Category Archives: What I’m Reading

My Favourite Book: The Hunter’s Moon by OR Melling

I have a remarkable instance to tell you about!

I can’t believe I haven’t written about it before this.

You see, I have a favourite book, The Hunter’s Moon by OR Melling. I have loved this thing since I was a wee girleen and couldn’t get through the first chapter.

It’s an amazing Young Adult book to read that combines the best of Canada, Ireland and Faerie in one fantastic package. And it gets better! After I read this the first dozen times I discovered that there were 3 other books in the series and I was thrilled.

I was even more thrilled when I discovered that my favourite Irish author somehow wrote about my actual family in the final novel. There’s nothing like finding something familiar/real in a fantasy novel to blow your mind!

So I wrote to her :)

Here’s my letter:

Dear O.R.,

My name is Lisa and I hail from Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been meaning to write to you for years, so I hope you’ll take a moment and read my story…

The Hunter’s Moon is one of my longtime favourite books. I remember when I first got it; I was a young girl and my mother had gotten it for me from the in-school Scholastic book orders. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old.

The first time I tried to read it, I gave up after about 1 chapter, finding the odd Irish names too hard for my young mind to decipher!

Several years later I picked it up and gave it another go. With my reading and comprehension skills improved, I was able to make my way through the novel and into a world I had always secretly dreamed of.

Best friends, romance, Canada and Ireland coming together, adventure and faeries, everything a girl could dream of.

I have treasured this book ever since.

A few more years passed before I discovered the additional books in the series. What a delight! I eagerly devoured them one by one from the library until I purchased the Golden Book of Faerie edition to read the last one, The Book of Dreams.

Imagine my surprise to find you not only writing about an area I spent time growing up in, but also about my family.

You read that right: my family.

I am a descendant of Bridget & Matthew Dowling, of Kilkenny, Ireland. They were some of the first Irish settlers in the area. My grandmother is Evelyn Dowling of Stayner, Ontario; part of the “Dueling Dowlings Clan” as we like to call them.

It was so surreal to read your book and see the story about the Mad River. Often while visiting my grandparents growing up (They now live in Midland, Ontario) we would travel out to the area and my grandmother would point out the Mad River and tell us the story of her great-great-great etc. grandmother naming it. We even have the family history traced all the way back to Ireland!

I feel like this is some kind of great coincidence, or maybe something else? I would love to know more about you and your experiences in that part of the province; how you came to learn about my ancestors and their stories. If it’s true that you can know part of a person through their writing, then I feel like we would have a great deal to talk about!

I’ve been thinking about writing to you about this for several years now, ever since I made the Dowling Discovery. Something always held me back, but this time I just went for it!

I want you to know just how much I love your books, even now at the age of 27 they hold a special place in my library. I give them as gifts to my closest friends and re-read them periodically. I loved them before I even knew I had a personal connection to the characters in your story!

Just imagine what it was like for me to find mention of my very own family in one of my favourite books. Incredible.

I thought I would share this story with you as one lover of Eire and Faerie to another, and I hope you’ll write back!

Go raibh maith agat,

Lisa

 

Melling wrote about my ancestor Bridget Dowling, and how she came to name the Mad River in the Creemore/Stayner area of Ontario. Here’s the excerpt from the book:

“After their meal, they walked to the outskirts of Creemore and stopped on a bridge spanning the Mad River. The water was shallow, trickling slowly over a stony bottom. Trees lined the shore.

“The river got its name from one of the earliest settlers,” Dana told him, remembering a story of her grandmother’s. “Bridget Dowling was one of those tough Irish pioneers. She settled just north of here with her husband Matthew and loads of kids. One day she was coming back from the mill with a sack of flour on her back and a baby in her arms and she had to ford the river. It was wild and rushing. She said later she almost drowned in ‘that mad river’ and that’s what everyone has called it ever since.””

The rest of the novel takes place in areas that I was familiar with growing up; in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario. I really feel as though I could be  in the story since I know the landmarks and locations it takes place in! Woah!

Things I’m Digging

Reading

I’m reading this right now (The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla), it is part 5 of The Dark Tower series. I’ve been borrowing all the books from a friend of mine and making my way through the series. This is one of King’s more epic book series, and I love it. It’s so bizarre. I love a book that keeps me thinking about it even when I’m not reading it, and this is one of those books.

I definitely suggest you check this out if you’re a King fan, or if you’re looking for an odd, sci-fi read that isn’t quite so sci-fi! I’d start with the first in the series though, The Gunslinger.

Eating

Mmmm… tastes like summer during childhood! I have a lasting love-affair with tiger tail ice cream. Chapman’s has always made it, but it is so hard to find! I haven’t had it in years! There’s been a few times that I’ve resorted to buying a hand-packed pint of it from Laura Secord for an outrageous price!

