be a lawyer when he grows up.  Though he is still in middle school, he is already studying the ins and outs of the legal system and helping his classmates with their troubles.

April, one of his close friends, has been abducted , and Theo is pulling in favours and working his connections to find her before it's too late.

I loved this story.  It was fast paced and full of the type of action that middle graders can relate to.  I particularly enjoyed how Theo smartly used the internet to help carry out his investigation.  Theo has a methodical approach that works well for him.  

This is a great book for kids who like to solve mysteries or perhaps who plan to become lawyers themselves.

I listened to the audio book as read by Richard Thomas.  4 hours unabridged.  Mr. Thomas is an excellent choice for reader.  His calm, level voice lends an air of realism to this legal story and reflects Theo's desire to become a respected, unflappable lawyer.

Theodore Boone Series:

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer
Theodore Boone: The Abduction
Theodore Boone: The Accused
Theodore Boone: The Activist
Theodore Boone: The Fugitive
Theodore Boone: The Scandal

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt

Every now and then I need to read a romance. It's popcorn for my romantic soul.  When I started reading romances I learned a lot about relationships.  Most importantly, I learned that  communication is vital to sustaining any relationship.  Now I continue to read them, especially Regency romances because I enjoy them.

Lady Hero Batten has agreed to marry the Marquis of Mandeville as befits her rank and family status.  It's obvious she does not love him, but she didn't expect to love the man her family arranged for her to wed.  Then she meets his brother, Lord Reading and her life is thrown into turmoil.  He is a loathsome rake who reputation far precedes him.

Do I really need to tell you any more plot, no I thought not.  This is an enjoyable romance with the requisite amount of angst, secrets and sudden loves of the heart.  Just what I wanted when I picked it up. There are some descriptions of gowns and balls, but they are mere background, the real story is that of Hero and Griffin, Lord Reading.  I enjoyed the play of one against the other while they developed and then sorted out their feelings for one another.

This is the second of twelve  books in the Maiden Lane series which is set in 1737 London, England. 

Author Elizabeth Hoyt also writes modern romances under the pen name Julia Harper.

Cover image courtesy Hachette Book Group.


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Needlework Tuesday - The Tri-Facta Approach to Needlework

 This past week I wanted to build in the success I was having with achieving small steps, but I couldn't decide which project I wanted to work on.  What the heck, I would work on all three in smallish time allotments.

First, I started on a cotton knit hand towel.   i used a free pattern, Red White and Blue Dishcloth, from Lily's Sugar 'n Cream at Yarnspirations, casting on 90 stitches instead of the 64 suggested.  I wanted a larger hand towel.  It features a hanging loop which is handy to keep it from falling on the ground.  I bought a large cone of the flecked yarn, so I might be making a few of these, though I am going to check out their other patterns.

 Fitten success.  I have completed the medium on the left and the large on the right.  Love the effect of the variegated yarn.  I have cast on another pair of the medium size.
Being that it was Canada Day on Saturday, I found it a fitting time to continue working  on my Maple Leaf wall hanging.  I started by machine quilting wavy lines across the body.  I used a thin thread and you can't really tell where it crosses the leaf.  So far I have sewn on 40 large buttons.  Next up, I have set aside the medium buttons.  It's taking a while since I have been triple stitching each button, I don't want  them to wiggle, and then knotting them off.  They will not be falling off any time soon.  I'll keep you posted as I add more buttons.  For reference, the wall hanging is about 22 x 22 inches.

I found that I got quite a bit accomplished by alternating between the three projects.  When I got tired or reached any sort of roadblock, I got up, walked around for a bit or read, and then picked up a different project.  This way, each project kept feeling fresh.  I think I can keep doing this with three projects, but four might be too many. I don't want any confusion and I do want to see progress. Too many projects and the progress is spread out and I won't see the results I need to spur me on.

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.