Dracula by Bram Stoker: Review (audiobook)

Just for fun this week I downloaded Simply Audiobook's free (for October) version of Bram Stoker's Dracula . It is Halloween after all and what better way to get in the spirit than read an old gothic horror story.

You know who Dracula is so I won't go into the details. In the novel, we meet the famous vampire in Romania before he travels to England and causes a lot of trouble for our group of heros: Jonathan and Mina Harker, Lucy Westerna, Van Helsing and company. The group chases Dracula over England and back to the Carpathians trying to destroy the monster before he changes more victims into the undead.

The story is told through letters, diaries and newspaper clippings. I found that Jonathan's diary of his time in the Carpathians to be the most interesting part of the book. It was very atmospheric. Stoker built up a great deal of tension. Jonathan is trapped in the castle while he watches the bizarre behaviour of the Count and slowly realizes that he is living with a monster.

Then when the story comes to England it loses some of that intensity. It's all about protecting the women-folk. I do have to give Stoker credit for Mina's character. He could have made her completely helpless but she does hold her own and even gets to use a gun. Though it is obvious what he and Victorian men think of women. The English ladies are "pure" (even the married ones) but when changed by the Count they are "voluptuous" and the men are both appalled and attracted. They just couldn't handle a sexually aggressive female. ("Is that an ankle?" *Riots. Looting!!*)

If the women get sexy as vampires, Dracula is painted quite differently. He's monstrous. And he can change form: a bat, a wolf, mist. Take that Edward Cullen! Dracula's a bad ass. He's the big bad foreigner come to steal the women.We could go on and on about Victorian's xenophobic tendencies and other hang ups but let's focus on the fun parts.

Dracula is over the top melodrama with the gasping and the swooning. No wonder it's been adapted for stage and screen even a ballet, not to mention parodied over and over again. That's what makes it so entertaining. You just got to go with it. If nothing else, it's a glimpse into the past at the beginning of the vampire fixation.

Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason: Review

When we last saw our heroine, things were bleak. She was alone again, naturally. In Rises the Night, the vampires are in half-time and Victoria Gardella has nothing to do except mope. Max has disappeared as well and even Sebastian has flown the coop.

But then *VAMPIRES* and Victoria starts getting her grove back. Rumour has it that a vampire named Nedas has found a mysterious object that can raise an army of the undead. Nedas needs to get to Rome to activate his new toy and uses his human followers, the Tutela, to help him get there. The Tutela bring the vampires humans to feed upon which makes them the supernatural equivalent of the Pizza Dude. Who hasn't called for take out when there's more important stuff to do?

Victoria tries to infiltrate the Tutela and is surprised to see some familiar faces among the potential followers. Could it be Lord Byron? Or Sebastian "Let Me Help You Out of That Pelisse" Vioget? Even though she's investigating and killing vampires, she's distracted by Sebastian, especially since he keeps turning up everywhere. Like Italy. They take some time out to "express their feelings" *ahem* because there's always time for that. And where is Max anyway?

Once again Colleen Gleason's Gardella Chronicles is both fun and heart pounding. Victoria does less flirting behind fans and more staking of vampires than in The Rest Falls Away. She has nothing to lose now. She's become more focused on her job. Still, she is a woman and when Sebastian's around- look out!

It was a little slow at first but once it picked up; I wanted to read right to the end. Things get tidied up but there are still plenty of unresolved issues for The Bleeding Dusk.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson: Review

Shirley Jackson  knew how to creep people out. Just read The Lottery and see what I mean. She knew how to make readers uncomfortable and squirmy. We Have Always Lived in the Castle does that beautifully.

Mary Katherine, Merricat, is 18 years old and lives in an old house with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian. The rest of her family are dead. How is revealed throughout the story.

Most of her time is spent in the house except for the couple days a week she goes into the village to buy groceries. The trips are nerve wracking. The people seem to hate her. There is no love lost between them. Merricat wishes them all dead.

