On My Bookshelf, Mar. 16/18

Since I last wrote anything on this blog, I’ve searched, found, bought, and moved into a marvellous new condo overlooking the Ottawa River.  And although I haven’t found the time to write, I’ve certainly been reading.  Here’s a sample from my bookshelf:

Finally read The Girl in the Spider’s Web.  Great modern, computer-age adventure full of cyber-/ industrial-spies, insights into autism, and surprising twists and turns.  Highly recommend.

Also read Wedlock about Queen Elizabeth’s great, great, great grandmother whose infamous divorce from a sadistic, conniving, philandering brute of a husband finally succeeded in freeing her from his control and restored what was left of her family fortune. At a time when divorces were few and far between, this was an amazing story and extremely scandalous.

Also read another in the Maggie Hope series, His Majesty’s Hope, about her first adventure into enemy territory, her discovery of her half-sister as well as coming face to face with her mother — a notorious enemy spy who had abandoned her and her father when she was little — and her discovery of the truth about the euthanasia of “defective” children in Nazi Germany.  Lots of action and intrigue.

I’ve recently finished a first novel by Canadian author Ami Mckay, The Birth House, which gives wonderful insight into a period in history where women were seeking the vote, autonomy over their own bodies, and the right to birth their children in their homes with the assistance of a midwife.  Set in a rural community in Nova Scotia, Canada, Ami’s heroine comes of age during WWI and shows great courage and compassion.  An illuminating and captivating story.

A favourite author of Viking romance and adventure, Bernard Cornwell was also on my list.  I’ve read The Last Kingdom, the first in a series about Alfred the Great.

I’m currently reading Motherless Daughters: the Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman, a book that has sat on my shelf for quite a number of years and one that I should have read long ago.

What’s up next?  I’ve recently watched (for the umpteenth time) Casablanca because I picked up the Time anniversary edition with everything you ever wanted to know about the movie and the cult that grew up around it and still exists today.  A book mentioned there is called We’ll Always Have Casablanca, a play on the movie line where Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman, “We’ll always have Paris”.

Having enjoyed Ariel Lawhon‘s Flight of Dreams about the last flight of the Hindenburg, I’m looking forward to reading another of her historical fiction creations, I Was Anastasia.

A novel I picked up at the same time, one I’d never heard of but it caught my eye, The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck which takes place in the aftermath of WWII and involves the widow of one of the German assasination conspirators who, after the war, reopens her old family castle and takes in the other widows in similar situations to her own, to help them get back on their feet. Sounds great!

What have you been reading or what’s up next?


Posted in Actor, Actress, Adult Book, coming of age, Film Noir, Historical Fiction, Movie, Mystery, Romance, Spy, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my patient followers and fellow-bloggers.  It’s been a few months since I’ve written even though I did keep reading.  Life has been full of change for me and 2017 was a year full of adventure and activity.

Even though I didn’t meet my goal of 75 books for the year,  I read more than 65 but haven’t written about the last dozen as I have been extremely busy, first looking for a new home, continuing the downsizing process, getting my condo of the last 25 years ready for sale, and, finally, moving into my new digs on the 18th floor of a slightly older building with an uninterrupted panoramic view of the Ottawa River.

Still involved in moving and downsizing, but Budge & I are settling in nicely and enjoying the ever-changing view from our beautiful lofty apartment.

2017 began ordinarily enough but then in February, I got an invitation to apply to join a mission trip with Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse initiative that saw me spend 8 days in Costa Rica with a team of 30 volunteers handing out shoes and shoeboxes packed with necessities and goodies by Canadians who care.  It was an amazing trip and a real eye-opener.  Re-entry after even such a short time had its difficulties after been with people who have so little to a place where most if not all have so much and find more to complain about than those we left behind.


Then, within a few months, there was terrible flooding in communities along the Ottawa River and Samaritan’s Purse, again, became activity and organized volunteer groups to pitch in, clean up, and work to restore individual homes to a liveable state.  I only worked for a week with them but saw some real improvements and extremely grateful people.


