Two Williams-Sonoma Cookbooks

This past week I picked up 2 cookbooks from the library to try out. Both from Williams-Sonoma

First Williams-Sonoma Art of Preserving is about just what the title says: preserving. Jams, chutneys, pickles. If you can get it in a jar you can preserve it. It's not really the time of year for preserving where I live but there are so many recipes I want to try in the future (especially the Spiced Pumpkin Butter). The great things about these preserve recipes is how they also include recipes for using them. I made a yummy lemon curd, which I'm going to use in the lemon curd tartlet. Lemon curd is now my new favorite thing! The book is divided into categories: jams, preserves, jellies, butters, even condiments. The reference section explains the canning process, gives tips and even a recipe for making your own pectin.

If you've ever been tempted by the fare at your local farmers' market but wonder what you'd do with it at home, you might like Cooking from the Farmers' Market. There are a ton of recipes for just about anything you can find throughout the growing season. I chose to make the Rustic Apple Crostata since I had a lot of apples in the fridge. It was very nice. I'll make it again.

Of the two books, I liked The Art of Preserving more. I'd have more use for it throughout the year. In the summer, I'd use the canning recipes and in the winter the cooking recipes. Both books have gorgeous, bright photography that makes everything look so delicious. The instructions are clear and easy to follow.

If you've made anything from either of these books, I'd love to hear what and how it turned out.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: Review

It's 1999. Again. Remember 1999? Y2K. The Millennium. We were all going to take Prince's advice and party like...well... it's 1999. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell made me all nostalgic for those days again.

Lincoln's job is to monitor the emails of all The Courier's employees. It's not a job he likes, in fact it makes him feel creepy, but it pays well and he has lots of time to think about the next step in his life. Maybe get a girlfriend, move out of his mom's house. Stuff a guy in his late twenties should be doing. Then he starts reading Beth and Jennifer's emails to each other and gets hooked. They're funny and clever and caring. Lincoln feels like he's getting to know them through their emails. And he's falling in love with Beth.

I admit when I first started reading Attachments I had a hard time getting into it. Lincoln is just so...blah. At first. He doesn't participate in his own life. It just sort of happens to him: his old girlfriend, college, moving home, his job. He's much to casual about it all. The only thing he's attached to is his old girlfriend who dumped him 8 million years ago. I even had a picture of him in my mind: a skinny, little dude, rather insignificant. It wasn't until about half-way through that I found out that I was wrong about him. People kept referring to him as 'a tank.' It was about the same time that he developed a personality. I can't help but wonder if this was intentional, that Lincoln had no physical presence until he had a emotional one. Whatever the reason, it made for difficult reading up until that point. I couldn't see Lincoln until he was being seen through another's eyes.

Once I was over that hump, I was completely involved in the story. I started to love Lincoln and want him to get the girl and the life he deserved. The secondary characters really came alive at this point as well: Eve, Justin, Doris. The more he connected to people the more interested in him I became.

The story is told by alternating between Lincoln's own thoughts and the emails sent by Beth and Jennifer. It was very clever, though I think some suspension of disbelief by the reader has to occur. (Those are some long personal emails- couldn't they have gone for coffee?) The emails are pretty entertaining; no wonder Lincoln couldn't stop reading. There were a few things I thought were a bit off but once I got going, I breezed through it. Overall, it's a sweet, romantic story with the twist of a male protagonist.


Wordless Wednesday: The Book Mobile!

Lake Macquarie Shire mobile library, 20 October 1950, by Sam Hood

Such a nostalgic photo! I love being able to see the books on the shelves.

We still have a book mobile in our library system despite the crazy cost of gas. How about where you live?

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale: Review

A prince must choose a princess from the common people. No, this isn't the love story of William and Kate, it's Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. The kingdom of Danland has a tradition in which the wisemen determine in what village the prince's wife will be chosen. They've decided the princess will come from Mount Eskel, a poor mining village high in the mountains. The people are shocked, not just by this announcement but by the additional fact that all eligible girls must attend a special school to learn how to be princesses.

Miri is one of those girls. Her father depends on her to keep his home running but she wants more. Miri has conflicting feelings about the Academy. Although the work is hard and the teacher harder, Miri sees what becoming a princess would do for Mount Eskel. They could prosper instead of muddling along. Still, being a princess would mean leaving behind her loved ones and saying good-bye to her beloved mountains. For the time being, Miri puts those things aside and lets her competitive side take over coming to the head of the class. But the ultimate test comes when the prince arrives to pick his bride.

