October 27, 2008

Home and Away

Home and Away: More Tales of a Heritage Farm by Anny Scoones
Nonfiction - Autobiography/Essays
2006 TouchWood Editions
181 pages
Finished on 10/15/08
Rating: 3/5 (Above Average)

Publisher's Blurb:

Home And Away: More Tales of a Heritage Farm follows Anny Scoones' popular and best-selling first book, Home: Tales of a Heritage Farm that introduced readers to the historic Glamorgan Farm.

Home and Away, Anny presents more stories about the joys and sorrows, excitements and mishaps, of living on the farm. She also takes readers farther afield, sharing with them her travels to other parts of Canada, to New York and to such places as Malaysia and Belarus. Her travel tales offer not only her keen observations on what she sees and experiences while away, but also her perspective from afar on the importance of having a place to return to that truly is home.

Anny has owned Glamorgan Farm since 2000. Located in North Saanich, B.C., it's one of the original farms and homesteads on Vancouver Island, established in 1870 by Richard John. She is restoring the historic structures and raising heritage breeds of livestock. The front meadows are gardened by an herb gardener and a group of mentally challenged adults who grow organic, heirloom varieties of flowers and produce.

Anny writes candidly and colourfully about real things, from visits with her family (she is the daughter of internationally acclaimed artists Molly Lamb Bobak and Bruno Bobak) to simple pleasures like arranging bowls of pears and hearing the owls in the woods at dusk. She writes about making bonfires, sitting with a dying horse, playing with a 700-pound sow and visiting the SPCA. Some of her tales are told with humour, some in sadness, but all tell the truth about living, observing and creating, whether at home or away.

ANNY SCOONES is a second-term councillor for the District of North Saanich, B.C., with a special interest in heritage and agriculture preservation; parks, trails and cycling paths; and architectural design and planning. She has a B.Ed. in history from the University of Victoria and a Diploma of Humanities in philosophy. At the time of writing, Anny had seven cats and four dogs, all from the SPCA. She continues to ride her Russian woolly horse, raise rare Gloucester Old Spot pigs and collect eggs from her many breeds of hens. Her greatest pleasure is to sit down by the fire in the living room, surrounded by books, candles, flowers, art, bowls of fruit and happy dogs, to think and enjoy being at home.

Last summer while vacation in the San Juan Islands, I decided to buy a few books from the local section of the bookstores we visited rather than some knick-knack or unnecessary souvenir. I fell in love with Tanner's Books in Sidney, B.C. and spent a long time roaming the aisles in search of just the right book to remind me of our holiday. With all the books I had waiting for me at home, I knew I didn't want to get something I could buy at my local B&N. I wanted a book written by an author from the region. My eye was immediately drawn to the gorgeous cover on Anny Scoones' Home and Away: More Tales of a Heritage Farm, and my search was over. Not surprising to many, this book wound up sitting on one of our living room tables for well over a year. The cover art is so pretty that I kept the book out to see any time I walked by on my way upstairs. Earlier this month, I decided the time had come. It would be just the sort of book I knew I'd need to have with me on another trip. A book of essays into which I could fall easily after a long, stressful day.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book, but I'm afraid it's not the sort that should be read from cover-to-cover. I got a bit bored with the writing and might have enjoyed it more had I read an essay or two every week or so. Nonetheless, I'm glad I finally got around to reading it and will return it to that living room table where I can have a bit of spring in the coming months of a long cold winter.

No remarkable passages to quote, but I thought I'd include a short snippet from the author's introduction:

The tradition of having my parents, Bruno and Molly Bobak, illustrate my writing continues. Mum and Dad were Canadian war artists, uniformed, and are now living in Fredericton. Dad sketches the New Brunswick countryside, often on some grassy riverbank, and Mum, her eyes failing, paints watercolours of flowers from their garden. Here on Glamorgan Farm, much of their art hangs on the walls of the old farmhouse (originally the farm workers' lodgings), and some of it is shared with you in this book.

I have bequeathed Glamorgan Farm to North Saanich as a heritage park although, as the years go by, I'd like to share its goodness sooner rather than later, and I hope my books assist me in this endeavour. Some of the stories in this book venture farther from home; they are memories of past homes and journeys. Others are stories inspired by this dear, weathered farm, which, in its gentle way, seems to provoke so many reflections on nature and the human spirit.

October 25, 2008

Lazy Food Blogger

I guess there is such a thing as having too many blogs! I've been having so much fun with my photo blog that I've neglected my cooking blog. I'm still trying new menu items, but haven't had much time to get new recipes posted. This morning, after receiving notice that one of my recipes has been featured on a wonderful blog called The Back Burner, I decided I had better get my act together and add some new recipes -- it's been over three months!!

If you get a chance, pop over and see what's been cookin' in my kitchen.

Or, take a peek at some of my latest photos over here. And be sure to check out the great photos on Nat's & Bookfool's blogs, as well!

And not to worry... I have two book reviews in the pipeline. :)

October 23, 2008

Where the River Ends

And the lucky winner is.... Joy!

