Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Reads: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I look forward to new book releases every week...but this particular book - well, I've had it's release date on my calendar since the moment it was announced.  I pre-ordered the book as early as I could and I downloaded it the second I woke up last Tuesday.   So to say I was excited for the last installment of Deborah Harkness's All souls Trilogy would be an extreme understatement.  Breathlessly awaiting is more like it.

In case you have no clue what I am talking about - here are my reviews for the first two books in the trilogy.   They are some of the most intelligent, creative and well-written fiction I have read in years.   If you haven't started reading them yet - you NEED to.

A Discovery of Witches | Shadow of Night

In this third instalment, Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont are about to become parents - to twins.  Something that should be impossible between a vampire and a witch but that appear completely plausible for this unique pair.   They are still searching for the missing pages from the Book of Life.   Add to this that Matthew needs to resume his work to find a cure for the blood rage which he struggles daily to control and the introduction of one of Diana's old colleagues who is ready to help with the genetic research to do so.  Then there is that little matter of trying to stop one of Matthew's rogue "children" from his own scientific experiments on witches.  

The book takes place all over the world: London, New York, Connecticut, France, Poland, Venice.   If we thought we had a glimpse at the world of the de Clermonts before - it was nothing compared to what is revealed in this book.  And the answers that are discovered to all of their questions put an ultimate test to everything they believed about both science and magic.

I feel like I can't say too much, for fear of spoilers.  Perhaps all you really need is the jacket description:
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.   
I wasn't sure that Diana and Matthew's story was one that could be summed up in three books, but Harkness has done a great job tying up the lose ends for them.  She leaves the readers with a sense that "Happily Ever After" has it's own definition for everyone and that the time has come for their story to live on outside the lines.

The wrap up was well worth the two years wait.  I can't wait to see what Harkness will put out next.  She has truly cemented herself as one of my favourite authors.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Reads; Landline by Rainbow Rowell

After reading Fangirl, Eleanor & Park and Attachments - I was beyond excited as I anticipated the release of Rainbow Rowell's latest.  The fact that it came out on an exceptionally hard week for me made it pretty much the only good thing that happened last week...

Georgie McCool is a comedy writer on a popular television series.  When the opportunity of a lifetime comes up for her and her writing partner - the possibility of their very own show - she is over the moon.  Except for one thing...she has just a few days to write four scripts...and those four days overlap her planned family vacation to her in-laws Omaha...for Christmas.

Her husband, Neil, barely blinked an eye.  He simply announced that the trip was still on - he'd take the kids and go without her.  Calm as can be - Georgie is left to wonder if she still has a marriage.  Her career has beenher life...the family and home has been Neil's.   That he would walk away so easily puts her into a tailspin.  At a time when her career needs her attention to make her dream come true - her personal life appears to be falling apart and taking her with it.

Georgie ends up at her mother's house for dinner one night and ends up staying over.  because of her unreliable cell battery, she plugs her old landline telephone into the wall under her bed and dials Neil to try to talk things over.  What she doesn't expect is that Neil of 15 years earlier answers the phone!  It is as if she has a magic portal to her husband that happens to fall in the time of their last "separation" - the week before he proposed.

Now Georgie is faced with the possibility that everything she says or does on these calls affecting her entire life up until where she is now.  Is it worth saving her marriage before it even begins?  And if so - is it too late to save the marriage in it's current state?

I love Rainbow Rowell's writing style.  She has a way of writing these incredibly REAL characters in an incredibly REAL life and adding a little quirk or twist that brings the story to such enjoyable life.  I loved the magic to this story that helps her characters bring everything into perspective and to realize that every family has its own disfunctions...and that's what makes them awesome.

Highly recommended.

As an added bonus for you guys, the kind folks at Macmillan Audio have offered up an audioclip of the book so you can have a little sneak peak...enjoy:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three Things Thursday

Well - I guess that counts as vanishing for a bit...between work and home, life is more than a little bit insane right now...and last week was rough.  This week is slightly better so that's something.