It's been this way for years but Merricat feels that things are about to change. One day there is a knock on the door and Merricat's fears come true.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a weird tale but in a good way. It's clear from the beginning that 'that girl ain't right'. Merricat is 18 but acts more like a 12 year old. She also has some strange habits and murderous thoughts. I wondered how reliable she was as the narrator. How much of what's happening is real? Could the villagers really be that bonkers?

I read that Shirley Jackson was agoraphobic. I can believe it if she put her fears into this book. When Merricat is away from the house, there is a sense of urgency to get back to it. The reader breathes a sigh of relief that she made it back safely. Constance and Uncle Julian never leave and even the few visitors they get are received with a lot of fuss and bother. Merricat has difficulties letting other people into the house, which is how all the trouble starts when Charles arrives.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Not that Charles is innocent. The moment he steps in I could see dollar signs in his eyes. Poor Constance is so lonely, she'd befriend the devil if he knocked. When relatively normal (you know except for the greed part) Charles stays in the house, we get to really feel the oddness of their situation. Uncle Julian rambles a lot like Walter from Fringe, at least he did to me. He's never been the same since 'that day' and Merricat's strangeness becomes more pronounced. Constance manages it all with a smile and a "silly Merricat" but she isn't unaffected by the charms of normality.

Even though the surprise near the end wasn't all that surprising, I definitely enjoyed the story.

Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal: Review

In Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal, Pinky lost her mother when she was an infant and now lives with her grandmother and uncle and his family. While her grandmother loves her, the same can't be said for Auntie Savita. She takes every opportunity to remind Pinky that she doesn't belong there.

From the outside, the Mittal family seems like a blessed family but appearances are deceiving. Every night a bathroom door must be locked to keep an evil spirit from reeking havoc upon them all. One night Pinky opens the door and lets out not only a ghost but family secrets and shames.

I don't think Haunting Bombay was for me. There were some beautifully written sections. I wished that the whole book had been like that but there was a lot of extraneous information that could have been culled with tighter editing. I felt that it dragged down the pace of the story.

I also found that I couldn't get attached to Pinky. This might have been because of the writing style which wandered in and out of the heads of every character. I had trouble keeping track of whose point of view I was reading.

If I couldn't love Pinky, I didn't feel the same about Nimish, the cousin and crush of Pinky. He's an interesting boy. He walks around reading aloud from his history books and it usually pertains to what is happening in the room at the time. He's also hopelessly in love with the girl next door. He's my pick for best character in the book.

Most of what I had read before about India involved the poor of India. Haunting Bombay was an interesting look at the upper class of the country after the Partition. I also enjoyed reading about a part of India I never knew about: the hijras.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. For more opinions, see the blog tour schedule.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood: Buddy Read with Kailana

This The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood discussion is continued from Kailana's The Written World.

The Year of the Flood is a sequel to Oryx and Crake where the world's population has been wiped out by a man made plague. Toby and Ren are one of the few alive: Ren, locked in the sex club and Toby survives in a spa where they worked.



Chris: I know, that's the scary thing. When in the future, do you think this was supposed to be?

Kelly: You know, I would love to say way way down the road, but it is quite plausible to be not so far into the future at all. We have all ready started manipulating the science that is presented in the book, so it probably won't be all that long before we can do the things in the book. It all comes down to what will we do when the technology is available. I am with gene manipulation to a degree. I understand it for curing diseases, but when is it too much... That's the real issue here. So, I can see this being a problem very soon. What do you think?

Chris: I think that what Atwood is trying to warn us about. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should. It's like Jurassic Park- look what happens when the dinosaurs come back, we're dino chow! Scientists need to use common sense. The Corporations also had a lot of blame in what happens. That is another part of the book that has a basis in our time.

Kelly: Corporations are scary, you know. I appreciated how Atwood uses them to rule the world. In many ways they do in today's world. One of the scenes that really made me think, though, was when Toby's mother got sick and died even though she was a health food fanatic. Healthy eating is the way of the world right now, but do we always know exactly what we are using? Toby's mother bought into the craze and didn't even question that what she was taking to make her healthy was actually what was making her sick. This could tie into the medical world and over-prescribing of pills, too. People don't question things because they are told they are good for them, so they just turn a blind eye, so to speak.

