Sunday, 28 August 2016

Book ~ "Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them" (2014) Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton

From Goodreads ~ Why did you get that tattoo?

Every tattoo tells a story, whether the ink is meaningful or the result of a misguided decision made at the age of fourteen, representative of the wearer’s true self or the accidental consequence of a bender. These most permanent and intimate of body adornments are hidden by pants legs and shirttails, emblazoned on knuckles, or tucked inside mouths. They are battle scars and beauty marks, totems and mementos.

"Pen & Ink" grants us access to the tattoos - and the stories behind them - of writers Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay; rockers in the bands Korn, Otep and Five Finger Death Punch; and even a porn star. But it also illuminates the tattoos of the ordinary people living in our midst - from professors to thrift store salespeople, cafe owners to librarians, union organizers to administrators - and their extraordinary lives.

I think tattoos are cool ... I'm usually curious as to what they mean and what led the person to get that particular one.  Gord and I went to the TATTOOS: Ritual. Identity. Obsession. Art exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in July and it was fabulous.

This book is an assortment of tattoos of a cross section of different people along with the stories behind them.  I found most of the stories interesting ... they were touching, funny, etc.  The tattoos were illustrated ... I would have rather they be photographs so I could see the real thing.  Also, I found the handprinted/written descriptions annoying, especially when the story was long as it was sometimes hard to read.  I'm sure a funky font could have been used to keep the spirit of the book.

Here are some examples:

I can dig it!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Leslieville Beer Fest, Toronto, ON

After Gord and I did the Lost Breweries of Old Toronto Walk, we headed to the Leslieville Beer Fest.  It was on Dundas Street E between Logan Avenue and Carlaw Avenue.


It was from 1pm to 8pm (we got there about 4:30pm).  We'd bought our tickets last month ... they were $20 and included a glass and three sampling tickets.  Additional sampling tickets were $1.25 for four ounces.


There was a DJ playing tunes.


The beer selection was good.  Here's what I had ...

Sling Shot by Radical Road

Lost Breweries of Old Toronto Walk, Toronto, ON

This afternoon Gord and I did the Lost Breweries of Old Toronto walk with Heritage Toronto.

Toronto has a rich and malty brewing history. Join noted beer expert and writer Jordan St. John, author of Lost Breweries of Toronto, as he walks you through the brewing history of Old Town. You’ll learn about Toronto’s heritage breweries, many of which still exist today.

There were 25 of us (it was an "enhanced" walk so a smaller group) and we started at the NW corner of Queen Street E and Sherbourne Street ... it would have been just north of the city of York (now Toronto) back in the day.  Jordan St. John was our guide and he provided us with a lot of interesting information.


We headed south down Sherbourne Street.

The former site of one of Toronto's first breweries, Henderson's (1800) -
Sherbourne Street and Richmond Street E
I found it ironic to pass by a huge beer sign
while on a beer tour

Book ~ "Silver Threads" (2016) Bette Lee Crosby

From Goodreads ~ On the day Jennifer Green was born, a pile of stones was placed alongside her scale of life. A few were the dark gray of sorrow but most were a pale blush color. The largest stone was the rose hue of a sunrise. That one would be placed on the scale the day she married Drew Bishop. Even more brilliant but a wee bit smaller was the pink stone glistening with specs of silver. That one would bring Jennifer a baby girl named Brooke. The Keeper of the Scale smiled. Seeing such happiness laid out before him was pleasing to his eye.

Since the beginning of time, he and he alone has been challenged with the task of keeping each person’s scale in balance. A bit of happiness and then a small stone of sorrow, until the lives he has in his charge are measured evenly.

You might think such power is universal, but it is not. There are silver threads that crisscross the landscape of scales and connect strangers to one another. Not even the Keeper of the Scale can control the events traveling through those threads; the only thing he can do is try to equalize the balance once it has been thrown off. There is nothing more he can do for Jennifer; now he must find the thread that leads to Drew if he is to have the love he deserves. 

Jennifer and Drew are married and have an eight-year-old daughter named Brooke.   Drew is a salesman so is away from home a lot and Jennifer takes care of Brooke and the household.  A tragedy occurs and Drew and Brooke are forced to adapt to life without Jennifer.  As a single dad, Drew isn't used to the day-to-day life at home, his work performance suffers and Brooke doesn't want to let him out of her sight.  He doesn't know whether he should do the things the way Jennifer used to do or change things up and do things differently.

It is the seventh book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  It is written in third person perspective in present tense, though some chapters are in first person perspective ... they are short and italicized and the name of the person is at the beginning of these chapters so you know who the focus is. This style worked for me as it let me get into their heads and know what they were thinking.  I liked the characters ... it was difficult for Drew and Brooke to carry on but they did the best they could.

Though this is the fifth book in the Memory House series, you don't need to have read the ones before it as it works as a standalone.  I've read the first and second in this series (Annie and Oliver from these books are in this one) and look forward to reading the others (the third and fourth).

Friday, 26 August 2016

KC's tree, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto, ON

I went for a walk today and as I was going by Trinity Bellwoods Park, I stopped by KC's tree.

We had it planted almost five years ago in her memory.

It was nice to see someone enjoying it
It's green and leafy and looks great!

Book ~ "The Loft" (2015) Bette Lee Crosby

From Goodreads ~ 50 years of memories are hidden in the walls of the loft ...

Annie only needs to find one … the one that will save Oliver’s life.

On the day of their wedding, Annie saw nothing but happiness ahead, but when an accident calls her back to Memory House, her world is changed forever. Ophelia Browne, the woman who taught Annie to find the memories in a forgotten object, is leaving the house and she’s leaving all those powerful memories behind.

After only three nights in the loft, Annie must now find the single most meaningful memory in Oliver’s mind. If she finds it in time, she can save his life, if she doesn’t … well, that’s something she can’t afford to think about.

Annie is marrying the love of her life, Oliver.  As they are heading out on their honeymoon, they hear that something has happened to Ophelia so they rush back home to take care of her.  Annie and Ophelia had met last year when Annie had stayed in Ophelia's bed 'n breakfast.  It was then that Ophelia taught Annie the power of memories.  Ophelia decides to make a major change in her life and gives her house (the "Memory House") to Annie and Oliver.  As life settles down for all, Oliver is involved in a life-threatening accident and Annie must figure that one memory that will bring Oliver back from a coma.

Though this is the second book in the Memory House series, you don't need to have read the first one as this works as a standalone.  It is the sixth book I've read by this author and I liked it.  It's a nice story of a friendship between two women with many years and experiences between them ... the two women caring enough to let each other make changes in their lives and move on while still maintaining the friendship.

It is written in third person perspective in present tense, though some chapters are in first person perspective ... they are short and italicized and the name of the person is at the beginning of these chapters so you know who the focus is. This style worked for me as it let me get into their heads and know what they were thinking.

I look forward to reading more in this series.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Toronto Blue Jays 3, Los Angeles Angels 6, Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON

A fella Gord works with had a couple tickets for tonight's Toronto Blue Jays game he couldn't use so Gord bought them from him and we went.


It was pouring rain so we drove rather than transiting.  Traffic was brutal as was the line-up to get into the Rogers Centre.  Though we'd left in plenty of time, we got to our seats towards the end of the first inning and Troy Tulowitzki was at bat.


Because of the rain, the roof was obviously closed.  Our seats were in the 500 level, just left of the catcher.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Book ~ "The Seven Year Dress" (2016) Paulette Mahurin

From Goodreads ~ One of the darkest times in human history was the insane design and execution to rid the world of Jews and “undesirables.” 

At the hands of the powerful evil madman Adolf Hitler, families were ripped apart and millions were slaughtered. Persecution, torture, devastation and enduring the unthinkable remained for those who lived. 

This is the story of one woman who lived to tell her story. This is a narrative of how a young beautiful teenager, Helen Stein, and her family were torn asunder, ultimately bringing her to Auschwitz. It was there she suffered heinous indignity at the hands of the SS. It was also there, in that death camp, she encountered compassion, selfless acts of kindness and friendship. 

Myra is a nursing student who is renting a room from Helen, a Holocaust survivor.  After seeing the number tattooed on her arm, Myra is curious to hear Helen's story.  The opportunity arises one day ... and this book is Helen's story, which is based on a true story.

Helen was born in 1919 in Germany.  She had a happy childhood, growing up the youngest of four children.  As Hitler started getting more powerful, they found it hard to believe and tried to carry on with their lives, even after her father lost his job as a lawyer with the government because he was Jewish and restrictions were placed on Jews (they couldn't go to school, businessmen were hassled, etc.).  Things get worse and their Christian friend and neighbour, Max, who was forced to become a SS soldier, hides Helen and her brother, Ben, at their farmhouse with the intent of bringing the rest of her family there for safekeeping.  Helen eventually ends up at Auschwitz concentration camp where her will to live kept her going, despite all the brutality.

Needless to say, this is a heavy story.  We all know about what happened during Hitler's rule but this book provides a lot of insight on how it was day-to-day.  The author obviously did a tremendous amount of research.  As a head's up, there are many descriptions of violence and sexual activity/thoughts.