This is the first middle grade book by Shannon Hale I've read. I'm very impressed. Not only does she create a fairy tale world that actually feels real, but also well developed characters. Miri is more than just an ordinary girl. She's smart, funny, ambitious and caring. I loved her strength and her loyalty. Princess Academy is more than a story about poor girls learning good manners. It's about community and belonging while still being true to one's self. The story never lags and has a few twists at the end.

Princess Academy has the feel of a Scandinavian fairy tale, like Hans Christian Andersen only with a happy ending. There are magical elements but not too out-there. It's a surprisingly mature story for the age group. I appreciated how the story doesn't talk down to the reader. I can see why it is a Newbery Honor winner.

I highly recommend it even for old fogeys like me.

Lazy Sun(Satur)day Thoughts: Hoppy Easter

Happy Easter!!

Happy Easter to those readers who celebrate. I made this little bunny from the pattern on Craft blog. This Easter I will eat ham and chocolate though probably not together.

Remember those Cheers and Jeers lists in TV Guide? I thought I'd put my thoughts into one of those this week.

Cheers: Canadian Living magazine. I don't pick up many magazines anymore but the cover on this month's Canadian Living enticed me (stir fry recipe). As I was flipping through the pages, I noticed something: the models in the Beauty section, they weren't 12 and they had crows feet! They weren't airbrushed beyond recognition! They looked real!!

Jeers: Authors who spam their books through email. If I haven't requested your ebook, don't send it to me. I'm not going to read it. I don't open attachments I don't trust and I don't trust random emails from people I don't know.

Cheers: Armchair BEA! Just because you can't get to New York doesn't mean you can't have fun too.

Cheers: Life Brand Mini-Eggs. Cheaper and just as tasty as the Cadbury ones.

One more...

Cheers: Kawaii Easter Bunnies! Here's a video of cute bunnies being cute bunnies.

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles: Review

**Warning: I spoil the ending of Tess of the d'Ubervilles in this review. I have my reasons.**

I've put off writing this review of The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles, even though I've finished it weeks ago. I just don't know what to say about it, but here's my attempt.

Charles Smithson, a gentleman in the traditional English sense, is all set to marry Ernestina, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. He's convinced himself that it's A-Okay to marry beneath him for a variety of reasons I can't remember but one ain't love. Ernestina is the typical Victorian bride-to-be, all blushes and not at all prepared for the wedding night. While visiting Ernestina in Lyme Regis, he sees a mysterious woman the villagers refer to as "the French Lieutenant's woman" (actually it's "whore" not "woman" but that's too salty for Ernestina's virgin ears). She's said to be pining for her lost love- the French Lieutenant- and spends her time looking out to sea.

Appearances can be deceiving, as Charles finds out. When the woman, Sarah, comes to him for help, he finds himself drawn to her. She's all forbidden and stuff. He's pulled between his desire for her and his commitment to Ernestina and what's expected of him.

Charles is a guy who can't decide where he really belongs. He wants to be modern, throw caution to the wind, but he's a Victorian male stuck in his role as The Gentry. He just can't let go altogether. Supposedly, Sarah is Fowles's Tess of the d'Ubervilles. I just can't see that. Tess is a tragic heroine because Bad Stuff happens to her over and over again. Sarah is on a hell-bent path of self-destruction for no discernible reason other than she likes being Tragic. No, Charles is much more Tess-like (without all the stabbing), he's the one who ends up paying but in a much more British Gentleman way. Instead of death by hanging, he takes a walking tour of the United States.

Even though I wasn't a fan of Charles, I could never put my finger on my feelings for Sarah. Is she playing Poor Tragedy for kicks? Is she supposed to represent the complicated Victorian woman? Or is she going off the rails of a crazy train? I didn't know. Although by the end when she ends up where she does I thought, "Oh. Well, good for her."

Elderly lady knitting
Stylistically, The French Lieutenant's Woman is....interesting. I read this with my book club and most people liked the author's intrusions and quirks. I felt weird about it. It was a little too clever, like "haha, look at me being in my own story" and "ladies and gentlemen- Mr Gabriel Rossetti!" There's a whole chapter on the sexual habits of the Victorians which while interesting was almost like he had all this research and just wanted to show it to us. He does a lot of little tricks, like he's saying, "this ain't your Granny's Victorian novel."

