Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

This is the sweet, but humbling story of how a school and church learned the true story of Christmas.

The Christmas pageant was the big highlight of the season.  The same church lady had arranged it for years and she chose the same children to the play the roles year after year.  This year she was sick and another mother volunteered to organize and run the rehearsals.

Meanwhile, at school, the Herdmans were running/ruining everything.  They were the worst kids at school and their mother had no control over them.  Inadvertently they were invited to church by a classmate.  When the six Herdmans learned about the pageant, they took over and ended up with  every role.  That is when the learning and fun started to happen.

Every one else knew the story of Mary and Joseph and trip to Bethlehem except for the six newcomers.  They asked all sorts of questions which made the rest stop and think about the true meaning behind the play.

This is one of those books that you are going to want to keep at hand and reread every year even when your own children think they are too old to be read to.


Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby

The Fashion Committee
I had put off reading this book as I thought it was going to be a sappy romance that only talked about boys, clothing and make up.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  It's about a couple of kids trying to win a scholarship to a prestigious high school.  Excellent.  Better yet, they have to design and sew an outfit for a fashion show as their entry.  Cool.  All for young people being creative and taking charge of their futures.
From there is got better and better.  We learned a lot about both Charlie(f) and John(m) and the challenges they face in their daily lives. You can't tell much about a person's home life by how they appear at school.

I ended up really enjoying this story and am sad that I waited so long to read it.

would also appeal to readers of :

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner
Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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


Friday, 1 November 2019

Cell by Stephen King

It's been quite a while since I read a book by author Stephen King; it was time to see what I was missing out on.  My sister has quite a collection of his titles on her shelf, so we picked out one for me together.  We settled on Cell, it's not as long as some of his others, but creepy enough for full effect.

An extreme number of us are totally dependent on our cell phones.  We can't leave home without them or make a decision without referring to them.  Now imagine that some one decides to use these devices to attack the world population.  Your phone rings, you answer it, and poof, your mind is zapped.  Stephen King did just that.

How do you continue if you are one of the few who didn't answer that call for whatever reason.

I loved this apocalypse novel.  It neatly did away with most of the population in dramatic fashion, but left enough of a variety of survivors to keep it interesting.  It was fairly condensed with regard to time scope to stay realistic.  In short, it was wonderful.  I did have to put it down every so often to allow for life, but really, I could have read it through in two sittings otherwise.

I certainly will be looking to read another of his works, probably The Institute, soon.


Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others by Robert Glazer

Wow, I really liked this book. When my sister suggested that I read and review it, I wasn't sure what it would be like.  I researched the author and he seemed legit and it was being published by Sourcebooks, which is a publisher that I've come to greatly respect over the years I've been reviewing books (since 2007).  I decided to find a review copy and read.  I was not disappointed.

Most people who say they want to improve themselves never do anything about it.  They wait for some outside force to magically make them a better person.  I won't happen. Author  Robert Glazer gives examples and concrete activities to undertake to improve, or rather, elevate ones self.
He talks about four elements of the self : spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional.  He emphasises efforts in all four areas at the same time for a balanced growth.

It is clear to me that Mr. Glazer lives what he talks about.  This is well thought out and supported by outside research from a wide variety of resources.  He provides a bibliography for those who want to do further readings, and you will if you are planning to follow his activities.  Though this is a slim volume, it contains a wealth of information and much that you will find yourself pondering.  For example: what are your core values and your goals in life.  Not only your career goals, but your personal goals.  Do your goals match up with your values.

Now that I have read an e version, I am going to purchase a paper copy as I know I'll be coming back to this book again and again as I work my way through the suggested activities.  One of my favourite is making a list of the 30 most significant people in my life.  Each day of the month your are to pick one and have a meaningful contact with them.  A phone call, email or letter, your choice.

Special thanks to my sister for recommending this book.  She has been on Mr. Glazer's mailing list and read his Friday Forward message for quite some time.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Edelweiss and Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar

I remember the mid 80's when there was lots talk about this new disease that seemed to be plaguing the gay population.  Very quickly we learned that people from all walks of life very dying from what became known as AIDS.  This is the book for those who weren't around at that time but who are curious about it was like to grow up then.  

Michael , James and Becky are teen  best friends living in New York City.  They are trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life.  Michael is gay but can't tell his family and his older brother was kicked out of the house when he came out.  James is also gay and trying to make a name for himself as a performer.  Becky is dating Andy, though doesn't know if they should remain together.  One thing they all have in common, is that they are scared by this new plague that is striking down so many people in their city.  They are either at risk of catching it, or seeing their friends become sick.  

