Road Trip: To Montreal

If you've been reading my blog, you know I took a little vacation this August. It's not often that I do that. In fact, I haven't been on a long vacation since my honeymoon 10 years ago. So I was excited about our little road trip. Also a little nervous. We were a moonie eyed couple back then, now there was 3 of us. Driving. For several days. My husband gave me lots of assurances that all would be fine. Afterall, his parents did the same trip in a car without air conditioning with 4 boys. God bless them.

One bright Saturday morning, we started out, first through Nova Scotia- no surprises there, then New Brunswick. Lots of trees. A whole day of driving. Could I do it again? I had to. The next day we climbed the Appalachians and hit the Quebec border. A whole new province for me. The scenery was beautiful and I had my first glimpse of the St Lawrence and wheat fields! Then after hours and hours we stopped in Montreal.

Montreal is a beautiful city, a mix of old and new. My hotel had a great view of the Olympic Stadium and the Jacques Cartier Bridge. We had a peek downtown but since we had kids in our group every question was "Can we swim in the pool?" and "When do we eat?" I could have saved a lot of money and swam in pools around here but whatever.

The people were very kind and tried to help us get what we needed despite a language barrier. Not only have I not parle Francais 'ed since high school, as a Maritimer I tend to speak too fast. Note to self: louder isn't slower.

After a well needed rest, we were off to Ontario...

Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood: Review

So how do I explain this one? Bob's mom forgets about him outside her beauty parlour but luckily 3 dogs find him and raise him. Being raised by dogs makes him bashful. Meantime, Dorinda's parents have disappeared leaving her to be raised by distant relatives who neglect her. Dorinda gets fed up and leaves, whereupon she finds Bob. She teaches Bob to act like a person. Just as he's getting the hang of it, a mislabelled buffalo reeks havoc on the town. Bob and Dorinda face their fears and become heroes.

If you want to twist your tongue and expand your child's vocabulary, then Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood is for you. I was exhausted after reading it outloud. I also had to explain many of the words to my girl. Not such a bad thing. But the alliteration tends to get a bit grating.

I've read some other reviewers who had problems with Bob's abandonment and Dorinda's parents' accident. I wasn't bothered by it. I mean, Hansel and Gretel's parents abandon them in the woods, and Peter Rabbit's dad gets put in a pie. Not all kids' stories are filled with rainbow farting unicorns. I wouldn't read this to very young children anyway- the language is too grand. Let's not forget, this is Atwood.

Anyway, my daughter likes it, especially the illustrations by Dusan Petricic, and that's all that matters.

Read for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

Readers Imbibing Peril IV

My favorite time of the year has come. Carl's RIP Challenge! Yayyy! I collect books all year for this one. I love a good spooky book when the weather gets dreary. A comfy sweater and a cup of tea or coffee and I'm set the sit by the window on a blustery day and read.

I'll be doing Peril the First where I'll be reading 4 books. I have a pool of books, I just have to choose 4.

  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Rises in the Night by Colleen Gleason
  • Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman (if it comes in time)
  • Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal (as part of a book tour)
  • Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • A bunch of Agatha Christies
So how about you? Will you overcome your fears and join us?

Watership Down by Richard Adams: Review

As a kid, I remember watching the film Watership Down. It was somewhat disturbing. These aren't cute bunnies in little blue jackets getting into mischief. These are real rabbits- some of them nasty- dealing with real rabbit problems like day to day survival. The film is as gritty as the novel.

Watership Down by Richard Adams starts in the Sandleford Warren where rabbits are divided into the outsiders and the Owsla, the group who runs the warren and gets all the good stuff. The warren is lead by The Chief Rabbit, a tough old rabbit who likes things the was they are. Brothers Fiver and Hazel are small outsiders living on the edge of the warren. One night Fiver has a vision; a terrible thing is about to happen to the warren. Hazel insists on telling The Chief Rabbit who sends them on their way. Hazel knows Fiver has a gift and that what he says is true. Instead of staying within the warren, Hazel makes a plan to leave and find a new place to live.