That said, I did like the ending, or rather endings, there's two. It's like having an alternate ending on the DVD version of your favorite movie. I have a favorite but I must keep it to myself.

So... I recommend it to fans of Thomas Hardy who want something the same but different.

Cats and Dogs Living Together

Walking the dog and cat

This photo made me laugh. I was thinking how there is no way I could get one of my cats to walk on a leash, never mind with a dog. I'm impressed by this lady.

My own cats have reacted to the new dog in their own ways. The bigger cat, the boy, ran away and hides whenever he sees the dog. He's a big chicken anyway. The smaller girl has made the dog understand that this is her house and must follow her rules. The puppy now avoids anywhere that cat is. The cat makes that difficult for her by sitting in doorways and staring. Poor pup just wants to play but the cat is having none of it! She might be half the size of the dog but she's mastered the art of intimidation.

I'm sure they'll work out their differences eventually but I'm not sure they'll ever be seen walking on leashes together.

Daphne du Maurier Challenge Wrap-Up & a Project

We made it through the Daphne du Maurier Challenge together! Yay! I hope you enjoyed reading Daphne's work whether you were a fan or a first time reader. I enjoyed visiting your blogs and reading your thoughts on her books and stories. I plan on reading more of her books in the future and hope you will too. Thank you all for joining in!

As a reward, here's some applause, with the exception of Mickey Rourke, he's too cool to clap.


And now for the project. I was so pleased to see all those links you provided that I decided to give them a permanent home on the Daphne du Maurier Challenge blog. I'll continue to add my own reviews of her books there. If you (anyone reading this regardless of whether you participated in the challenge or not) have a review you'd like added to the site, please leave your link and the name of the book in the comments of this post on the Daphne du Maurier blog.

The Canadian Housewife: An Affectionate History by Rosemary Neering

The Housewife's reputation has been tarnished of late because of TV shows with the words "The Real" in the title. Time for a reality check. Housewives built this nation, without them settlements failed. Their purchases drove economies. Concern for their families compelled them to become involved in politics. Their efforts on the home front helped win wars.

Family group, copied for Henry G. Birks in 1920
The Canadian Housewife: An Affectionate History by Rosemary Neering takes a look at the history of housewives in Canada starting with the Filles du Roi and ending with the post-war years of the 1950s.With every era, housewives had unique difficulties, whether it was marrying a stranger in a new country, dealing with the extreme poverty of the depression or saving scrap for the war effort. Neering not only chronicles the historical events these women lived through but explains the day to day tasks expected of them and how they were tackled: the cook, the laundress, the nurse, the wife, etc.

Bake oven, Murray Bay, QC, 1898
A Bake Oven (1898, Quebec)
With every technical innovation, the housewife's life improved, giving her more time to consider her place in the world. She didn't have to spend all day dragging the laundry to the river if she bought a washing machine. With more time to herself, she might join an organization with other women. Magazine and newspaper articles of the day, included in the book, clamored for the housewife's dollar offering her the latest time saving device or offering her advice.

Spinning, Cap à l'Aigle, QC, about 1895
Spinning Wheel (1895, Quebec)
Some of that advice is cringe worthy to the modern woman: "smile and don't complain" seems to be the majority of it. Any trouble at home was considered the fault of the woman and it was up to her to fix it. Unable to own her own property for most of Canada's history, she had little choice. Although the magazines might offer questionable advice, I have to wonder if many women took it or if they had their own way of dealing with a cheating or drunken spouse.

The Canadian Housewife was an interesting read. I feel that I learned a lot about the history of my sisters but it definitely had a 'textbook' vibe to it. Neering does the best she can to liven it up (is laundry ever exciting?) with articles, photographs and recipes from the eras mentioned. I didn't like how it ended abruptly. Being a modern housewife myself, I think there's more to be said about housewives in Canada. It also focuses on the European Canadian experience for the most part. Maybe that's fodder for another book.

It wasn't perfect but was informative and well researched. I recommend it to anyone interested in the lives of ordinary women.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: New Addition

Remember when I said I had a secret? This is it! This is Molly our new addition. Isn't she cute?

Back in November when we lost our old dog, I told my husband I didn't want a dog again for a long time. He nodded and said, "Yes, dear." Then as winter turned to spring, my husband started showing me photos of dogs (not fair). Even though I told him to quit it, I started thinking about having another dog. As I watched the neighbours parade their dogs in front of my house everyday, I thought how nice it would be to walk my dog. So we started talking about it, and talking and talking, and when we saw her, I knew we had a winner.