Chris: Yes, and a company with a lot of money can do or say whatever they want. Who can stand up to them?

Kelly: Especially when they run everything that could possibly stand in their way. It was a bit extreme. Who really needs sheep in every colour of the rainbow, for example? It was science just for the sake of being able to do science. One thing that I found myself paying attention to as the novel progressed is the saints. When they first were mentioned I just read the names and carried on, but then I started to recognize the names. What did you think about the fact she uses not just saints from history, but she has sainted some great people from our own generation? I am sure I missed a bunch. I plan to go through and look them all up.

Chris: For the Gardeners, I would think they would be able to relate to those people than they would some of the traditional saints. While I recognized some, I didn't know who they all were either. Again it shows how good a leader Adam One was.

Kelly: I agree. Was there anything that jumped out at you as you were reading that you felt you were going to have to mention in the review?

Chris: One thing that disturbed me was how the girls' treated their sexuality as a commodity. It was something they could barter with. They seemed so disconnected from it. I also wanted to talk about the hymns. I'm not one to read songs in books so I skimmed over most of them but in the afterword, Atwood talks about how someone set the hymns to music. She even says she wouldn't mind people singing them. I think it would freak me out to hear those songs being sung knowing where they came from!

Kelly: I skimmed over the hymns, too. I actually had heard about them being set to music. I could be mistaken, but I think as part of her tour they are performed... As to the sex as a commodity, that is something that seems to be getting more and more common in society, so it is easy to see it being even more casual in the future. It's rather horrible, really. The future could be really scary. The whole idea behind the book is to scare, I think. Did you think like that, or was it just me?

Chris: I think that is what is so interesting about dystopian novels. It seems so extreme yet so plausible. It's a warning at the same time to us now not to let things get to that point.

Kelly: I hope we don't get to that point! Did you like the book overall?

Chris: I did. Maybe not as much as Oryx & Crake though.

Kelly: I looked it up. I read Oryx & Crake in 2003, so I don't remember it so well. It wasn't until the novel progressed that I started to make the connection with the characters and remembered what happened in the previous novel.

Chris: So did you like it?

Kelly: Once I got into it, yes. It took me a while, though. I had to get caught up in the characters and story. Once I did, though, it was good. I can't remember her other book well enough to compare them. There is a lot to talk about, we could be here forever, but do you think there is anything we haven't mentioned that we really should?

Chris: I can't think of much else, can you?

Kelly: I think we are good. Anything else and we run the risk of spoiling the book for others. It was fun, though.

Chris: Yeah, we'll have to do it again.

Kelly: We will! I really like buddy reviews.


Thank you Kelly for reading The Year of the Flood with me.

Thanks to Random House for the review copy.

Chris vs Martha: Pumpkin Man

People seemed to like last week's Chris vs Martha so I'll post one this week too. This one isn't quite as delicious as the last one.

These were pretty easy. You just need some basic sewing and hot glue gun skills. The materials needed are inexpensive as well. If you'd like to make your own Martha Stewart has the instructions on her site. These were created by Jennifer Murphy. She makes the cutest little critters.




Definitely doable though mine looks not quite as polished as Martha's. Give them a try yourself.

Hour 24: Good Morning or Good Night

So my last update was my last hour. I read a little more but by 2 am I knew I had to go to bed. I do have a cold *cough cough* so that's my excuse. Overall, I'm happy with the Read-a-thon. I read a lot more than I thought I would.

Here are my answers to the final questions:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? It was all good until hour 17

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? French Milk by Lucy Knisley was a quick engaging book. I zoomed through it.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No ma'am.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I'm not a cheerleader but organizing those guys was probably the best improvement.

5. How many books did you read? 3 and a half

6. What were the names of the books you read? Rises the Night, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, French Milk and Confections of a Closet Master Baker

7. Which book did you enjoy most? French Milk

8. Which did you enjoy least? Well, I tried to read Sum but just couldn't get into it.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Sure. I'd like to be a reader again.

I just want to give a big Thanks to the organizers and the cheerleaders and anyone who visited me yesterday. It really helped!

Hour 16 & a Mini-Challenge

I'm still here reading though it's getting tough.

