Thursday, 19 January 2017

Book ~ "Second Chances" (2012) Brenda Chapman

From Goodreads ~ It's the summer of 1971 and fifteen-year-old Darlene travels with her mother to cottage country. This year her wild cousin, Elizabeth, is staying with them in the hopes that time away from Toronto will straighten her out - but Elizabeth has other plans. It’s her summer mission to torment Darlene by manipulating her friends and seducing every eligible male in her path. 

Meanwhile Darlene is captivated by the mysterious strangers who rent the cottage down the road, particularly free-spirited Candy, who tells stories of traipsing across the United States with rock stars. 

Darlene is also friends with a reclusive journalist who will stop at nothing to pen the ultimate anti-war story. She, too, secretly dreams of becoming a writer but knows that her father will never allow it. 

When the connections between the young strangers and the war start to become clear, Darlene is presented with more choices than she would like.

It's the groovy summer of 1971 and Darlene is fifteen.  She lives in Ottawa (hometown of the author) and spends the summers in Cedar Lake, where her mother runs a convenience store for the cottagers (her father works in a mill in Ottawa and just comes up on the weekends), and she hangs out with her summer friends.  This summer Elizabeth, her seventeen-year-old cousin from Toronto, is staying with them.  She'd gotten too wild and her parents hope that spending the summer in the country will settle her down.  Elizabeth amuses herself by annoying Darlene.

Candy and Johnny are Americans who are renting the Davidson's cottage this summer along with their young son.  Darlene is intrigued by Candy, who is a free spirit who claims to have been best friends with Janis Joplin and hung out with Jim Morrison.  Darlene is friends with Gideon, an older gentleman who lives in Cedar Lake year 'round, delivers the mail and writes articles for the Globe and Mail, especially focusing on protesting the Vietnam War.  Darlene would like to be a writer when she grows up but her father wants her to have more stable traditional job like a secretary.

I've read a few books by this author and I enjoyed this one.  I like her writing style.   It is written in first person perspective in Darlene's voice.  As such, I'm assuming it's considered a youth/young adult book but I didn't find it immature in actions or characters.  I think people of all ages (15+) would find it engaging.

Though I was younger than Darlene when this story takes place, I could relate to the references to the music, clothing and TV shows.  "Going to town" for everyone in Cedar Lake meant going to Campbellford, which I've driven through many times to visit my in-laws.

Le Place d'Armes Hôtel & Suites, Montréal, QC

The company I work for is based in Quebec and we had our annual sales conference in Montreal this week.  I spent Tuesday and last night at Le Place d'Armes Hôtel & Suites in old Montréal.


It is located across the street from Notre-Dame Basilica.

Here was my room ...

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Book ~ "In Winter's Grip" (2010) Brenda Chapman

From Goodreads ~ After her mothers suicide, Maja Cleary turned her back on her family and Duved Cove, Minnesota, until a desperate phone call reveals that her father has been murdered and her brother Jonas is the prime suspect. She flies home, knowing that she will have to confront shared memories of an abusive father. 

Even as she works to prove her brothers innocence, she cannot ignore the evidence that he had every reason to kill their father. The frigid, stormy Minnesota landscape sets the mood as she battles against time, the local police and the relentless snow. 

Maja is a plastic surgeon married to a businessman and living in Ottawa.  Though she keeps in touch with her brother, Jonas, she hasn't spoken to her father in years.  Their father wasn't a nice man when they were growing up, which led their mother to commit suicide when Maja was in university twenty years ago.  She heads home to Minnesota when she hears that her father has been murdered.

Wanting to protect Jonas, Maja starts asking around the town they are in trying to find out who had a reason to kill her father.  Though he was outwardly friendly and nice to others, not many knew the true nature of their father.  But she discovers that there are some who did have a reason to kill him and she wants to figure out who is the killer.

I've read a few books by this author and I like her writing style.  I though this one was okay.  I found the storyline interesting ... there were lots of people who could have killed the father with good reason.  It is written in first person perspective in Maja's voice.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

Damaged from their childhoods, Maja and Jonas are not the most open people.   Maja is in a so-so marriage but not willing to do anything about it.  She is still dreaming about her high school boyfriend, Billy, from more than twenty years ago, who she meets up with again when she goes home (I found this storyline a bit distracting).  Jonas is married to Claire and they have a young teenage son and there is a lot of tension in their house for some reason.  Tobias, the police officer, assigned to solve the murder seems more interested in flirting with Maja than was professional since he knew she was married.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Pizza Il Focolaio, Montreal, QC

I had supper tonight at Pizza Il Focolaio (on Rue du Square-Phillips).  I'd eaten here in September and for the most part liked it.  I love love love pizza and that's what I wanted for supper.

I got there just after 6pm and it was jammed.

I ordered the same thing I got the last time ... #28 Peperonato pizza.

They cook the pizzas in a wood oven for about four minutes.

My pizza was delicious!  It was really cheesy and there was lots of pepperoni.  The dough was tasty.  It was a bit burnt on one corner (under the crust) but I ate that side last when I was too full to fuss about it and didn't mind leaving a bit behind.

Dennis was my server.  He was friendly and took good care of me.

I'll be back!

Il Focolaio Pizza Resto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 16 January 2017

Trius wine club - January 2017

Our January Trius wine club box arrived today.

Gord and I have been members of the Trius Wine Club for almost fifteen years.

Every month, 2 bottles of our best wine will be delivered to your door along with Winemaker Craig McDonald’s tasting notes and Executive Chef Frank Dodd’s recipes.