So I've been busy getting ready to bring Molly home and reading dog training books. Yesterday was crazy and last night exhausting. I forgot how puppies cry all night. She missed her old family. Regular blogging programming might be a bit off until we all get accustomed to one another. (The cats are not impressed. They have been sulking in the basement.)

Review Two Crochet Books: Amigurumi World & Lacy Crochet

Bear with me readers who have 0 interest in crochet. I went on a crochet kick this past month and picked up a couple of books from the library.

First Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet by Ana Paula Rimoli. Amigurumi is the Japanese craft of creating cute crochet or knitted animals with yarn. Amigurumi World provides patterns for all kinds of tiny creatures: dogs, owls, octopuses (octopi?), bears, etc. Most patterns have both a big (Mommy) and little (baby) version. It's cute overload! The patterns are pretty simple and easy to follow. Nothing complicated here. Great for people who want to try Amigurumi.

Puppy from Amigurumi World. Rectangular Doily from Lacy Crochet
Lacy Crochet: Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts is more crochet craftiness from the Japanese. Lacy Crochet is a more traditional style of crochet with delicate designs in cotton thread. Using the book was a bit challenging for me. Since it's translated from Japanese, the text instructions are unfamiliar. I'm used to the way American instructions are written. The patterns rely on charts. I'm not a fan of charts, but was forced to use them. I managed to get the hang of it fairly quickly. One advantage the book had was plenty of colour photos of the techniques used in the patterns. And it's just a beautiful book with such pretty things. Though my husband looked askance at me with a "Doilies? Really? Okay Granny." I loved all these old fashioned patterns but this is probably the last doily for me for some time.

Round Doily and Ringlet
The green and pink doily above was made with vintage cotton thread I found at a local yarn shop. The beige thread used in the bottom photo is actually a bamboo thread from Aunt Lydia's.

I definitely enjoyed both these books and plan on making more from them soon.

Pioneer Woman, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond: DNF

Okay people, this will not be a positive review. Let's get that out of the way. I know Pioneer Woman has thousands of fans and I'm putting myself at risk of a tongue lashings by posting this. But...I'm going to anyway. Before you start thinking, "Why you got to be hating on Ree?" here are a few things you should keep in mind. A) I'm not a blog follower of hers. I know who she is and have seen her blog (the Cadillac of blogs by the way). I'm not familiar with her or her husband. I'm coming into this book without any preconceived notions. Even if I don't like her book, I wish her all the success in the world. Bags and bags of it. B) Much of my problem with the book is related to editing and C) Do you really think Ree Drummond gives a flying fig what I think? Right now she's probably riding her tractor in her black heels all the way to the bank. Laughing. "Hahahaha."

From the title Black Heels to Tractor Heels, I assumed the book would be about the trials and tribulations of a city bred woman struggling to adjust to her new life in the country while falling in love. Instead, the first half of the book is a play by play of how she met and married her husband. She devoted a large part of the book to his tanned arms and fabulous butt. The book reads like a really long blog post with too much repetition. What she needed was to tighten up the story. Delete unnecessary words. The courtship portion could have been a couple of chapters with more emphasis on characterization.

I read all about Marlboro Man's* amazing bod but didn't learn much about his personality. He chuckled and said, "Are you okay?" a lot. It is much easier to write about your own foibles than the ones of the person you have to sit across the kitchen table from everyday. That's understandable but it's necessary to make me care. Not being a reader of her blog, I have no context for these people. Her readers may already know all about them and this may make it easier for those readers to connect but I could not.

I never found out how Ree adjusted to farm living. I stopped listening half-way through. At that point he had just asked her to marry him.**

I suspect a fan of Pioneer Woman would enjoy Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. However, it was not for me.

About the Audio: Read by the author. I was asked if reading instead of listening would have made a difference. That's a good question. Considering my experience, I recommend reading the text.

*She only refers to her husband as Marlboro Man. This made me crazy.

**I've since read that the latter half is much better, as it was never on her blog and less "bloggy".

What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss: Review

What the Librarian Did is a Suuuuuuuppppper Romance! Which means, I believe, it's longer than most (that's what she said). Although the title is provocative (naughty, naughty), it's actually quite sweet.

