This Old Thing?: The Ballad of Peckham Rye

This week's This Old Thing is The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark another library sale find. I love library sales! I remember this one was tucked in a box of about 50 P G Wodehouse books. I was overwhelmed by all those ones so upon seeing this I picked it up.

What attracted me to it was A) I had never heard of it before and B) the back says: "One of the funniest books I have ever read...far and away our best woman novelist" -Penelope Mortimer. That sold it for me. Plus that cover is too funny.

The Ballad of Peckham Rye was published in 1960 but this version is from 1970. It's in excellent shape other than being a bit yellowed.

"Dougal Douglas, M.A., was hired to bring vision into the lives of the workers in a Peckham firm. And he did. TO peckham he introduced the wider horizon of tears, absenteeism, fraud, blackmail, violence,a nd murder. With a light laugh, of course."

Sounds pretty good.

Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley: Review

Timothy Findley's Not Wanted On the Voyage is his interpretation of the Bible tale Noah's Ark. What do I know about Noah's Ark? God told him to put all the animals of the Earth on the boat two by two. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. All the bad people died. Then the Ark got hooked up on a mountain. The End. Yes, I'm a biblical scholar.

Findley's telling is not quite like that. Noah Noyes is a tyrant. A nasty, nasty guy. He's awful to his wife and bullies everyone in the family. You either toe line or you'll face the consequences. Mrs Noyes copes by keeping her mouth shut and drinking too much. She also finds comfort in her talking cat Mottyl.

Noah's claim to fame is his best buddy, God. They've been friends a long time but God is tired and old. He's fed up with people in general who are jerks- making soup out of their fellow men and what-not. So God gets this idea to end it all and the Grand Finale is The Flood.

That's when things go pear shaped. Noah gets meaner and the family divides itself into the doers (the ones who do what Noah says) and the thinkers (the ones who question him). A mysterious woman appears and attaches herself to Ham, one of the sons. She's not quite what she seems.

There are things I liked about Not Wanted on the Voyage. The story was imaginative well written but there were things that didn't float my boat. I felt at times overwhelmed by the symbolism. It was if Findley was saying, "Let me dazzle you with my metaphors. Let me beat you over the head with my imagery." I expected violence (this is the end of the world tale) but there are some graphic and disturbing scenes that were even too much for me. And then there was the ending; I still don't get it.

I know that people are ga-ga for Not Wanted on the Voyage but I can't say I'm one of them. I'm not giving up on Findley though. His talent is enough to tempt me to reading more.

Read for The 3rd Canadian Reading Challenge.

Cleopatra's Daughter Giveaway

I don't do many giveaway's on book-a-rama but I liked Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran (see my review here) so much when I saw the chance to host a giveaway, I took it. Michelle will send a signed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter to one lucky commenter anywhere in the world.

I'll keep the contest open for one week, ending Monday October 5, 12am EST.

All you have to do is leave your email address in the comments and answer this question:

What historical figure's childhood would you like to see portrayed in a novel?

Good luck!

Contest now closed.

Cleaopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran: Review

I've been a reader of book blogs for a couple of years now and have seen Michelle Moran's books on a fair share of them. She's a favorite of many book bloggers and until this week I hadn't read a thing by her. I wondered if she could possibly live up to the hype. Well, my dears, she does.

In Cleopatra's Daughter, the reader is introduced to the last living children of Marc Antony and Cleopatra (Kleopatra) just moments before their mother's suicide. Twins Selene and Alexander and little brother Ptolemy have been given to their family's enemy, the emperor Octavian. Now prisoners, the children make the journey to Rome but only the twins survive. The twins fear they will be executed or enslaved at the whim of the emperor. Instead, they are welcomed by Octavia, the kind-hearted sister of Octavian.

While Alexander is content to bet on races and enjoy the theatres of Rome, Selene is studious, always planning for the day when she will return to Egypt. The cruelty of the Romans and the treatment of their slaves shocks her. She's not alone; much to Octavian's frustration, The Red Eagle has been freeing slaves and riling up public sympathy. Who is the man- or woman- who no one can catch in the act?

Selene's strength and determination appealed to me. At the same time, she still a teenaged girl who does normal teenaged things. She goes shopping and hangs out with her friends. She has crushes and jealousies. She's a lot like any girl except she is a princess banished from her kingdom. Her fate is not in her own hands but in the hands of her enemy. Her life is a precarious one.

Still, Selene knows her life could be much worse. She could have been enslaved, sold to the highest bidder, abused by her master until her death. Despite her dangerous position, Selene wishes to make a difference in the lives of the people who cannot speak for themselves. It seems like an impossible task.

The brutality of the Romans is hard to read. They seem merciless. Children are disposable, women powerless pawns in political alliances. Romans captured their enemies and enslaved them. Moran describes famous trials involving slaves and slave uprisings. The Red Eagle's heroic deeds appeals to Selene's sense of justice. She wonders if he could be someone close to her.

Cleopatra's Daughter is a perfect combination of history and storytelling. Michelle Moran makes Selene come to life on the page. She pieces together what little is known about her life, adds it to what she knows about Rome and images a tale of suffering and triumph. A fairy tale ending fit for a princess.

