Saturday, February 25, 2017

BOOK: Argo by Antonio Mendez

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez ( 9 h 28 min)
nararted by Dylan Baker

This was a rollicking great listen! And now I want to see the movie Ben Affleck made about this.

I can vaguely remember the incident in 1980: six Americans were hidden in the Canadian embassy, and eventually Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor got them out. There were still many other Americans still in the American embassy, held by Iranian students.

In this memoir, Antonio Mendez, a former CIA operative tells his (major) role in the caper. I found all the intelligence information very interesting, especially with all the Intelligence talk in the news lately. He was a 'art forger', which means he made documents. He describes many previous operations he was involved in, and how he ended up in the CIA. Eventually he is involved in trying to ferry the hidden Americans out of Iran, no easy task.

It appears that the CIA at the time, did not want any media notice of their involvement, so allowed Ken Taylor to get all the accolades. The movie and this book tell a different story now, but both sides took plenty of risks, and Taylor kept the Americans in his house for six weeks at great personal peril.

Great insight into the intelligence community (albeit, what they've decided to share here) and a look at moment in history that is still having repercussions today.

Dylan Baker, who played the evil, rich crazy murderer on The Good Wife does an excellent job narrating.

Friday, February 17, 2017

BOOK: The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner

The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner, 272 pages

review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada

Sometimes I have conflicting issues with amnesia stories. It can be an easy trope for authors to have information with held from the reader. This can conflict with my enjoyment of suspenseful thrillers. Luckily, both work well in this book. Actually, as amnesia stories go, this is one of the better ones.

Because it is hard to know how much to describe in a thriller, synopsis from Amazon:

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

Narrating the story in first person from Kyra's point of view really amped up the suspense since the reader only knows what Kyra finds out. As some snatches of memory return but with no context, Kyra begins to question what might be going on, and what might have happened. Then, she has to judge the answers she gets because she doesn't know who to really trust. 

As a reader, the amnesia issue means I am on guard all the time, knowing that there is some big reveal going to happen. It can be stressful to read a book like that, because I am looking for clues all the time and suspecting everyone! At times I'd be thinking No Kyra, that doesn't seem right! As you can see, I got invested in the plot and was happy with the speed at which things happened. I will say I was surprised with the ending and enjoyed the read, which went very quickly. The suspense and character development kept me on the edge of my reading seat.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

BOOK: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken, 380 pages

About a month ago, I borrowed a random audiobook in my quest to read more nonfiction, called 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Years of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis. I reviewed it here, but found it ultimately boring. In my review, I said I should have read an Al Franken book instead. (This was around the time of the Devos Education hearings, and Al impressed me.)

So I did. I found this older book, published in 2003 long before he became Senator Franken. How could you forget the title?  Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. As I started reading the book, I was wishing it was more recent. So much was focused on Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and George  W Bush. Other than Bush, those other guys are still commenting and around. With all the presidential news these days, Dubya has been fondly remembered, but this book brought back all the stuff about him in his day. Trump is still horrific, but Bush the younger was terrible too and the comparisons now have brightened his image. Good to be reminded of life from only 13 years ago.

The premise of the book is the conservative right saying that the media has a liberal bias, and Al attempts to refute that claim. Sadly, the divide between left and right has only grown since this book was written. Al does a terrific and hilarious job pointing out the hypocrisy and lies of the right. I'm not so naive enough to think he hasn't swung the pendulum farther to the left in his defense, but I didn't care. He is my kind of funny, (I always liked Stuart Smalley) and most of what he says fits in my narrative of life anyway. 

a few (timely) mentions that stood out -
page 188 On C-Span's Washington Journal that morning, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway, one of the Republican party's most loyal flaks,...

page 289 Of course he was lying. Or was he? Maybe [Hannity] was just confused. Sean may be evil, but he's not smart.

page 301 [in reference to the estate/death tax] Which is more important? Making sure Ivanka Trump will be able to live in the style to which she's grown accustomed even after The Donald has left our world?

Franken is funny and smart. The book impressed me, and his work in the Senate that I've seen recently does too. I'd definitely read another of his books. Funny, and I feel a bit smarter after reading it. And doggone it, people like me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BOOK: The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson, 180 pages

This was such a great book! Neil deGrasse Tyson, everyone's favourite astrophysicist*, has written a book (it's from 2009, so not recent, especially in scientific terms) about how Pluto got demoted, and his role in the controversy. I saw this marked down at Indigo and grabbed it up. I love reading about the story of Pluto and this will add to my classroom collection, including How I Killed Pluto, and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown, (review ) and some children's books I ordered from Scholastic.

