Tuesday, December 6, 2016

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: The Lights of My Town

Welcome to December 7th of the Advent Tour, and welcome to PEI! I'm so pleased that spritewrites has decided to host and organize the tour again this year. There is still time to join in and add a Holiday post if you want to share some of your traditions. Even if all the days get picked, more than one post per day is even more fun!

I love driving around and seeing the Christmas lights up and decorating the streets. The pictures do not do justice to how wonderful they look, but I tried!

Downtown Charlottetown has been decorated for a long number of years with large lighted figures. Here is our wonderful Confederation Center of the Arts lit up. Confed Center is home to my library, and also the Anne of Green Gables musical, plus the art gallery and is where we host our high school prom. CCoA is also next door to Province House, the birthplace of Canada. It's a wonderful spot to walk around, inside and out and we are lucky to have such a nationally important structure in our little city. I snapped this picture around 5 pm, and it felt darker outside than this picture suggests.

Next, I took a walk around my neighbourhood. Usually, nearly all the houses are decorated and lit up, but we have already had snow, and it seems like it is sticking around. Some years we don't even have snow for Christmas. The stormy weather has probably put a crimp in the plans of some people. It is still just the first week of December.

It was a lovely night to walk around the block and admire the neighbours' houses. Lots of houses are simply decorated: a wreath, a garland, and nice floodlight to highlight the front.

I am often drawn to houses with a simple white light theme. December gets so dark so early, especially after the time change, so the lights, which come on around 5 or 6 pm, brighten up the dark evenings, giving some hope of brighter days coming.

This is new! I saw two houses on my walk with this overall multi-coloured lighting. The lights are moving which adds an extra dimension. The snowman is a bit droopy, but he picked up his head soon after.

I love this house and how they let the house be the star of the show. Each window, including the side of the house and the garage, have a set of candle-lights. The large Snowman, Carolers, and Santa have been but out for as long as I can remember. Would they have to go around and turn on all the candles individually? Dedicated!

Some houses already have their tree up and lit. These bushes are lit with coloured lights and more window candles. Too much snow for this early in December.

Here is our house! A few bushes, a set of white light branches, and the floodlights.  I think my door is too dark for the pine swag to show up very well.

This is our third Christmas in the house. The first year, my husband got the lights all set up but couldn't figure out how to get them to light up, as the outside front plug/outlet didn't seem to work. It took a while, and my youngest who had investigated all the light switches in the house, to discover the switch in the front closet which controls the outside lights. Genius! We can turn the lights on and off with out going outside.

Thanks for stopping by again this year. Having the Virtual Advent Tour is now a tradition at Christmas for me. Here's my past posts:
In 2015, I shared my Christmas decorations in our new home
In 2014, there was no tour
In 2013, I shared a Christmas series of novellas by Anne Perry that I listened in audio
In 2012, I posted some favourite Christmas mystery  books
In 2011, I posted a 'recipe' for fruitcake that my grandmother had given me.
In 2010, I took a humorous look at some local events on Prince Edward Island.
In 2009, we played 'guess the carol'
In 2008, I played a game of 'guess the movie', and my favorite Christmas picture ever.
In 2007, it was the original 'guess the carol' game, with your vocabulary tested, and my whipped shortbread cookie recipe.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: New to Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016. I find it hard to make a list for the year when the year isn't over yet. What if I find my new favourite author in the next few weeks? I guess it is a chance I have to take. I read a good number of new authors this year. (around 45) and it was easy to pick a top ten. These are authors I would definitely read again, and in one case, already read the second book this year.

Kent Haruf 
I read Our Souls at Night, a delightful story of an elderly couple who decide to 'sleep' together to combat the loneliness they experience.

Next up: The Plainsong trilogy, Plainsong, Eventide, Benedition

 Lauren Groff 
I listened to Fates and Furies on audiobook and loved the play on narrative perspective. This is also listed on the  40 New Feminist Classics over at LitHub.

Next Up: The Monsters of Templeton, or Arcadia

Anita Rau Badami  
Badami's book, The Hero's Walk was one of the Canada Reads nominees this year and finished second. I was just getting ready to read it when I heard the author speak at out library and she sold me even before I read it. I ended up loving it, and her take on an ordinary hero.

Next up: Tamarind Mem, Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, or Tell it to the Trees

Jill Alexander Essbaum  
I listened to Hausfrau and also loved it. The main character is a housewife in Switzerland trying to deal with the numbness she feels in her life. You might have a hard time liking her, but if it was a man who was having this crisis, liking him wouldn't be the focus of discussion.