These are thoughts that teens should not have to deal with.  Their lives should be safe, their parents should want to protect them and not kick them to the street just because they are different.  I remember, at that time there was a saying 'sex is death'.  If that isn't scary to a 16 year old, I don't know what is.

I feel that author Helene Dunbar has handled these topics carefully and respectfully.  She hasn't diminished the importance of them, nor has she glorified any one sides views.  She has been honest and I would say, blunt.  I could almost feel James' fear as he considered when and how to tell his parents that he was gay.  It would never be a good time to tell his dad, but it was getting harder and harder to live with his true self hidden away.

A wonderful book that should appeal to young people as well as those who remember the 80's.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

The Magic Misfits
This is a delightful start to a new series for middle school readers.  Magic is never more popular than when it is in the hands of children. By magic, I mean the mis-direction and distraction of illusion. You know what I'm talking about, card tricks and such.

Since he was orphaned at a young age, Carter has been living with his not so nice uncle.  Even though this uncle is good at such card tricks, he uses them and Carter to distract his audience while he steals more valuable goods from them.  When he can no longer tolerate what his uncle is doing, Carter flees.

A train lands him in the distant, small town of Mineral Wells.  Carter now must find his way and some allies to help him fit in and feel at home.  Hard to do when living on the street and your own wits.  But help is not far away...  I really can't tell you more without spoiling all sorts of fun and mischief that Carter encounters.

Young readers will enjoy the antics of Carter and those who befriend him.  Parents will like the good choices that he and his friends make and how they support each other.  I appreciated that the children where smart enough to know when it was time to turn to an adult for help.   There are currently two books available in this series with a third due out September 10, 2019.


Monday, 15 July 2019

oops, I have to rip back a bit

I have been holding back here.  I had hoped to post this about 2 weeks ago, but I made a mistake and didn't want to admit it to myself.
The strip the is supposed to go in the middle between the two side panels in the short cowl that I am crocheting is a few inches too long.

How did this happen, I was so careful to count rows.  I even made a chart so I could cross off the rows as I went.  oops, I forgot to include the 8 set up rows. 
Now that I have ripped them back, I am still too long.  Since I have lots of yarn, I am going to add a few more rows to each of the side panels till they reach the length where the edge reaches the lime coloured stitch marker.

Usually, my problem with crochet is that I am too short, but the two side panels are actually longer than the pattern states, so not sure what happened here.  I think I am going to need six rows to match this up.  Not too bad. I can live with that.

Already pondering my next stitching project, oh cross that out, I am going to crochet the SAL with Mikey at the crochet crowd.  He is hosting along with Yarnspiration "Study of Planet Earth".  There is a step by step video tutorial as well as a printed pattern.  I did the last one with him and stitched along with the videos. His tips are great.  I am using one colour from a gigantic ball of yarn that I bought at the Spinrite Outlet in Listowel a few weeks ago.  Yes, that is the home of Yarnspiration.  I'll show you my progress, but first must finished this.

A special request: Please go and visit Lorna from Sew Fresh Quilts.  A nasty customer sent her a vile email because there were some errors in a free pattern  that she had published.  The customer was way over the top.  I have met Lorna and bought several of her patterns, one just before writing this post, and she is a lovely woman inside and out.  Please click on the link above and read the letter for yourself and leave a supportive comment for her.  If you feel like it, go check out and purchase one of  her patterns, they are amazing.  I have no personal connection to Lorna, though I do hate when people use the anonymity of the Internet to behave in such horrid manners

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray: Elements of Genius 1 by Jess Keating

Elements of Genius #1: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray
Nikki Tesla has always been a loaner.  When she did attend school, she was bullied and made fun of for being so smart.  Now that she is home schooled she is free to explore subjects that interest her the most.  That is, until a mishap in her lab brings her and her mom unwanted attention.
At her new school, Genius Academy, she must learn to work with the other students there or face expulsion.  Of course, this school is not at all what it seems, and there is much more at stake than Nikki being in class.
There is much to love about this book.  Nikki is finally with a group of students with much in common.  Not only are they all super smart, they all appear to have complex backgrounds.  Can she trust them with her huge secret, will they still have her back once they know.
 I really can't tell you any more about what happens as I don't want to review any plot twists.  This new series from Scholastic is a great addition to the STEM line up of books for middle school readers.   Note: this book reads at a higher level than the Ellie, Engineer series by Jackson Pearce.