Happily I just discovered that President’s Choice makes it now! *swoons* I am SO happy because now I can actually buy it! I found some in my parents’ freezer this weekend and my mom said she bought it just for me when I come to visit :)

If you’ve never had tiger tail ice cream before, you should try it! It’s a bit zany, a mix of mandarin (or orange) flavoured ice cream with a licorice flavoured ribbon through it. It’s a bit weird and lots of people don’t like it, but I love it! Maybe it’s just because it reminds me of happier times, but I will always love this ice cream.

Wearing

I went shopping this weekend along trendy Queen West here in Toronto with my friend Munchkin. Both of us had weeks from hell, so a little retail therapy was in order!

I have been searching for the perfect pair of plain black flats that are comfy and can be worn anywhere. I think I’ve found them! After searching and searching, I finally stumbled upon a European line I had never heard of, Camper.

While the sizes run a little bit small (I had to go 1 size bigger), when I tried on my Leia flats, they fit so well and were so comfortable I felt I could start walking in them immediately, without having to break them in!

I was really impressed by the quality and craftsmanship that went into these shoes. I looked at the rest of the line (I am so in love with the entire TWS line, and pretty much ALL of their shoes) and it looks like my pair were not the exception. They’re all made from quality materials and look as though they will hold up. Apparently they have a good reputation, too.

The only downside is they’re so damned expensive! My shoes cost $198 (omg I just realized I don’t think I have ever spent that much on shoes, let alone flats!!!) but somehow I feel like it’s worth it. If they end up crapping out on me in a month though, you better believe I’ll be ranting to the company about it!

Most of the other styles were also in that price range, but they were just so cool. Like truly wearable pieces of art, they looked stylish AND comfortable. And THAT is something I am willing to pay for!

Using

Even though spring and milder weather is here now, I’m still suffering from some mega-dry skin all over my body. This winter I’ve been working through all of my tubes, bottles and pots of various moisturizers, and I finally worked my way down to this one, Vaseline’s Intensive Rescue Moisture Locking Body Butter.

I can’t remember where I got this, but it’s pretty good! Much like your traditional Body Shop body butters, this is thick and creamy. With a silicone base to it, you want to slather this on right before you go to bed. It really helps hydrate your skin and keep the moisture in. I like to use it after I shower, too.

It’s a little greasy so I don’t use it all the time, but overall I am very glad I found this in my bag o’ stuff! It doesn’t have that sickly sweet and cloying smell the Body Shop products have so it would be great for people who are scent-sensitive like me.

Sniffing

Now, I may be scent-sensitive but that doesn’t mean I don’t like smelling pretty! I’ve been testing out Degree’s new line of anti-perspirants; Natureffects.

I’ve always like Degree and now they’ve got a few more scents for you to try out that are light and refreshing and no too overwhelming:

Honeysuckle & tea tree oil

Olive leaf & pink pepper

Orange flower & cranberry

I have been using the honeysuckle one most recently, and so far, so good! You can only really smell it if you stick your nose into your armpit, which is good for me! I don’t like smells of any kind hanging around…

I’m excited to try the orange flower & cranberry next since it smells so good! Now if only I can find it! (I think my mom may have filched it…)

Birthday Books

Well, my birthday week is officially over now. I’ve had my birthday, my party, and the requisite parental visit bringing things to a close.

Everything went surprisingly well this year. Could this be signaling a fresh start to my life? I hope so.

I’ll detail the rest of my week later perhaps. Right now I just wanted to make a list of the books I have received recently. It’s crazy! I love reading (and everyone knows this) but I’ve got enough reading material here to challenge even a bookworm of my status!

Since Christmas I have received the following:

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

Jane Bites Back: A Novel

Vows And Honor #1 Oathbound

Vows And Honor #2 Oathbreakers

Oathblood

Traveling With Pomegranates

Shoo, Jimmy Choo!: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spending Less and Saving More

This list doesn’t even cover all the other books I have received through swaps or borrowed from friends this month!

Looking at the list I also noticed an odd trend… it seems that I am attracting quite a few books dealing with Jane Austen and the supernatural (zombies, vampires). What does this say about me, I wonder?

Book Review: Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel

If you have been living under a rock these past few months you may not have heard of this book I am about to review.

For everyone else, I am one of the 58479322038 PF bloggers who received a copy to review. I thought I was special, Phil! I thought I was your little Canuck! *cries*

I gotta say, I am a little bummed that this wasn’t an exclusive review, but at least I got a signed copy outta the deal which is pretty nice. Plus, its a good book!

So, let me tell you about this little paperback.

scoundrel

First, I really like the feel of it in my hands. I am a book person through and through and the format of the book can often enhance or detract from my reading experience. I love the soulful, rounded corners, the determined semi-gloss pages and the intoxicating scent of this volume.

But the inside… ahh the inside.

Crack open this baby to any of the many sections and you will be amazed and astounded by the advice therin. Don’t tip your waitress! Steal your wi-fi! Save those mustard packets! Beat your bank into submission!