Next up: wait for a second novel. Essbaum has a few books of poetry if you are interested (I'm not)

Robert Galbraith 
I know I am kind of cheating, as I've read all of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books, but Galbraith is named a different author and this series is very different. Rowling can definitely write mysteries and I already have the next book ready to read before the end of the year. I'm not rushing too much as I understand the third book ends in a cliffhanger...

Next up: The Silkworm, and Career of Evil

Melina Marchetta  
I listened to On the Jellicoe Road and while I liked it, I suspect I would have loved the print version. There were many layers, and narratives going on. Excellent young adult book.

Next up: Finnikin on the Rock, or Saving Francesca

Rainbow Rowell - 
Eleanor & Park is worth the hype. I adored Eleanor and Park as two misfit teenagers who find love. I've already read Fangirl, and would definitely look for another. 

Next up: Attachments or Landline 

Graham Moore 
Last Days of Night is based on a true story of a lawyer who fought against Edison, who was fighting everyone. Nikola Tesla plays a big role, but law types would enjoy this as much as scientists for the restructuring of law offices that develops. 

Next up:  The Sherlockian, or watch The Imitation Game (Moore was the screenwriter)

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney  
A bunch of nasty, greedy siblings are fighting over  their inheritance, or Nestegg. Everyone has great plans and secrets hinging on The Nest

Next up: since Sweeney is a debut author, guess we are waiting for a new book

Amy Stewart 
First of all, I adore this cover. Second of all, great story! Three sisters try to get by on their own in 1910s upstate New York but they run afoul of a local mob-wannabe. Girl Waits With Gun is the start of a great new series.

Next up: Lady Cop Makes Trouble

Did you read any of these new to me authors? Any reccs based on these authors?

Monday, November 28, 2016


Week 5: (Nov 28 – Dec 2) – (Lory
New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Nonfiction November was a lot of fun! I wish I had read more nonfiction this month. I managed to listen to Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and I read We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, two books I've been meaning to read for a while.

There were so many great nonfiction books highlighted around the blogs. Here's a few that I managed to take note of, including where I read about it

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren @ doing dewey

When Breath Becomes Air by by Paul Kalanathi @ Lakeside Musings

Bad Feminist, Missoula, and Tiny Beautiful Things. @ the paperback princess

Lindy West’s Shrill, also Tiny Beautiful Things @ rivercityreading

 by  Rebecca Traister (I can't remember where I saw this one, I think I saw it in several places)

As You Wish by Cary Elwes @ kelly at The Written World

Thanks for all the hosts who kept this month of nonfiction all organized. Hope to see everyone next year again.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Week 4: (Nov 21 – 25) – (Julz

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I'd like to do all three but I'll just stick to being the expert. I'll have fun visiting all the other posts and get my recc's on a topic from that. Which will then cause me to make a list of books on a topic I'd like to read.

I teach high school physics and one of my favourite sections to teach about is space and universal gravitation. It's the chapter I am in the middle of right now, so these books are on my mind. Here are some very readable books about space.

The Planets by Dava Sobel

Sobel takes each of the planets and writes a chapter from a different aspect of popular culture - mythology, music, history, poetry, astrology. Wonderful book!

How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown

The scientific process at its best: new information comes to light, makes scientists look at the model, and adjustments are made. Mike Brown found the planet that caused the definition of planet to be looked at and ultimately caused Pluto to be demoted to 'dwarf planet'. 
The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space: 42 Questions (and Answers) about Life, the Universe and Everything by Jim Lebans

Nice guide to space, with each of the 42 questions (get the reference?) getting an answer. For example: Where does space begin? (100km above Earth) Can I run fast and jump into orbit? (theoretically, but not really) What moons are worth visiting? ( Jupiter's Europa, and Saturn's Titan might be very interesting) and How fast are we moving through space? (it's all relative to what else is moving, but pretty fast)

Bonus topic: 
Smart, Feminist Memoirs is topic that I expect someone else will mention. These three books kind of go together, written by funny television women. I listened to all three of these books and can highly recommend the audiobook versions of these books. All are read by the authors, and are smart and funny women from relatively stable childhoods. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Yes, Please! by Amy Poeler

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Sunday, November 20, 2016

BOOKS: Boys! on audio

There was a theme to the titles of a number of the books I downloaded for YA Sync this summer...

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan ( 6h 1 min)

An imagined ideal world, where LGBT kids in high school are accepted and take an active role in school life and culture. So the star quarterback can be Infinite Darlene, a trans girl, the cheerleaders ride motorcycles, and everything is positive. Within that, regular high school angst - friendships having trouble, trying to find the new boyfriend, problems with parents. The full cast recording is well done.
From my experience in as a high school teacher, at my school, openly gay students have been elected to student council and the trans kids are visible and involved. This is not to say that everything is smooth or perfect, but gay couples go to prom together with seemingly little stir, from the teacher's perspective. We are on our way...