Rachel is a librarian, who works hard at her job at Auckland University. She has a tender heart for new students and vintage clothing. When Devin walks in, she assumes he's just another student, all be it older. Unbeknownst to her, Devin is a fallen rock star trying to start his life over. He's tired of the groupies, the fame, the drugs. Rachel's nonchalance towards his fame is a refreshing change. Still, he thinks there's a bit of fire in her and he wants to bring in out.

To make things complicated Rachel has a secret (of course). The baby she gave up for adoption is all grown up now and looking for her. But, you know how these things go, he's all bitter. And guess what else? He makes friends with the former rock star. Much wringing of hands takes place.

What can I say about What the Librarian Did? Great characterization, all the pivotal players are nicely rounded. The plot is quick paced and interesting. The romance is believable. They felt a spark but it wasn't insta-love. Rachel is sassy and can hold her own against Devin. He's is not a caricature of a rocker either. He's working on that big ego.

I was loving the book until close to the end when it got a bit preachy (just say no) and things wrapped up rather quickly. And really, the wedding part was totally unnecessary. But those are minor quibbles; it was a fully entertaining story with a couple of sexy times.

If you like your romance to be smart with realistic relationships, this one's for you.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: After the Read-a-thon

So yeah, I didn't make it through the whole 24 hours of the Read-a-thon. Quelle surprise. I started watching North by Northwest with some Twitter people and after 2 hours thought, "Hell, this is a long movie. I'm going to bed." I couldn't drag myself out of bed this morning to read anymore either.

So my reading stands at 2 books read (half a graphic novel).

I did want to tell you that I bought some books at the library sale.

Our Village by Mary Russell Mitford
To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O'Brian

That's it for me. Peace out!

Hour the 14: Read-a-thon

Yawn!!! I think it might be time for a graphic novel. My brain is sluggish.

Here it is hour 14 and I've read 2 books:

What the Librarian Did (entertaining)
Princess Academy (So good!)
507 pages!! Yay!

I tried to listen to Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels but got tired of hearing how perfect her man was. It was not for me.

Now I think I'll have some dip and start The Impostor's Daughter.

Thanks to everyone who has dropped by to offer encouragement today!

Hour the Six: Read-a-thon

Six hours in and I have one book finished. Yay! I found out What the Librarian Did. I was a good book. Light but engaging.

Now I think I should change out of pajama pants.

And look for snacks. The house is quiet at the moment. The hubs and girl are out. They were supposed to come right back but oh well. The cat doesn't mind.

See you all in a bit!

Let's Begin: Read-a-thon April 2011

Hey everyone! Today I devote myself to Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-thon. If you don't know what that is, go to the website. Here are the books I have on tap for the day.

*What the Librarian Did- Karina Bliss (Already started this one.)
*The Man in the Brown Suit- Agatha Christie
*Multiple Choices- Claire Cook
*Princess Academy- Shannon Hale
*The Fossil Hunters of Sydney Mines- Jo Ann Yhard
*The Impostor's Daughter- Laurie Sandell
*The Canadian Housewife: An Affectionate History- Rosemary Nearing

And on the ipod is Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.

 This first hour, we have some questions to answer:

1)Where are you reading from today? Nova Scotia, Canada
2)Three random facts about me… Not a morning person, I love raspberries, I drink about 5 cups of coffee a day.
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? Seven.
4)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)? Nope, just planning on having fun.
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Relax. This is not a race, nor are you being graded. We won't kick you out of the club if you can't do a full 24 hours. Hell, I've never done 24 hours yet and I've done the Read-a-thon since the beginning. Just have fun!

Okay, so my first book is What the Librarian Did. Might be a bit too sexy for this early but who cares.

Have fun!

Thoughts, Re-reading Jane Eyre: Happily Ever After

Unidentified BrideSpoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!

Is this the end of Jane?

Worn out, indeed, I was; not another step could I stir.

So Jane has herself in a pickle: she left Thornfield with barely any money and then left her stuff in the carriage she road in her escape. Where was her head? Oh yeah... Jane wanders around in the moors for a few days until she comes upon some village where the locals aren't exactly welcoming. You would think someone would be curious enough to call the cops about a well-bred lady begging for food. Or maybe not.

When Jane is on her last leg, she collapses on the steps of the house of two young women. The housekeeper tries to shoe her away, but the brother comes to her rescue. They take her in and nurse her back to health. Jane takes on an alias to protect herself from being found by Mr R. She finds out this generous family is Mary, Diana and St John Rivers, children of a well respected but poor man who has just died. St John is a clergyman with an ambition to go to India as a missionary. Jane likes the two girls. They are almost kindred spirits. But the girls are going off to be governesses and what will become of Jane?