Highly recommended.

See Michelle Moran's website for more information about this title and others by the author.

If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of Cleopatra's Daughter, please see my giveaway post.

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours for the review copy.

Short Story Review: The Birds by Daphne DuMaurier

funny pictures of cats with captions

I'm fairly certain that everyone is at least familiar with the movie The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock based his film on Daphne DuMaurier's short story of the same name. There is no Tippi Hendren character in the story, however. Nat lives on an island in England with his family and works on a nearby farm. He's noticed some strange behaviour in the island's birds. Many of them haven't migrated and the unusually harsh weather is making them restless.

One night his children are attacked in their beds by some birds. The incident alarms him but the locals brush it off. Things change quickly when the bird attacks intensify and people are trapped in their homes, helpless against this vicious force of nature.

Even though I like birds, this story really creeped me out. The birds were organized; it was all out war. The story reminded me of those Zombie Apocalypse movies or more recently The Happening. I could feel Nat's fear and helplessness in the face of this natural disaster. How can he keep his family safe? There are just too many birds and they are out to kill. How will he keep the birds out? How will he keep his family fed?

Although the story just sort of ends, I think it's even better than the movie. I'm not going to be able to look at those flocks of starlings the same way again. They must be up to no good.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: Review

Young David's life is turned upside down when his mother dies. She instilled a love of reading in David. Near the end of her life, it was all they had together. Just a year later, his dad remarries and a baby is on the way. When they move into a big old house, David takes his mother's books with with him. David doesn't tell anyone that the books speak to him.

When his brother is born and his dad spends more time at work, the tension at home builds. He resents his new stepmother and half-brother. The books get louder in their new home and then the Crooked Man appears. One night David crosses over from the real world into the world of the books. It's a fairy tale world full of terrifying creatures. To get home David must find the Old King and the mysterious Book of Lost Things, although the Crooked Man offers him an alternative.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is a fairy tale for grown ups. Yes, I'd say for grown ups. There are some adult themes and violent scenes. Connolly's fairy tale world is imaginative and horrifying. I listened to this book on CD as I went about my day. I found it hard to put it aside.

Some of the tales within the story are frightening, some are quite funny. Most of them are recognizable although they have been reinvented and twisted to fit into David's strange world. He meets either helpful characters or evil characters- usually the bad ones were women, why is this? I wondered at the inclusion of some the the stories. I didn't think they were necessary to the plot.

David isn't always likable. He acts sulky and sometimes I had to remind myself that his mom did just die. The whole family is having a hard time. Baby Georgie cries all the time, stepmom Rose seems to be suffering from PPD and David's dad is trying his best but WW2 is upon them. I felt sympathy for all of them. By the end of the story, I saw that this is a book about growing up as well as a fairy tale. I was near tears at the end.

The Book of Lost Things is atmospheric, creepy and magical. Definitely a great read for a crisp autumn night.

***About the Audiobook*** Steven Crossley narrates the story. For the most part, I enjoyed his performance but found the female characters' voices grating. They were a little Monty Pythonish. The book is Unabridged: 10 CDs in all (11 hours).


This Old Thing?: Jamaica Inn

I'm not sure what mystifies my little poppet more: the weird hand, the boobage threatening to pop out of that dress or... is that Stonehenge in the background?

This week's This Old Thing is Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier. The back cover claims it's "Her famous story of dark events along the Cornish coast." I bought this sometime last year with the intention to read it for this year's RIP Challenge. I still plan on it. It cost $2.50 at the used book store and I might get one reading out of it. It's starting to come apart.

This book was printed in 1972. Two things are a mystery about this copy. 1) It wasn't supposed to be sold in Canada and 2) it's discarded from the Frontenac Secondary School Library in Ontario (Go Falcons!). So how did it get here? Hmm?

Despite the unfortunate cover, I look forward to reading it.

What is the worst cover art you've ever seen for a good book?

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart: Review

There's something wicked lurking in your backyards and gardens. Deadly plants are hiding there waiting to pounce... Okay, that's a bit dramatic, but I'll never look at a field of wildflowers the same way again after reading Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart.

The list of nasty weeds, houseplants, trees, and plants is large. Stewart puts them in alphabetical order, everything from invasive to deadly. Some are super scary like Poison Hemlock and Strychnine Tree. The stuff they can do to a person is ugly. Then there are the ones that are just gross like Stinking Cabbage and Slobber Weed. Yes, Slobber Weed. Don't. Ask. There are the intoxicating which can kill you and the illegal which don't. Even the stuff in your fridge can harm you if not prepared correctly, like Red Kidney Beans.

There are amusing or interesting facts in Wicked Plants as well. The US DEA spends more on disposing of wild "Ditchweed" than it does cultivated Marijuana. Raw cashews will give you a rash. Lincoln's mom was killed by a plant.

The book itself is gorgeous with etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs and drawings by Jonathon Rosen. It's fairly short and easy to read. I found it both scary and fascinating. If you can't get enough of Wicked Plants you can see the real things. Stewart includes a list of deadly botanical gardens in the back.

Take a look at Amy Stewart's website and this book trailer for more info.


I'm a Guest Host!