The Boy Born Dead: A Story of Friendship, Courage and Triumph by David Ring
Ring is a Christian motivational speaker who also has severe celebral palsy. The story is told from his friend David Widemark's point of view when they meet in high school. Tolerance, looking beyond the superficial, and accepting people for who they are - lots of good in this book.  I can respect their born-again Christian lifestyle, but it isn't always what I want to read about. There were some disturbing aspects to Ring's home life and he was routinely bullied, but his ability to overcome the obstacles in his life and to remain a decent guy is admirable.

This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

A memoir of a troubled teenage life by an author. Wolff was one of the first memoir books that started the memoir craze in the 1990s. This was also made into a movie in 1993 starring Leonardo diCaprio and Robert deNiro. I'm not too sure what I thought of this one. I listened to it intermittently, and didn't feel the need to listen continuously. A teenage boy and his mother move cross country to the Pacific Northwest be with her new boyfriend, who was horrible. His other brother lived with their father, which was weird. Nobody was very good. Wolff gets in all kinds of trouble, lies to get into a private school, gets out of trouble all the time. Just not my demographic (Wolff was born in 1940s) and I didn't get any great life lesson from it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is a Movie Freebie -- If we make TBR lists for books, how about a To-Be-Watched list of movies? I really don't watch a lot of movies so it was a little tough. I broke it up into two categories -  movies and documentaries, but it turns out nearly all of my movies are based on true stories. (Bridget feels real to me though!)

Movies I Wanted to See

The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

Saving Mr Banks
Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen.

Bridget Jones's Baby
Bridget's focus on single life and her career is interrupted when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch ... she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby's father.

The Imitation Game
During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.

Florence Foster Jenkins 
The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

In honour of Nonfiction November, and after a perusal of Netflix, here are some documentaries I would like to see:

Hoop Dreams
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

An in-depth look into the exploding subculture of sneaker collecting and the widespread influence it has had on popular culture around the world.

Adopted from South Korea, raised on different continents & connected through social media, Samantha & Anaïs believe that they are twin sisters separated at birth.

Trophy Kids
The growing obsession of parents in the scholastic athletic competition of their children is the focus of this installment in HBO Sports innovative documentary series.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Week 3: (Nov 14 – 18) – (Sarah

Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Here are two books I listened to this year that have Russia in common. I haven't read many books set in Russia, but they ones I have always make me realize that Russia is a very different country. So different. I read a lot of books from a British/North American background which informs my life experiences. Even books set in Africa are more relatable for me, which may be due to colonial influences. 

But Russian books, and this started for me with Edward Rutherford's Russka, and the people depicted are just foreign. Obviously, the more I read the less different they seem, but it always stands out to me.

Both books (and probably all Russian books) deal with the Communist regime, and the fall out from those policies. The level of totalitarism needed to maintain the government provides so much content - both fiction and nonfiction.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad - MT Anderson (YA Sync audiobook)

Most WW2 books I've read are set in France during the Occupation, or maybe London during the Blitz (I've read a lot of those!) so reading about the long three years when the Germans and the Russians were frozen in Leningrad was eye-opening. 

The book tells the story of a famous composer, Shostakovich and his love of Russia and the Russian people. He wrote commissioned songs for the government, but he also tried to appeal to the people. He was beloved by common Russians.

The stories of how people survived (or didn't) during the siege are horrific. Starvation is not pretty, and of course, as I learned watching Titantic, there are many ways to die in a disaster.

Telling the story of the siege through one famous person's experience was a nice personal touch to make the history come to life.

The Tsar of Love and Techno - Anthony Marra (audiobook)

I listened to this back in March and quite enjoyed it. I am partial to short stories, and this book was even better - short stories that are connected, but you don't realize they are connected until all of a sudden, a character shows up that you've already met. I realized it was going to be that kind of book. Awesome. 

The timeline is from 1930s Leningrad all the way through to present day, with much of it in Chechyna and covering some war times. Generations dealing with the years of KGB and Lenin and Stalin. 

Also, isn't the cover pretty?

(I copied the following summary of the stories from LT to help me remember this book)

An artist responsible for removing people from history.
Two ballerinas separated by a generation.
A quietly defiant man in love with a scarred and blind woman.
Two Russian prisoners of war.
Two young brothers living in a forest of metal.
A woman who was responsible for the execution of her own mother.
Young men seeking to avoid the war, and a father who will save his son by any means.

These are the characters that make up these stories.