The book is filled with witty and *ahem* interesting  ways to save a buck. You would have to be a true scoundrel of the stingy persuasion to take it all seriously, though.

But that’s what I like about it. Tongue-in-cheek passages with little gems of true advice scattered throughout. Some of the tips are downright dastardly, but some (like making your own weed killer) are actually quite practical. An amusing read from beginning to end, Phil has imbued the pages with his essence (of gelding…? LOL).

If you have a particularly stingy skinflint in your circle of friends and family, you may see their habits described in this book. I know I’ve certainly seen a few of my dad & grandmother’s tricks in here!

All in all this was a good read, and I’ll probably keep it around for amusement and reference in the future. Definitely worth picking up on Amazon (hint: click the image to buy it & give me a kickback!) for $16.95.

Unless you’re a stingy scoundrel, that is. Then you can just get the used copy, ya cheapo!

About Phil:

Phil Villarreal is a Consumerist contributing editor and Arizona Daily Star reporter. While his knowledge of Canada is somewhat paltry, and his handwriting somewhat illegible, he makes up for it with his wit and… uhhh… charm??? You can check him out on the Consumerist, or at his blog Because I Told You So.

Things I’m Digging

Yesterday was a pretty cool day for me! It was the culmination of a bunch of neat things and goings-on over the weekend.

Inspired by my weekend, here are some Things I’m Digging:


Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel: 100 Dirty Little Money-Grubbing Secrets by my bud Phil Villareal. He sent me a copy of this new book to review and I finally got it! I’m so excited to check it out–it’s even got that new book smell!

So far it looks promising… my dad remarked that our family already does a lot of the stuff in the book… I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s good or bad!

A full review is coming soon, but if you want your own copy, please click on the title and get it through Amazon so I can get a teeny tiny commission! Thanks!
Ben & Jerry’s “If I Had A Million Flavours” ice cream. This is a special Canadian recipe inspired by our very own Barenaked Ladies! And it is TO. DIE. FOR.

I am eating it as I type because I can’t bear to part with it. I’ve been looking for this flavour since I saw it in the news somewhere. Best $6 I ever spent on ice cream… it’s got all my fave choco-candies in it and is just the right amount of OMG death by chocolate. I can’t decide whether I like the chocolate covered toffee chips or the peanut butter cups better. I also love the fact that they spelled the word “flavours” properly with a Canadian “u” in there! FTW!
I am in love. Go forth to your dairy case and purchase, my friends! You won’t be disappointed! (though your keyboard might get sticky. Oops)

My new Sunrise alarm clock by BioBrite. I bought this puppy a while ago and had it shipped to my aunt in NJ since they won’t ship to Canada… and I just got it now! I am SO excited!

Actually, that’s a bad thing! I set it up last night and did the sundown sequence to help me get to sleep, but instead I kept peeking at it to see if it really DID mimic the sunset (it did!) instead of going to sleep…. oops.

The idea behind these sunrise clocks is that they mimic the light of a natural sunrise so your body can wake up gently rather than being jarred awake by the hellish BEEP!BEEP!MuthafugginBEEP!!! of your standard alarmclock.

I think its going to take some getting used to, but hopefully it will help me get up easier in the dark & dreary mornings of winter!

There’s a snapshot of some of the things I’m into right now! I’ve got a whole ton more but figured 3 was a good round number :)

What cool things are YOU digging right now?

***WIN a custom-made silver ring!***

Click here for contest details & to enter! I am accepting submissions until Sunday, September 13, so hurry up!

What I’m Reading: The Outliers

I’m currently whipping through Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success.

It is the shit.

I love this man. His books are incredible and so insightful, you need to check them all out. Easy to read and understand, yet so powerful. Fascinating… I could go on and on.

It’s interesting to identify yourself in some of his books (Tipping Point–I’m a Maven) and it looks like I’ve got the makings of a moderate Outlier so far.

I will spare you the details of this book as the Amazon summary does a better job, but so far I am loving it and recommend it to all my friends. And everyone.

This guy is pure gold. I brought up his book The Tipping Point in my job interview and BAM! I got the job!

Was it magic?

If you’re interested in his other books, these are the ones that I’ve read:

PS. If you buy them (and you should!) I will get some pennies from Amazon’s Associate program! Help a gal out and get some great reading material!

Ginger’s BBC’s list of 100 Best Fiction

Yes, this is a blatant steal from FB, but I know I’ve read a lot of these books, so I’d like to see how I stack up! I thought it was really interesting!

BOLD = Read
NOT bolded = Unread

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

Ouch! Only 32 out of 100! The good news is that I’m actually reading a lot of Jane Austen and The Bronte sisters right now, and my friend K owns a lot of Terry Prachett which he will be lending to me shortly.

I figure I’ll be at a good 50% or so in a couple of months!