Hi guys. I'm guesting hosting on The Written World today for Music Mundays. Please check it out!

Road Trip: Ottawa and Back

The purpose of our trip was to attend my niece's wedding, which we did and it was lovely. Our trip was winding down and I was ready to head home. On the way back, I really wanted to see the nation's capital Ottawa, Ontario.

I absolutely loved it! It's such a beautiful place filled with history. The best way to describe it is through pictures.

The Peace Tower in Parliament Hill. I wanted to go inside but everything was closed.

The Rideau Canal

Laura Secord. 19th Century Chicks rule!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial.

What a nice way to end the trip! Still, we had two more solid days of driving. I was so happy to see my house again and sleep in my own bed.

Short Story Review: The Pool & Kiss Me Again, Stranger by Daphne DuMaurier

Here it is Sunday again and time for another short story review for RIP IV. I have a two-fer today and I'll let you know why two stories in a moment.

First in The Pool, Deborah and her brother spend every summer in the country with their grandparents. This year Deborah feels different. She short with her brother, moody and distant. Still she feels the familiar kinship with the backyard; she believes it misses her when she's not there. The woods at back of the house are different though. It's a primeval place and she treats it reverently, especially the pond. One night she visits the pond and a mysterious event occurs.

I was disappointed with The Pool. It was pretty slow at the beginning and I kept hoping it would pick up. When the event I mentioned happened, I thought things would go in a different direction. Instead, the story is more about leaving childhood behind than anything macabre. I think it's misplaced in this collection.

Being disappointed with The Pool, I moved on right away to Kiss Me Again, Stranger.

A lonely mechanic visits a movie theatre and becomes besotted with a pretty usherette. He follows her onto the bus. She doesn't seem particularly surprised or upset about this but invites him to stay with her. The couple end up in a cemetery where he pours his heart out while she remains aloof. Finally, she asks him to leave and he does, feeling happy to have found the girl of his dreams. Little does he know, she has a secret.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger was much better. DuMaurier makes the mechanic a pathetically sympathetic character. His only friends are his boss and his wife. He falls in love with a stranger, a girl whose name he doesn't even know. Then he follows her on the bus. Creepy, right? The thing is, it's more sad than creepy. Anyway the girl can handle herself. Kiss Me Again, Stranger touches upon the mental cost of war and feminism. It's very interesting.

I have a few more stories in this collection to read. Stay tuned.

Blogging Expectations

The Weekly Geeks topic happened to coincide with this post from the blogger of Velveteen Mind. (Go read it. I'll wait.) What blogger Megan has noticed is a number of blogs disappearing after conventions like Blogher. Whether these bloggers have some epiphany while at a convention or maybe they simply suffered from blogger burnout after the excitement of the convention, I don't know. I've never been to a convention. I'm sure they can be a lovely experience but I can see how one's expectations maybe too high. From what I gathered from the post, comparison is the killer of blogs. And I suppose, when you're at a convention you are face to face with your blogging insecurities in a way you aren't online. There are probably lots of factors that will affect the experience as well.

BBAW is not a physical convention but in a way it's a virtual one. During BBAW Amy requested,

"Tell us and this is really important, in 50 words or less what you love best about your blog! And then in 50 words or less where you want your blog to be by the next BBAW!"

So, we did, but Rebecca from Rebecca Reads post stood out for me. She gave it some real thought and laid out her goals very clearly. On the subject of comparing, I felt like my goal of "more readers and comments" was like asking for a pony for Christmas! Why did I make this my goal? Is it like Megan claims the drug of stats?

When I started this blog, I wanted to discuss the books I was reading with people who had also read those books. I've come to find this is a difficult thing on a blog to do. People have to find you first (more readers) and then they must leave comments. Comments that add to a discussion started by me. I have to ask the right questions as the host- that's a difficulty. I don't want to reveal spoilers and have potential readers or authors angry with me. What is a way around that? Then there are the books. I like reading ARCs but it's hard to have a discussion about a book that came out yesterday.

What I want is to reach more people and to have great conversations about books.

That is both my goal and the reason I started blogging. I've got to work on that and come up with new ideas to do it.

BBAW didn't make me feel burnout- although I was on the computer a lot. I feel ready to work on my blogging goals. I hope you are ready to take on yours. Although I have said before that I try not to compare myself to other bloggers, I sometimes find myself wondering where I fit into the community, and where I want to be. What are my expectations? Will I be where I want to be in a year? Do "I know the difference between what I want and what I need"? Maybe I need to do what Megan wants to do and 'just run with the fairies'.

How about you? Do you ever feel your blogging expectations are too high? What are your thoughts on the Velveteen Mind post in relation to book blogging?

Look What You Did! BBAW

Amy wishes us to highlight a book or two that we discovered through another blog. It's the power of the Book Blogosphere! More contagious than Zombie plague. Chris Howard even devotes a weekly feature to it: Bad Bloggers. Not that he's so innocent himself; he's contributed to many of the books on my list.

So what have I read because of bloggers?

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason. This was on a ridiculous number of blogs a couple of years ago. I had been on Colleen's blog and didn't even know she wrote a book!