So far I've read Rises the Night, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, French Milk. I started Sum but couldn't concentrate so I switched to Confections of a Master Baker. It's making me hungry. French Milk is the book I enjoyed the most at this point.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll last.

For Dewey:

Wow, look how much the 24 Hour Read-a-thon has grown since you started it. When you began the read-a-thon, it was a itty-bitty group of dedicated readers and now it's hundreds of people reading all at one time. We wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't for you. Dewey, I hope you can see us from where you are and that you are smiling. Thank you and we miss you.

Hour 12: Readathon

Wow, 12 hours of ignoring my family! I just finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I think I have to digest that one for awhile. So that's 2 books + one short story down so far. I'm going to read French Milk next.

And hey, look at me, I'm doing a mini-challenge. Nymeth asks us to read an online comic. I picked Unshelved's review of The Gargoyle. "It's a complicated love story" sums it up nicely. It's a little hard to explain The Gargoyle in a comic but they do.

Back to reading!

Hour 6: Readathon

Yay! I finished Rises the Night finally. It was good but I'm going to read something shorter now. Maybe a H P Lovecraft short story. How are we all doing?

The house is quiet now. Hubby left with child for a little while so that's nice. Soon I plan on having leftover birthday cake. Mmmm....cake.

Mini Challenge #1

Where are you reading from today? The couch here in Nova Scotia.

3 facts about me … 1. Um, I'm not a very fast reader. 2. I have a cold 3. I find Sponge Bob very distracting (girl has it on TV)

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I can't remember exactly, 7 maybe.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? No goals- I'm sure to fail them so I'm winging it.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Pick shorter books to read today.

So that's my first hour down. How is it going for you?

Readathon Oct 2009 Begins!

So I just got up. I had a quick shower and a minor panic when I couldn't find my sweatpants. The coffee is on and I'm ready. I'm starting with Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason (Always thought it was Rises IN the Night, which made me giggle like Beavis and Butthead- never mind). Anyway I started this one already so hopefully I'll finish it soon.

Good luck everyone! Happy Reading!

This Old Thing?: Possession

I didn't post This Old Thing? last week because the holiday threw me off and nearly forgot this week. Bad me.

Possession by A S Byatt is one of those books I definitely want to read someday but someday never seems to come. It won the 1990 Booker Prize. People keep telling me what a great book it is. I hope to find out soon. It's a big book at 510 pages. So I keep putting it off.

I bought this one at the used book store for $5. It's in very good shape except for a small dent. It was once owned by someone named Brady in 1995.

A S Byatt has just written a new book called The Children's Book.

Have you read either or maybe something else by A S Byatt?

Chris vs. Martha: Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Martha, Martha, Martha. I admire your cookery and your craftiness. You make it look so easy. Like anyone can do it. But can they? I've tried some of your projects with varied success. So, dear Martha, I'm going to post some of my attempts here on book-a-rama.

First up is Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book.




from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

I didn't make the cream cheese frosting because my girl hates it, nor did I make those cute little pumpkins. It took me hours just to do this. Also after about a day, the food colouring started to run. But they were delicious! And the recipe made a huge amount. I put some in the freezer for my girl's class Halloween party (without the icing).

Stay tuned for more Chris vs Martha!

March by Geraldine Brooks: Review

Since reading Year of Wonders earlier this year, I wanted to read more from Geraldine Brooks. I recently discovered that I like audiobooks so when I saw March in the audiobook section of the library I knew I should pick it up.

March is the story of Mr March, the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, during the civil war that period of time when he is absent from Alcott's book. Brooks imagines what hardships the man endures, the horrors he witnesses and the guilt he carries. Mr March joins the Union Army as a chaplain but finds that his idealism is not shared by his fellow men. He hides much of the ugliness of the war from his family in his letters home but it is eating him up inside.

March remembers his youth as a peddler, travelling through the South, being seduced by the leisurely life of the plantation owners. After a shocking incident, March becomes a staunch abolitionist and preacher. He is joined by many New England thinkers in his beliefs and they meet frequently to discuss the plight of the slaves. During a meeting, his life is changed forever when he meets the fiery Miss Marmee Day. Together they fight for the freedom of the slaves, becoming paupers in the process, until the day March makes an announcement that will put him on the battlefield.

