Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo by Michael J. Martineck

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Martineck's Sawyeresque novel Cinco de Mayo we're introduced to a global event in which some cosmic force causes people to share their entire memories with one other. The resulting narrative deals with the lives of a series of individuals and how they cope with this sudden awareness, and the actions they take in their heightened state of social consciousness.

The vignettes Martineck paints are, for the most part, poignant, at times even palpably disturbing in their reality. For myself, I may never, for instance, be able to countenance purchasing an eastern, hand-woven rug because of one reality Martineck used as a basis for one of his narratives.

And while this is a well-crafted novel, in the end there is no resolution as to what, exactly, caused this global phenomenon, and thus the story is left unresolved.

Overall, the story is one worth reading, and the author one worth investigating again.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Things that Try Us

It's not often I post about my personal life. Not to sound haughty, or rude, but it's nobody's business but mine. And besides, I cringe when I read blogs and Facebook updates and Tweets in which people are divulging all the very intimate details of their lives. It just somehow seems a bit gauche, to me.

However, here am I, about to post something personal. It's not earth-shattering. It's more about adjusting things in my life so I can continue to write, edit, publish, administer -- do all of the things that are required of me in my chosen career.

I have rather severe osteoarthritis, combined with some interesting sciatica. I deal with pain every day of my life. No big deal. Lots of people deal with pain, and worse.

It would appear the arthritis has been around for decades, unknown to me. My knees have always cracked. My joints have always easily slipped out of alignment. About 11 years ago, right about the time we claimed these three stories of granite for our home, the arthritis decided to make itself truly known. Since then it's been a steady deterioration of mobility, increase in pain, and periodic adjustments to lifestyle and strategies.

It would appear Thursday last I was given a warning of another impending change. The night previous I was reading in bed, moved my right leg and WHAM! Some rather interesting and searing pain accompanied by what felt like the entire knee sailing off to the east. No matter what I did, no matter how I manipulated the leg and knee, I could not get it to behave. Ensued a truly disgusting night's sleep.

The following morning I stayed in bed when the alarm went off at 4:00 A.M., with admonishments from Gary, my husband, to stay put until I felt like getting up. Disgruntled, and guilty for giving in to this ridiciculous pain, I acqueisced.

However, later, when finally boredom and a need to be mobile drove me to distraction, I ventured out of bed, thinking I would shower, dress, figure out a way to get to the loft where the office is located, and set to a productive day.

Such silly thoughts.

After reducing myself to tears just brushing my teeth, a shower seemed inadvisable. I could barely stand. How was I supposed to manage in a wet, slippery environment? I could wait until later, I reasoned. And so I pulled together some clothes and then pulled them on, and then spent the next five minutes carefully and painfully ascending the very steep stairs to my workplace.

Well, that was interesting. Didn't know you could feel pain like that. Childbirth was a mere frisson by comparison.

Drank some juice, from the little bar fridge we keep in the loft, reasoned that I'd get my NSAIDs and Atenolol later (they are kept on the first floor in the powder room). So, I set to work, telling myself not to be a big baby. But truth of the matter was I realized I'd probably made a tactical error, because once up the stairs, how in blazes was I going to get down the stairs?

By 3:00 P.M. the call of nature had become somewhat urgent, and figuring I was allowed to knock off early for the day, given the circumstances, I made my careful and excruciating way back down the loft stairs. At the bottom I realized I needed to rest and so detoured for the bedroom where I sat, gasping a bit. Hell, I could use the ensuite bathroom, rather than try the marathon down to the first floor, and once there, and nature alleviated, decided I would risk the shower if for no other reason than to make myself feel better. I know, I know, endure more pain just to feel clean. But such are the quirks of my nature.

Managed the shower, although I had to back out while holding the grab-bar. From there managed to pull on clean clothes, rested again, and from there made the next leg of the journey down the next flight of stairs to the main floor.

By now I was not only exhausted, sweaty and in some pretty spectacular pain, but really needed to take the medications I should have taken first thing in the morning. So, after another rest and bit of a bully-talk to myself, I lunged from hand-hold to hand-hold, cane in one hand, swallowed said drugs, made a sandwich (I thanked Gary for making the kitchen reno a very ergonomic one) and swallowed that, and then said the hell with it and got myself ensconsced in the big leather chair in the living-room, cell phone down the front of my bra (what I realized had become my I've fallen and I can't get up device) and read while biting back tears both from pain and self-pity.

By the time Gary made it home I was in a pretty sorry state. And over dinner (a pizza the dear brought home), we realized we had to make some adjustments to the layout of our home in order to accommodate my increasing inabilities.

Funny thing was, however, by Saturday I was just fine. Back to my usual state of decrepitude, rather than this ugly, new state. Still and all, I have come to face the fact I have to give up my funky loft space.

So, we're going to do a bit of an unexpected renovation. The wall between the two guest rooms on the second floor is going to disappear, making one long room all along the east side of the house, with existing, wonderful deep windows facing north, east and south. The office will get moved down there, and the library moved up from the livingroom into the office (where I've always wanted it). The loft will be subdivided into two interesting bedrooms about 20' x 20' ea. And as soon as we can afford it, a stair lift will go in on the stairs up from the first floor.

We still get to live in this wonderful old stone house. I have access to bathrooms and water on the second floor, and will eventually have a lift that will allow me to travel in safety to and from the first floor. And I get to have a fabulous new office where I can write, and operate the publishing house.

Sometimes it just takes a shift in perspective, a willingness to see past the difficulty.