I can't remember who recommended Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (maybe Devourer of Books?) but someone raved about it

Swapna Krishna reviewed The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson and I went right out and picked it up from the library.

Amy from My Friend Amy challenged us to read a book from Newsweek's 50 Books for Our Times. I chose Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne

So many bloggers recommended Coraline (Chris included) by Neil Gaiman. I didn't even know who Neil Gaiman was!

You can find my reviews of these books in my archives or sidebar.

Have you read any of these books because you saw it on another blog? Have I encouraged you to read anything? (I'm curious.)

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory: Review

It ain't easy being Queen. Especially if you happen to be a queen in Philippa Gregory's novels. I wouldn't want that job for a million dollars.

In the latest dramarama, The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville lost her husband in the never ending Cousin's War between the Lancastrians and the Yorks. Elizabeth must petition her family's enemy, the present king, Edward York for her lost land. He falls for her and marries her right away, forever altering her life. Elizabeth becomes Queen of England but it's a hard won title. The Lancastrians and Yorks continue to fight each other for the crown. Often it is brother against brother.

Elizabeth, a woman whose family has little power but great numbers, must rely on her relatives and the magic inherited through their ancient ancestress, as well as her husband's ruthless ambition to hold the crown. But there is a heavy price to be paid. It will cost Elizabeth everything she holds dear.

First off, the story isn't near as scandalous as Wideacre or even The Other Boleyn Girl. The focus isn't so much on the relationship between Elizabeth and Edward but on the quest for power. There are only a couple clandestine gropings in the shadows then it's down to war business. And there is a lot of war business. Elizabeth spends much of her time waiting at home biting her nails wondering if she's about to be tossed out of the castle- or worse.

The White Queen was enjoyable but it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat. I found parts were a bit repetitive: the references to Melusina for one. However, the magical aspects didn't really bother me. I could believe that the women in the story would believe that they could use magic to change things. Although as a reader, I think what happens is coincidental (as do some of the characters in the story) and not the result of witchcraft.

Anyway, it is worth reading this fictionalized account of a somewhat unknown Queen of England.

Recommended for Philippa Gregory fans.

This Old Thing?: Agatha Christie

Welcome to my new feature This Old Thing? where I pick an older title (or 2 or 3) to highlight and possibly introduce to new readers.

Yesterday was Agatha Christie's Birthday. She was born on September 15, 1890. The official Christie Website is having a week of celebration if you'd like to check it out.

These books were bought at different library sales. In fact, there are always numerous copies of Agatha Christie books at every sale I've been to. This is not surprising-

From Wikipedia: "Christie has been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling writer of books of all time and the best-selling writer of any kind, along with William Shakespeare."

It shouldn't be too hard to find one of these old titles.

  • Murder on the Orient Express (featuring Hercule Poirot)
  • Murder Is Easy
  • The Sittaford Mystery
  • They Do It With Mirrors
  • The Man in the Brown Suit
I haven't read any of these yet but now is the perfect time, don't you think?

And just for fun, since we're talking Hercule Poirot, honor him by wearing this "I Love Mustaches" pin from Button Rouge.

BBAW: Reading Meme

Another day of BBAW activities! Today we answer a few questions. I'm answering all with as few words as possible.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Anything chocolate.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of
writing in books horrify you?

It's horrifying!

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
Laying the book flat open?

Usually a bookmark, or any piece of paper handy but I do lay them flat sometimes.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Both, but more fiction.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Usually hard copy.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you
able to put a book down at any point?

Since I'm interrupted often- any point.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

No, I'm terrible for that.

What are you currently reading?

Of Human Bondage

What is the last book you bought?

Er, some used books: The Flying Troutmans, The Black Donnellys and I can't remember.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can
you read more than one at a time?

I usually have 2 or 3 on the go.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Anytime, anywhere.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Stand alones.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Carol Shields is one I'm usually telling people to read.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

Organize? I try to keep them in order of when I need to read them.


Did you do the Reading Meme?

BBAW Interview: Eclectic/Eccentric

Today's BBAW topic both tests my interviewing skills and highlights another book blogger on my blog. It's fun to shake things up a bit. I was paired up with Trisha from Eclectic/Eccentric. If you don't already know her blog, please visit soon. Trisha is a professor who makes time for her love of reading and blogs about it.

Big thank you to Trisha for her thoughtful answers!

First of all, as someone who was recently called an eclectic reader, I love the title of your blog. How did you come up with it and what does it mean to you?

When I first started blogging, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to write about. At first it was more of a journal, recording events in my life and bits and pieces of information that I wanted to remember and share. Since it seemed I was going to be blogging about a wide variety of topics, “eclectic” seemed like an appropriate word. “Eccentric” came about for two reasons: 1) I've been called eccentric too many times to count, and 2) it also started with an “e” and who doesn't like alliteration?

Why did you decide to make your blog into a book blog? When did start blogging about books?

When I started blogging, I also started to keep track of the books I read. I was really interested to see how many and what kind of books I read, something I had never done before. Then, I started to write little comments about the books I was reading, add book quotes now and then, and eventually my comments and quotes became full reviews. After that it was a matter of following the path of comments to other book bloggers posts and so on and so forth. I stumbled into this community, and I've been loving every second.