March is an emotional book. I found myself at times disgusted, angry and in tears. I was often frustrated with him. For a man of the world, he's extremely naive. I wanted to shake him and tell him to wake up. He's too idealistic and expects too much from himself and others. Marmee's point of view is interesting. How could two people so in love misunderstand each other to that extent?

I could understand where Brooks was going with this: war changes people and not in good ways. But... this is a big but... I was dissatisfied with the ending. It just didn't meld with my memories of Little Women. I have really mixed feelings about March by Geraldine Brooks.


About the audiobook: March was narrated by Richard Easton. It took me awhile to get into it since Mr March is 39 and the narrator sounds much older (and Britisher? That a word?). Eventually I got over it.

I borrowed March from the library and here's a tip for borrowers of audiobooks. Don't use the CDs as coasters or your drive as a plate. Every disc was covered in cookie crumbs and scratched in the same spot. It was very difficult to listen to the book as parts were either unreadable or garbled. Please people, think of the others who borrow after you!

Short Story Review: The Old Man by Daphne DuMaurier

I'm back to reading the short stories of Daphne DuMaurier in Echoes of the Macabre this week. I'm going to finish this one shortly.

I just finished The Old Man and it might be the cleverest short story I've ever read. The narrator is the neighbour of a strange couple, one he calls the Old Man. The Old Man is a gruff customer and the narrator keeps his distance. He watches him and his family from afar until he witnesses the Old Man commit a terrible crime upon one of the children.

While I was reading this I kept thinking what a weird family and why didn't the narrator tell someone, that is until the last paragraph which is brilliant. It was literary slight of hand. I had to go back and read it all again with this new information in mind. It was a completely different story.

You need to read The Old Man.

In The Blue Lenses, a woman undergoes an operation to repair her sight. When she is finally able to see again, people around her are revealed as they truly are. It would be comical if it didn't cause the woman so much fear and anxiety. As always, there is the surprise twist at the end.

The Blue Lenses is not only an entertaining story but has a deeper message, especially for wives of husbands with wandering eyes.

For reviews of the other stories in Echoes of the Macabre see:

The Apple Tree Review
The Pool and Kiss Me Again, Stranger
The Birds

Back to Booking Through Thursday: Discuss

I haven't participated in Booking Through Thursday in awhile since I felt I never had much to say about the prompts. Today though I thought the question was an interesting one:

I was wanting to try a certain author and wished I knew someone who had read her works so I could get a recommendation when it occurred to me that having a “YOU ask the question” Booking Through Thursday might be fun. Each participant could ask a question they’ve wanted to discuss with other readers. Perhaps, like me, you’d like a recommendation of a certain author’s best work, or perhaps you LOVE a certain genre or series but no one else you know does and you’d just like to discuss it with someone. Or perhaps you want to try a new genre and would like recommendations from seasoned readers.

Here's mine:

With the 24 Hour Read-a-thon coming up on October 24, I was wondering what are some of your best tips for staying alert during long periods of reading- besides lots of coffee.

Or you can give me your best recommendation for a 'fluff' read (I like Sophie Kinsella) or an interesting audiobook.


***Edit: Yeah, I did last week's BTT. lol!***

Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham: Review

Kids these days. They are worse than they ever were. We weren't like that. Yada, yada, yada. If you or someone else has said this, you need to read Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham.

Philip Carey's parents dies when he is quite young and he goes to live with his uncle the minister and his wife. They have a plan for Philip: he'll go to school and also become a minister. Philip hates school, mostly because he has a deformity which makes it hard for him to make friends. He's not exactly Mr Happy Sunshine to be around either. Philip decides to leave school and bounces from one job to another. Accountant, artist. He just can't figure out who he is. His uncle and aunt are dismayed by his behaviour. To them he is acting wasteful as his small inheritance dwindles away.