St John offers her the position as school mistress to the local girls, most of them illiterate. Beggars can't be choosers. Jane takes on the task in her own Jane-ish way, winning over hearts and minds. Go Jane! Meanwhile, the money behind the school, Miss Rosamond Olivier, is in love with St John and he with her but he's being stubborn about it. He has a higher calling and pretty Rosamond won't tempt him away from it. Jane doesn't understand this (and neither do I). He's free to love who he wants to and yet pushes his feelings away.

Believe it or not!

Circumstances knit themselves, fitted themselves, shot into order: the chain that had been lying hitherto a  formless lump of links was drawn out straight...

Now be prepared to suspend your disbelief! St John figures out who Jane really is and guess what? She's now a rich lady. Why? Her rich uncle died and left her all his money. How does St John know this? He's her cousin! Wow! What a small world! Instant family, just add water. Jane shares her wealth with her new relatives and everyone lives happily ever after.

Well, not yet. Jane is still thinking about Mr R. What has happened to the guy? St John is still thinking of India and wants Jane to go with him as his wife. Say what? Yes. He's been grooming her for the job on the sly (the school, teaching her Hindustani, judging her every move). On paper, St John seems like a good catch for Jane. He's handsome, pious, intelligent and driven. But he's cold-hearted, doesn't love Jane, and will likely work her to death. Jane wants to go with him to India but as a free woman. He won't have it. He lays on the guilt and gives her the cold shoulder. The guy is an ass.

Just as Jane is about to give in to St John's constant guilt trips, she hears a voice on the wind: "Jane! Jane! Jane!" She knows then she must find out what happened to Mr R.

Return to Thornfield

Reader, I married him.

Jane makes her way back to Thornfield only to find it a burned out ruin. A few months after she ran off, Bertha burned down the house. In an attempt to rescue her from the flames, Mr R was seriously injured. He's now blind and missing a hand. Jane rushes to Ferndean, Mr R's farm, to be with him. They are reunited and it feels so good. Finally, Jane gets to have her Mr R. Within 3 days, they are married and then have babies.

It's interesting to see how the roles of Jane and Mr R change by the end of the novel. Jane is now a wealthy woman. Mr R is reduced to living in a small house, dependent on his 2 remaining servants. He can't leave where as Jane is free to go as far as India if she chooses. She holds all the cards. She can just turn around and leave him in dire straits. She also plays the jealousy game he once played with her, dangling St John's proposal before him. She's quick to end it though.

Mr R redeems himself. All his nefarious deeds are wiped away. First, he heroically tries to save his mad wife and is injured after he fails. This gives him plenty of time to think. To ponder his wrongs and ask forgiveness. "I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, he has remembered mercy. I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!" He hasn't lost all his fire though. He's still a cranky old thing, capable of sparring with Jane.

Final Thoughts

I don't think there is anything like reading Jane Eyre for the first time, not knowing anything about the story. I wish I could read it for the first time again. However, re-reading it has its advantages too. Since I already know what is going to happen, I can pay attention to the details. In my younger days, the romance aspect spoke to me more than it does today. I can see that Mr R is not perfect, but his flaws are what makes him appealing. I never did like a perfect hero. Jane doesn't feel she must change him. When she leaves, she knows his life is in his own hands. He is responsible for what he does not her. Mr R changes because he has time to contemplate his wrongs. When Jane returns, he has a chance to redeem himself.

With every reading, I gain more respect for Jane. She becomes a more confident woman as the novel progresses but she never loses her 'Janeness'. She says what she feels. At this time, women weren't supposed to act as Jane does. She doesn't go around swooning. She saves the hero many times, instead of waiting to be saved by him. She's practical, intelligent but kind and giving. She doesn't wallow in self-pity for long. I wish the young women in novels today were more like Jane.

I do always wonder: what would Jane have done if she found that Bertha was still alive? Would she have stayed with him anyway? What do you think?

Previous Posts:

Moving to Thornfield
Party People
One Wedding and a Funeral

The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie (Audiobook): Review

This is another audio library find. Since I enjoy Agatha Christie's mysteries, I thought I'd give this collection of short stories a listen. Like most short story collections, there were excellent bits and meh bits. The title story The Hound of Death was a little on the weird side. A nun uses memories of a past life to destroy on army. Yep. That's what I said.

