Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Little Goes A Long Way

There's a theme to this post that I'll share at the end...

I've got three recommendations, two books and a musical!

Byzantine Provocateur by Melissa Bradley

An ancient city sparks forbidden desire...
Thalia Burton arrives in Istanbul to relax and enjoy the company of her old friend. Hoping to forget the boring rut her life had become, she never imagines one encounter with Fadi's brother re-igniting the dim flame of passion inside her. Captivated by the heat in his golden eyes, Thalia finds herself tempted beyond reason...
Murat Bahar had only intended to meet Thalia as a courtesy to his family. One look at the lovely American incinerates his intentions. She is an exquisite morsel he longs to taste, a taboo treat enthralling him like a siren of myth. Perhaps just one night...
Once is not enough. Thalia and Murat embark on a fiery, secret affair that could burn them both, costing them friends and family.

Read an excerpt on Melissa's site.

I read this novel a while ago and loved it! I wrote a formal review for the One Hundred Romances site and looking back on it now, I've remembered how I first met Melissa - through Rach Harrie's Writers' Platform-Building Crusade. It's amazing how many different blogging events there have been! But back to Melissa -- I haven't read her other books yet but I just got Maxie Briscoe: Werewolf on my Kindle app and can't wait to start it!

I've blabbed about Outlander often enough around here. With the new miniseries on Starz (season two starts on 4 April!) I'd encourage those of you who haven't read it to start now!

But there's also an Outlander musical!

The stage production hasn't been organized yet, but the soundtrack is available, and it's lovely. The voice of Jamie is performed by actor Allan Scott-Douglas and... month, Allan's going to be jumping out of a plane!

Yes, it's a charity skydive, to support St Columba's Hospice (cancer) in Edinburgh.

The second book I'd like to recommend is actually two books, Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons by Dr Anthony Martignetti. There are also new podcast stories on his website! I reviewed Lunatic Heroes a while ago, but hadn't included a blurb.

Lunatic Heroes

Dark, comic, raw, disturbing, and often redemptive, these fifteen tales will take you from the 1950s to the present, along with a repeating cast of heroes and lunatics. The characters span the breadth and the depths of human qualities and capacities. The same person, in one story, may materialize as a hero and a god, and in another, as a lunatic and a demon. While the author roughs up the people in his stories with the hand of terror, he simultaneously views them with the eyes of love. Martignetti spares no one, and to his credit, particularly not himself.
So many of the stories made me cry - and more than a few made me laugh at the same time!

Beloved Demons

In his follow-up to Lunatic Heroes, Martignetti sheds all defenses to reveal the viscera of a mind shaped by the dark and confusing forces of his childhood. This collection of memoirs and essays focuses mainly on Martignetti's adult years, and features the pivotal characters of his ever-entertaining personal narrative. From the cascade of memories and emotions triggered by an accidental butterfly killing in "Cocoon Talk," to the homicidal impulses prompted by a visit to his boyhood home in "Sign," from the heartbreaking to the hilarious musings inspired by beloved pets in "Mochajava" and "Dog," and throughout the uncensored sexcapades of "Mad," "The Wild," and "Feast of the Hungry Ghost," Martignetti's colloquial, humorous, and intimate style will keep you riveted, crack you open, enthrall and embrace you with an honesty normally reserved for not even the closest of friends.

Now we come to the reveal -- all three of these are recommended based on some difficult times, past and present. Allan's charity drive is in commemoration of a hospice that helped his family enormously while his uncle was undergoing cancer treatment. Melissa and Anthony are currently undergoing treatments. Sometimes when you're in the midst of things it's hard to ask for help. But every little bit counts!

If you know of others facing a difficult time,
who might need our support, please let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Coffee Break

If we were having coffee...

This is a blog idea from Conny at Study Read Write. I'm going to borrow it for today!

If we were having coffee together this week, we'd be in Geneva, which means we'll likely have a renverse. We might be seated at Cafe de Paris, which has been around since the 1930s!

There are a lot of people watching opportunities at this cafe, but if you'd prefer to be by the lake, there are many cafe-carts and sandwich booths along the water. It's been relatively mild here, compared to the weather much of the rest of the world has been experiencing -- we might even get a chance to sit outside! If you'd like something a bit upscale, there's always the Cottage Cafe...

We can take a break from work and responsibility and talk about cabbages and kings... Somewhere in there I'll probably bemoan the fact that I haven't been keeping up with my ROW80 goals! But we can talk about what our day requires, the books we're reading and any interesting movies or TV shows we might have seen.