Hazel gathers a few disgruntled rabbits willing to take a chance and face unknown dangers in the wilderness beyond the warren. He gains the respect of this group through his bravery and cleverness even though he isn't the toughest, strongest rabbit and becomes Chief Rabbit. Hazel wishes to make a rabbit utopia where every rabbit is free from bullying and everyone has plenty. After peril after peril, the group finds Watership Down and plan to make their home there.

Unexpectedly, a couple of injured rabbits from the Sandleford Warren stumble into the newly formed warren with a terrible tale of destruction and death. They are the only survivors. Hazel finally realizes something- not one female is among their group. Without mates, Watership Down is doomed. Hazel searches for a warren willing to give up a few females and comes across a warrior of a Chief Rabbit. His fierceness and cunning might be too much for the little group- even with Hazel as a leader.

What an amazing story Watership Down is! The rabbits aren't over anthropomorphized, they behave the way rabbits would, but they do have distinct personalities. Think Meercat Manor. Fiver is a prophet, Hazel brave, Bigwig tough, Pipkin loyal. I was attached to Hazel instantly. He always thinks of his group first before himself. He makes a true heroic leader.

I was totally enmeshed in the story. The rabbits have to navigate through so much danger and peril. The natural terrors are enough but the hand of man is horrific. During the telling of the Sandleford horror, one rabbit says "...we were in their way. They killed us to suit themselves." The story is tense and the pacing quick even though it's 400+ pages. There is a large amount of bunny on bunny violence at the end, just to warn you.

The novel has some heavy themes: ecological destruction, the warren is destroyed to build houses. There is also the theme of freedom versus tyranny. The warrens the group both leave and discover have a type of enslavement, forced upon them either by man or other rabbits. Some deep issues for a so-called children's novel. The rabbits also share a type of spiritual leader, El-ahrairah. They tell each other stories of his adventures which parallel their own and also provide guidance. I really liked these tales.

A fun fact: Watership Down is one of the books read by Sawyer on the TV show Lost. I can see why it's an important book on the show. A group of people facing danger and encountering 'warrens' of strange people who aren't what they seem.

Read for The Eco Reading Challenge.

Highly recommended.

Wordless: Pink!

Checking In & a Thank You

Hi all! I'm still on vacation but have a little down time. I feel like that Johnny Cash song, "I've Been Everywhere." It feels like it since we've drove cross country. I've done and seen lots of 'firsts' for me and I'll write all about it when I get home.

I just wanted to give a BIG THANK YOU to the people who nominated book-a-rama for the BBAW awards. Imagine my happiness when I found out that I was nominated for 3 awards!

  • Best Challenge Host
  • Best Publishing/Industry Blog
  • Most Chatty
Sometimes it's hard to know how you and your blog is perceived. I know what I think but what do the people who read it think? So to receive these nominations is both flattering and helpful. I especially like that people think I'm chatty! lol!

Anyway thanks so much!

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens: Review

Andy Dunne is newly divorced and soon to be unemployed from his job as a radio weatherman. His life is a lot like the weather: one big drought. For two years, Andy has been having an emotional affair with a colleague, translator Hillary Hsing, through text messaging and late night phone calls. It's a relationship that's going nowhere.

But there's signs that a change in the weather is on the way. Andy has an opportunity to completely change careers when he's hired as a children's TV host for his own show: Andy's Magic Carpet. He joins a gym and gets fit. He starts getting recognized, especially by women. It's all very heady.

Still he pines for Hillary, as the phone calls between them become more intense. Sooner or later he'll either have to make a move or give her up for good.

I really did enjoy Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens. Andy is a likeable protagonist. I wanted to see him succeed and cringed at the bumps he had along the way. There were times I was annoyed with him though. Hillary is a married woman. Since Andy was recently cheated on, I wondered why he didn't have more sympathy for her husband, Jason. The whole relationship was something that made me uncomfortable. Just because there was no physical relationship, doesn't mean it's wrong. Hillary liked to play head games with Andy, usually calling him after she had a few drinks. This didn't endear me to her. Something she says about her husband at the end of the novel really bothered me. I just couldn't like her.