The stories aren't so much detective stories as stories of supernatural occurrences: ghosts, possession, psychic powers, the afterlife and the like. Not surprisingly, the best stories were more grounded in earthly circumstances, plots of theft or murder. That really is Christie's forte and when she strays into the supernatural it feels fake and in some cases ridiculous. But kudos to her for stretching her writing legs.

The best of this collection are The Red Signal, The Fourth Man, The Wireless, The Mystery of the Blue Jar and the best of the best Witness for the Prosecution. These stories have a clever twist that I couldn't see coming.

One theme that popped up a lot in these stories was that women, foreign women particularly (especially non-white women) are dangerous, devious and not to be trusted. I thought this was odd considering she was a woman. I wonder if she was bending to the public by writing this way.

The better stories outweigh the so-so ones in The Hound of Death and for that I recommend the collection.

About the audio: Actor Sir Christopher Lee (Dracula, The Lord of the Rings) did a fabulous job narrating The Hound of Death. One of the best audio presentations I've ever heard! He takes on the persona of every character in the stories. His accents are terrific. It was so entertaining. I hope he narrates more books.

Challenge Roundup for March 2011

I'm very proud of myself. I finished The 4th Canadian Books Challenge. Yay!! 13 out of 13 books read before July 1st. That's a first for me. I usually end up either not completing the challenge or just by the skin of my teeth. Never have I finished several months before the deadline.
  • Damaged by Pamela Callow
  • Folly by Marthe Jocelyn
  • Her Mother's Daughter by Lesley Crewe
  • The Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster
  • Witchcraft by Clary Croft
  • The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
  • Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens by Marie Nightingale
  • An Orange from Portugal (Anthology)
  • Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano
  • Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
  • Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor
  • Scribbling Women by Marthe Jocelyn
  • Home to Woefield by Susan Juby
If you're curious about any of these titles and my thoughts on them, see the label "4th Canadian Reading Challenge" in the sidebar.

I more than completed the Audio Book Challenge having listened to several titles this month: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Julia Child, A Life by Laura Shapiro, and Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. I think that brings it up to 6, I signed up for 3.

I'm still am only at 2 out of 3 (or more) books for the Nordic Challenge but I have until the end of December for that one.

I finally reviewed a book for The Foodie Challenge, though technically I reviewed it in April. Shh! Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader.

With two challenges complete, I thought I'd slip in a new one Once Upon a Time Challenge. Can't wait to get into that one!

No new Daphne du Maurier reviews from me. I'm seriously thinking of pre-ordering The Doll Short Stories for myself for Mother's Day. It won't make it for the end of the challenge which is April 19th but that's okay. I'm going to keep on reading her stuff. Recently there was a story related to Daphne's story Don't Look Now or more accurately the movie based on her story. There is a new book which claims the steamy scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie was for real. When I read that I thought, "Eww!" I talked a bit about that scene in my review of the film. However, Sutherland denies that claim and says it was just really good editing. So the controversy about that one continues.

Here's a trailer of the movie Don't Look Now

How were your challenges for March?

Affinity Readalong: Part 2

Just so you know, I am going to be spoiling the plot left and right here. I want to discuss it with Andi and the gang. You were warned!

So in my last post on Affinity, I discussed Part 1 and 2. Now the rest of the story.

Margaret's sister gets married and sets Margaret's life onto one path: companion to her mother. What a pain in the rear that woman is. "Read to me, blah, blah." It's as if she feels she needs to make a slave of her because she won't be marrying. Margaret's life reminds me of Valancy's in The Blue Castle. Margaret continues visiting Selina in prison and becomes more and more enamored with her after every visit. I had a very bad feeling about it all, especially when she gets the idea to break out of prison with the help of her spirits.

I couldn't believe this intelligent woman was falling for it. I was so hard to read it. I knew it wouldn't turn out well, at the same time I wanted Selina to materialize in Margaret's room some night. I knew she was conning her but couldn't figure out how. Who was helping her? I figured Mrs Jelf was involved but how? When it all came together at the end, it all made sense. It was a complicated con though.

What an evil pair. How could they not guess what Margaret would do when they ran off, especially with her history? They were murdering her. On the other hand, wouldn't they have ended up like Margaret themselves if they followed 'the rules' of society? I think Selina had one moment of empathy, when she hugged Margaret before she escaped. She knew that was it for her. I think things would have been different for Margaret had her father still been alive. He really had looked out for her and seems she was his favorite.