I think we're all looking forward to...


If we linger for a while, I won't be coming alone!

(why sideways?)

We should have a dessert with our coffees. My treat!
What's your favourite dessert?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Book Reviews and Canadiana

Book reviews!

Wait, ROW80 first -- I'm still falling behind on blog comments. I read 'em all, those who drop by here and all the fellow bloggers I visit, but having time to leave a comment is another matter... Haven't had a chance to format those Wallace letters and ask for a new batch either. I've been reading a lot, though, and did a bit of plotting for a story of my own. I have this crazy idea that I might do Camp NaNoWriMo in June!

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

I haven't finished this one yet. So far it's a bit rambling and not as tight, if that's the right word, as her Adrian Mole books or The Queen and I. I'd have preferred a focus on the main characters, whereas the constant parade of secondary characters dilutes the impact of the story.

Yes, the main character, Eva, really does take to her bed! But her point of view isn't very strongly told. There's a precursor to this in The Queen and I, when Prince Philip refuses to leave his bed; the contrast between his mood and his wife's strength was very well detailed. Eva is alternately calm and angry, yet the reader is never invited fully into her thoughts, and the points of view of the other characters are doled out in snippets. It's hard to hang one's reader empathy hat on one character, so the entire novel seems disjointed. We'll see how the final third plays out.

HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner -- The Pinch Hitter's Guide to Cooking Without Gluten or Dairy by Kait Nolan

I love chatty cookbooks; they're almost as good as a novel. Nolan's voice is strong and authoritative; you know she's tried and perfected every one of these recipes and that none is a space-filler (as some recipes seem in other cookbooks). A few recipes in, I'd almost forgotten I was reading an allergy-related cookbook -- the dishes sound so yummy!

This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak

As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him -- especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next.
Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob's father isn’t exactly welcoming.
Riley doesn’t trust Phoenix, doesn't want her in Jacob's life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he's about to find both!

Hard to believe this is the eighth Whiskey Creek novel; have I really read that many? This one's a breezy read with less tension than some of the others. The stakes in the story aren't as high for the two main characters; it's almost as though they've suffered enough in their backstory, and now the reader is invited to hear of their redemption.

Phoenix is a very likeable character, strong and determined and kind, and it's lovely to see her win through and earn a bit of the good stuff she deserves. Some of the scenes are a bit heavy on the tell rather than the show, but overall the story flows at a good pace. Novak does a great job capturing the point of view of Phoenix and Riley's teenage son Jacob -- it's fun to guess whose story will be next in the series; Kyle or Baxter, or maybe even the next generation? I'd like to hear more from Jacob!

Meanwhile, I've been busy at work -- and music helps a lot! I've made a few new playlists on YouTube. This can be a frustrating exercise, as not every song you think of is on there, and after you've made a playlist, you have to keep curating is as songs come and go based on copyright enforcement or users' slack attitudes. Here's my newest, a sample of some Canadian bands in roughly alphabetical order:

What have you been reading or listening to?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Another Year-end Review

Year-end review, this time of my knitting projects!

Now this is sad. Looking back, I see that without counting the A to Z Challenge, I posted only three times on my neglected knitting blog (Now I'm 26 posts away from 200 overall).

The first was a recap of my knitting in 2013, the second was a happy announcement, and the third featured gifts and an update.

Happily, however, this does not mean I neglected the hobby itself! I completed two baby blankets and started work on two Outlander-inspired projects, one of which I finished last week! I haven't uploaded my photo yet - mine's in black and pink - but this is sort of what it looks like, though much thicker:

I looked at two patterns, the gathering and the sassenach, before deciding that I knit too tightly for such patterns. I did a 2*2 rib on circular needles, which made for a very cosy cowl.

I've already started another, along with a sweater for myself!

It's been a while since I shared famous people who knit, or literary references to knitting. I still collect them! I came across this one a while ago on Twitter:

Knitting Tim Burgess of The Charlatans (who have a new album out!)

Speaking of projects, I haven't moved ahead on my A Round of Words in 80 Days goals. That's what happens when you bring home office work on the weekend... But I'll take this opportunity to list my main knitting and other hobby goals for the year:

1. Finish knitting three more cowls
2. Think about buying expensive wool to make, slowly, methodically, and properly, a gorgeous design by Kate Davies
3. Organise all our photos and print a few, especially for our grandparents
4. Bake more!

Which hobbies are you focusing on this year?

Please share your favourite baking recipes!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at