How do you decide what to read?

My process is extremely not streamlined. I have no idea what I'm going to read until I pick up the book. Wait, that's not true. Sometimes I open the book and put it down one page later. So until I'm actually about 20 pages into the book, I don't know what I'm going to read. When I hear about a book that sounds like something I'd want to read, I add it to my To Buy list. And from time to time, I actually purchase a book off that To Buy list. I buy books on a whim, I read books on a whim.

Even though you have eclectic tastes, is there a particular genre you are drawn to?

I'm not particularly drawn to a specific type of book. I probably read YAL the most, but not because I prefer it. I read so many of them because they are easy reads. While I don't really a set genre, I do have a few authors I read consistently. Neil Gaiman, Nora Roberts, Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, the Brontes, and Jane Austen are a few of those authors.

Do you have a favorite book?

Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is always the book that first pops into my mind when someone asks this question. I can't say that it's actually my favorite book of all time, but it is definitely one that I find consistently pleasing - even after reading and re-reading and re-re-reading and so on. I have a bad habit of my favorite book being the one I'm reading at the time (assuming it's a good book).

I've never read Hitchhiker's Guide. What is it about it that's so appealing?

Douglas Adams has a very unique tone to his writing, part social critic, part sarcasm, part joy in life. He adds in seemingly inconsequential details and descriptions are both extremely accurate and amusing. For example,
One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical.

You seem to have signed up for a lot of reading challenges, how do you find the time to juggle them all?

I'm not sure that I actually am juggling them all. Right now, it feels more like I've thrown them all up into the air and I'm waiting to see where they fall. So far that seems to be working for me; then again, deadlines are approaching faster than I thought.

What's your favorite thing about blogging?

Comments from other people. Seriously, I love reading other people's comments on my blog, and I love responding to those comments.

Least favorite?

A lack of comments from other people. It's an ego thing I'm sure, but I always want more comments, and I feel guilty for wanting more.

Comments are always great. Did you ever get a particularly memorable comment?

I posted about my great-great-grandfather's book of poetry for a Weekly Geek, and someone called PaulaG said: This may seem odd but this evening 06/24/09 my Dad gave me a copy of the book Homespun that was given to him and my Mom on their wedding day this was July 11 1953. The inscription reads:To Carol and Eugene with love and good wishes for your future health and welfare. ~Aunt Etta and Uncle Gordon I haven't been able to get ahold of her since, but it's obvious we are somehow related. I wish I could find her!

Do you have any advice for book bloggers just starting out? Anything you wish you had known before you started blogging?

It's difficult for me to answer this question because I feel like I still have so much to learn. I just fell into book blogging, and it has been a fun trip discovering the community bits at a time with no rhyme or reason. My personality lends itself to the process of discovery: I enjoy the mystery of not knowing exactly what's going on and the surprise when you figure it out. The best piece of advice I have is to go out there and read other people's book blogs. Not only will it give you great ideas for your own blog, you will also meet some amazing people.

Were you involved in BBAW last year? What are you looking forward to about it this year?

This is my first year in the book blogging community, so I didn't even know about BBAW last year. Still, I am looking forward to it. Mainly I'm excited about being introduced to even more book blogs. I love reading what others have to say about books and talking with others about what they read.

Finally, tell us one thing about your blog you really want people to know!

eclectic / eccentric is always evolving, and if you have any ideas, want to guest post, or just want to talk, please let me know.


Now you know a little about about Trisha! Please give her a visit at Eclectic/Eccentric to get to know her even better.

Road Trip: Amusing Tales from the Parks

Since we had children with us, we couldn't go to Ontario without hitting the amusement parks. First up was Marineland, which obviously is marine themed. There are creatures like whales and dolphins there. We took in a show then did the rides. The kids loved all the kiddie rides but my eyes kept wondering to the roller coaster, Dragon Mountain.

Now I'm not a roller coaster nut, in fact, I had only been on one tiny one in PEI years ago, but I was curious about this one. I thought, "It doesn't look so high." High I do not do. I have a fear of heights. "It can't be that bad." So a couple of us went on it. Holy Smokes! I think I'm still dizzy. That first drop is a shocker. Then it loops upside down- twice. The problem with Dragon Mountain is that much of it is hidden by trees so you can't see what you're getting yourself into. Still, I had a blast! I wasn't brave enough for the Sky Screamer and only one of our group was.

Having done just about all we could do, we dragged ourselves tired and hot towards the exit. Then my daughter spied the Wave Swinger which is a fairly common park ride, the one with the chain swings. The only person who wanted to go on it was my daughter. I had misgivings. To be sure there were kids younger than her on it but it made me nervous. It swung really high and I was afraid she'd be scared. I was at a parenting crossroads. Should I tell her no based on my own irrational fears and instill those fears in my child? Or let her do this on her own? It was tough but I chose option 2. She was so proud of herself for doing something no one else wanted to do and enjoyed the ride. I was proud of her myself.

As if one amusement wasn't enough, we went to Canada's Wonderland. What a crazy place! We did some of the waterpark rides and then it poured. We spend a lot of time hiding from the rain but it did clear and we were back at it. The kids did some of the milder rides and looked bored to tears. So we took them on a couple of roller coasters and tapped into the daredevils in them because that's all the wanted to do! My girl loved them.

