Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Camino Island

Camino Island
John Grisham

If you're looking for a sure-fire quick read that's immersive and hard to put down, an escapist adventure, there are very few authors more dependable than John Grisham. His characters are well-developed, the plots are interesting and complicated but easy to follow and they come to a satisfying conclusion.

Having said all that I admit that I haven't opened a John Grisham novel since Sycamore Row a couple years ago but that book just reminded me of what I've been missing.

Camino Island, Grisham's second-last published novel (his latest is The Rooster Bar) fits the bill completely. Set in the world of fictional small book-sellers and collectors of first editions, possibly an area that Grisham is somewhat familiar with, the story opens with the outrageous heist of original priceless but well-insured F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from a deep-below-the-surface-of-the-earth vault of a Princeton Library. 

Mercer Mann, a young aspiring writer with a lack of both funds and ideas for her next novel soon finds herself involved in a plan to retrieve these invaluable manuscripts that are thought to be in the possession of a small bookseller on  fictitious Camino Island just off the northeast coast of Florida, an island she is familiar with from her childhood of summers spent there with her beloved grandmother. 

Mercer gets to know some of the members of the Camino Island writing community, finds that she likes them very much and is torn about "spying" on them to find out details of the possible presence of the valued stolen goods. 

As I closed the book's last pages I felt like I too had spent some weeks in the Florida sunshine, strolling the beaches in the heat and at dusk, watching for nesting loggerhead turtles. It was a get-away for sure. Recommended.

You might also be interested that in June 2017 John Grisham embarked on his first book tour in 25 years, quickly followed in November by his second book tour in 25 years. The events are hosted by (mostly) small bookstores across the country and at each, Grisham has invited another author or two to join him for stimulating conversation with each other, with the bookseller and with members of the audience. These bookstore visits/signings have been organized into podcasts easily accessed through iTunes. 

A sampling of some of his guests (authors I'm familiar with 😉): 

Harlan Coben, Christina Baker Kline, Greg Iles, Ann Patchett, author and owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN Wiley Cash, Emma Straub, author and owner of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Amor Towles and Sue Grafton. 

The podcast with the late Sue Grafton in November 2017 is particularly interesting as is the talk between Grisham, Straub and Towles but I don't think you'd be disappointed in any of them. They alternate between being serious and poking fun at each other, a nice balance.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hiking Naked

Hiking Naked, A Quaker Woman's Search for Balance
Iris Graville

The title, Hiking Naked, in my opinion, is a bit of a misnomer because although there is hiking, even a bit of skinny-hiking, in this non-fiction book and it is set in an outstanding area for hiking, the flavour of the book is much more contemplative. The stress should fall on A Quaker Woman's Search for Balance. Having this book sitting around the house definitely attracts attention, so I wonder if the book publishing nobs thought the provocative title would help sell books. 

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Knocked off her feet after twenty years in public health nursing, Iris Graville quit her job and convinced her husband and their thirteen-year-old twin son and daughter to move to Stehekin, a remote mountain village in Washington State's North Cascades. They sought adventure; she yearned for the quiet and respite of this community of eighty-five residents accessible only by boat, float plane or hiking. Hiking Naked chronicles Graville's journey through questions about work and calling as well as how she coped with ordering groceries by mail, black bears outside her kitchen window, a forest fire that threatened the valley, and a flood that left her and her family stranded for three days.

I'd like to observe that the family did not just move and live. They participated in the new community, working hard to "make it work". Even the kids worked hard - at school, with chores and at part-time jobs. Life itself is a job, requiring our best effort.

I have to say that I enjoyed this book a lot. Contemplative writing is a genre that I often return to, finding myself in others' journeys. Graville has a no-nonsense writing style that is clear and that moves along briskly, not succumbing to an over-abundance of introspection. I felt truly caught up in this adventure that her family undertook so long ago and can fully understand how it helped to shape their lives that followed. 

What an undertaking it is, and possibly a privilege too, to pare down the trappings of a modern life and move to a simpler lifestyle, even if for a short time. Not everyone could or would even want to do this, so to read about it feels like a wonderful gift that the author has shared with us. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy Pi Day!

Happy p Day!!

In honour of this fabulous day, let's celebrate the joy and synchronicity of Math while we enjoy some delicious pie.

I recently discovered Lauren Ko on Instagram. She's a pie baker specializing in fabulous pie crusts. Precise and perfect. Here are some photos I borrowed from her website: Loko Kitchen.

Here's one of my pathetic attempts at a lattice-topped cherry pie:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Canada Blooms 2018

Here are a few photos from this year's visit to Canada Blooms. We went on the opening day when plant material was fresh and abundant. The 2018 theme was "Let's Go to the Movies".

I started out in the Toronto Gardening Club section where entries in the various classes had been judged. 

First, houseplants. Some of them were quite familiar. 😊



Hobbit Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata)

 This magnificent coleus

This row of dressed mannequins was a competition class of Disney classics.



Window Boxes


Door Decorations




Suspended staghorn fern



One of the interesting features of Canada Blooms is that you get to see flowers and shrubs blooming at the same time when normally they can be an entire season apart. Sunflowers bloom here in Ontario in late summer whereas daffodils and tulips bloom in April/May and roses start in June. It's just amazing what the growers are able to do to provide these plants in full bloom in March.


There was an interesting display of Proven Winners plants that we can look for in garden centres this spring.



Watch this video for inspiration.

The next photo of a slightly bedraggled container garden is a garden kit called Earthbox by The Growing Connection, ideal for people who only have small spaces to grow vegetables. 

One of the feature gardens was a wonderful tribute to our veterans present and past.

It featured a meandering pathway under this arch with flower beds and trees to encourage donations to the project to plant a tree for each fallen Canadian in history along the 401 corridor between Trenton and Toronto.


With daffodils and waterfalls


This interesting wall was on the pathway out of the exhibit.

The main aisle of the show was decorated in the "Let's Go to the Movies" theme


The abundance of healthy plants and the creative designs are just a treat. Especially on a cold blustery day in March.



There are many booths selling plants, some of which are very exotic and quite expensive. I (just barely) managed to resist reaching for my credit card.

At this point in the day, my phone ran out of storage. This last photo I took with Don's phone. Time to call it a day. 

Pitcher Plant