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


Thursday, 27 June 2019

the one by John Marrs

I could The Onehardly put this book down.  The premise of finding you perfect match via DNA testing totally caught my imagination.  Even now, a week after reading it, I am pondering such possibilities.

Five very different people decide to send their DNA samples for testing and matching. Their results are very different.  As they proceed to contact and get to know their destined mate, things don't necessarily go as expected.  There are so many twists and tweaks  to their tales that I was kept on the edge of my seat continually.    I can't even begin to tell you more about this novel with out giving away delicious plot points.

I do want to talk a bit about the concept of finding your mate via DNA matching.  This takes away the choice of relationships in the traditional sense.  No randomly meeting and dating and exploring potential partners.  If you had never dated before and just went straight into a match, then you would have nothing to compare your relationship with.  Likewise, if one partner had had a very bad previous partner, how would they feel going straight into such a match.  How could one go from an abusive partner  right into a 'perfect match' and give it an honest try.

The DNA matching had a drastic and almost overnight impact on society.  Traditional dating was coming to an end, existing marriages were being abandoned and current relationship being second guessed.  People were jumping straight in with new partners without getting to know each other.    At the end of the book, I was left questioning whether these new marriages would truly last, or would the newness wear off and the usual things that break them up happen.  What would their children be like. Would they be happier with parents who were perfect for each other.  Then decades later, what would it be like for the children of matched parents to marry.  Would we be looking at some sort of designer people.  For me, one sign of a great book, is whether it sticks with me long after I finish the final page.  This is a great book.


Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

I was blown away by this book, it was amazing.

In 1936, American President Roosevelt started the Pack Horse Library project to bring books to people living in remote places.  One of these places was in Eastern Kentucky in the watershed of Troublesome Creek.

Cussy Carter wanted to one of those women.  She wanted to bring reading to her neighbours.  While carrying out this job she faced many difficulties: being a woman riding out alone, visiting people she didn't know and mostly, her colour.  Cussy was blue. She was one of the rare blue people of Kentucky, possibly one of the last.

I like the way author Kim Michele Richardson presented Cussy's clients.  Some welcomed her with open arms, hugging her and thanking her for the books, others greeted her at a distance yet were cordial, some were outright distrustful and wouldn't come near her.  It clearly showed the joys and challenges of the job.

This book is a microcosm study of racism.  Cussy's colour was held against her more so that of the brown/black people.  Much was blamed on her and her people such as bad luck.  Many blue people were killed just because of the colour of their skin.  Even when science showed that the blue colouring was a genetic condition that was treatable, they were still shunned.

We all accept today that literacy opens doors to jobs and increased income.  During the time in which this book was set, schools were not available to all in such rural areas.  The book women also helped to teach their clients to read, which brought them hope for better lives.

For those residents with a distrust of the government, the book women were a positive message that their president cared.

I learned so much reading this book.  There was a lot of history mixed in with the fiction which made for an amazing read.  It also made it hard for me to keep in mind that Cussy was a fictional character and not a real life hero.

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


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Stitching Hiatus is now Over

It's been ages since I wrote a stitching post.  Not that I haven't been doing any stitching, I've just taken a break from writing about it.  I have missed the encouragement that that I get from my online friends and readers.  You are my conscience that kept projects from wallowing, always urging me along.

So, what have I been doing,

Crochet:  I've been working on a Cabled Hooded Cowl .  Pattern from Red Heart LM6196  I had some worsted weight yarn on hand and decided to use that as I wasn't sure that I would use the finished item much.  At this point, I have two repeats of the pattern  to complete and then I'll be ready to assemble the pieces.

Knitting: Not much in this area lately, though I have almost finished two pairs of socks that I knit on straight needles, two of them, not the usual four or five.

Quilting: Lately I have been working on a couple of wall hangings.  They all now have the binding stitched on by machine.  Next step is to turn the binding to the back and hand stitch it down.

Finally, I received this box of yarn from the kind people at Yarn Canada.  They have sent me some samples of a new yarn they are carrying.  I'll be sharing this with you in a future post. For now, I'll keep you in suspense.

In the past, I published my needlework posts on the same day each week, and I found that wasn't really working for me anymore.  My work schedule didn't always allow for that.  Going forward, I plan to post when I have something I want to share, whether it is once a week, or every couple of days.  So until next time, happy stitching.