With the onset of summer, I was able to do minimal maintenance in my back yard and enjoy my beautiful gardens immensely despite a very rainy and humid summer.  I worked to downsize in my home, selling things on Kijiji and giving things to the Salvation Army and Value Village.  (Still working on that!)

I spent several days in southern Ontario with my younger brother’s family and began planning a trip to western Canada to visit my older brother and his wife in Calgary, Alta. and my sister and her younger son and family in Vernon, B.C.  I had never been to British Columbia and had certainly never driven across most of Canada on my own before so it was a huge undertaking and it was a blast!

I spent 3 days travelling to Winnipeg and then stayed 3 nights and saw the sights as I had never been there before.  Then two more days to Calgary where I spent 5 nights and went many interesting places — after buying a winter jacket since the weather had changed so quickly and drastically.  Saw Drumheller and the Badlands, and had a great time with family.

Then, I finally arrived in Vernon and had a whole week getting to know my great-niece and great-nephews, and boy are they great!  Lots of fun, lots of LEGO, and lots of reading and playing.  Had a great time and hope to visit them all again soon.


Came home through the States, spent 2 nights in Minneapolis, and arrived home to seriously think about making that move I had been talking about and planning for since retiring more than 4 years ago.  I believe I found the perfect place for me and, after getting the keys on Dec. 14th, I began moving in.  This is going to be a fairly long process as nothing is coming into the new place that there isn’t room to keep and so there’s a lot still to go out of the old place.  Thought I had the old place sold but the deal fell through due to a problem with the financing so it’s on the market again and getting good traffic through so things are looking fine and I’m totally hopeful.  I have absolute faith in God’s perfect timing and am content to take things day by day.

First sunset in my new home!

In between things in the fall, I hosted a packing party for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, made plans for a new look for my new home, started packing things up, and was able to have many “dinner and a movie” evenings with my friend Paul, the train buff.  The whole year has just flown by and I can’t believe how many wonderful opportunities and experiences I’ve been afforded and the many blessing I’ve been showered with.  My health is pretty good, I have a great church home, terrific family, and am content with my new home and neighbours.  It’s a perfect location for me — close to so many places — and am totally looking forward to getting it set up the way I want and then relaxing to enjoy it, read, and get back to blogging.

I wish you all the best of God’s blessings for 2018 and a wonderful time reading!



Posted in Adult Book | 1 Comment

First Chapter, First Paragraph & Teaser Tuesday: Coastliners by Joanne Harris

First Chapter, First Paragraph, is a meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.  Anyone can play — just copy the first paragraph of the first chapter (or prologue) and include a picture of the book cover. Leave your link at Bibliophile by the Sea.  Today’s intro and teaser are from a book I picked up at my Credit Union where they have a trolley of second hand books they sell to raise money for a good cause.  Here is the beginning of the prologue:

Islands are different. The smaller the island, the more true this becomes. Look at Britain. Barely conceivable that this narrow stretch of land should sustain so much diversity. Cricket, cream teas, Shakespeare, Sheffield, fish and chips in vinegary newspaper, Soho, two universities, the beachfront at Southend, striped deckchairs in Green Park, Coronation Street, Oxford Street, lazy Sunday afternoons. So many contradictions. All marching together like boozy protesters who have not yet realized their main cause for complaint is each other. Islands are pioneers, splinter groups, malcontents, misfits, natural isolationists. As I said, different.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, now being hosted by Ambrosia of  The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!  So, from the same book:

But it isn’t in my nature; I’m sullen, my mother used to say, like my father, and words don’t come easily to me. For the first time, I wondered if I hadn’t made a terrible mistake coming home. p. 46

Have you read this book?  Other books by Joanne Harris?  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  Leave a comment and a link to your First Chapter, First Paragraph and/or Tuesday Teaser!  Thanks for coming by.

Posted in Adult Book, coming of age, Meme, Teaser | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Simplest Way To Change the World by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

Have you ever watched the news and thought, ‘What is the world coming to?’  Do you have a difficult time with some of your neighbours or co-workers?  Do you ever stop to think, What can I do to change things; there’s just too much wrong?  Well pastors Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements have written this book to show the things that disconnect us from each other and the things we can do to help reconnect and change our small corner of the world with Christian love.