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin
Contemporary Fiction
2008 Broadway Books
384 pages
Quit on 10/2/08
Rating: DNF

Product Description

A powerfully emotional and beautifully written story of heartbreaking loss and undying love

He was a fishing guide and struggling artist from a south George trailer park. She was the beautiful only child of South Carolina’s most powerful senator. Yet once Doss Michaels and Abigail Grace Coleman met by accident, they each felt they’d found their true soul mate.

Ten years into their marriage, when Abbie faces a life-threatening illness, Doss battles it with her every step of the way. And when she makes a list of ten things she hopes to accomplish before she loses the fight for good, Doss is there, too, supporting her and making everything possible. Together they steal away in the middle of the night to embark upon a 130-mile trip down the St. Mary’s River—a voyage Doss promised Abbie in the early days of their courtship.

Where the River Ends chronicles their love-filled, tragedy-tinged journey and a bond that transcends all.

Earlier this summer, I snagged an ARC of this book after catching a glimpse of the cover art. (I'm such a sucker for anything with canoes or kayaks.) I've never read anything by Charles Martin, but someone over at Bookreporter.com recommended one of his books (The Dead Don't Dance) to me a few years ago. I never got around to reading that one, but this sounded like something I might like, especially after reading the following blurb in the front of the ARC:

Dear Reader:

Some years ago Charles Martin heard an unsettling story about a man who served his wife with divorce papers while she was enduring the roughest stage of chemotherapy in an ultimately losing battle with breast cancer. Charles had a hard time understanding the sort of man who could do that: leave his wife when she needed him the most. He began to wonder about the other kind of guy, the one who would stick with his wife—love her and support her—through the very worst of sickness as well as health. In Charles's imagination, this man would be inspired not only by his wedding vows but by a deep, unshakable, unending love for the woman he married.

Every few years, an amazing love story is published that captures the hearts of readers everywhere. The Notebook, The Bridges of Madison County, Love Story. And, now, Where the River Ends.

E. Stacy Creamer
Vice President, Executive Editor, Doubleday
Deputy Editorial Director, Broadway

As I read the first page of the prologue, I got that warm, tingly feeling you get when you think you've stumbled on a great book. The prose reminded me so much of Rick Bragg's style in All over but the Shoutin'; the sort of sentences that are so beautiful, they make your heart sing. Regrettably, the further along I read, the less it felt like Bragg's beautiful writing, and I struggled to continue. The characters felt flat and lifeless and the story failed to draw me in. I read well over a hundred pages, but finally set it aside, thinking it was just bad timing. I tried again a few days later, but still no interest.


I really thought this was going to be a special book. But, as luck would have it, I happened upon a copy of The Dead Don't Dance, so I'll give Mr. Martin another chance. Meanwhile, I'd be more than happy to pass on my copy of Where the River Ends to one of you. Simply leave me a comment before November 1st and I'll throw your name in the hat.

October 18, 2008

The Water and the Blood

And the lucky winner is.... Katya!

The Water and the Blood: A Novel by Nancy Turner
2001 ReganBooks/HarperCollins Publishers
401 pages
Quit on 10/1/08
Rating: DNF

Product Description

I turned and faced the road we'd come down, my face hard and set. The kids moved on without me. I could still see a slight glow and the murky, gray smoke reaching above the trees, where it spread to the south....

When I thought they were out of earshot, I took a deep breath. "You lied to me," I whispered toward the building, to all the people it represented, to the hours I'd spent on those hard, split-log seats, and to my childish epiphanies born there .... "You lied," I said. "These are my best friends now."

Rare is the gift of a writer who is able to conjure up the voices of very different worlds, to give them heat and power and make them sing. Such is the talent of Nancy E. Turner. Her beloved first novel, These Is My Words, opened readers to the challenges of a woman's life in the nineteenth-century Southwest. Now this extraordinary writer shifts her gaze to a very different world -- East Texas in the years of the Second World War -- and to the life of a young woman named Philadelphia Summers, known against her will as Frosty.

From the novel's harrowing opening scene, Frosty's eyes survey the landscape around her -- white rural America -- with the awestruck clarity of an innocent burned by sin. In her mother and sisters she sees fear and small-mindedness; in the eyes of local boys she sees racial hatred and hunger for war. When that war finally comes, it offers her a chance for escape - to California, and the caring arms of Gordon Benally a Native-American soldier. But when she returns to Texas she must face the rejection of a town still gripped by suspicion -- and confront the memory of the crime that has marked her soul since adolescence.

Propelled by the quiet power of one woman's voice, The Water and the Blood is a moving and unforgettable portrait of an America of haunted women and dangerous fools -- an America at once long perished and with us still.

I loved Nancy These Is My Words (in spite of the awkward-sounding title!); it made my Top Ten List for 2003 and I gave several copies to friends and relatives that year for Christmas. The following is a rough excerpt from my reading journal:

These is My Words (Nancy Turner)
Historical Fiction
Rating: A+ (10/10 Excellent! One of the best books I've ever read!)