Review: Silver Linings

Silver Linings
Silver Linings by Tim Pratt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well-written short story, implausible but fascinating fantasy concept. Deals with the theme of moral responsibility of government leaders and developers of arms. Pratt could easily expand this story into a full-blown novel if he chose.

My fundamental problem with the story is not regarding the craft of Tim Pratt. Rather, my problem is with Tor's attempt, like so many of the Big Six, to pay the mortgage through the sale of every eBook. $2.00 for a short story that was read in minutes? Seriously? And nothing in the promotional blurb to indicate the story is a short? A little disingenuous.

But kudos to you, Tim Pratt.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: The Choir Boats

The Choir Boats
The Choir Boats by Daniel A. Rabuzzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're an impatient person, don't read this book. If you don't love literature, especially classical literature, don't read this book. If you don't have a sense of humour, most definitely do not read this book.

If, however, like me you enjoy a brain-teaser, a poke at literary figures, a story that is complex, and a writer who is not afraid to cross boundaries and genres, then by all means treat yourself and cuddle up with The Choir Boats by Daniel A. Rabuzzi.

This story is set in a quasi-Napoleonic War Era, part steam-punk, part Victorian gothic literature, part homage to Jules Verne. Throughout the novel there are allusions to literary characters from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Melville, and more I've now forgotten.

The concept (an alternate reality marooned and its people given punishment of Biblical proportions)is a deliciously unique twist on a known trope, and the characters Rabuzzi sculpts, like Pygmalion's creations, are infused with life. The narrative voice rings with period authenticity without being cumbersome, and the tension, for the most part, is kept taught despite a complex plot.

I will most definitely seek out more by Rabuzzi. And I exhort you to go and find your own copy of The Choir Boats.

View all my reviews

Roasted Potato Salad

So we're now into the hot, sticky days of summer. Cooking is just too much to think about. Full blown meals are just too much to think about. Salads are on the menu again. And today, trying to think up a new twist on an old favourite, potato salad, and wanting to make it a complete meal, I've come up with this variation. Already it's yum. I can imagine what it's going to be like once fully chilled for tonight's dinner.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
6 strips thick side bacon, sliced into matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss all ingredients together until well-coated and spread out into a thin layer on the baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

While the potato mixture is roasting, hard-boil four eggs.

In the meantime, prepare:

6-12 spears asparagus (depending on thickness), cut into about 2 inch pieces
3-6 green onions (depending on size) finely sliced

Place asparagus and green onions in a mixing bowl.

Peel and finely chop the eggs into the mixing bowl.

Add cooked potato mixture to the mixing bowl, with about 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Stir together ingredients. Cover and chill about two to three hours.

Serve on a bed of cool, crisp greens.

For a switch-up you could add 1 teaspoon of curry powder, or 1 teaspoon chili powder. Finely minced rosemary would also be wonderful.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Costume Not Included

Costume Not Included
Costume Not Included by Matthew Hughes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Matthew Hughes has to be one of Canada's most under-celebrated, under-appreciated writers. Easily capable of dancing between genres, in this sequel to The Damned Busters, Hughes unfolds a wry, witty tale, absolutely heretical, deliciously irreverent, that continues the concept of 'is God making this up as He goes along?'

As always there are clearly-drawn characters that lift off the page, a pace that is steady and at times palpitating, and just when you think matters might become too serious he ambushes you with an insight that leaves you laughing out loud.

If you're a fan of Terry Pratchett, allow me to introduce you to Matthew Hughes. You're in for a rocketing good read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8)Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is a constant amazement that Terry Pratchett possesses a seemingly inexhaustible wit and imagination, and in this eighth installment in his Discworld series, that wit and imagination is in full flight (you will forgive the pun.)

Filled with archetypes that shatter the definitions, the story clips along at an incendiary pace, exploding with humour, twisting with unexpected turns, and generally just takes you on a rollicking great read.

If you're needing complete, unabashed escapism, you must venture out with Carrot, Captain Vimes and the swamp dragons.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cuts at Library and Archives Canada devastating for preservation of Canada’s history

The following is a press release issued by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. It is about the present Conservative Canadian government's further attempts to change the landscape of what it means to be Canadian, disguised as budgetary restraint.

I urge you to write your MP and light your own small candle for Canada's heritage.

(Ottawa,May 2, 2012) Recent cuts to staff and programming at Library and Archives Canada

(LAC) will have devastating effects on our nation’s ability to acquire and preserve its history.

On April 30, LAC presented 450members of its staff with affected notices, with 215 of those

positions to be eliminated.

“The cuts to jobs at Library and Archives Canada are an attack on one of Canada’smost

important cultural institutions,” said James L. Turk, executive director of the Canadian

Association of University Teachers. “Staff at our national archives and library are the stewards

of our collectivememory.”

“These cuts will further undermine the capacity of Library and Archives Canada to fulfill its

legislatedmandate to acquire, preserve andmake accessible Canada’s history.”

The announced cuts include:

• the elimination of 21 of the 61 archivists and archival assistants that deal with nongovernmental


• the reduction of digitization and circulation staff by 50%,

• a significant reduction in the number of staff that deal with preservation and conservation

of documents,

• the closure of the interlibrary loans unit.

The National Archival Development Program(NADP), which supports programming at

provincial, regional and university archives across Canada, will also be eliminated. Many of

these are the small, local archives were to be part of LAC's new distributed Pan-Canadian

Documentary Heritage Network.

As a result of the NADP cut, the Canadian Council of Archives office will be closed in Ottawa

andmany summer work projects already planned across the country will be cancelled.

“Canadiansmust act now to protect their cultural heritage,” said Turk.

Please visit for updated information and to view the new video by historian

Craig Heron on the importance of Library and Archives Canada.