This is a book about putting aside the distractions that disconnect us, getting past the idea that our houses are only for our own personal refuge against the world, and beginning to practice the kind of hospitality that God has shown to us throughout the history as laid out in the Bible.  They take the apostle Paul’s greeting to the church at Thessalonica, “We loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thess. 2:8 NIV, emphasis added by the authors.)  They give simple basic ideas that can change not only the lives of those around us but our own as well.  Barbecue in the front yard instead of the back and have enough food to feed a large group.  Rather than putting up a hammock in the back yard, put in a patio with a large table to make it people friendly.  Invite people over to watch the game.  Host a pot luck.  Invite a co-worker who’s into sports to meet for a game of ultimate frisbee in the park.  Set aside one night a week to invite a small group to dinner.  Be a good listener.  Share your family; share your lives.

There are 12 chapters in the book and it’s set up so that it can be used as a 6-week, small group study.  The study chapters at the back are easy to follow, well laid out, and full of discussion growth and challenge.  There are many examples throughout the book of how lives were impacted and relationships deepened.  There are also blunders that show us pitfalls to avoid and how God can even use blunders to create a caring atmosphere that draws lonely people into fellowship.  Questions at the end of each chapter challenge you to look at how you might join the mission field of extending God’s hospitality.

This is an amazing concept that may not be new to you and maybe you already practice hospitality in your home.  There will still be ideas in this book to take it further.  At the end, there are resources and notes which can be useful if you wish to expand the vision.  We can only hope and pray that this book will impact all those who read it and, in turn, impact their small corner of the world.  * * * * *

I received a free copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Adult Book, Christian, Opinion, Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Robert Harris has written an amazing novelization of the factual events from the 1895 trial of Alfred Dreyfus, accused spy in the French military, to his final vindication in 1906 when the decision of the Rennes verdict of the Supreme Court of Appeal was finally quashed.  It is told from the point of view of Colonel Georges Picquart and begins with his daily reports on the Dreyfus trial to Minister of War, General Auguste Mercier.  Then a major, a few months later, Picquart is promoted and made head of the Statistical Section of the Ministry — the spy catchers/handlers unit.

Harris has total command of all the events and facts and patiently, even painstakingly, takes us through the tiny discoveries Picquart makes along the way which build to prove there is still a spy within the army and that the evidence against Dreyfus was both flimsy and fabricated to varying degrees.  He is able to discover the real spy through an operation he runs himself along with a member of the Sûreté (Detective force), Jean-Alfred Desvernine, and a friend, Germaine Ducasse who rents the listening/watching post across from the German Embassy.  Problem:  1) the real spy is from a family of wealth and influence, 2) the proof of the case against Dreyfus was part of a conspiracy at the highest level, and 3) there is a general feeling throughout France that a loss of confidence in the integrity of the army high command would be disastrous for France.

So Alfred Dreyfus deteriorates in a 6×6 cell on tiny Devil’s Island, deserted except for his dozen guards who are not allowed to speak to him and where he is eventually shackled to his bed at night — as if there was any way of escape.  People at home — his family, lawyers, and certain authors/publishers — are working towards a retrial and eventually, Picquart, effectively banished to the desert of Tunisia, will be brought home to testify and will assist Dreyfus’ friends in any way he can without breaking his sworn confidence to the army.

Not only is this story flawlessly told, but it is beautifully told.  The writing is exquisite and the atmosphere and mood of France and the French envelopes the reader.

The Humiliation of Alfred Dreyfus

I reached the pont de l’Alma and saw the shadowy crowd pouring across the dark waters of the Seine, and that was when I realised what Mercier must have known all along: that the human impulse to watch another’s humiliation will always prove sufficient insulation against even the bitterest cold.