After a lukewarm start (only lasting a few pages), I fell in love with this marvelous, coming-of-age story of courage, family, love and loss. The epistolary style is a favorite of mine and I was easily convinced the diary could really be true (it's not, though). This book has something for everyone. Indian raids. Romantic tension. Humor and drama (snakes!). Suspense. History. I laughed and cried and didn't want to finish reading this gem. It's definitely a keeper and I plan to read it again someday. Sarah and Jack's story will stay with me always. This is one of those books full of favorite passages that I want to share with everyone, but won't because it would spoil the enjoyment should they decide to read it for themselves.

After reading such a wonderful book, I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Water and the Blood from my brother and sister-in-law the following year on my birthday. Jen loved These Is My Words just as much as I did and was eager to hear what I thought of Turner's stand-alone novel. As it typically goes around here, the book didn't get read right away and wound up on a shelf for several years. Late last month, I was anxious to find a good novel to get engrossed in for our trip out to Virginia Beach and decided this was the book. Unfortunately, after struggling with close to fifty pages, I decided to give it up. It's difficult, after more than two weeks' lapse, to pinpoint the problems with the narrative. It could easily have been poor timing, as I was obviously quite distracted with our situation in Virginia.

It's a shame The Water and the Blood didn't live up to my expectations. However, I have the sequel (Sarah's Quilt: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine and the Arizona Territories, 1906) to These Is My Words in my stacks and I'm quite confident I won't be disappointed. It comes highly recommended by several who loved These Is My Words as much as I did. I doubt I'll let it sit on a shelf for four years!

If anyone is interested in this book, leave me a comment and I'll draw a name next weekend.

October 12, 2008

Women's Friendship Endcap

This is my current endcap at work. I haven't checked the sale numbers recently, but I think Debbie Macomber's book is doing the best so far.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Clayton

The Book Club by Mary Morris Monroe

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

Five Fortunes by Beth Gutcheon

Thursdays at Eight by Debbie Macomber

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

The Reading Group: A Novel by Elizabeth Noble

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

The Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King

October 10, 2008

A Month in Review - September ('08)

Not too bad of a month, although I still wish I had more time to read! October looks to be even lighter than September.

Click on the titles to read my reviews.

Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason (3/5)

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (3/5)

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (4.75/5)

Thursdays at Eight by Debbie Macomber (4/5)

Favorite of the month: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Books Read 4
Male Authors 1
Female Authors 3
New-To-Me Authors 2
Epistolary 0
Current Affairs 0
Japanese 0
Audio 0
Fiction 4
Nonfiction 0
Historical Fiction 0
Classic 0
Poetry 0
Teen 0
Children's 0
Sci-Fi 1
Fantasy 0
Horror 0
Romance 2
Humor 0
Travel 0
Memoir 0
Culinary 0
Mystery/Thriller 0
Series 1
Re-read 0
Challenge 1
Mine 4
Borrowed 0
Gift 1

Note: Only books completed are counted in the above totals with, of course, the exception of the DNF category.

October 6, 2008

Photo Blog

Time for a new post, don't you think? I haven't done much reading and have given up on a couple of books, so it'll be a little while before I have a new book review to share. Until then, feel free to drop in on my new blog. Yep, one can never have too many shoes dogs books bottles of wine blogs, right? You can also click on the camera (in my sidebar) to visit the blog. I plan to have a new picture every day. Enjoy!

October 3, 2008

Brief Hiatus

Update: After three exhausting days, the case came to its final conclusion this afternoon at 2 pm with a sentence of capital life. That's essentially life without parole (and no appeals, whatsoever).

We knew that part of this process would involve meeting the other families who lost their loved ones in this horrific crime. In addition to viewing their beautiful videos and family pictures, we listened (and cried along with them) during their emotionally-wrought victim impact statements. We spent quite a bit of time with all of these folks (both in and outside of the courtroom) and Rod and I both felt an enormous amount of kindness and compassion from everyone involved, including the attorneys and support staff in the Commonwealth Attorney's office. They're are all wonderful, wonderful people and I am only sorry that we had to all meet under such terrible circumstances.

Once again, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who have left comments here on this site or notes via email or regular mail. We appreciate all the love and concern you've shown our family during the past 3 1/2 years. We truly don't know how we could have managed without the love and support of our family and friends.

For those of you who've been following this blog (or my first one) for the past few years, you're probably well aware that our daughter was killed back in 2005. It's hard to believe it's been over three years... In any event, the case is finally going to trial. Or, rather, a sentencing hearing. So we're off to Virginia Beach. I should be back online next weekend. Good thoughts are appreciated, as there's just no way this is going to be a good trip.

Times Like These
Jack Johnson

in times like these
in times like those
what will be will be
and so it goes
and it always goes on and on...
and on and on it goes

and there's always been laughing, crying, birth, and dying
boys and girls with hearts that take and give and break
and heal and grow and recreate and raise and nurture
but then hurt from time to times like these
and times like those
what will be will be
and so it goes

and there will always be stop and go and fast and slow
action, reaction, sticks and stones and broken bones
those for peace and those for war
and god bless these ones not those ones
but these ones made times like these
and times like those
what will be will be
and so it goes
and it always goes on and on...
and on and on it goes

but somehow i know it won't be the same
somehow i know it'll never be the same

(Go here to listen)