Tyson has a great sense of humour and is able to make fun of himself and his role in the demotion. It actually started when he was hired to help produce a rebuilt Hayden Planetarium for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. (I would love to see this place!) As they try to demonstrate size in space, the oddball Pluto gets left out of a display because it is not a inner rock planet (like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) or an outer gaseous planet (like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune). It's an ice planet in the Kuiper belt and now we know there are a whole bunch more there.

Chapters called Pluto in Culture, Pluto in History, and Pluto in Science set the beginning. Then Pluto's Fall From Grace (due to the discovery of Eris) and Pluto Divides the Nation lead to Pluto's Judgment Day and finally, Pluto the Dwarf Planet. An updated chapter with the new pictures taken by the New Horizon's probe (launched in 2006) that flew by Pluto in 2015 would really add to the book.

There are lots of pictures, lots of letters from school kids sent to Tyson during the debate. Tyson lays out the different arguments fairly, even though his opinion is clear. This book was so thorough and easy to read, I highly recommend it!

*my opinion, but are there other astrophysicists in the running?**

**Maybe Fritz Zwicky, noted curmudgeon, lol

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BOOK: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, 280 pages

I'm a science girl. I was a chemistry major in university, and now I teach physics. Biology wasn't exactly my favourite subject but I appreciate the science of plants. I loved this book and have been telling all my science teacher friends about this book.

Interesting side fact: our high school science department is significantly female. At one point we had 1 male teacher out of about nine of us. We have another one or two males teaching some science courses now, but we are a department of Lab Girls.

Jahren is a geobiologist and the book covers many aspects. Her home life and how she became interested in science, her struggles with getting funding and setting up labs, life as a female scientist in a male dominated profession, her struggles with mental health, and the adventures she has with her long-time lab assistant Bill. As well, there are lovely short passages describing trees and all the life processes of trees. There is enough biology if you like that but not so much that it feels like a textbook. Underlying the biology is the love and passion Jahren has for her subject.

The writing was lovely throughout. The sections that dealt with her mental health and her pregnancy were so well done. She writes personally, but I didn't feel like the other people in her life were exploited in any way by her sharing. At one point, I was worried something terrible was going to happen to someone in her life (like a divorce, or death) but this is not that kind of book. She integrated the biology, the personal, and the professional so well that I could not state the main focus of the book, and I enjoyed all the parts.

A well-written book on any topic is a delight. It is why you can read a book on a topic that you don't usually read and enjoy it immensely. Hope Jahren is that kind of writer and I look forward to reading another book by her.

Here's a picture of the biggest tree on PEI, found in Victoria, PEI. Sorry there are no leaves but our trees spend a good portion of their lives dormant. You can read the book to understand that whole process in more detail.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BOOK: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Got Shot by the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai (9 h 55 min)

Such an inspiring book! Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls going to school in Pakistan. Her strength and intelligence was such a threat. Little did they realize that she would not be stopped, and her voice for girls eventually led her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Archie Punjabi, the wonderful actor from The Good Wife. What I really liked about the book was all the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan that led up to the Taliban rise and seeing how different yet the same families can be.

Malala's father was so courageous and supportive of his daughter, insisting that she be educated. Rather humbling to realize my first child was also born in 1997 like Malala. Our lives have been significantly less tumultuous.

Wonderful read with history, bravery, and feminism.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

BOOK: Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot

Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot, 270 pages

There are two getting over Edgar parts for Gwen in this story. First, her husband of twenty years up and leaves her with no warning. This throws poor passive Gwen into a tailspin. Forty years old and she hasn't worked, struggled with fertility and now her lawyer husband has abandoned her. This should be enough for a book, but Edgar ends up having bigger problems, what with his car getting stuck on the tracks and then struck by a train and then dying on Gwen only seven weeks after leaving her. (The book begins with the funeral, so none of this is a secret.)

Gwen has to deal with so many changes here - who she is, who Edgar actually was, why their life turned out the way it did. This makes it sound like an introspective book, but Gwen deals with these changes and her previous passivity by doing stuff. Picking up a much younger guy, David, the night of Edgar's funeral. Then getting rid of everything in her/their home, selling the home and hitting the road.

David's story, a slightly disturbed young man, also gets some background. He is quite strange inside but seemingly normal on the outside. Gwen and David's interaction has far reaching effects on both of them and most of the book looks at these repercussions.

This was a nice mix of story and character development, with some wry moments. I'm not sure what I think of either of Gwen or David, but their progression was interesting. It was a little convenient that Edgar the lawyer never got around to changing his will, so Gwen has no money issues.