Whether you’ve read about Alfred Dreyfus before or have not even heard about him, to relive the anti-semitism of France at the turn of the century, the lengths the conspiracy went to in order to eliminate Picquart, or the long process it took to finally vindicate an innocent man is a revelation that is shocking yet worth savouring simply for the eloquence of the story teller.  You can read the introduction and another teaser here.  This is the first book I’ve read by Robert Harris but it will not be the last.  * * * * *

Posted in Adult Book, Author, History, Opinion, Spy Thriller | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cozy Read Wednesday: Ask Me Again by Kara Kinsley

Today’s cozy read is by an author with whom I was unfamiliar until I came across this novella.  She has written 20 books, all romances, and there is definitely an emphasis on faith.  The full title is Ask Me Again – An Inspirational Romance – Book 1.  I think I was attracted by the cute cover.  What I didn’t realize was this is not book 1 in a series but book 1 in a trilogy — something I don’t normally read.

Tricia and Devin were childhood friends and have reconnected after a number of years when Tricia’s family had moved to the other side of the county.  Both are taking courses to help them look to a brighter future and both are parenting their mothers who have turned to substance abuse to cope with their lots in life.  Devin has been working as a firefighter and is taking college courses to get into university; he helped Tricia get a job in dispatch with the fire department to enable her to support her dream of becoming a physiotherapist.  For now they’re just really good friends but each is feeling something more that they’re afraid to explore in case they ruin their friendship.

This is a good plot with lots of surprises (most of them not good) and each character is trying to be supportive of the other through the trying times.  Tricia, in particular, is praying but not really certain someone is listening.  I tend to feel a bit cheated when a “book” only take me a couple of hours to read and it turns out you have to read two more of them to get to the outcome.  The three parts of this trilogy (I haven’t seen it referred to as such anywhere else) would probably make a decent paperback novel.  I won’t call it a cliffhanger because the story is too predictable to make me want to get the rest of the story.  I also felt the book could have been edited better.  The characters are cute and the plot decent enough.  If you’re interested, I’d get all three and read them right through.  Disappointing.  * *

Posted in Adult Book, Opinion, Romance | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Chapter, First Paragraph & Teaser Tuesday: An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

First Chapter, First Paragraph, is a meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.  Anyone can play — just copy the first paragraph of the first chapter (or prologue) and include a picture of the book cover. Leave your link at Bibliophile by the Sea.  Today’s intro and teaser are from a book I’ve started out of turn and may not be able to put down until I’m done.  I was first introduced to the infamous Dreyfus affair by Paulette Mahurin and her wonderful book, To Live Out Loud.  Now, hoping to possibly learn more or at least enjoy an author new to me and a story told from a different perspective, here is the opening from An Officer and a Spy:

‘Major Picquart to see the Minister of War . . .’

The sentry on the rue Saint-Dominique steps out of his box to open the gate and I run through a whirl of snow across the windy courtyard into the warm lobby of the hôtel de Brienne, where a sleek young captain of the Republican Guard rises to salute me. I repeat, with greater urgency: ‘Major Picquart to see the Minister of War . . .!’

We march in step, the captain leading, over the black and white marble of the minister’s official residence, up the curving staircase, past suits of silver armour from the time of Louis the Sun King, past that atrocious piece of Imperial kitsch, David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps at the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, until we reach the first floor, where we halt beside a window overlooking the grounds and the captain goes off to announce my arrival, leaving me alone for a few moments to contemplate something rare and beautiful: a garden made silent by snow in the centre of a city on a winter’s morning. Even the yellow centre of a city on a winter’s morning. Even the yellow electric lights in the War Ministry, shimmering through the gauzy trees, have a quality of magic.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, now being hosted by Ambrosia of  The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!  So, from the same book:

The day fades in the window. At seven, the bells of Our Lady of Rouen begin to peal — heavy and sonorous, the noise rolls across the river like a barrage, and when it stops, the sudden silence seems to hang in the air like smoke. p.120

Have you read this book?  Other books by Robert Harris?  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  Leave a comment and a link to your First Chapter, First Paragraph and/or Tuesday Teaser!  Thanks for coming by.


Posted in Adult Book, Historical Fiction, Meme, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments