September 28, 2012

Book Buying Adventures on the East Coast

Ask and you shall receive!

In my last post I mentioned that we popped into The Downtown Book Exchange, a secondhand bookstore in New Glasgow. What I failed to mention was what books I walked away with. I should have known that inquiring minds would want to know what I bought. So wonder no more, my friends!

First, there's something you should know: whenever I go into a used bookstore with my father-in-law, John, we have this thing where we scour the shelves for old copies of Treasure Island, and the older the better. It doesn't matter how many copies each of us already own, it's always exciting to find a new addition to add to our collection. Jim and his father share an undying love for all things pirates, and this passion has rubbed off on me. We're always on the lookout for interesting pirate stories.

I was the first to spot an old copy of  Treasure Island, copyright 1947, on the shelf, but John reminded me that I got the last copy we found together so it was his turn to keep it. Then we saw a copy of Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling and John assured me it's a "fantastic read". The original price penciled on the first page said $25 and when I clarified the (outrageous) price with the bookstore owner, he said he'd give it to me for six bucks. Sold! I love the blue pattern on the cover. That's all I walked out with. John bought Treasure Island as well as a small pile of other pirate-related books.

But then YESTERDAY we went to the Y's Menette's annual book sale. It's a huge book fair in which people donate their used books and the money raised from selling said books goes towards Pictou's YMCA Strong Kids program. Some money is also donated to the local music festival, the Pictou County Christmas Fund and the Prison Mission Ministry. I couldn't find any information on last years sale, but in 2010 they raised more than $10,000 dollars. A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend this sale and I was so excited that I would get to go again this year. Of course, I have to be selective in what I choose as we are flying and Westjet has this silly thing called maximum baggage weight. Good thing hubby packs light!

Overall I was pretty successful. My main mission was to find a copy (preferably hardcover) of John Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath for the readalong I'm doing next month over on Laura's blog, Devouring Texts.  I had a good feeling about the outcome of this book sale when The Grapes of Wrath was the first book I spotted.

Here is the mishmash of books I took home with me:

I've only ever read Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, which I love, and when I saw this box set in mint condition, containing four of her novels from the Hecule Poirot series and the Miss Marple series, I just had to have it. Seriously, these books have never been read - they are in pristine condition, and only cost me two dollars!  And I scored a hardcover of The Deathly Hallows for 3 bucks!

I also have a love for children's books and especially love to find old copies of my favorite books from childhood. It's rare to come across an over-sized copy of a Berenstain Bears' book so I did not hesitate to grab this one. And as for Harry - well who doesn't love Harry, the little dog? And this copy looks like it's one of the originals from 1960. John and I had a good laugh that I was buying Harry for Jim, as a picture book might be just the thing to ignite the reading spark in him!

So there you have it - I cannot resist buying books, even when I'm on the other side of the country! Now we are off to Halifax for the day and night, and then Jim's Aunt and Uncle's cottage in Greenfield for the rest of the weekend!

Happy reading, friends!

Tell me: What are your recent bookish finds?

September 24, 2012

Nova Scotia, We Have Arrived!

On Friday night, Jim and I caught a red-eye from Edmonton to Nova Scotia to visit his family (my family!) and friends for 10 days. It's been two years since we were last out here. I love visiting his parents. They live in a large, beautiful house on a big piece of land, that Jim's dad built with his own hands. Even though I didn't grow up here, this house just feels like home. People always ask me "what are you going to see, what are you going to do while you're there", and while I'd love to provide them with some elaborate itinerary, to be honest, I love just coming here and being. Sometimes just hanging out with the people you love, with NO itinerary, is the best vacation there is.

With that being said, once we caught up on sleep and kicked jet-lag in the ass, we did have a rather productive day today. And by productive I mean, read, eat, stop at the beach, check out a cemetery, eat, shop, eat some more and then get ready to watch a movie in our PJ's. And in case you don't believe me, I have proof!

Even though it's too cold to swim in the ocean, it's still nice enough to walk along the beach, especially since we pretty much had the beach all to ourselves! This is the beach Jim spent his childhood at.

On our way home from the beach, we stopped at Greenwood Cemetery to see where Jim's dad's grandfather was buried. These pictures don't do this cemetery justice - it's the coolest (and oldest) cemetery I have ever seen. As soon as we spotted the first 'Fraser' tombstone, Jim and I made a game out of who could spot the most 'Fraser' graves. We lost count once we got over a dozen, at which point I jokingly exclaimed that I couldn't believe I had given up my much-less common maiden name for their dime-a-dozen one!

After the cemetery we went home to freshen up (and eat a snack), before heading out to one of the used book stores in town, The Downtown Book Exchange.  Just because I'm on vacation does not mean I stop scouting for good book deals ;)  I'm proud to report that Jim's dad bought the most books!

Book shopping built up an appetite so we headed to Murphy's for their famous fish & chips.

Clearly our eyes were bigger than our stomachs! But it was soooo yummy!