I bought this book secondhand soon after reading Barfoot's Exit Lines, eight years ago. The cover at first glance always makes me think of a saxophone, but it is Edgar's fancy midlife car.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BOOK: 39 Years of Short Term Memory Loss by Tom Davis

39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Years of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis  (9 h 17 min)
read by the author

Tom Davis was part of a comedy pair, Franken and Davis that started in the late 1960s. Davis and Franken (yes, that Franken, Senator Al Franken) attended the same high school in Minnesota and came of age in the hippie '70s and were present at the beginning of Saturday Night Live.

I've never really heard of Davis and don't remember him from SNL, although he was primarily a writer. Near the end of the rambling, pointless book (more on that later), he reads a recent bio of Al Franken where Davis is virtually unmentioned. Paraphrasing the article: Franken was part of a comedy duo, known as an actor from SNL, here's a picture with 'a friend', running for senate. Davis seems a little upset by his non-recognition. I thought it wasn't surprising considering Franken and Davis had a bitter break up (they seem to be friendly now), and much of their growing different sensibilities could probably be traced back to the point where Al go married, had a child, and stopped hanging out and doing drugs all the time. Surprise! Franken grew more famous after stopping doing drugs all. the. time.

I was actually expecting a point where Davis would describe his rock bottom and how he stopped doing drugs, especially after chronicalling the death of John Belushi and Chris Farley. But nope. More stories about his friendships with Jerry Garcia, and Timothy Leary. He was a major Dead Head fan of the Grateful Dead.

Davis includes the emails he wrote to Franken while writing this book as Franken provided details which I assume Davis had no clue about due to all the drugs he did. Franken wrote the introduction and Davis does a remarkable job reading in Franken's voice.  All this book really made me think about was how much I'd like to read an Al Franken book, especially after seeing some of his work during the Senate confirmation hearings.

The book is just a bunch of random stories about people he knew and comedy sketches throughout his life. The sketches were funny, mostly, and Davis is still pretty proud of some of his funnier skits. The SNL stuff was the most interesting, hearing some of the behind the scenes stuff of the early years with Lorne Michaels and Dan Ackroyd.

But I couldn't sense the greater overall point of the story. He likes drugs. He wrote comedy. He knows a lot of famous people. (He didn't seem a fan of Mike Myers, who didn't seem impressed with the drug use of Davis when they met. Point for Myers, who I have recently written about gushingly.) I listened to it all, but eventually played it at 1.75X the speed just to get done. If you want a comedian's memoir from a SNL actor, try Martin Short or Mike Myers.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

BOOK: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
read by the author, 4 h 40 min

A raw, non linear memoir, covering many topics but primarily non-traditional family and pregnancy. Nelson is married to the artist Harry Dodge,a gender fluid trans man, inherits a step-son, and surprisingly to herself, wants to get pregnant.

Interspersed between the personal, are references to queer theory which Nelson debates or comments on.

“A day or two after my love pronouncement, now feral with vulnerability, I sent you the passage from Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes in which Barthes describes how the subject who utters the phrase “I love you” is like “the Argonaut renewing his ship during its voyage without changing its name.” Just as the Argo’s parts may be replaced over time but the boat is still called the Argo, whenever the lover utters the phrase “I love you,” its meaning must be renewed by each use, as “the very task of love and of language is to give to one and the same phrase inflections which will be forever new.”

The writing is dense, full of ideas and I easily would go back five or ten minutes to re-listen to a passage and still miss parts of the narrative. This might have been a book that the print version would have been more beneficial to me. I had to take my time to absorb the language.

Much thinking required, but Nelson's thinking is so different from my life experience, that I liked the parts I got. She is not afraid to discuss anything, and much was deeply personal. 

This book is from the list 40 New Feminist Classics. 5/40 read

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BOOK: Canada by Mike Myers

Canada by Mike Myers, 304 pages

Thank you Mike Myers.

You have written a wonderful book, a love letter of sorts, to Canada. For its 150th birthday! 

I so enjoyed this book. There are probably a number of reasons for this:

1. Mike Myers is awesome and funny. He is also so quintessentially Canadian - talented, funny, appreciative, humble. This is really what his book is about, what makes Canada, and what made Mike Myers.

2. Mike and I are both of a certain age (50ish) so he hits all my cultural markers of growing up in the seventies/eighties. That's also what the book is about - the era of the 'making of a great nation' from 1967-1976, when Canada came of age as a country, from Expo '67 to the Montreal Olympics.

3. Mike is famous. The section about his making it big drops a lot of names, and I almost forgot how big and funny he was. I mean, Wayne's World? Classic comedy. He also dishes about how Wayne's World, while set in Illinois, is really very Canadian, and he purposefully included all these Canadian references. 