We didn't do the super scary ones with those guys though. I was nerving my way up to the really insane ones. I figured it couldn't be any worse than Dragon Mountain. I was wrong. I did one, The Wild Beast. It was the last ride for me that day. I'm glad I had an empty stomach because I would have painted the inside of the ride. It's a wooden coaster and it shook the daylights out of me. But I'm glad I did it.

So after 2 days of this, we were exhausted but tanned and happy. It was time to mellow out and bring our trip to a close. Next week I'll tell you about our last days.

BBAW: It Begins

BBAW begins today! Thanks to Amy, the panelists, judges and the voters! I especially want to thank the book blog readers. Where would we be without you? Probably talking to ourselves.... with or without the 100 cats.

Today I want to highlight a few book blogs who might not be on the shortlist but are hella good anyway. If you do something and do it well, then stand and be proud!

A Few Minutes with Michael: Michael is a newer book blogger. I enjoy his thorough book reviews.

A Book Mine Set: John is the instigator... I mean host of The Canadian Books Challenge, The Great Wednesday Compare, and Saturday Word Play.

Amy Reads Good Books: Amy is a new to me blogger. I really like the look of her blog and her writing too.

The Book Lady's Blog: Rebecca's adventures in book selling crack me up!

Bookfool: She's missing out on a lot of BBAW this week because her son is swimming like the fishes but I think she needs a shout out.

Anyway there are tons more but this is supposed to be a short list. Brevity is not my strong suit but I'm going to wrap it up at 5.

Short Story Review: The Apple Tree by Daphne DuMaurier

Have you ever looked upon a tree and seen something almost human in it's shape? The Apple Tree of Daphne DuMaurier's story resembles a widower's wife. His wife died of pneumonia but instead of feeling sadness at her loss, he feels free. Free from her pessimism, free from her sighs. But the tree droops sadly in his backyard and his attempts at getting rid of the tree are thwarted by others. He doesn't want to appear too eager to dispose of it. People might think it's strange that he's so concerned about an old tree. He just might have to take matters into his own hands...

I'm very impressed by DuMaurier's writing skills. She manages to take an inanimate object and give it a personality. The tree seems to do things to this husband just out of spite. And what can he say, "The tree is out to get me"? He'd look like a loon. DuMaurier also managed to swing my sympathy from the husband to Poor Midge as she gives the reader insight into their marriage.

It's really a ghost story without a ghost, a psychological haunting. Is Midge really getting back at him or is he feeling guilty for how he treated her? You have to read it all the way to the end. The last line is quite chilling.

The Apple Tree can be found in Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne DuMaurier.

Bringing Sexy Back... To Reading

Joanne Rendell from The Huffington Post wrote an interesting article this past week urging publishers to "sell reading." What did she mean by this? According to her reading needs a makeover. Publishers need to "shake off old stereotypes about reading and readers ("lonely women with cats," "geeky professors," "bespectacled librarians')." Glad I didn't say that! Yeesh!

Does reading have such an image? I'm not so sure. Okay, so reading's image isn't as sexy as say a hottie in a leather jacket straddling a Harley, but I don't think of tweed wearing, pipe smoking old men when I think of reading. I don't think that's necessarily the image portrayed in the media either. Let's take a look at some recent examples.

In the movie Sex in the City, Carrie reads to Mr Big from a book of love letters while lounging in bed. A little sexy.

Then we had these guys reading while you drink your coffee. *gulp* Sexxxxy.

Hello?! Sawyer reading on the beach! Come on!

It's a good start. What else can we do to boost reading's sexy image? Ask Mr Hefner to devote an issue with buxom lasses posing in libraries with copies of East of Eden? Ask Justin Timberlake to sing a song about it? (Maybe an SNL digital short?) Perhaps we should start at the grass roots level and start wearing "Reading is Sexy" t-shirts everyday.

So, my friends, do you have any suggestions to make reading sexier? Or do you think reading is fine just the way it is?

One More Time...

Sorry to pimp my blog once again, but bear with me one more time...

I noticed yesterday that some of the shortlisted bloggers were posting the 5 posts they offered the panel that represented the best in their category. I think this is a good idea.

The following links are the one I sent to the panel that I believe shows my chatty side. The day I sent them I was on vacation and hadn't checked my email in days. I gathered them in a tizzy!

YA Blogging: What's it all about?
Used Book Hullabaloo
How to Write a Review from a Very Amateur Book Blogger
Animal Vegetable Miracle: Review
Wideacre: Review

So if you still haven't voted, please have a look and consider book-a-rama for Most Chatty. Thanks!

Amy posted a little about the judging process today
. I helped judge one category and let me say there was a lot to it. There were over 30 blogs at 5 posts each to check. Then there were several ways to rate the blog. It took hours. I was very impressed by some of the blogs I had never seen before. Some people can write, dudes!

This Old Thing?: Watership Down

I'm trying a new feature on book-a-rama. I hope you like it.

