The Big 1-0: Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge

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What trickier is this?! Andi and Heather hosting the RIP X Challenge? Why yes! The Estella Society is hosting this year’s Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge. The spookiest time of the year. As usual, I pick Peril the First

ripnineperilfirst

Peril the First: Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.
I have a list of six at the moment, but I always claim the right to add or subtract to it.

rip x reading list
  • House on the Borderlands by William Hope Hodgson
  • Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins
  • Ring by Koji Suzuki
  • The Last Man by Mary Shelley
  • Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due
  • Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

I also have Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Ghostly Tales (Volume 1) ready for Peril the Short Story. I absolutely have to have some gothic frights for my RIP list!

I hope you’ll join in for a frightful couple of reading months! BOO!

*Artwork courtesy of Abigail Larson.

Comically Canadian

After signing up for Comixology a while ago, I finally bought my first comics. I really like being able to buy online. Say what you will about times-a-changing, but I still feel weird buying myself comics as a forty-something year old woman. Not to mention there aren’t many places to buy them here anymore. The Comixology app is great; I like it.

Let me get to the point of this post. I read the first issues of two new Canadian comic book series: We Stand On Guard and Power Up.

WeStandOnGuard

Creators: Brian K Vaughan and Steve Skroce
Publisher: Image Comics
Rated: 17+
We Stand On Guard is a war comic set in a dystopian future. In 2113, the United States appears to be at war with everyone except Canada, but that is about to change. After the Americans blow up her home and kill her parents, Amber goes underground. Eleven years later, she joins a band of Canadian freedom fighters known as the Two-Fours.

In the first issue, Amber has to prove she’s not a spy to become a part of the group. The first thing one of the members asks is a question about hockey. I love that she says she doesn’t like hockey. If there was a stereotype that has to die it’s that all Canadians love hockey. Do all Americans love baseball? Probably not.

So, why has the United States invaded Canada? The answer is that it has something to do with water. Not entirely implausible.

power up
Creators: Kate Leth and Matt Cummings
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Rated: 9+
Power Up is a much lighter series. Twenty-three year old pet store cashier Amie comes into contact with an alien being while at work. Amie doesn’t love her job, though she does love animals. It’s clear that’s she’s just getting by in life. I’m sure this event is going to change everything. I don’t know what’s going to happen next but there will be shenanigans.

These two series couldn’t be more different, but I appreciate that the main characters in both are young women. We Stand On Guard is realistically drawn in that classic superhero style. Power Up is more cartoony and cute.

We Stand on Guard is dark. There is violence and dire situations. It’s not what I look for in my entertainment, but I like the storytelling and can’t wait to see how it plays out over the six issues.
Power Up is adorable and so charming. It’s an all ages comic, so it’s this mom approved. The fact that it has ties to Nova Scotia doesn’t hurt its appeal either. It is also a six issue series.

The only thing I don’t like about these comics is that they’re so short! Just as I was getting into the story, it ends. I guess that will keep me coming back.

Going Where Angels Fear to Tread with E.M. Forster

where angels fear to tread

When Lilia Herriton leaves Sawston for Italy with her lady’s companion Miss Caroline Abbott, her in-laws breathe a sigh of relief. The young widow had been making eyes at a local farmer, much to their dismay. Going off to Italy gets her out of their hair, with the side effect that she will better herself. Hopefully.

Mrs Herriton had been disappointed in her son’s choice of wife. Lilia not only was beneath the family socially, she also had the audacity to not conform to the family standards.  She found matters worsened after the death of her son.  “Lilia would not settle down in her place among Sawston matrons.” Lilia moved herself and daughter Irma back home with her mother where Mrs Herriton’s firm hand did not reach. The suggestion of Italy to Lilia is the solution to all their problems. Surely Lilia couldn’t get up to much trouble with the sober Miss Abbott there.