Two Years, No Rain has a distinctly 'chick lit' feel to it even though the protagonist is a man. It's interesting to read the male point of view on divorce and romance. Indeed, the romantic elements will be a draw for female readers. Andy's relationship with his sister and her family, especially Hannah, Andy's niece, is a nice touch. How can you not love a guy who has such a special friendship with his teen niece? Say it with me, "Awwww!"

This is definitely a touching read despite cold-as-ice Hillary. I would have preferred less of her but... still, I liked it!


This book was read as part of the TLC book tour. See more about the tour on TLC and more about the author on his website. Looks like I'm the last stop on this tour! Hope you enjoyed it.

Wordless: Bee In Flight

My husband took this shot. Pretty cool!

YA Blogging: What's it all about?

I confess, I'm totally ignorant about the Young Adult genre. I might be aging myself here but when I was a youngster the closest thing to YA was Sweet Valley High. By the time I was 16, I was reading titles from the adult section of the library. I grew up on Stephen King and VC Andrews.

Times have changed. YA has become a huge part of publishing and just as big in the blogging world. Books geared at the young adult readers show up daily on the blogs I read. To my surprise, most of these bloggers are adults. Whether they are requesting them, reading them or reviewing them, they all seem very excited about YA.

Recently, some bloggers have been called out for being 'old' because they're adults reviewing YA. It got me thinking about the genre. What is YA? What am I missing out on? What is the appeal of YA books for adults?

I set out to find out by posting a request for YA bloggers on Twitter. The following people graciously agreed to answer a few questions. By the way, all these bloggers are adults without teen children.

What is your definition of a YA book?

Sarah: I tend to think of long chapter books that are kept in or near the kid's section of books in either the bookstore or library as YA. So anything 150 pages and up. Wikipedia lists the ages as 12-18. I'd cut it off at 17 since 18 year olds are legally adults in the USA.

Courtney: My definition of a YA book is a book where the author has written the book with teen readers in mind. This does not mean that older audiences will not enjoy it, but that it is predominantly aimed at teens. I don't think all books about teens are aimed at teens (and thus are not YA). As far as specific qualities of YA, well most main characters are usually teens themselves. The majority of YA books are coming of age stories as well, in one way or another. Other than that, it's hard to say because there are just so many different types of books in YA - the fantasy, the scifi, the chicklit, the general fiction, etc etc.

Michelle: I don’t really have a definition of YA outside of normal genre lines. I think people tend to equate it more to an age than content but I’ve heard many use descriptors like “coming of age”, “overcoming adversity” and the like. I personally think that YA has more thoughtful and intricate plotting, there isn’t fear of taking chances with those stories, characterization is stronger, there is less predictability and authors aren’t as afraid to take risks.

Joana: I expect YA books to be targeted to an audience between the ages of 13 to 18 roughly. The main character of the story should be teen themselves. I use this term loosely as the protagonist could be of another species, but I would expect them to be in the "teen years" of their species. YA fiction should focus on the pressures that teens themselves can identify with, and as a result, I really don't expect explicit content to make much of an appearance (if at all).

What is the appeal of YA for adult readers?

Sarah: They tend to be quick reads and an easy escape during a morning cup of coffee.

Courtney: A lot of people IRL have been asking me about what I find so appealing about YA books when I mention that I read a lot of it. There are a couple of reasons - first I prefer the stories in YA much better. As mentioned, a lot of them are coming of age stories, and I love the character development that takes place in those types of books. Secondly, I will fully admit that it's because I like romantic stories that don't deal with sex in every other chapter, and a lot of books and series that I was reading that was aimed at adults was getting like that. Yeah, I don't mind a good sex scene if it works for the story, but a lot of it was just thrown in there with nothing to really ADD to the story, you know?

Michelle: I think the traits I listed in number one are all appealing. I also think the fact that there is such a wide variety of stories allows a person to always find what they want. More times than not the books are fairly easy to read and they are quick to read as well.