Brand new books get all the attention but what about those lonely wallflowers, those old pals 'on the shelf' just waiting to be asked out on Saturday night. I'm talking about old books. They might be dented, stained and possibly smelly but let's not hold it against them. They were once like those shiny new ARCs or just released titles once upon a time. Let's give them a little love today.

My first title is Watership Down by Richard Adams. I recently reviewed it and enjoyed it. My copy is a discarded library book bought at a sale a few years ago. I think it cost a buck. It's not in bad shape for a library book either. The dustcover is still intact with just a bit of a tear. It held up well even after bouncing around in my trunk during my Toronto trip. It's now resting quietly back on the bookshelf.

How about you? Do you have an old favorite you want to give a shout out to? Leave some love in the comments or feel free to blog about it yourself.

Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf: Review

Seven year old Calli Clark hasn't spoken a word in 3 years. She can't tell people what she wants or needs. She can't tell people why she doesn't speak. Calli and her mom Antonia and brother Ben manage quite well even though they all struggle with Calli's muteness. Things aren't so good when Griff, Ben and Calli's Dad, is home from the pipeline. He drinks heavily and he's a mean drunk. When he's wasted, everyone is the enemy, including his own family.

Early one morning, Calli and her friend Petra disappear into the woods. Petra's parents and Antonia are beside themselves with worry. Antonia believes Griff has gone fishing and has nothing to do with the girls. Everyone else isn't so sure.

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf suspenseful and often disturbing mystery told from the point of view of several the characters. Each chapter starts with a different person as they try to make sense of what is happening to the 2 girls. Often we get to see that person's past history and how they ended up where they are within the story. Every character but one is told in the first person. I have to say, I really enjoyed the way Gudenkauf chose to tell the story. It helped to reveal the thoughts of each of them without giving away too much, too soon.

At times, I found the novel too tense for me. I had to skip ahead to the next person and my heart would have popped right out of my chest. Cheating, I know, but if I didn't find out what was happening with particular characters, I just wouldn't have been able to read on.

There is quite a bit of violence and alcoholism is a major part of the novel. Griff is a real puppy kicker, to put it mildly. Why does Antonia stay? That's a difficult question to answer. I was often frustrated with her rationalizing. While Calli is the darling of this story, I wanted to stand up and cheer for her brother Ben. If a character can steal the show (book), it's Ben. Standing Ovation!

I don't want to say too much more about it as I believe you have to experience the way I did- with little knowledge of the plot. I will say...

Highly recommended.

Reviewed as part of the TLC Book Tour for The Weight of Silence.

***Until Sept 15 you can use the coupon code SILENCE10 for 10% off The Weight of Silence at eHQ for print or digital. The coupon can be redeemed at***

Road Trip: To Toronto and Niagara Falls

Back in the car, off to Toronto and through the most stressful driving I've ever experienced. And I wasn't the one driving. I think there are nail marks in my headrest.

We survived and the first thing I wanted to do was shop. Shop we did. There's this little shop you may not have heard of, a little Swedish place. Yeah, IKEA! I was never in an Ikea before and it was like I had come home. If you got something to be organized, they got something for you to put it in. I can't believe how big it is! I got lost. My husband had to call me on the cell phone and ask me where I was. Ridiculous. I drooled over the bookshelves. I wanted them all.

Anyway...there is more to Toronto than Ikea. We had a look around at the CN Tower and downtown. I'm strangely without photos. My niece took tons. I'll have to bum some from her.

We left Toronto for a couple of days for Niagara Falls. The Falls are amazing. Definitely were on my bucket list. Surprisingly, of the 15 people who've gone over The Falls in a barrel only 5 have died. The first survivor was a 63 year old woman. All I could think of was my Mom who is that age. The thought makes me giggle. I wish I had The Day the Falls Stood Still to read, but I didn't. As if the Falls aren't enough, they are illuminated nightly and a couple of times a week there is a huge fireworks display. I was very impressed.

Can I just say that Niagara Falls is a combination of beautiful and cheesy? There is a whole street devoted to sideshow-esque type entertainment. Not really my thing. What was my thing was the Botanical Gardens. The Butterfly Conservatory is gorgeous and the grounds so peaceful. It was a nice respite from all the craziness. I was jealous of the students' vegetable garden. There were tomatoes the size of pumpkins! Of course, it is the heart of wine country, how can things not grow to gigantic proportions there?

Just before we were to head back to Toronto we took a walk around Niagara Falls. Suddenly the sky turned black and it poured buckets. We hopped into a Starbucks before the sky lit up and waited out most of it. We figured all was calm as we headed into Vaughan just outside Toronto. It turns out we just missed disaster. A tornado destroyed a neighbourhood and killed one person. Scary. I kept the newspaper from that day to remember my one and only tornado encounter.

Next week I'll tell you about my amusement park experiences.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: Review

Hey, look at me! I'm reading YA! Paranormal YA! And I like it.

So, Nora Grey is a no nonsense brain (think Rory Gilmore) who's got her head on straight and her future planned out. Then during a Very Inappropriate Sex-Ed Class, her biology teacher makes her partners with the darkly handsome Patch. He spends the class being vague while making innuendos (wink, wink. nudge, nudge) and generally annoying the poop out of Nora. Of course, all this does is send a rush of hormones through her and since we all know hormones kill brain cells, she loses a few IQ points. She must because she vows not to have anything to do with him while at the same time she follows him all over town to find out the Mystery That Is Patch.

