Tuesday, April 28, 2015

At the Water's Edge

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I was meant to read this book. Synchronicity? Serendipity? Who knows!

Members of my family might relate to this:

  •  Completely oblivious (more than usual, that is) I started reading At The Water’s Edge on April 21, the day Google was celebrating the 81st anniversary of that famous photo (the Surgeon’s photo) of the Loch Ness Monster. 




"Hoaxed photo of the Loch Ness monster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

At the Water’s Edge is a story about Maddie, who accompanies her husband and his best friend from their home in Philadelphia to Drumnadrochit, on the shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands where they want to prove the existence of the fabled Monster.
  • The main character’s name is Maddie, short for Madeleine (granddaughter’s name/nickname)
  • The author, Sara Gruen, was born in Vancouver, raised in London, Ontario and worked in Ottawa.

Meet the Writers - Sara Gruen

  •  Sara Gruen worked as a technical writer while in Ottawa before deciding to write fiction full-time.Her first two novels were about horses.

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and

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  • She married and moved to the United States, to that little piece of Appalachian paradise, Asheville, North Carolina.
Those few points of congruence, none of which I knew about when I reserved the book at the library, are amazing to me!



All of Sara Gruen’s books are enormously popular and captivating.

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One has even been made into a movie

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And now for the item of the day: At the Water's Edge:

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I really enjoyed At the Water’s Edge. I was captured right from page 1 by this romantic adventure story and read it in practically one sitting.

Set in the 1940’s Scottish Highlands, the story follows three privileged and frankly, whiny and unlikable young Americans on the trail of the Loch Ness Monster at a time in history when the rest of the world is at war with a real-time, no­­­-nonsense monster. In searching for this mythical monster, the friends discover the monsters within and in looking for something that might or might not exist (there seems to be no consensus on this issue) they discover that they are no longer who they thought they were.

Gruen has a talent for dropping the reader right into her setting and we feel the anxiety, frustration and discomfort of people living in war-time. Maddie, our main character, becomes who we would wish her to be, a more compassionate understanding person while her husband and friend degenerate even further into the selfish unthinking boors they have always been. The gap between them continues to widen until at the end of the novel “things come to a head”. This last part of the novel becomes, in my opinion, more of a romance novel and a bit more predictable than I usually care for, but I stuck with it anyway and enjoyed the happy ending.

There's adventure, danger, Scottish folklore, friendship and loyalty and heroism. To say nothing of flawed characters. Lots to enjoy from the comfort of your favourite reading chair.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Toast

This little Japanese-inspired project would be fun for surprising the special kids in your life or to cheer them up when they're feeling down.

Before you toast the bread (and you will have to use a toaster oven or the broiler, not a pop-up toaster), use some tin foil out of which you have cut the shape you want to be toasted.




You can get the foil to stick to the bread by coating it with a little butter or mayo. If your customized design requires more than one toasting, make sure the edges of the toast are well-covered by foil to prevent burning (or cut them off before serving)





Clever, huh?!

As if these fancy toasts weren't enough, how about this selfie toaster? Get it here.
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The Selfie Toaster Toasts Your Face Onto Bread


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Boundless

The Boundless

All Aboard!

Pack your bag, grab your ticket (it's in the back of the book) and get ready for a cross-Canada adventure on the most wonderful train you've ever heard of. 

It's 7 miles long and on board are all sorts of wonders including a full circus with wild animals, clowns, stilt-walkers, acrobats and magicians. Also on board for this maiden journey on the newly finished trans-Canada railway are some famous Canadians, Cornelius Van Horne, Sam Steele and even a young Sasquatch.

Ride along with young teen Will as he zips through time zones, encountering adventure and mayhem, tunnels and muskeg (don't forget to avoid looking a muskeg hag in the eyes), sasquatches, angry natives, and avalanches. Jump with him from one car to another on the top of the train to avoid murderous brakemen and to help Mr. Dorian, the M├ętis circus ringmaster break into the funeral carriage.

Yes, it's a great adventure for all ages, 8 and up.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Broken Hours

The Broken Hours

The horror genre is not one I'm familiar with so, before picking up this book, I'd never heard of the early 20th century American writer H.P. Lovecraft.