It was upsetting to see how Selina and Ruth took advantage of the women they were conning. These were women with such huge losses or emotional and mental weaknesses. Selina knew just the right thing to say or do. What I don't quite understand is Peter Quick. Was he an alias of Ruth's or did Selina really have some power? I couldn't figure that out. And what was going on in that closet?

Affinity brought up so many issues of the Victorian age, the prison system, spiritualism, sexuality, unmarried women, and the class system. Did you notice how worked up Margaret got about Selina being referred to as Dawes in the prison? Yet, what went on in her own home- Cook, Vigers? No one had first names? And not to mention how the servants were treated like pieces of furniture. They knew everything and that's how Ruth could learn all she did and sidle right in.

Sarah Waters is a brilliant writer. I'm amazed at how she can make you think about so many different issues while at the same time telling a suspenseful story. I can't stop thinking about it. She's definitely at the top of my favorite author list now.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Hodge Podge

Do you like my paper hearts? I've seen paper heart garlands around the interwebs and wanted to try it for myself. I didn't use these instructions from Mama's Magic but after searching around the web I found this most accurately describes what I did (Method B). I just sort of winged it. Give it a try yourself!

I used a romance ARC (advanced reader copy) that I read and couldn't do anything else with. I did have a falling apart copy of 1984 but I couldn't bring myself to punch hearts, of all things, out of it. I was skeptical of sewing paper but it worked quite well. It took me 3 or 4 tries (again, winging it) but eventually got the hang of it. Not sure what I'm going to do with them though.


I finished Affinity this week for the Readalong. So good! Sarah Waters is now at the top of my favorite authors list. I'm reading Sisters Red with Kelly and Pam. It's a retelling of Red Riding hood. It's good so far. I have one section of Jane Eyre left to read and I'm trying to finish The French Lieutenant's Woman for my book club. I'm not enamored with it. I finished The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie which was an audio book. More on that later this week.

I received two books in the mail this week: Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Funky name, hey?

I'm feeling like I have too many books going at once. Maybe I should concentrate on one or two, right? It doesn't really help that Goodreads is reminding me that I'm falling behind on my goal to read 100 books. Thanks, Goodreads, thanks a lot. I feel the way I do when Wii Fit asks me where I've been all week and how I should check in every day. What are you my Mom?

Speaking of Moms... I watched The Black Swan this weekend. Have you seen it? What a messed up movie. I liked it but it was craaaaaazzzzy. I felt sorry for her but, yeah, that whole thing was creepy.

So, read or watch anything exciting this week?

Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader: Review

Bread. I love bread. It's the reason I jog. Yet there are so many types of bread I haven't tried yet. I'm trying to remedy that at the expense of my waistline. Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader provides recipes for a variety of yeasty treats. This week I had two different recipes I thought I'd give a whirl.

First off, Angel Biscuits. Not very difficult to mix up. The only issue I had was A. a mistake in the measurements (I informed the publisher) and B. I had to wait overnight to eat them.

Result: Fluffy sweet biscuits. Yum! Maybe a bit too sweet for my tastes though. Next time I'm reduce the sugar a bit.

Second, Brioche Muffins. I've never had brioche before. Where have you been all my life?! These took lots of time to rise but OH MY! they were worth waiting for. They taste like how a fluffy bread cloud would taste if they existed.

I made the cinnamon-cardamon variation. It's almost like a hot cross bun but way better.

Considering all the butter and eggs I used this week, I won't be going for a cholesterol test any time soon but these breads were a nice treat. Some of the recipes are a bit ambitious (bagels) though there are easy ones too (pancakes). They require patience as they some need rising overnight or longer. Good time management is key. Don't plan on whipping up a batch of Parker House rolls an hour before having supper with the in-laws. Using a standing mixer, of course, makes kneading bread easier but the author provides instructions on kneading by hand if you'd like to give it a try.

Some other recipes you'll find include bread sticks, challah, crumpets, waffles, pizza dough, and more. The instructions themselves are easy to follow and Daniel  Leader has a few tips or explanations at the beginning of each to make it easier. So if you have a bread tooth and a bit of patience, I think you'll enjoy Simply Great Breads.

I received this cookbook from the publisher via Netgalley for review.