He has a few disastrous love affairs. Questions his religion. Has a group of slacker friends. Makes bad decisions. He's surly, aimless and often thoughtless of others' feelings. He's young and he makes a plethora of mistakes.

It sounds like a modern story, doesn't it, except that it was written in 1915. It could be any young person at any time in history. I found myself either laughing or cringing at Philip's actions as I saw myself in some of the things he did or thought. At times I wanted to shake him. He acts very foolishly. But he also does some amazing things: living in Germany, Paris and London.

He isn't always likable. He can be cruel and he's a snob. He doesn't have any real talent and he lacks personality. Still, we can identify with him and wish that he'll succeed. While I was frustrated with him, I enjoyed watching him grow and develop as a person. He does ultimately learn from his mistakes.

Of Human Bondage is definitely a character driven novel. There is not much action. Philip lives in his head a lot of the time. I think that if you like well written but slow paced coming of age stories you'll enjoy this.


My October 2009 Readathon Picks

It looks like I'll be able to participate in the Readathon this time. If you are unfamiliar with Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, you can find out more about it on the official blog. This will be my third time participating (I think, don't hold me to that) and it's always a lot of fun.

Michelle at Galleysmith is holding a Slumber Party for the Readathon. What a good idea! Not sure if I can stay up all night. I'd be the first one with shaving cream in her face or bra in the freezer. I just can't stay up with I used to. Oh well, I'll try my best.

So what will I read? I'm trying to stick with shorter books this time.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier: I think a good suspense will keep me up.

Rises In the Night by Colleen Gleason: Vampires always succeed in keeping me awake.

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery: I haven't read The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I hope I won't be lost when I read this companion piece.

Confections of a Closet Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado: Sensing a theme here? It sounds delicious.

Sum by David Eagelman: A book on the afterlife might not be light but it's very short.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: Not short but I'm sure I'll be hooked on this one!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Not pictured): I love Shirley Jackson and have this one on the RIP Challenge list. I don't think I can go wrong with this one.

I'm also planning on picking up an audiobook for those times when a book in my hand isn't practical or I want to rest my eyes.

Have you signed up yet?

Fall Festival Recipe Exchange: Pumpkin Pie

Today I'll be having turkey with stuffing & gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls and a vegetable or two, because today is Thanksgiving. At least in Canada it is. Thanksgiving comes the second Monday of October, just when the leaves start to turn on the trees. So not only is it a perfect day for turkey, it's a perfect day to go 'leafing'. A lot of local people use the holiday to 'go around the trail'. What does that mean? People take a drive to the Highlands National Park on a piece of road called the Cabot Trail. It's only a couple of hours of driving and the scenery is ridiculously beautiful.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because, for one I love Fall, and it's also a low stress holiday. It's a day to relax and enjoy the harvest. No running here and there. No gift buying. But there is pie!

I was never a fan of Pumpkin Pie until my husband and I took our first (and last) cooking class. It was for a full Thanksgiving meal, only no turkey. Instead we made pork tenderloin (really good!) and veggies. The desert was pie. This pumpkin pie is very rich but so delicious.

Pumpkin Pie

Pie crust, premade or make your favorite recipe.


1 can (14 oz/398ml) pumpkin puree or bake a pie pumpkin and puree it
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 pkg (4oz/125ml) cream cheese (softened, very important)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 eggs
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp each ground ginger, nutmeg and salt

Prick pie shell with a fork and bake per empty instructions.

Preheat oven to 350*C.

Prepare filling: in food processor, puree pumpkin, sugar, cream cheese, cream, eggs, flour, vanilla, salt and spices. Make sure puree is creamy with no lumps. Pour into shell. Bake in bottom third of oven for 1 hour or until set around edge and slighty jiggly in the centre. Let cool completely.

Serve with whipped cream.

I hope you give it a try this Fall!

***If you like my little pumpkin guy and you can crochet, you can make him yourself with this pattern on PlanetJune.***

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon: Review

Whew! I made it! I finally finished reading all 813 pages. If you've read or are considering reading An Echo in the Bone, then you are a die hard Diana Gabaldon fan. This is the seventh book in the Outlander series and they seem to grow in proportion to the number of new characters introduced. Yes, there's a cast of thousands by this book.