#Crochet  #Knitting   #Quilting  #YarnCanada

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Bradsky

Life in the arctic is harsh no matter the time period. This story is set approximately 1000 AD.  The main characters are the second or third  generation of Inuk that have migrated eastward from the west coastal areas.  Their physical survival is dependent on building shelter and catching animals, both land and sea, for food and fur.  Their spiritual health is overseen by the angakkug (shaman).  This might sound a bit like a National Geographic book, but far from it.

Omat is a newborn at the beginning of the story and we follow them through the next 2 decades.  While physically born a girl, she is named for her deceased father and is raised as a boy.  This  is an accepted practise at that time.  Their grandfather, Ataata is the angakkug.  He seeks knowledge and guidance from their gods.  Within their community they also have a complex set of rules that dictates what is allowed and what isn't.  For example, women aren't allowed to hunt, but since Omat is viewed as a boy, they learn to hunt.

Up to this point, the story is a bit slow as there is much to learn about the families and their way of life. As Omat gets older and becomes apprentice to the angakkug, some in the community begin to object.  This is where the story really got going for me.  I was finding it harder to put the book down.

Omat is a boy and wishes to keep living that way.  They may be smaller than some of the other hunters, but they have great skills and keep the family fed. They struggle as they mature physically and that helps to push the plot through to the end.

I would have thought that by living and growing in a very small community, that all would have accepted Omat as they were, having seen their skills and commitment to the community.  But there is always at least one person who has to stir things up and cause trouble.  Have we as humans not learned anything in the last thousand years.

The author did an excellent job of researching and conveying details of the inuk daily life.  From the building of the igloo, hunting the seals and other animals and then preparing the meats and skins.  This was all worked seamlessly into the story that I didn't realized how much I was learning as I read.

I don't want to give away any plot points, so I will just say that this family group does not stay isolated for long.  That brings in a whole new bunch of benefits and challenges.

I loved this book.  I felt as though I had been drawn into Omat's extended family.  I began to care about the success of their hunts and what they would learn on their 'spirit quest'.  As much as I didn't want this book to end, I could wait to find out how Omat would deal with the issues facing them.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Redhook and from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 5 April 2019

The Birds that Stay by Ann Lambert

This is a wonderful mystery.  The plot is complex and very well crafted.  It had me veering along the wrong thought path more than a few times.

Reclusive Madame Newman was found dead outside her home in a small rural community north of Montreal.  It was such a bucolic area, that even the responding police officers did not imagine it being a case of murder.  Chief inspector Romeo Leduc did not see it that way at all.  Neighbour Marie Russell passed by the scene.  She was shocked that such violence could occur so close by.  She dismissed it until her elderly mother identified that same neighbour.  This perked her attention.

The cast of character in the story is superb.  From the imperfect Chief Inspector Leduc, to his old school chum Ti-Coune, who seemed to have spent much of his life on the other side of the law. Marie Russell is a professor at a local college and was writing a children's nature book.  Good thing that she never grew out of her enquiring mind.  As this is the start of a series, I suspect these are three of the characters that will appear again.  they are the three that I enjoyed the most.

I want to tell you more about this engaging story, but then that would be telling you secrets and plot lines and I don't want to spoil any of your reading fun.

If you have enjoyed novels by Giles Blunt and Louise Penny, you are sure to enjoy The Birds That Stay.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Second Story Press and from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 25 March 2019

She Dared Malala Yousafzai by Jenni L Walsh

Excellent telling of the story of Malala Yousafzai.

When her education became threatened by the Taliban, eleven year old Malala began speaking out in favour of education for girls and boys.  It was their best weapon against poverty and ignorance.  A few years later, the Taliban attempted to kill her.  She survived.  Though he recovery was difficult she did manage to continue her education  Most importantly, she continued to speak out in support of education  for all children.

I was quite surprised by how much I learned from this book. I knew nothing of Malala's life before she was shot. At that time she was already and impressive young women

This book was written with middle school readers in mind, though parents will also learn much about this young woman as well.  It is written in language suitable for young readers and the situations are explained in as simple terms as possible.  I hope that Scholastic continues with further titles in this series.

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


Friday, 1 February 2019

Girls Who Bind by Rory James

A poetic look at the emotions/feelings/concerns of a teen who binds their chest.  While they realize that they are genderqueer, their family and friends think that they are female, just as they always have.