Reports from Italy were fine in the beginning, until Lilia and Caroline stopped in the village of Monteriano, where Lilia meets and marries an Italian, leaving Irma behind in England. At that point, the Herritons had enough and cut ties with Lilia forever. But then there is a baby…

At first the Herritons try to ignore the situation, but when word gets out in Sawston, Mrs Herriton worries that people will think them cruel to leave an English child in Italy. Italy! With all those Catholics and…art. She sends her children, Harriet and Philip, to Italy to set things right, as she sees things anyway, with Caroline Abbott hot on their heels.

Where Angels Fear to Tread seemed like a delightful little novel in the beginning. A flighty woman runs off with a younger man in a foreign country. Get it, girl! I was rooting for Lilia at first, especially when she tells her brother-in-law:
“For once in my life I’ll thank you to leave me alone. I’ll thank your mother too. For twelve years you’ve trained and tortured me, and I’ll stand it no more. Do you think I’m a fool? Do you think I never felt? Ah! when I came to your house a poor young bride , how you all looked me over- never a kind word- and discussed me, and thought I might just do; and your mother corrected me, and your sister snubbed me, and you said funny things about me to show how clever you were!”
It soon becomes clear that Lilia has made a huge mistake. She could have done whatever she liked but she married a man-child and chose to live in a country where she doesn’t have any friends. The cultural gap between them is too large. For example, she wants to go out and meet people, and he believes wives stay hidden away in the house. Understandably, she becomes depressed.
It stopped being delightful at that point.

Later, the three English knuckleheads, Philip, Harriet, and the guilt-ridden Caroline Abbott, arrive in Monteriano. Philip isn’t much older than the husband Gino, and no wiser. He fell in love with Italy on a previous visit. He fetishizes Italy and the Italian people, but deep down he’s a prude. Harriet thinks Italy is the home of Satan. Caroline has mixed feelings. She’s tired of her life in Sawston, the hypocrisy and “petty unselfishness.” Still, she’s driven to do the moral thing, as she was taught, but has doubts as to whether it is the right thing. 

Individually, they make a mess of things. It was entertaining to see these three self-righteous people come to disappointment time and again. That was until the end…

I’m not going to say anything about the end; I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

Written in 1905, Where Angels Fear to Tread is Forster’s first novel and a quick read at just over 200 pages. It’s an interesting commentary on how English society perceived itself in the world at this time: morally superior. This self-righteousness comes across as cold heartlessness. A theme Forster explores in A Passage to India, as well (but with more racism). The most intriguing character is Caroline Abbott, possibly the only character capable of change. I hope she became a Lady Adventurer after this episode.

Recommended

Media Madness Monday: Lore

media madness monday

Well, it’s been a loooong time since I wrote one of these posts! But I really wanted you all to know about this podcast: Lore.

lore

From the description
Lore is a bi-weekly podcast about the history behind scary stories. The people, places, and things of our darkest nightmares all have real facts at their core. Each episode of Lore looks into a uniquely scary tale and uncovers the truth of what's behind it. Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.
Each episode Aaron Mahnke picks some tale, whether it’s a bit of folklore or a real life event or person, and explains the history behind it. It could be the history behind a werewolf encounter in medieval Germany, or a serial killer in Chicago in 1895. Aaron relays anecdotes in a casual storytelling voice accompanied by atmospheric music. He lays out the history, then gives an insight into the human psychology of the beliefs or the event. This is all just to give the listener some relief before giving them a “Oh and one last thing” that is sure to raise the hair on the back of the neck.

There are 12 episodes as of this date, most making the 20 minute mark. They’re a quick little scare, just don’t listen to them after dark! (I actively try not thinking about them after dark!) These are “clean” episodes, but some of the details of the events can be quite gruesome. Lore isn’t for everyone.

This is my jam. I love scary folklore stories, like Helen Creighton’s Bluenose Ghosts. With the Halloween season coming up in a month or so, Lore is the perfect podcast to add to your list.

If you dare!