I could do without the month of July.  Ever.  It is so freaking hot here and I am very much not cut out for it.   As icing on the cake - there are so many wildfires right now that we are under this perpetual smoky haze.   I'm happy that the smoke isn't as bad at home - east of the city - but in Calgary it is definitely bad (though not as bad as my team mates in Edmonton have it with the falling ash).

1) The Boot.

Well - I'm finally in one of these.

Dr. Dale figures that my whole shin bone is just far too tender and it needs the extra support/cushion this thing can provide.  I'm sick of it being broken so I was ready to be slapped in one.  A coworker equated it to a dog cone - to keep me from licking my wounds (er, I mean over extending myself physically)

It is surprisingly well ventilated for the +30C we have right now.  I pretty much just need to wear it when I am at work, out and about or whatever.  I have been taking it off at home for the most part just to be safe.  We have too many stairs and the risk of me ending up sprawled on the ground at the bottom of them is just too great.

I have been wearing it almost a week and I hate to be overly optimistic before having a follow up visit, but I do notice that my leg is no longer stinging.  THAT has to be good news on the break-front.  It might just be a case of "it feels so darn good when I stop" (wearing the thing).

On a side note - the brand name on this thing is Ossur...these are the same people who make boingy running feet.  So if this doesn't work out - maybe it will be easy to transfer me into a pair of those...since we already know my size...

2) The Hound

Cancerhound had an emergency visit to the vet last week when he had a lump on his side get infected.  They tested it and, sure enough, found more cancer cells.

It has been 4 years now since the first mast cell tumour was removed.  This one is significantly smaller but still a tumour. They want to bring in a specialist to perform surgery on him and we are not sure we can put our 9 year old dog through another year of cancer treatment.   Lots of decisions to be made...we're just not ready to make them quite yet.  

In the meantime - he gets to spend time stoned on painkillers until the worst of the wound is passed.

Poor sick Bubba

3) The Vacation

I am getting very excited about the trip to Vancouver in just over 2 weeks!  It won't be much of a vacation, per se, since I'll be working hard at my bridesmaidsly duties, but it will be nice to get away with hubby for a week and just enjoy one of my favourite cities for a bit.  And to see my best friend get married will be awesome!  Very much looking forward to it!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Reads: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

When Holly, a young, overweight widow, sat down next to Logan on that plane, his groan was nearly audible.  He was officially stuck next to the fat chick.  But something about her attitude and wry wit about addressing the elephant in the plan made him offer his services to her.  Logan, you see, was a personal trainer to the stars and known for getting results.  If Holly was willing to put herself through his paces - he would have a project on his hands.  

As the months go on and Holly transforms before their eyes, Logan starts to take more than a professional interest in her and their intense workouts start to take place both in the gym and in the bedroom.   Holly isn't Logan's "type" in any sense of the word, yet he can't get her out of his mind!  And Logan appears to be just the thing to get Holly out of her rut of sadness and guilt following her husband's death.

In classic chick-lit fashion - Logan makes a faux pas and Holly shuts down and he has to work his butt off to win her back.

All in all, a predictable chick-lit, but still really entertaining to read this story about a funny underdog heroine teaching a movie star-gorgeous playboy what it means to love.   I enjoyed it - even if there were no wizards or magic in it.  This one would make a great vacation read for any chick-lit fan.  For a first novel - Stephanie Evanovich has set the bar pretty high.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stop, you damn wagon...

I have been a sloth for too long.  I'm amazed my weight hasn't packed itself on, but my clothes are tighter so I know I'm losing muscle and having it replaced.  I'm desperate to move.  To find some way to exercise through this stupid STUPID fracture.  Yet, everything I do hurts.


Four freaking months in.   Probably 5 months since it actually happened.  How much longer could this fucking thing keep me down?