Jamie is having a hard time deciding how to tell their parents and friends.  They told their best friend Levi about being genderqueer, but wasn't ready to tell about the binding.

I really like this book.  I found the poetic presentation stripped the story down to its basics, making the issues clear.  This book could be a great aid to those considering similar questions.  Parents would also benefit in learning more about some of the many issues under consideration by their children and their friends.

I received an advance reader copy of this book from West44Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Stealing the Sword: Time Jumpers 1 by Wendy Mass, Oriol Vidal

Time Jumpers #1: Stealing the Sword

Siblings Chase and Ava travel to  different locations and times  in this new book series.  They are given a mysterious suit case that contains a number of unusual item.  They'll have to work together if they are going to figure out what to do with the case and its contents.

This is an enjoyable story for young readers.  It is full of adventure and at the same time readers will learn about bit about history with enough clues to encourage independent research,

The series continues with The Escape from Egypt

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


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

 I was totally caught up in this unique magical story.

Set in Paris, France, Anouk has never ventured out into the world she watches from the windows.  She is much too young and in-experienced.  Even though she looks seventeen, Mada Vittora created her just over a year ago. Mada is part of the magic world that lives parallel to, though unknown to the Pretties, the everyday common world.

Anouk has become caught up in a power struggle between the magic royals, the witches and the goblins.  She just doesn't know how much influence she could hold over the outcome.

Along with her created friends, and some unlikely alliances, she ventures out into the Pretty world and realizes there is far more to it than strolls down the boulevard and other such frivolities.

I loved this story.  The story line was unique and Anouk was such a refreshing character.  She was so innocent of the ways of people/witches and she managed to maintain much of that throughout the many trials she endured.  Her trust and reliance on her friends made me feel safe along with her.  I found myself cheering for her and encouraging her to venture out of her safe little world of housekeeping.  #TeamAnouk

The is much more of her story to be told and I eagerly await author Megan Shepherd's future writings.

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


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Well worth the read.

I'd read about 10% of the book when I decided that it just wasn't working for me. I was going to stop, but then considered, what would a tell a teen who asked me about it at work one day.  I'd better read a little more, give it a fair chance at least.

I tried to put myself in a more 'teen' frame of mind and plunged back in.

I already liked Norris. He was kind of cool, but feeling out of place with the move to Austin from Montreal.  I had moved overseas at the same age and found myself a visible minority at my new school.  I couldn't fault his mom for moving the two of them, university positions aren't easy to come by and this job was a perfect fit for her knowledge base.

Back to the high school.  Sure, it was larger than Norris's previous one, but essentially the same just with a larger assortment of students.  He'd soon find a way to fit in.  The cheerleaders, jocks, geeks, loners and more were all there. Which was he. It was a new school, a new start, he could have his pick.

Writing in the journal that was given to him the first day of school became his coping method and sounding board.  He wrote down first impressions and observations at first.  It quickly became his 'thing'.  The novel itself is written as though a field guide. At the start of each chapter is heading such as: observable characteristics, attire, habitat, preening habits etc.  At first, I only glanced at these not realizing that I was missing out on a valuable part of the book's approach.  When I started reading them more closely, the concept of field guide became clear.

I'm glad I stuck with this book as I found myself really enjoying it.  The family dynamics between Norris and his parents seemed so real, both the good and the bad.  The inviting atmosphere at his part time job should have been a signal to Norris and I was waiting for him to get it.  Now when I'm at work and a teen asks me about this book, I'll be prepared and will gladly recommend it.

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


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

I was totally blown away by this book.  I picked it because I thought it had a cool premise, but as I started reading, each chapter drew me deeper in.  I had one guess at where Ozzie was coming from, but it didn't really fit and turns out I was way off base.

Ozzie and Tommy had been in a relationship after knowing each other for most of their lives.  One morning, Ozzie wakes up and Tommy has disappeared, not just from his life, but from the world. No body knows nor remembers him, not even his mother.  As he continues to tell his story, we soon learn that something is very wrong, not with anyone in particular, but with the world it's self.

I loved the assortment of teen characters in this book.  They seemed so real.  They had love issues and stresses.  School was still the pain it was in when I attended and college acceptance letters were still pending.  Ozzie has no trouble with being gay, while Lua is exploring her identity, swinging daily between her male and female persona's.

I fully recommend this book for teen readers as well as their parents.  I am looking to reading more by author Shaun David Hutchinson.

I read and online version of this book available from Rivited which is hosted by Simon Pulse.