Jacqueline Baker's The Broken Hours mirrors Lovecraft's style while relating the story of Arthor (this is his actual first name, not a spelling mistake) Crandle, a fictional live-in personal assistant hired by Lovecraft in 1936, just a year or so before the famous author's death from cancer at age 46.

Crandle moves into the eerily dark, quiet dingy, etc. etc. mansion in Providence, Rhode Island and becomes immersed in the ghostly quality of the house: locked rooms, people appearing, disappearing, reappearing, odd lights, debris, lack of comfort or warmth and so on. He and his reclusive employer do not meet until several days later, communicating instead through letters left on a table. Creepiness abounds and discomfort crescendos. 

Good ghost stories depend on a writer setting the scene using descriptive language, innuendos, and suggestion. Characters falter, making poor decisions, becoming delusional. Crandle is no exception and his first lie leads to so many more afterwards, he cannot find his way out of them. Then the end of the story comes along and is so appropriately weird, the reader no longer understands what is a lie and who is being lied to.

I enjoyed reading The Broken Hours. It was fun to have a brief sojourn into horror. I looked up information about H.P. Lovecraft and was impressed how well his actual life details were integrated into Baker's story. What an interesting man he was! And what an interesting way Jacqueline Baker has of bringing him to our attention.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Dangerous Place

A Dangerous Place

Jacqueline Winspear's newest Maisie Dobbs novel is meant for her fans: those avid readers who have already waded through the first ten books in the series and were eagerly awaiting this one. If you are new to this series, please start with the first one, Maisie Dobbs, first published in 2003. You will not be sorry.

Maisie Dobbs is a rags to riches story in pre-WWI Britain. Each novel in the series transports us further along the timeline, though the terrible war years of 1914-18 and then through the depression years leading to WWII. It seems that we readers and authors in the 21st century love to look back 100 years and imagine how life used to be, witness the many novels written about this era and the intense popularity of TV programs like Downton Abbey and Call The Midwives. 

Maisie, for those new to the series, is a young woman, abounding in practicality and common sense, who has risen above her humble roots, has worked as a nurse on the front lines of WWI, has been educated, has seen pain and tragedy and yet has always landed on her firmly-planted feet. Under the mentor-ship of Maurice Blanche, she works for many years as a private investigator, always noticing the others around her, how the economic times are affecting them and trying to help where she can, without being condescending.

A Dangerous Place gives us a Maisie who has moved on. She has ended her PI business in London, spent time in India, married and then, precipitously, has had it all taken from her. We catch up with her, fragile emotionally, in Gibraltar, having paused there on the journey between India and Britain. She has barely disembarked the ship when she practically trips over a dead body, apparently murdered, but by whom and why?

We are caught up in the events and politics of the time - 1937: the Spanish Civil War is raging and momentum toward WWII is building. Nobody can trust anybody. Maisie, alone and grieving, her family and friends at home desperately worried about her, feels she must do the right thing by the murdered man and his family and find out what happened. 

I enjoyed this book a lot. Frankly, I was getting a bit tired of the old Maisie Dobbs, London Private Investigator and was ready for this change-up. Well-done Jacqueline Winspear for taking a leap and leading us onward! A series that might well have petered out has had new life breathed into it. I foresee many more adventures ahead. Can't wait!






Friday, April 10, 2015

Technical Stuff

Please Notice:

This blogger is not a techie!

After many people have complained about not being able to leave a comment on Some Favourite Things, I did a little (admittedly, very little) research (t-y Google) and attempted to install a comments platform onto this blog.

An hour or maybe two hours later, I think I have improved the commenting capability by installing Disqus. Of course, nothing is ever simple and I actually had to go in and edit the HTML of the template widget. Gaaaa....!! I think it works, but where's Jacquie when I need her! ;) (Full Disclosure: Jacquie didn't know anything about this until now)

If you would like to leave a comment, please first make sure that you click on the title of the post you would like to comment on so that it's the only one open in your browser window. Then scroll to the bottom and look for the comment window where you can share your wisdom and insights. Follow the prompts and that's all there is to it. I hope.

Improvements and edits are likely.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bridging the Gap

I found this video a bit hard to watch, but it was really worth sticking it out. It's a such moving video even if you aren't religious because it's not about faith, it's about communication and it's beautiful. Music is such a wonderful bridge between people.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

School of Manta Rays

Watch for these in the ocean. Especially if you're off Baja.