The cost is $46 a month and it's only available in Ontario.

Here is the newsletter ...

 Here is what we received ...

  • Trius Merlot (2014) - $14.95 - the recipe included it's paired with is Vegeterian Chili
  • Trius Showcase Vidal Icewine (2015) - $54.10 - the recipe included it's paired with is Apple Upside Down Cake

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Book ~ "The River at Night" (2017) Erica Ferencik

From GoodreadsWinifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures - both friend and foe - that you won’t soon forget.

Wini is in her mid-thirties and she and her three best friends get together every year for a girls' trip.  This year, Pia is pushing for a hiking/white water rafting trip in rural Maine.  This is not something Wini wants to do as it's way out of her comfort zone but she's convinced to go for it.  She's not crazy about her job, her brother has recently died and her ex-husband is dating one of his students.

The four set off and are led by Rory, a young trailsman with a outdoor adventure company.  Along the way, things don't go as planned and tragedy strikes and they lose their raft and all their belongings.  Left to their own devices, they have to figure out how to get back to civilization.  They come across a campsite in the middle of the woods with a mother and son who they hope will help them but turn out to be very strange.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I thought it was okay.  It is written in first person perspective in Wini's voice.  As a head's up, there is swearing (lots of F-bombs dropped).

I wasn't really crazy about the characters and couldn't find myself relating to or cheering for them.  I found Wini to be pretty wimpy and a pushover in the beginning ... she seems scared and nervous about everything.  I guess the point of the story is to show us her growth.  Pia was unlikable ... very pushy and selfish.  Sandra was a cancer-survivor and married to husband number three.  Rachel was a recovering alcoholic who was an ER nurse.  With all the clashing and bickering before and during the trip, I don't know how these women are friends, especially with Pia.  I found the mother and son they found at the campsite and their situation too bizarre and unbelievable.

It did make me never to want to go on a wilderness adventure in the middle of nowhere!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Toronto Rock 13, Saskatchewan Rush 11

Gord and I are season ticket holders for the Toronto Rock lacrosse team games ... the Rock is a professional lacrosse franchise in the National Lacrosse League (NLL).  This is our fifth year going to the games and our fourth year having seasons tickets.

They were playing the Saskatchewan Rush tonight in their home opener of the 2017 season (they won their first away game).

We got there early enough to watch the Rock warm up.

Scotty Newlands sang the national anthem.

Book ~ "Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide" (1999) Mike Filey

From Goodreads ~ Established in 1876, Mount Pleasant Cemetery has a rich and textured history. It is the keeper of thousands of stories, each of which has contributed to the history of our city, province, and country.

Many of Canada's most beloved figures rest there - William Lyon Mackenzie King, Foster Hewitt, Glenn Gould, and Timothy Eaton are just a few. Other, less known historical figures are buried there also - the first Canadian soldier killed in First World War and victims of the 1949 Noronic disaster.

Along with a fascinating account of the cemetery's history, this illustrated guide includes descriptions of the remarkable monuments and the beautiful horticultural features. Accompanying maps detailing their locations make this book a perfect companion for a walking tour through the grounds. 

Mount Pleasant Cemetery is here in Toronto near where I work.  In the early 19th century, the only authorized cemeteries within the city of Toronto (then known as York) were limited to the members of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England. Deceased citizens who didn't belong to either of these Christian denominations had no choice but to find burial arrangements outside of the city.

In 1873, a new cemetery available to all citizens was conceived. Originally a 200-acre farm on the far outskirts of Toronto (it's now in the centre of the city), Mount Pleasant Cemetery opened November 1876.  It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2000.

The book begins with the early history of the cemetery, followed by chapters about the monuments and their histories and the trees and shrubs.  What follows are almost 300 stories about some of the people who are buried there (it is the final resting place of more than 168,000 people).  They range from the famous to the non-famous ... veterans, survivors of the Titanic, medical personalities, entertainers (Mary Pickford's father is buried there), businessmen, politicians, sports personalities, etc.  The stories are bite-sized with info about where the person was born, what they did and where they died.  It's a handy guide if you are touring the cemetery.

Though there are pictures of some of the people buried there, it would have been nice to have some pictures of their monuments, gravestones, etc.

Mike Filey had a column in the Toronto Sun for about 30 years and I read it for many years (I like learning about the history of Toronto).  I've read a lot of his books about the history of Toronto and have enjoyed them.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Book ~ "My Not So Perfect Life" (2017) Sophie Kinsella

From Goodreads ~ Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter - the woman with everything - have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway? 

Katie grew up on a farm but her dream was to work in London, have a great job and fabulous friends.  She does indeed move to London and becomes "Cat", gets a low paying entry level job, shares an apartment with two odd strangers and can't afford to have a glamourous life.  Just when things couldn't get any worse, her boss, Demeter, fires her.  Unable to find another job, she heads back home to the farm and helps her parents start a glamping business until something else comes along.

The business is a success and and Katie is shocked to discover that Demeter and her family are vacationing at their glampground.  Demeter doesn't recognize Katie so she takes this opportunity to get revenge.  But Katie discovers the real Demeter and she realizes the Demeter doesn't have it all after all.

Though I've read a lot of Kinsella's books, it's been a couple years since I read one.  I've been reading a lot of heavy murder mysteries lately and was looking for something light ... and this did the trick.  I liked the author's writing style and found the storyline predictable but fun.  Her father and stepmother were caring and humorous.  It's written in first person perspective in Katie's voice.  As a head's up, there is swearing and adult activity.