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are Home

Oh Hi! I’m back from my mini-vacation where I visited the brand-spanking-new Halifax Central Library. I’d tell you about it but I’ll be writing about it for Book Bloggers International next month.

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I’ll post about that when it goes up.

I couldn’t go on vacation without buying books.

new books

Yes, that’s a colouring book. It’s pretty, but very detailed. It is going to take me a while to complete just a page! I had to buy the coffee one for our house of coffee addicts. And The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly looks cute.

Just before I left, Margaret’s Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, which I won from Goodreads, arrived in the mail. Yay! Also Simon Van Booy’s future release Tales of Accidental Genius landed in my mailbox last week. 

I’ve been writing posts, so I actually have content again. I have to write while I have ideas. Writer’s block will strike again without warning.

Scribd Update: Warning!

beaker
A couple months back I wrote a post about my experience with Scribd, the online book subscription service. It was a great service, unlimited access to thousands of book. I say was because a lot of things have happened since then.

In July, Scribd started removing romance titles from its catalogue. Why? Romance lovers read too much. It was costing the company more to pay the authors than they were making. Jane of Dear Author asked: Can a subscription service ever afford romance readers?  Apparently, that question can now be extended to fans of audiobooks.

This morning I received this email.
scribd

I checked my account and yes several of my saved audiobooks have an expired banner across them.
This didn’t surprise me too much at first, since there was a FAQ that mentioned books could be removed by request of the publisher or author. I thought it was a courtesy email until I checked Twitter.

Other users got the same email today. Then I saw this tweet from Jessica Tripler.

twitter scribd

And yes, according to their Support Desk changes are coming, again, to Scribd. Starting September 20, some audiobooks will be converting to a credit system. By paying $8.99 USD per month, users will receive just one credit a month for one audiobook requiring a credit. Instead of access to all audiobooks with your subscription fee, you get access to a limited number plus one credit per month for these special credited audiobooks. Which audiobooks? I dunno. But I’ll hazard a guess that many of them will be from the romance genre. Oh, but don’t worry, if you want to listen to another, you can pay an additional $8.99 USD for one credit. No thank you. (The Canadian dollar sucks right now, so this will cost me more than $8.99!)

I’ve just paid for this month of Scribd, but I think I’ll be cancelling soon. What I dislike most about this is the unknown. There is no way a customer will know when or if a book they’ve added to their library will expire. I’m going to finish the books I’ve started and that’s it for me.

Like that old saying “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”… In this case it was.

Update: 

After signing into my account today through the Android app, I got a warning box which explained the changes. Also, many of the audiobooks now have an exclamation point banner in the corner. When clicked it explains that this audiobook will be a credit as of Sept 20. 

Dinosaur Amigurumi !!!

dinosaur amigurumi

Know someone who likes dinosaurs and cute crochet stuffed animals? Maybe that someone is you (or me). Here’s a book for the crafty dinosaur lover, Dinosaur Amigurumi. Designer  Justyna Kacprzak created patterns for 14 different dinosaurs, including the one for the Tyrannosaurus Rex I made.


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The pattern was fairly simple to follow, divided into the different parts of the dinosaur. There are lots of photos of the finished toy from many different angles. This really helped with visualizing where I was in the pattern and how it should look. The photos are kind of small though. I wish they were bigger.

I picked Vanna’s Choice Prints in Purple Mist for my T-rex. A little Barney-ish, I know. I underestimated how much yarn I would need. I had one skein. Turns out I needed more. By the time I got to his arms, I knew I was in trouble. I had to improvise and make them smaller. His arms are a bit stubby, but, hey, he’s a T-rex! 

t-rex

A description of each dinosaur would have been a nice addition, but I guess I can Google that if so inclined. That’s my only complaint. Of the 14 dinosaurs, I’m sure dino fans can find a favorite.
Justyna Kacprzak also sells mini dinosaur patterns in her Etsy shop.