Joana: I think the appeal of YA fiction is that the authors tend to focus more on the development of characters, letting them "grow up" and the adventure along the way. I love an author who can write a passionate story filled with mystery, action, and a handful of engaging subplots. But a lot of times authors put too much emphasis on what they think their readers want (ie: lots of sex, convoluted plots, tons of violence) that they forget the important things that make up a story. Books in the YA genre rarely have that problem.

Why did you start reading YA? Or why did you never stop reading YA?

Sarah: I am reading YA books now because I didn't read them when I was a teen. I discovered YA books when I realized one of my favorite science fiction writers had written YA books (Harry Harrison). When I realized I was missing potentially great books because they were shelved differently, I started haunting that section too.

Courtney: The first YA book I picked up as an adult was Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty - I picked it up because the cover was absolutely gorgeous, and it came highly recommended by a friend. It was an original concept that I had never explored through reading other books, one that I probably wouldn't through books aimed at adults. That was over five years ago, and it made me realize exactly how much I had been missing out on by not reading a lot of the genre.

Michelle: I actually only recently found the genre. Someone reviewed and recommended The Hunger Game (which I strongly encourage you to read if you haven’t already) to me on Twitter and through their blog so after letting go of my skepticism I read it and man I was hooked. Now I read primarily YA. I still read contemporary fiction and Chick-lit but I tend to grab a YA book from my pile first.

Joana: I was an advanced reader for my age so I was reading YA fiction by 4th grade. Back then, I felt it was far more mature, challenging, and engaging, for me. Now a days I keep reading it because I sincerely enjoy the genre.

Are there any sub-genres you are particularly interested in?

Sarah: I like YA science fiction and some fantasy (although I'm not much a fan of Harry Potter or the Twilight Books) and chicklit aimed at teens. The comedy that is often a part of chicklit works better in the YA version. If you haven't tried the Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison, you should. They start with ANGUS THONGS AND FULL FRONTAL SNOGGING. There are 9 of them (#9 comes out in October).

Courtney: As far as sub-genres I'm interested in, there's not really one more than others. I've read it all at one point or another. I am, however, getting a little bit tired of the YA urban fantasy subgenre - but that's just because I've over-saturated myself in it.

Michelle: I do like the dystopian sub-genre but honestly I’m reading across the spectrum. I’m amazed at how many books I’ve read (though yet to get reviews written) that have boys as the main protagonist. Geekery has been a central theme in many I’ve read.

Joana: When it comes to YA fiction I really enjoy fantasy, horror, thriller, and contemporary fiction. I also enjoy what is known as "Edgy Content", which is an umbrella term that is used to encompass YA fiction where author used the protagonist to challenge social norms or stir up


Thanks again ladies for answering my questions. Interesting. So, YA is about teens mostly in coming of age situations. I can see why the teenage years are fodder for authors. Anytime there is change in a character's life there is conflict and conflict is the engine that runs the plot. Teen years are dripping with it. We can all relate to it since we've all been teens and remember those days- some of them vividly.

The stories seem to be what appeals to adults. Well written, character driven, focus less on sex and more on the characters. Sounds pretty good. The fact that they are shorter than the average also appeals. We're all busy people. Sometimes we don't have the attention span for War and Peace.

Funnily enough, I've read several adult novels where the protagonist is a tween or teen. I wonder why these were classified as adult and not YA? I'm thinking it might be the adult themes or the length.

Anyway, this has inspired me to look into picking up a couple of YA books. I've had my eye on The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Luxe for awhile now.

FYI : A Survey

I got this in my inbox. Enjoy my lovelies!

I hope this note finds you well. I am writing to share news about the and 2009 Reader Surveys. With these surveys, hopes to identify trends and topics that are of interest to readers of young adult and children's literature of all ages --- children, teens and adults. Results will be shared with the media, publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians and educators in the fall of 2009.

In addition to questions about and, both websites from that have been destinations for readers for more than a decade, the surveys address:

-How often they buy books and where they shop
-How often they visit the library and/or take out books
-What kinds of books they are interested in reading
-Who and what influence their reading selections
-How they feel about required summer reading
-What they think about eBooks and digital reading devices
-What their other media habits are

The Survey can be found at

The Survey can be found at:

Flyers have been created at and if you would like to post these on your blog or distribute to your colleagues and friends.