After dinner we popped into Winner's to have a look around and then over to Superstore. Somehow, the one thing I forgot to pack was pajamas. Jim didn't get why this was a bad thing - har har, but I love hanging out in pajama pants in the evenings (and Jim's mom is a just a wee bit shorter than me). Luckily, Joe clothing had some PJ's on sale and I scored these bad boys for 7 bucks! When Jim saw me come down the stairs he exclaimed: "You look like a pink nightmare!"  (Bonus points if you know the movie reference!). Then he also said they came with my own set of testicles. I married a comedian, guys.

September 23, 2012

Saigon Sundays: Please Don't Go

Jim and I caught the red-eye to Halifax on Friday night. The hardest part about leaving is saying good-bye to Saigon. Fortunately, we left Saigon in good hands with my brother, who will be watching him while we are in Nova Scotia visiting my in-laws for 10 days. But anytime Jim and I have a planned trip coming up, I swear Saigon just knows and he mopes around for days before we leave. Needless to say, we miss him already!

Typical "pouty" face

Saigon always has to go over our bags with a fine-tuned nose!

Final good-byes

Watching us go from the front window...

September 20, 2012

Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova

Sometimes I don't know why I wait so long to read a book. I loved Lisa Genova's first novel, Still Alice, and from the first time I read the synopsis for Left Neglected, I just knew I would love it. sat on my bookshelf for months! Until recently that is. One day, not sure what to read, I picked it up and devoured it in a few short sittings. When I finished reading it, I was angry with myself for having not read it sooner! Maybe it's the nurse in me, but I generally love novels that have a medical aspect to them. Now, I don't want the concepts and terms to be too technical - just that right amount of fascination without boring me to death or having me roll my eyes at the medical jargon - and Left Neglected did not let me down. 

Left Neglected is the story of Sarah, a middle-aged, happily married (yes, happily!), full-time working mother of three young children. She is one of those "I don't know how she does it" moms. Seriously, I don't know how she did it. Even though we get a good outline of her daily life in a play-by-play fashion, I was mesmerized by how she was able to do it all. But then again, I'm mesmerized by how my girlfriends manage with just one kid and no job.

We know going into this book that Sarah, the narrator of this story, is going to be involved in an accident that will cause her to  lose all awareness that the left side of her body exists – in other words: left neglect.  Even though we know this accident is inevitable, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for it to happen. Like a part of me was hoping that there would be a different outcome- that Sarah wouldn’t take her eyes off the road for that split second to use her cell phone like she does – but then of course we would have no story.

After the accident has happened, the rest of the story deals with the aftermath of surviving such an accident – and the physical and emotional trauma that can occur. I love that Lisa Genova’s books are told in the first person as it allows you to feel, see and hear exactly what the person is experiencing.  It makes the experience tangible and affects you in such a way that you will never forget this book. I still find myself thinking of Sarah from time to time.

The concept of left neglect is so fascinating and mind-boggling. It literally meant that Sarah had no idea the she even had a left side of her body or that anything to the left of her even existed. It was like there was no such thing as “left side” in Sarah’s world.  At first, I couldn’t even wrap my head around this concept. While reading, I would find myself trying to picture myself as Sarah, lying in her hospital bed, trying to grasp the concept of “left”. Imagine trying to eat your lunch off your plate and you can only see the food on the right side of the plate. You have no idea there is even a left side of your plate, let alone food on it. Or someone enters the room you are in, but the door is on your left and so you don’t even know this person has come in until you hear them. MIND-BOGGLING I tell ya.

This book easily could have been depressing and sombre and full of “woe is me” attitude, but instead, we get to read about a woman who is both strong and determined and even a little stubborn at times, learn how to adjust from the life she once knew to her reality now. This is a story about dealing with the cards fate hands you, rediscovering relationships with the people you love, and doing whatever it takes to find happiness once again. It’s a story worth reading, my friends.

September 17, 2012

The Smart Chicks Kick It Tour!

Last Thursday night, I had the incredible opportunity to attend one of the best author appearances/signings of my life so far: The Smart Chicks Kick It Tour! Not only did I get to attend this event - I got to spend the evening with some of the awesome Edmonton Book Bloggers. The Smart Chicks Kick It Tour is an author tour that is organized by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr. They started the tour back in 2010 and 2012 marked the third and final tour. The event in Edmonton was held at the West side Chapters and it was reported that 750 people showed up for it!

Luckily, a few of the Edmonton Book Bloggers were extra keen, and showed up early to reserve seats for our group (which was so awesome of them!). While the first 100 people got seats, the rest of the crowd stood in a line that wound throughout the entire bookstore. And thanks to those who showed up early, we got front row seats!

The author's that are present change a bit from city to city. In Edmonton, we had the pleasure of meeting Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Veronica Roth, Ally Condie, Beth Revis, Margaret Stohl, and one 'chuck-for-good-luck', Charles De Lint. They came out as a panel and spent about an hour engaging the audience with Q&A's and trivia. I have never laughed so hard at an author event and it was so neat to get to know the faces behind the books. I know most books have the author's mug shot on the back flap of their book, but it's still so different to see them in person and have their personalities come to life before your eyes. When it was time to get our books signed, I wished I had had a book of each author's to get signed. Sadly, I only had books by Veronica Roth and Beth Revis.