Thanks to Dover Publications via Netgalley for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Nalo Hopkinson Is Falling In Love With Hominids

falling in love with hominids

Falling In Love With Hominids is a collection of science fiction short stories from Nalo Hopkinson. I’ve read Nalo Hopkinson’s work before, so her style of writing is not new to me. I had mixed feelings about this selection of stories. Some are my favorite tales from her, others I skimmed just to get through them.

Some of these short stories are exactly that; they have a beginning and an end. Others are snippets from novels not yet written, experiments, and ideas. The former is not my favorite kind of story. I end up feeling like I turned the TV on in the middle of a movie. Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? I need to know things or I’m lost.

I’ll talk about the stories I really enjoyed.

Falling In Love with Hominids starts off well with The Easthound, a werewolf kind of tale where puberty brings unwelcome changes. Message in a Bottle is about an eerily precocious child. The Smile on the Face might be my favorite, a girl going through puberty learns to exert her own power and agency with the help of a tree spirit. It’s such a sweet and uplifting story. Emily Breakfast is different from the other stories. It seems like a tale of an ordinary day with a missing chicken mystery, but some of the people in the neighbourhood might be a little strange, and maybe there’s something about that chicken too. Old Habits involves ghosts who haunt a shopping mall. Blushing is a sinister twist on the Bluebeard tale.

I’ve discussed one of the short stories from this collection before, Left Foot, Right Foot, which appeared in the anthology Monstrous Affections. Also included in Falling In Love with Hominids is a story commissioned by the CBC for Canada Reads. Former jurors were challenged to write a story incorporating the titles of the five contenders, including Oryx and Crake! The result was Snow Day. She deserves a hand for that one.

Something that I liked about Nalo Hopkinson’s writing here is how she takes the legends, myths, and folklore of a number of cultures, including Caribbean, Indian, and European, and puts her own spin on them. The characters are from all walks of life: rich and poor, black and white, straight, gay, and bisexual. It’s most definitely diverse and if you haven’t signed up for Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe, it would be perfect for that. There’s something for everyone who enjoys SF.

Thanks to Tachyon Publishing for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Sanctuary From Rich People Problems

sanctuary

The last Edith Wharton novel I read, Glimpses of the Moon, I enjoyed so much that Sanctuary was an unexpected disappointment.

In Sanctuary, Kate learns that her fiancé Denis is not the upstanding gentleman that she thought he was. She has high moral standards, and sometimes even imagines other people’s lives and their feelings. Wow!
Kate Orme was engaged in one of those rapid mental excursions which were forever sweeping her from the straight path of the actual into uncharted regions of conjecture. Her survey of life had always been marked by the tendency to seek out ultimate relations, to extend her researches to the limit of her imaginative experience.
I believe most people would call that empathy and it’s telling that this “habit” is considered unusual in her circle. Denis, on the other hand, is all about himself. He comes into a pile of money after of the death of his step-brother. There was an obstacle, which was the claim of a poor woman that she was married to the deceased and had his child. Lucky for Denis, the woman kills herself and her child when her claim is denied by a judge. Yay! Problem solved!

prince
I feel the same, Mr Prince

Denis’s coldness towards this woman is disturbing enough , but he reveals something to Kate that causes her to wish to call off her engagement. While she’s considering, she receives a visit from Mrs Peyton, Denis’s mother, who is just as charming as her son.
“Of course one is shocked at the woman's crime—but, if one looks a little deeper, how can one help seeing that it may have been designed as the means of rescuing that poor child from a life of vice and misery?“…’”It does seem too unfortunate that the woman should have chosen this particular time! But you will find as you grow older that life is full of such sad contrasts.”
She’s a delight. 

At this point, Kate should have said “screw you people” and ran as fast as she could to Europe or something, but instead she comes up with a spectacular idea: marry this guy to save any other woman from marrying him. Martyr herself for womankind. She’s committing herself to a life of misery, and even planning for their future children. No, girl, no. Just, no.

But she does…

Years later, she’s a widow with a grown son Dick, who she has hovered over for decades making sure he never does a wrong thing. She’s in his business 24/7.

lucille caring mom
Literally how she thinks.