Okay, I am a die hard fan. Let's put that out there. I started reading these books when I was 19. I won't say how long ago that was but there were only 2 in the series at the time. The series has grown with me but some things never change. Claire and Jamie still hump like bunnies (get the hose). They still get into hot water. And there's always war.

So, when we left our heroes they were planning on going to Scotland but they get waylaid by the American Revolution. Roger and Brianna went through the stones to get back to the present (future?). Here's the run down- bullet style:
  • people get killed
  • people come back from the dead
  • vengeance, comeuppance and reconciliation
  • there is surgery
  • there is loss of body parts
  • there be pirates
  • war.war.war.
  • love triangles
  • sex
  • blood
  • everyone is dirty, stinky & hungry
  • Everybody Loves Ben Franklin
  • a Cape Bretoner shows up & gives a shout out to his homies in Boisdale
  • people cross the ocean so much they get frequent travel points
  • Scotland
  • seeeeecrrrrreeets
An Echo in the Bone has numerous subplots intertwining and tangling through the story. It must be a small 18th century after all because people keep running into their ancestors/descendants out in the wilderness so often you fear for the space/time continuum. Doc and Marty would be worried.

Then as quick as you can adjust your flux capacitor, it's Back to the Future with Roger and Brianna in present day (1980) Scotland where they watch events unfold through Ye Olde Letters and textbooks. The 20th century is just too safe and boring. Roger teaches Gaelic and Brianna engineers. They have lots o'sex (get the hose). It's so ho-hum you wonder when Brianna will turn to Roger and say, "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." But then things get interesting and there's only 50 pages left and you suspect Gabaldon's real name is Cliff Hanger.

So then you come to the end of 813 pages and feel like you've haven't really gotten anywhere but it sure was fun anyway. After all, it's like reading about old friends. The characters are so well written they are real people. People I don't always agree with, people who get on my nerves sometimes- you know, like family. And I love them. Cause you got to love family.

I did have a few issues. There is just too much of the war. Enough already! And a couple of scenes just didn't seem like they belonged. But you never know that whole series might hinge on those scenes in Book 11. There also seemed to an awful lot of amazing coincidences. Still, I won't hold any grudges because Gabaldon's words are like sinky sand, you disappear into them.

To sum up: Made of awesome!

Thanks to Random House Canada for the review copy.

If you are a member of the Book Blogs Ning and the group Historical Fiction Fanatics, come join a discussion of the book (WITH SPOILERS) when you are ready.

This Old Thing?: Frankenstein

Okay, so that's not the best cover ever for such an awesome book but that's what I got. Don't let it fool you into thinking it's got Abbott and Costello running around shouting "Frankie". It's a serious book about science and man's desire to meddle in things he should not. The title refers to not the monster but to the man or maybe the monster is the man.

I picked this one up back in the olden days of university for a project on 19th century female writers. I was hooked on the book and Mary Shelley. What a tragic life she had. I've had this book in every house I've lived in.

Frankenstein was last week's winner of The Great Wednesday Compare and defends it's title against Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde this week. Go vote!

Cleopatra's Daughter Winner

I so enjoyed reading all the answers to my question for the contest. You can find them all on my giveaway post. Lots of fodder for authors there. Maybe someone will see your suggestion and be inspired. For myself, I'd like to read about the childhood of Leonardo DaVinci. What made him both a great inventor and artist?

Thank you all for your answers and to Michelle Moran for popping by.

Now for the winner, picked by Random.org:


who chose Emily Dickinson as her child historical figure. I'll contact you via email for your address. Congratulations!

Thanks again to Michelle Moran for providing the giveaway copy.

Red Fife Bread

Fall has brought out my need to bake. Last week I made Old Fashioned Gingerbread but this week I made bread. On a trip to the Bulk Barn, I discovered Red Fife flour made from a Canadian heritage wheat. It's also an organic product. I loved the idea of baking bread with the same flour my ancestors may have, so I bought some.

Then I had to figure out how to use it! I decided to use it like whole wheat flour. I found this recipe for mixed grain bread at Foodess.com. Instead of whole wheat flour, I used the Red Fife. For my add-ins I added more oats and wheat germ.