As an animal lover, I like that profits from the author's book sales go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Book ~ "Penny: The Story of a Free-Soul Basset Hound" (2016) Hal Borland

From Goodreads ~ Penny the basset shows up at the Borlands’ Connecticut farmhouse on a cold, snowy day - head held high, tail wagging, as if she were a long-awaited guest. Hal and Barbara Borland were no strangers to strays. Pat, the rabbit hound thousands of readers came to know in "The Dog Who Came to Stay", had also appeared one winter, staying to become the family’s dear companion. Now Pat is gone, and Hal and Barbara are bereft without canine company. They fall in love with Penny - and she seems to fit right in.

Penny is a delightful dog - short-legged, flop-eared, full of fun and curiosity. And she loves people, so much so that she leaves the Borlands to go visiting elsewhere, often settling in with a different family for days on end. Indeed, Hal and Barbara admire her for her spirit of individuality and independence.

Though she never truly belonged to them, the Borlands agreed that Penny was a dog well worth loving - and so will readers. 

This is the true story of Penny, the basset hound.  Hal and Barbara Borland were authors who lived on a farm in Connecticut.  One day a basset hound arrived at their door.  They fed the dog and let her stay with them while they tried to find out the owner.  Not able to find the owner, they decided to keep her and named her Penny.

Being a basset hound, Penny liked to wander and was welcomed in the community.  Sometimes she'd be gone for a couple hours ... sometimes she'd be gone for days.  They considered her a "free-soul" ... rather than keeping her contained, they let her roam free.  Personally I wouldn't have because it didn't sound safe ... she could have been hurt in the woods, run down by cars, etc. but it was a different time and a different place.  Penny could be frustrating when she caught the scent of a rabbit or chased the nearby cows.  But deep down, Hal and Barbara loved Penny and she loved them in her own way (and she loved everyone else too).

This book was originally published in 1972 (Hal and Barbara are long gone).  It was a simpler time ... Hal and Barbara played records, there was no Internet and people actually called each other on the phone and/or wrote letters.  Despite being written more than 40 years ago, I liked this book ... I enjoy stories about dogs and animals.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Book ~ "On Herring Cove Road: Mr. Jew and the Goy Boy" (2014) Michael Kroft

From Goodreads ~ Mr. Rosen, once an amusing extrovert with a reputation as a prankster, is entering his senior years as a stoic, thirty-year converted introvert who hates change, has little to no interest in people and is more than content to have his wife sit at the navigator’s seat of his life. Since becoming a practising introvert, there have been almost no changes in his life, and for the few that there were, his wife had walked him through them, including the recent move to a much smaller home in a lower/middle class neighbourhood where he lives directly next-door to a racist whose nine-year old son addresses him as Mr. Jew.

Mr. Rosen had seen the move coming and he is very much aware of the enormous change to come sometime in the, hopefully, far off future; though, he refuses to give it any attention. That change will come on slowly and painfully and will eventually force him to chart his own life’s route.

This heartwarming, feel-good novel offers a rollercoaster ride of emotion as Mr. Rosen's world of habitual routine begins to implode while on a collision course with the chaotic world of an innocent child, its troubled mother and vengeful father.

Mr. and Mrs. Rosen are in their mid-60s.  Mr. Rosen owns a chain of drug stores in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Mrs. Rosen, because of health issues, is now a housewife.  Downsizing, they have recently moved into a smaller house which is easier for Mrs. Rosen to take care of.  Mr. Rosen is an introvert and his happy letting his more extroverted wife direct his life.

Next door to the Rosens are the Dixons.  Because their nine-year-old son, Dewey, always calls Mr. Rosen "Mr. Jew", Mr. Rosen ignores the boy.  But an accident brings the two families together and Mr. Rosen discovers that Dewey's father is a racist and Dewey is innocently repeating what he hears from his father.  Dewey and his mother, Lisa, become friends the Rosens, and Mr. Rosen's world opens up.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  The story takes place in the mid-1970s in Spryfield, a community in Halifax where my sister lives (so I've driven on some of the roads and been to some of the places mentioned in the book).  It's before computers (they played old-school games like Trouble and Monopoly), cell phones, etc.  The Rosens don't have a TV and spend a lot of their time reading books.

I liked the writing style and connected with the characters.  I liked that the story took place in the present (well, the 1970s) and jumped back to tell the background stories of Avriel and Ruth Rosen and Lisa and Paul Dixon.  As a head's up, there is swearing and violence.

It is the first in the "Herring Cove Road" series and I look forward to reading the other three.