I really cannot put into words how fun and amazing this event was. Meeting author's is for book-lovers what meeting a movie-star is for a fan. We were all a little star-struck! ;)  I think it's fair to say this event was even more special because I got to share it with a great group of people who all share a love for books.

What's the best bookish event you've ever attended?

September 10, 2012

I'm an Information Ninja

I did it you guys. I went to the library the other week and I got myself a library card. Who am I?! I never use the library. I have nothing against people who use the library - in fact, I think they are quite genius in doing so, seeing as how books from the library are FREE. BUT...I just like to own my books. And I don't like to have to wait my turn for a certain book. And I definitely don't like to have time constraints placed on when I read said book. "Oh, it's my turn to read this book now? But I have to pick it up tomorrow and I have to read it before three weeks is over?"  What if I'm in the middle of a really good book? How do you library-goers prioritize your book reading then? And what if it's a really good book that you want to own - do you purchase your own copy afterwards?

But I digress. I got myself a library card. And it is the coolest library card I have ever seen. Check it out:

I'm an Information Ninja. I freakin' love it.

Of course, I didn't check anything out that day. Let's not get crazy now. Baby steps for this library-virgin. So, why then, did I even get a library card? The short answer: audiobooks. The long answer: I've been trying to listen to audiobooks when I'm driving around in the car - which some days, is a lot. My first audiobook experience was pretty much a fail and took me almost 6 months to complete. But, I'm determined to develop a love for audiobooks. The thing is though, audiobooks are crazy expensive, and I don't listen to enough audiobooks to make it worthwhile to get an account on audible. I knew you could take out audiobooks from the library, but I never realized how great their selection actually is. So, for once, it finally made sense for me to get a library card.

Last week, I even went back to the library and actually checked something out:

  Tell me: Are you a library-lover or a library-virgin? 

September 06, 2012

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots, by Abby McDonald


Jenna may hail from the ’burbs of New Jersey, but Green Teen activism is her life. So when her mom suggests they spend the summer at Grandma’s Florida condo, Jenna pleads instead to visit her hippie godmother, Susie, up in rural Canada. Jenna is psyched at the chance to commune with this nature she’s heard about — and the cute, plaidwearing boys she’s certain must roam there. But after a few run-ins with local wildlife (from a larger-than-life moose to Susie’s sullen Goth stepdaughter to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna gets the idea that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don’t play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen. A dusty survival guide offers Jenna amusing tips on navigating the wilderness — but can she learn to navigate the turns of her heart?

I picked up this book while browsing the bargain shelves at Chapters one day. Something about the main character being an environmentalist and choosing to spend her summer in some far-off, rural town in British Columbia, Canada had me wanting to read more. It’s not every day that I read a book that’s set in Canada, let alone in an area that I know quite well. And I’ve always enjoyed a good summer story where the kids (or teen in this case) get to go off and spend their entire summer somewhere fun and exciting! I mean, seriously, we were never sent anywhere in the summers, save for a week at a summer camp.  

This book was great for so many reasons. You have your main character Jenna, who is passionate about something other than just boys and summer tans.  Her enthusiasm over being eco-friendly was over the top at times, but you couldn’t help but love her for it. Jenna’s identified herself as a ‘Green Teen’ for a few years now so it’s “who she is”, but can she find a way to fit-in and still be true to herself and her values? Then you have the polar-opposite of Jenna, in her godmother’s stepdaughter, Fiona – a sullen, snotty girl if I ever have met one.  I couldn’t stand her at times, but she does grow on you as her character evolves. While I am the type of person that would probably get on the next plane back home rather than deal with the likes of a person like Fiona, I admired Jenna for her perseverance in not backing down to Fiona’s hostile attitude. And while there is an unfolding love story in the pages, Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots is about so much more than falling in love.  The teens in this book felt real because the circumstances in their lives dealt with real issues – and often – relatable issues.

And then we also have the outdoors! And not just the outdoors, but activities in the outdoors! There’s hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, and mountain climbing – it definitely made me homesick for the beautiful outdoors of BC. And as inexperienced as Jenna was with these activities, she didn’t let it stop her from tagging along. She even goes so far as to purchase a wilderness survival guide which will help her navigate the great outdoors, as much as it will her personal life.  

The only thing that bugged me about this book was the moody and unwelcoming attitude of the boys that Jenna tries to befriend when she first arrives in BC. I expect this attitude from girls, but not from guys. I’ve always found it easier to make friends with guys, so I think this is why it bugged me as I couldn’t relate to their hostile attitudes. As we learn more about these characters, you can sort of see why they are the way they are, but I still think it was a bit extreme. 

Thankfully, every character gets a chance to grow in Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots.  And while the argument could be made that too much character development happened too quickly, I for one do believe that sometimes all it takes to change a young teen, is the length of the summer. Think about many times you would go back to school in the fall and the friends you thought you had and knew, had completely changed. 

Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read, one that made me nostalgic for summers past and the “great outdoors” of beautiful British Columbia.