All the while I'm thinking, "Giiiiiiirrrrrrl, he is Tra-bul! Run! Run away!" but the secret high school girl within me is saying, "Don't listen to her. You can change him. He's really good underneath! Just don't tell anyone I said that." So I have a conflict within me. The Mom part is tsk-tsking and thinking that this sends the wrong message to girls about Bad Boys but then I remember how much I wanted Heathcliff to be gooooood when I was 16. So I continued reading...

Some weird stuff starts happening to Nora and she feels that Patch is mixed up in it somehow. Is she losing her mind? To distract herself, she goes out a few times with the new boy Eliot but it turns out he has some secrets of his own.

We need to talk about Nora's best friend Vee because a few words need to be said. Like where is this girl's mother? and why is she so stupid? Seriously, this girl needs a babysitter. Nora spends most of her time rescuing her and she's completely clueless.

I did not read Twilight but did see the movie and there are some similarities to Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. However, I think Nora has got more backbone than Bella. And Patch's motives are nefarious in comparison to that other guy but he's not bad... just a teeny bit evil. Of course you are reading the blog of a person who thought Norman Bates was attractive so consider yourself warned.

So the paranormal bits... There are Fallen Angels and Angels Behaving Badly. If you are a Bible fan, your head might explode so, "I suggest you don't worry about those things and just enjoy yourself." Because despite it's flaws and the huh? moments for me at the end, it is a fun book. Just don't take it too seriously.


Adding to my RIP Challenge list.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs: Review

Gus Simpson is turning 50. It really shouldn't bother her. She's a successful TV host with her own cooking show, Cooking with Gusto! She has a lovely house, great friends and 2 grown daughters. So why does she feel like she's missing something?

Then, just like that, her job is in jeopardy. Big changes are coming to her show. She must share air time with a sexy Spanish beauty queen and Oliver, a man with a passion for food... and maybe something more. Add to the mix her bickering daughters and her youngest's jilted lover and it's a recipe for disaster and high ratings.

I liked Gus with her Martha Stewart-like need for perfection. Her meddling ways make her daughters crazy but she just can't help herself. Even though Gus is the main character, I enjoyed how Jacobs switched the point of view to many of the characters throughout the book. Everyone has a hangup or two. I even had a bit of sympathy for Carmen.

Even though Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs had funny and poignant moments by the end I felt it lost momentum. Maybe it was because there was so much happening at the beginning that the romances seemed tacked on near the end. Not that it's not an enjoyable read, it's worth reading just wish the end hadn't petered out.

But that cover looks delicious!

Thanks Penguin for the review copy.

Cause I Know You Like To Win Stuff...

I received a couple of emails you might be interested in.

First, to celebrate the release of The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, Simon & Schuster are giving away a trip to London! See the contest page for details.

Then for Georgette Heyer fans:

  • Sourcebooks is holding a fabulous receipt promotion! Send us your receipt/proof of purchase of The Foundling from your local Barnes & Noble to our office or a scanned receipt in an email to and you’ll be entered to win a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card! Receipts must be dated between September 1 – September 31, 2009, and can be from an in-store or online purchase. Any questions please contact

Send your Barnes & Noble The Foundling receipts to

Sourcebooks, Inc.

c/o Publicity

PO Box 4410

Naperville, IL 60567

Good luck!

Wordless: Library of Parliament

One of my Ottawa pics. The Library of Parliament is the only part of the original Parliament building to have survived the fire of 1916 thanks to a quick thinking clerk who closed the fire doors.

More Wordless

Challenge Roundup for August 2009

Beginnings and Endings. That's what this month's roundup is about for me. My own Eco Reading Challenge is ending and Carl's RIP IV is starting as of today. Plus, I made a dent (a teeny one) in The 3rd Canadian Books Challenge. Yay for me!

I ended the Eco Reading Challenge with Watership Down.

*101 Ways to Save the Planet Before You're 12
*Animal Vegetable Miracle
*Watership Down

My garden is just about done. Hurricane season is wreaking havoc on it. I still have my tomatoes though. I'm also very proud of my husband for making me my rain barrel. I've already used it to water my plants.

For the 3rd Canadian Books Challenge, I finished Not Wanted On the Voyage but won't do my review until Kailana finishes reading it. I reviewed Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda for that as well.

Finally, I made my reading pool list for Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge.

How did you do on your challenges in August? Please leave a link to your update post in the comments.

****Turns out that I'm not very good at organizing giveaways. I was pretty vague with my tawashi giveaway instructions. I said, "If you complete the challenge by Sept 1, I'll put your name in a drawing for some tawashis I plan on crocheting out of some beautiful green organic cotton I bought." As well Mr Linky died during the Eco Reading Challenge, so who completed the challenge? Let's say everyone who signed up and read one book for the challenge plus made some kind of change to benefit the environment has completed it. Leave a link to one of your Eco Reading Challenge posts here in the comments. On Sunday Sept 6, I'll draw one name for the Tawashis.****