4. Did I say he dishes? Not true. Myers is too nice to dish. He only has wonderful things to say, and if he was less than impressed with someone, he does not name names. This comes down to his innate goodness and wanting to look at the good side of things, and be appreciative of his opportunities. He periodically thanks Canadians as he talks about them in the book.

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I posted some pictures on Facebook as I was reading the book, wanting to share my fun. This Fitness Award badge generated lots of comments and memories. In the seventies, a government department promoted fitness  Participaction commercials and the Canadian Fitness Award. All students across Canada competed in 5 or 6 challenges and got bronze, silver, gold or award of excellence badges. (I never got an award of excellence fitness badge - the bar hang got me everytime down to bronze.)

Mike shared his memories of the Fitness Award in the book. The book is filled with pictures and random memories of growing up in Canada. (25 cent bags of Ketchup chips)

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The first part of the book contains all the cultural notices, things that make Canada Canada. Pictured above, Stompin' Tom Connors, and the Canadian Tire, aka Crappy Tire, logo. True fact: every Canadian has a drawer stuffed with Canadian Tire money. 

I'd be interested to hear what a non-Canadian thinks of this book. I have to say again, I loved this book. It reminded me of a cross between Martin Short's autobiography, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, and Douglas Coupland's more visual Souvenir of Canada.  

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Myers covers a lot in the book - his childhood, getting into show business, getting famous. Also, Canada and how the nation grew and evolved, the differences between Canada and US. Some political stuff - he was a huge fan of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and then he ends with Justin Trudeau, which is such a stark contrast to the politics in the States right now. (Sorry, says this Canadian)

Image may contain: textThanks again, Mike.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: 2016 Releases I Meant to Read (But TOTALLY Plan To)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Ten Books from 2016 Which I Meant to Read (But TOTALLY Plan To). I am taking the titles from some of those 'Best of 2016' lists, and trying to focus a little more on nonfiction for this year.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (and it is read by Cassandra Campbell!)

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Time Travel: A History by James Glieck

March: A Trilogy by John Lewis

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

So, have you read any of these? Plan to? 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

BOOK: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert  ( 12 h, 59 min, read by the author)

When you don't read a book when it first comes out and everyone raves about it, then you don't read it when everyone starts criticizes many aspects of it and it gets so much backlash; when you wait that long, and read it, it falls somewhere in the middle of love and backlash.

I think this critique (Spoiled Little Rich Girl or Brave Woman?) sums up my feelings about the book. There are aspects of the book which feel self-indulgent - I don't want kids, I don't want to be married, who am I?, I'll travel the world! (with a book deal). But overall, who wouldn't like that opportunity - move to a country, by yourself and learn something new. And while I imagine it would be cool, I'm not the kind of person who could or would do that. But reading about someone else doing it is kinda cool, cool by association. That is why I like reading about other places and other people - to imagine what it would be like to do that or to be there.

Summary: girl gets divorced, feels crappy. Goes to Italy, and eats pasta, learns Italian. Moves to India, lives in an ashtam, eventually gets her brain to shut up so she can meditate; heads to Bali and makes some great friends and finds love even though she wasn't looking for it. Then Julia Roberts plays her in the movie.

I had bought the book at a book sale, but ended up listening to an audiobook from the library. When I listen to a book really quickly, I know I liked the book quite a bit. The author read it and  I think it helped, hearing how she laughed, and getting her perspective on conversations. It was a great book to start the year off with, and helps me with my informal goal of reading more nonfiction this year.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

CHALLENGE: My List at the Library

Last year I made up a challenge called Once and Again to read that second book by an author whose first book I thoroughly enjoyed. I had great success and read almost all 6 books I picked out. I was going to do it again, but realized I set too particular parameters, leaving out the third or fourth book, or even the first by an author.

What I really want to do is read those books I had placed on my Library List. Does your library have this? I can place books I want to read, or have read a great review of (thanks friends!) on a digital list. Not requested or anything, just my own personal TBR. There are books on that list now that I have no idea where I heard of them!

Libraries! What would I do without my library! I search and check there first, I can List it, or request it. Plus, PEI is so small, that all the branch libraries are part of the whole Provincial Library Services, so the catalog includes all the books in the province. I can see in which library the book I want is located. I can pick it up at that library if it is close, or request it and they mail it to my base library. Actual snail mail! Our book club reads nearly all our books from Book Club Kits available from the library.

So, here are the books that called out to me the most from my library list that I hope to read by the end of 2017. Join me if you want - read books from your library!