The photo is the result. It's a hardy but tasty bread. Really good just out of the oven with homemade jam. I'm thinking of experimenting with it in rolls and biscuits.

Weekly Geeks #38: Reader Friendly

So this week's Weekly Geeks was my idea, inspired by recent conversations on blogs and Twitter. They brought up both ideas I had been thinking about and ones I hadn't thought of before.

I've been feeling dissatisfied with my blog template for awhile now. I think I've done all I can do with it. There are things I'd like to change. I could play with the code but I don't think it's worth it. I'm currently shopping for a new template. I'm not sure if it will help my readers or not but it will motivate me to clean up my blog. I'm going to stick with a clean easy to look at design. I'm also thinking of buying a domain name since I've heard that Google likes blogs that do that better than ones that don't. I've thought of picking a new blogging platform like Wordpress but since I'm not interested in self-hosting I don't think I'll go that route. Besides, even though Blogger isn't perfect I don't think it's the devil.

I do not do glittery graphics or music. I hope the text is readable to everyone. I will promise to use less acronyms in my posts.

I did a little housekeeping: fixed some links, added a tab at the top for my 2009 reviews, cleaned out a few old widgets. I also backed up my blog because as Gautami reminded us, it's important- you never know what might happen. I did the meta tag thing a few months ago with a little help from my blogging friends. I've tried to make it as easy as possible to comment- I only use verification when I have a spam problem.

Do you have any ideas for me before I get started on a new template?

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin: Review

Who was the real Alice in Wonderland? A little blonde girl in a white pinafore? If you think that, you'd be surprised. Melanie Benjamin got the idea for Alice I Have Been after seeing photographs Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) took of little girls. One in particular caught her attention: Alice Liddell, the little girl who inspired Alice in Winderland, in a rather inappropriate outfit for Victorian times, a worldly gaze on her face. Alice once again inspired a novel.

Alice I Have Been explores the life of Alice. She is an enigma. She rarely spoke of Alice in Wonderland until later in her life when she sold the original version of the book. Her relationship with Dodgson is also a mystery. What caused the rift between him and Alice when she was just eleven? The story continues into her twenties with a rumoured romance with a prince and into her life as a mother. She had her fair share of sorrow.

When I started reading Alice I Have Been, I had a hard time getting into it. It started out slowly. Alice as a little girl wasn't easy to warm up to either. She seems one part naive child, one part coquette. Then there's Dodgson. What's his deal? I found myself creeped out when reading the parts when they were alone. Was he an eccentric who liked little girls or weirdo who liked little girls?

But then I ended up hooked on the book as the story flashed forward to Alice as a young woman.

She's feisty, intelligent and strong. Her romance with the prince is both tender and heartbreaking. I wanted so much for Alice to have a happy ending but her 'past' always follows her. The repressive society of Victorian England is personified in Alice's mother who's all about keeping up appearances.

I don't think Benjamin's portrayal of Alice is too far off when you look at Alice as a young woman. Doesn't this look like a defiant chick you?

Towards the end of the book, while at times I was frustrated with Alice, I still admired her feistiness. I felt the book came full circle and my questions were answered. Keep in mind that this is a novel, a fictional view of Alice, but it's still interesting to think of the possibilities.

I imagine Alice and Lewis Carroll will become a hot topic the closer we come to the release of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Visit Melanie Bejamin's website.


Challenge Roundup for September 2009

How did your challenges work out in September? I had a lot of other reading commitments this month so I didn't do all that well.

I read Hush Hush for RIP4 and a bunch of Daphne DuMaurier short stories as well. I read a few more books that could qualify for the challenge but I have veered straight off my reading list. Should I still count them all?

I posted a review Not Wanted On the Voyage for the Canadian Reading Challenge this month but
haven't read a darned thing for it in September. That brings my up to 2/13.

What I really need to do is stay off Twitter and read more! I'm glad the Read-a-thon is coming up. I need an excuse to put my butt in a chair and read.

If you post about your challenges, please leave a link in the comments.