We hope you will mention the surveys on your site and encourage all of the teens and children you know --- and anyone else who loves young adult and children's books or works with youth --- to take the surveys. We estimate the survey will take 15 minutes and the survey will take 10 minutes.

As a token of their appreciation for filling out the 2009 Reader Survey, respondents from the U.S. and Canada will be eligible to enter a random drawing to receive a copy of one of 27 titles, which are being provided by publishers. There will be 775 winners selected. See the full list of 27 titles at: The Survey will close on August 31st.

For the 2009 Reader Survey, respondents from the U.S. and Canada will be eligible to enter a random drawing to receive a copy of one of 24 titles, which are also provided by publishers. There will be 1,000 winners selected. The full list of titles can be found at: Children under 13 years of age must have their parents/guardians complete a form in order to be eligible for the contest. The Survey will close on September 15th.

Wordless: Bee Season


Yes, I'm having a holiday. I won't be around much for a few weeks. Don't do anything exciting while I'm gone. I do have a few posts in the works to keep you all occupied. I hope to get some readin' done too. I'm working on Watership Down right now.

In the meantime, here's an old video from Madonna. The dancing reminds me of those old 20 Minute Workout Videos. "Knees up and down. Come on, you can do it!" Ah, those were the days. I remember when this song was brand new. I guess, like Madonna, I have a few miles on me.

Anyway, let's take a holiday- it would be so nice!

Wideacre by Philippa Gregory: Review

I can't express the soap opera-ness of Wideacre by Philippa Gregory. The Shower Cap Guy from MadTV would probably say, "It's crazy as hell!!" Let's just say there is incest, murder, patricide, S&M, secret babies, angry villagers and a legless gypsy. It's as if Gregory had a big book of outlandish plots and threw them all in there.

If Wideacre was a sport there would be an X in front of it, as in X-treme! Everyone is X-treme in this book. The main character, Beatrice Lacey, doesn't just love the land of Wideacre, she loves it To The Extreme! At one point she tries to marinate herself in it's dirt. Everyone else tells her, "Dude, it's just land" but she's peeved about how her brother, who knows nothing about Wideacre, will get the land when their Dad dies. Beatrice meets up with a gypsy boy named Ralph. At this point they have sex and it's To The Extreme! And being X-treme Beatrice she doesn't just like it, she aches for it. It's agonizing!!! Ralph hatches a plan to do away with Daddy and make brother Harry dance like a puppet. Did I mention Harry has a fetish? We'll get to that later.

At the last minute Beatrice changes her mind but it's too late. Exit Daddy, stage right. So, now X-treme Beatrice is up in arms that Ralph would to such a thing and who does he think he is, etc, etc. She attempts to murder him in a ridiculously strange way but it doesn't take. Ralph becomes The Legless Gypsy: Scourge of the County.

I bet you think I gave away half the book but no we're not even through 200 pgs in of this 600+ page book! ("It's crazy as hell!!")

When Harry returns to Wideacre, X-treme Beatrice having lost her lover starts having yucky, yucky thoughts of her brother. She starts seeing him as The God of the Harvest (I swear it's in there!) and her ticket to staying on Wideacre. Brace yourselves... they have intercourse... and Harry likes to be beaten...To The Extreme! When Harry gets married to the Sweetest Girl in the County, things get even more entangled. Beatrice thinks it might be nice to have a stable full of little sibling/cousins to play with Uncle/Daddy and somehow help her keep Harry under her thumb. However, everything starts to come undone for Beatrice and the plot goes even more... To The Extreme!

Beatrice is Scarlett O'Hara on crack. She does crazy things to stay on Wideacre, but even Scarlett would draw the line at her schemes. I guess all the Extremeness is to point out how unfair it was to be a girl in the 1700's. You didn't get the land unless you had the Y chromosome. So this adds to her madness. I also don't think it helped that Daddy told her that she was a "Lacey of Wideacre" and could do no wrong. She tests that theory! Besides all the grossness of the incest, Beatrice is so in love with herself, so arrogant! This girl does nothing by halves.