Wild Dogs by Helen Humphreys

Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Slammerkin and/or Landing by Emma Donaghue

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

Glass Harmonica by Russell Wangersky

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta

Mr Clarinet by Nick Stone

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten (or so) Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is supposed to be Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half of 2017. However, I never did get my Best of 2016 list posted, so here we go:

Number of Books Read = 118
Number of Audiobooks = 56
Number of Female/Male Authors =  73/45
Fiction/Nonfiction =  102/16

Best Mystery
The Trespasser by Tana French

Honourable Mentions Best Mystery (because I read a lot of mysteries)
Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridasson
The Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe

Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Best Start to a Series
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Best End to a Series
End of Watch by Stephen King

Best Historical Mystery
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Best Recommended Book
The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

Best Childrens
Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge by Monica Kulling

Best Young Adult
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart

Favourite Characters
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy
The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Best Book by a New to Me Author
The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Best Historical Fiction
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Best  Book by a Tried and True Author
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
The Wonder by Emma Donaghue
A God in Ruin by Kate Atkinson

Best Epic Apocalyptic
The Fireman by Joe Hill

Best Short Story Collection
Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Best Short Story
The Grown-Up by Gillian Flynn

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Most Heartbreaking
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Runner up Most Heartbreaking
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Creepiest Novel
Her by Harriet Lane

Most Unique Book
The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Best Audiobook
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Best Nonfiction
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steven Sheinkin

Best Debut Book
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Monday, January 2, 2017

ETC: First Book of the Year


Sheila at  is hosting a First Book of the Year event, which seems like a fantastic idea!

Reading: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Listening: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: Italian Spumoni Cookies

Welcome to December 15th of the Advent Tour!   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!

Christmas baking is something I enjoy. Sometimes, if I'm lucky and prepared, I might get a storm day in early December. Prepared in that I've picked up the ingredients, like butter or cherries, that I might need for Christmas baking and lucky in that I get a day to do the baking. Part of Christmas baking is making the ole standbys, which for me is Frying-Pan Cookies, Almond Bark, and Gum-Drop Cake. Maybe a shortbread cookie. Maybe fudge. (My dad would be happy if all I gave him for Christmas was fudge, lol)

But it is also fun to try a new fancy treat, and this year, I found this recipe for Italian Spumoni Cookies, at Pinterest. The original recipe comes from The Gold Lining Girl. I remember having Spumoni ice cream when I was young, and my mother making a Spumoni Baked Alaska. Spumoni seems to be like a neopolitan - with cherry, almond, and pistachio flavours. Theses cookies have all three layers, and turned out quite spectacularly! I like making a cookie that has to chill in the fridge, which stretches out the time factor, but makes two easier days - one to mix, and one to bake. 

I think these will go into the regular Christmas rotation. mmm


Italian Spumoni Cookies:

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. chopped maraschino cherries, drained
2-3 drops red food coloring
1/3 c. chopped pistachio nuts
3 tbsp. pistachio pudding mix
2-3 drops green food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, egg, and the extracts. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat until well-blended. Divide dough into thirds. Add chopped maraschino cherries and red food coloring to one of the thirds. Mix well by hand. Add pistachio nuts, pistachio pudding mix, and green food coloring to another third of the dough. Mix well by hand. 

Shape each third of dough on separate sheets of lightly floured wax paper into logs approximately 1 1/2 inch in diameter and approximately 16 inches long. Flatten each log into a rectangle approximately 3-4 inches wide. You will have 3 rectangles of 4×16. Layer the dough on a single piece of plastic food wrap by lining up the rectangles and flipping them one on top of the other. Start with pistachio as the bottom layer, flip the plain layer on top of pistachio, and flip the maraschino cherry layer on top of the plain layer. Wrap securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

Cut the rectangle widthwise with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool completely.

Yield: Approximately 30 cookies

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half of 2017

I wonder if this is meant to be about books that are coming out new in 2017. I never am really aware of any of these, except for ongoing series books, and most of those seem to come out in the fall. Instead, I've got old list books I have meant to get to, so these are books that I've been meaning to read for a long time, and hopefully will get to next year.

books in continuing series:
Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear (#12 in Maisie Dobbs)

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (#8 in Royal Spyness, plus #9, #10)
I'm hoping to get this series caught up in 2017

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason

books I'm waiting in line for:

A Man Called Ove  by Fredrik Backman (audiobook)

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (audiobook)

backlist books by favourite authors:

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Slammerkin and/or Landing by Emma Donaghue

How to Start a Fire or The Passenger by Lisa Lutz 

Glass Harmonica by Russell Wangersky

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta

I'm looking forward to everyone elses' lists to see what great new books might be coming out in 2017.

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.