But now Dick found himself a girl. A girl with ambitions for his career. He’s an aspiring architect and preparing for a competition that could be his big break. Smother, I mean Mother, has a feeling that Dick is being astray and it’s killllllling her!

Even though Edith Wharton loves to write about immoral rich people, this is as subtle as a machine gun. These people are terrible. What is she trying to say here anyway; never leave your children alone, even into adulthood, in case they make poor decisions and gow into jerks? It’s creepy. Mother Kate made me anxious. There are pages of her hand wringing. Will Dick do the right thing? Oh, what will he dooooo? I wanted Dick to quit his job and become a riverboat gambler just to get away from her.

Published in 1903, Sanctuary one of Wharton’s earlier works. It doesn’t have her usual biting satire, and it’s wordy for what it is. It’s not at all what I’ve come to expect from her. There was  repetitiveness, like the rearranging of everyone’s furs. Those furs, they sure needed rearranging! And Kate has heard a lot about Miss Verney. A lot, I tell you! 

I’m glad that she improved as a writer over the years. This one though, skip it
.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Hello, August!

Point Michaud Beach

Hello, August!

I can’t say it’s been that great of a summer. The weather hasn’t been what it should be. We keep waiting for summer to be more summer-like. I can’t believe I’ve had to take my daughter school supply shopping already! Next thing you know, I’ll be shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey.

I have two book reviews scheduled to go next week. I feel like that rarely happens anymore.

Anyone join Comixology? I signed up this week but haven't bought anything yet though I’ve added a couple of things to my wishlist. I’m not into superhero stuff so my choices are a bit limited. I joined because I want to support Canadian artists. Any recommendations for me?

I also joined Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe. This year I was smart and found some books that will suit both this and RIP. Check it out and join up!

diverse 2015
In non-reading news, I’ve been playing around with my camera (see above), crocheted a dinosaur and one slipper (I will make two), and am planning a mini-vacation.
That’s about it for me!

Creeping Around the Dark With The Night Sister

night sister

I’ve read (and listened to) a few of Jennifer McMahon’s books now and there are a few things I’ve come to expect: there will be a creepy kid or two, red herrings galore, and weird happenings. The Night Sister is no exception.

shining twins

Piper is called back to her hometown of London, Vermont after her sister Margot tells her of the death of their old friend Amy. It was no ordinary death, but an apparent murder-suicide. There is one piece of evidence at the scene that mystifies the police, a photo with the words “29 rooms” written on it. Both Piper and Margot know the significance of those words.

Twenty-five years earlier, the girls discovered the mystery of the 29th room as they played in the dilapidated rooms of Amy’s grandmother’s motel. The Tower Motel was a busy venture in the days after the Second World War. The motel boasted 28 rooms, a pool, and a unique roadside attraction known as the Tower of London built by Amy’s grandfather as a tribute to his British War Bride. Then a highway was built. Tourists no longer stopped to stay overnight and the motel closed in the 1970s.

Bates_motel_gif

Amy’s family history contains more than the story of a failed business. There are secrets and stories of Amy’s missing Aunt Sylvia, the girl obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock and Hollywood, Amy’s mother Rose, who lived in her beautiful sister’s shadow, and their German grandmother who filled Rose’s head with stories of “mares” or shape shifting monsters who hunt at night.

In the present time, Margot is bedridden with a high risk pregnancy and married to Jake the local cop. Margot begs Piper to find out what really happened to Amy while keeping Jake in the dark.

The Night Sister shifts back and forth in time between Jake and Piper in the present and the 1980s, and Rose in the 1950s and 60s. There are also glimpses into Sylvia’s mind through her letters to Alfred Hitchcock. This is something Jennifer McMahon often does in her books.

I always like how she mixes the supernatural with the rational. Hints at something totally normal going on that an unstable character is not seeing. There could be a logical explanation for the weirdness, but will that be where the story goes? You have to keep reading to find out.