This is a book to be taken in small doses, it's so overwrought. But I couldn't walk away from it. Don't you want to find out how Beatrice gets her comeuppance?

Hesitantly recommended to those who love melodrama and have a high tolerance for ickiness.

The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan: Review

In The Earth Hums in B Flat, thirteen year old Gwenni Morgan believes she can fly, an idea her mother wants to keep from the neighbours. They don't seem to mind her eccentric ways though. Elin Evans and her two little girls are especially fond of Gwenni and she them, although she doesn't like Ifan, Elin's husband. When Ifan goes missing under mysterious circumstances, she decides to play detective and find out where he is and bring him back.

Gwenni naively goes about asking questions that no one wants to answer directly. There are just some things everyone knows but aren't discussed with the children. She inadvertently reopens long held secrets of madness, murder and old romances. Some of which hit too close to home and put her in harms way.

It's difficult to discuss this book without giving too much away and I think that it's important that the reader discovers things as the book progresses. It will become clear to you as you read, although poor Gwenni has a tough time figuring things out.

Gwenni. Poor sweet girl. She is too soft hearted, just like her Dad (Tada) who should be canonized for what he put up with. I was completely frustrated at times that he wasn't firmer and stand up more for Gwenni. Just once I wanted Gwenni herself to yell and scream at how unfairly she was treated by her mother and her awful sister Bethan, though Bethan was heavily influenced by her mother.

There is tons of heartache in The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan. As Gwenni's Nain says, "It's life, Gwenni. Just kicks you in the teeth sometimes. You may as well get used to it." While the ending might not be all rainbows and kittens, it is quite realistic but not without hope. It gave me a lot to ponder: how problems snowball and one begets another and another affecting not just one person but many.

Although set in 1950's Wales, Strachan paints a perfect picture of small town living. Everyone knows your business and there is no such thing a secret. Gwenni's outward oddness sets her apart from everyone else but what goes on behind closed doors is what is really strange.

Thanks to Penguin for the book- I won it on Twitter.


Summer of Hitchcock: Vertigo


John 'Scottie' Ferguson (James Stewart) retired from the police force after watching a man fall from a building and nearly falling himself. Now he suffers from severe acrophobia (fear of heights not acrobats). An old school friend hires him to follow his wife- a beautiful wealthy blond- Madeleine (Kim Novak). Madeleine has been acting strangely, trailing off in the middle of conversations and taking long drives. She seems like another person.

Scottie follows her around until she jumps into San Francisco Bay. After he rescues her, he falls head over heels for her. That's when all the trouble starts.

Okay, why does Scottie love Madeleine? Is it because she's beautiful and sophisticated? I think it must be a hero complex. She's damaged. She's messed up. He must have her. I was so fed up with him- especially the hairdresser and clothes part at the end. Creepy! I thought Midge was a much better choice. Poor Midge. Nice girls finish last. She could do better anyway.

Vertigo was meh for me. I wasn't attached to the main characters. Maybe that was it for me. I still love Hitchcock but not this one.

Challenge Roundup

At the end of The I Suck At Challenges Challenge, I promised that I would keep the challenge updates going. Today I introduce Challenge Roundup where we all can gather and celebrate our accomplishments or whine about our failures. Whatever kind of month it is.

So July was a terrible challenge month for me. I read 0 challenge books. Zip. Nada. The Big Goose Egg. I signed up for The 3rd Canadian Books Challenge and then read nothing. I also didn't pick up a book for my own Eco Reading Challenge. That's bad.

However, my vegetable garden I started because of Animal Vegetable Miracle is doing really well. Have a look:

No chemicals have been used either. I can't wait to bite into that tomato. The snow peas were yummy. They're all done now but I started sugar peas in their place.

I definitely plan on reading Watership Down. I just have to get to it. I also promised Kailana that I'd read Not Wanted On the Voyage with her as part of my 3rd Canadian Reading Challenge list. Hopefully by Sept 1 my next update will be a celebratory one!

So, everyone I invite you to leave a comment about your challenges or write your own post and leave a link. Feel free to grab the button.