Today was a prime example.  I have had this thought that maybe I could get my training brain back on in a different gear.  Maybe I could go back to cycling like I was when I was first diagnosed.  Maybe I could at least train at a slow speed to do a bike race.  My brain was lit up with the possibilities.  It wouldn't be running, but it would be something.  Something to help me as a stress release and let me claw my way back onto the wagon.

I headed down to the gym at work with a friend.  I set myself up with a short show on netflix and reined myself in...I was going to do this slow and not push myself.  It was rehab - not cardio.

Yeah - it didn't last long.   My left ankle is stiff...and my shin just couldn't handle the pedalling.  I kept going for 15 minutes...just 3 miles...and had to call it quits.   My shin killed.  and my hopes at a cycling revolution were dashed...for now.

I am having a bit of luck with some kettlebell swinging.  It doesn't hurt (well, aside from the DOMS) and at least I am doing something.

I wish that wagon would slow down.  At least dangle a carrot in front of me so I can keep moving.  Unfortunately, the carrots all seem pretty rotten right now.  And I am so sad to not be moving.  I really hope the wagon doesn't get too far ahead of me because I am not relishing the idea of starting over if I ever heal.

Does anyone know of a way I can move that will leave my lower body out of the equation?  Please do share.  I'm so tired of being stationary.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Reads: The Pilgrims by Will Elliott

This was a book that kept popping up everywhere I looked - asking me to read it.  Begging me to give it a chance.  I bought it right before I left on my vacation, but didn't get a chacne to read it until after we were home again.  Once I opened it - it was hard for me to put it down.  The story just kept hauling me in again and again.

From the dustjacket:
Eric Albright is a twenty-six-year-old journalist living in London. That is to say he would be a journalist if he got off his backside. But this luckless slacker isn’t all bad—he has a soft spot for his sometimes friend Stuart Casey, the homeless old drunk who mostly lives under the railway bridge near his flat. Eric is willing to let his life just drift by…until the day a small red door appears on the graffiti-covered wall of the bridge, and a gang of strange-looking people—Eric's pretty sure one of them is a giant—dash out of the door and rob the nearby newsagent. From that day on Eric and Case haunt the arch, waiting for the door to reappear.
When it does, both Eric and Case choose to go through…to the land of Levaal. A place where a mountain-sized dragon with the powers of a god lies sleeping beneath a great white castle. In the castle the sinister Lord Vous rules with an iron fist, and the Project, designed to effect his transformation into an immortal spirit, nears completion. But Vous's growing madness is close to consuming him, together with his fear of an imaginary being named Shadow. And soon Eric may lend substance to that fear. An impossibly vast wall divides Levall, and no one has ever seen what lies beyond. Eric and Casey are called Pilgrims, and may have powers that no one in either world yet understands, and soon the wall may be broken. What will enter from the other side? 
Pilgrims is no ordinary alternate-world fantasy; with this first volume in The Pendulum Trilogy, Will Elliott's brilliantly subversive imagination twists the conventions of the alternate-world fantasy genre, providing an unforgettable visionary experience.

I LOVED THIS BOOK!  From the tentative first pages grew a fairly original story.  I seriously had trouble putting it down and would usually read until my eyes wouldn't stay open.  I will admit that some of the scenes felt clumsy - particularly anything sexual - but the scenes never lasted long.  They just felt like they were written by someone trying something new.   There were a couple of times during the book where I had to ask myself where this was going, but it always got back on track fairly quickly and I would be towed through the words once more.  

Character development seemed a bit oddly done...with information suddenly being filled in later in the book after I already felt like I knew the character, but this wasn't a drawback for me.  I tend to prefer fantasy stories with great world development where the characters play off the world more so than where I am given so much information about them that I no longer feel a connection.  This one felt like the world was developed really well and the characters merely supported the world.

If you like fantasy - particularly alternate world fantasies - with a quest thrown in - I think you should give this one a try.  It is a colourful, imaginative read.  Plenty of quirks and an engaging story that I am looking forward to continuing to read as the next books are released.