Yet again the characterization is excellent. Jake and Piper have an emotional/romantic history with Amy that makes them dig deeper into what happened to her. Jake was Amy's “friend with benefits” for a time and Amy was Piper’s first crush. Amy herself went from a manipulative troubled teen to a married mom with kids. Then there is Rose, deadbeat mom with a mysterious past. Where has she been? Why is she back in London? What happened between her and Sylvia all those decades ago?

Once I started listening to The Night Sister, I couldn’t turn it off. I needed to know what was going on at the Tower Motel. It’s more than a horror story. It’s about abandoned friendships and sisterly jealousies that shape the characters’ futures. I didn’t like it as much as I did The Winter People, I could see where things were going, but it was still entertaining. I do not know how McMahon’s books haven’t been made into movies yet. They’d give anything based on Stephen King a run for the money.

Sidenote: Loved the references to Guns n Roses and Love’s Baby Soft in the 1980s flashbacks. It took me right back.

About the Audio: Cassandra Campbell, prolific audiobook narrator, reads The Night Sister just as she did McMahon’s last book The Winter People. She is awesome as always. I can see why she does so many of these.

Thanks to Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Pinteresting: Baking With Lavender

Baking with Lavender

Ever since I started gardening, I’ve grown lavender. It’s easy to grow, beautiful to look at, and smells like heaven. It’s one of my favorite herbs. However, up until recently, I never thought to bake with it. I have no idea what variety I have- possibly English lavender- but according the the internet some varieties are better for baking and eating than others.

Lavender in the Sun

Drying Lavender

My lavender shrub is huge this year, and as pretty as it is, it’s a shame to let the flowers go to waste. I collected a bunch of stems for drying. I always use the same method: cut the stems quite long, gather a bunch by the stems, tie a long piece of kitchen twine tightly around the stems, fasten a paper bag over the florets, hang the bunch by the twine in a cool dry place (I use a closet). In about a week, the florets should be dry enough to remove from the stems and store. Repeat this process. It takes a lot of drying to get a good amount for storage.

Lavender Collage

The Recipes

There are a number of lavender recipes on Pinterest. Often lavender is paired with lemon, or Earl Grey tea. For good reason, they’re delicious combinations!

I picked a couple of recipes to try: Lavender London Fog Latte and Lavender Lemon Squares.
The Lavender London Fog Latte from Gimme Some Oven is pretty easy. I made the tea with the Earl Grey tea I bought from DAVIDs TEA. It’s a loose tea so adding a 1/2 tsp of lavender isn’t an inconvenience. Then, adding vanilla, a little bit of raw sugar, and frothed steam milk gave me this result.
 lavender london fog latte

The Lavender Lemon Squares were a bit more complicated. The recipe I found on Pinterest called for 8 eggs. I do not own chickens, so that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I adapted this Lemon Bars recipe from BHG. Here’s my version.

Lavender Lemon Squares
Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon peel
3/4 very cold butter 

Set oven to 350 F. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lemon peel. Cube cold butter. Add butter to processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
Meanwhile…

Filling
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp of dried lavender
1 tsp of grated lemon peel
3/4 cup of lemon juice, about 2 large lemons
1/4 cup of blend cream
4 large eggs 
In food processor, pulse the lavender flowers until very finely chopped. Add sugar and blend well. Add flour and lemon peel. Blend. Move sugar mixture to a large bowl. Add lemon juice and cream. Lightly beat eggs, add to sugar mixture and stir well.
Pour the liquid over baked crust. Bake for 20 minutes (at least) or until filling sets. Let cool. Cut into squares.
The results were lovely! The lavender flavour is subtle and not overpowering. They’re great with a hot cup of Chai tea.

Other recipes I plan on trying in the future (too many sweets this week!) are:

Lavender Honey Cupcakes
Lemon Lavender Loaf

I hope you give baking with this herb a try. Lavender is more than a pretty face!