Tuesday 20 December 2011

This is taken along Highway 22 in southern Alberta showing the Livingston Range in first snow.

Of late I have been quite busy with personal matters and unable to post regularly. I hope things will settle down after the Christmas holidays so I can get back to doing my book reviews and historical posts which many of you enjoy.

Photo Credit: Gord McKenna CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Sunday 27 November 2011

What The Night Knows by Dean Koontz (Book Review)

“In the late summer of a long-ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy.

“Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering families again, re-creating in detail Blackwood’s crimes. Homicide detective John Calvino is certain that his own family—his wife and three children—will be targets in the fourth crime, just as his parents and sisters were victims on that distant night when he was fourteen and killed their slayer.

“As a detective, John is a man of reason who deals in cold facts. But an extraordinary experience convinces him that sometimes death is no a one-way journey, that sometimes the dead return.

“Here is a ghost story like no other you have rad. In the Calvinos, Dean Koontz brings to life a family that might be your own, in a war for their survival against an adversary more malevolent that any he has yet created, with their own home the battleground. Of all his acclaimed novels, mpme exceeds What The Night Knows in power, in chilling suspense, and insheer mesmerizing storytelling.”

Dean Koontz has a particular writing style that provides explicit detail with a minimum use of words. He brings the apprehension of a family being stalked by a malevolent spirit to a palpable sensation for the reader. Despite the viewpoint of some people that spirits do not exist nor do they ‘haunt’ the living, take into consideration that this story is fiction. It is a fictional account that takes in the possibility of such an occurrence.

John Calvino is a man carrying a traumatic past that is resurfacing through the recreation of certain details in a homicide he is working on. As his unofficial investigation unfolds, John, undergoes peculiar occurrences: hears bells, or thinks he does, finds family photos on the killer’s computer, and other eerie incidents.

Further fantastical events appear. Each of John’s three children: Zach, wanting to join the Marines; 11-year old Naomi, and 8-year old Minnie, experience supernatural events. A shadowy man is seen in their bedroom mirrors. Despite Naomi’s perceived expertise on Prince Charmings and magic mirrors and nay-saying about the shadow man in the mirror, Minnie proves her matter-of-fact point that the closet mirror is unsafe by dropping a grape through the glass where it disappears. Their mirror is carried up to the attic, and to safe guard Naomi’s possible tampering with it in the future, Minnie paints the reflective surface black. This occurrence is only the beginning.

The children are as well developed as the other characters in this story, carrying the suspense through to the end as the reader gets caught up in their safety and how they manage further weird occurrences of the metaphysical. Mr. Koontz provides perfect examples of why one should not speak to errant spirits whether or not they are visible.

The killer and aspects surrounding the murders are well detailed and particularly graphic. Mr. Koontz goes into the psychological makeup of a malevolent person and a police detective trying to solve a sinister crime while delving into the hunter/stalker aspect.

In typical Dean Koontz style, there is a golden retriever in the story, Willard. Probably reminiscent of his own beloved Trixie, as Willard has passed from this world but makes his appearance to assist the children.

The ending is well done, tying up all the loose ends. An excellent book for suspense fans.

Book format: hardcover, 464 pages
Publisher: Bantam, Imprint of Random House
Author website: Dean Koontz

Now available in paperback.

Available at:



Friday 25 November 2011

Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park, British Columbia provides picturesque scenery for any photographer. Lake O'Hara is across the Continental Divide from Lake Louise, and one of my favourite locations for vacation.

Photo Credit: swisscan CC=nc-sa-flickr. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

One of many sights in rural Canada in the autumn is one of harvest, and placing cattle on mowed hayfiels. This photo was taken from Highway 22 near Longview, Alberta.

I favour the photographs of Mr. McKenna as he has one of those "eyes" for a shot that captures the essence of the view.

Photo Credit: Gord McKenna CC=nc-nd-flickr. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Monday 31 October 2011

This autumn view is of the Crownsnest River with Crowsnest Mountain on horizon in southern Alberta.

Photo Credit: tipkodi CC=nc-flickr. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Monday 24 October 2011

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia taken early morning.

Photo Credit: tea but no e CC=flickr. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Wednesday 12 October 2011

This lovely photo was taken just as the sun set behind Mt. Victoria from the grounds of the Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Photo Credit: Gord McKenna CC=nc-nd-flickr. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Monday 29 August 2011

Recovering Trumpeteres


These pretty birds are making a wonderful comeback from near extinction. Lake Ontario is not their normal habitat which is the west coast of British Columbia and parts of Alaska and the interior of British Columbia and Idaho.

Every spring and summer when I venture down to Lake Ontario there they are in pairs or singles, some with cygnets paddling in tow. Large at 60 inches, their wingspan is 96 inches. For awhile there were only a few pairs; and now there are multiple groups of them along Lake Ontario wherever people venture to offer food. They'll take wild birdseed as fast as the ducks and Canada Geese do.


Photo Credits: [1] Grant Gingko CC=nd-sa-flickr, [2] steveharris CC=nc-flickr.

Research: A Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Michael Vanner, Parragon 2006 p.49.

Monday 22 August 2011

My Town Monday - Ontario Place

Ontario Place is having it’s 40th anniversary, and to help visitors to attend they have opened their doors for free access to their grounds during the time Toronto holds its Exhibition (the “Ex”). Ontario Place is owned and run by the provincial government. There are additional charges for the many different kinds of rides and attractions. But, for the family or person looking for FREE attractions there are many, geared for young and old alike. It is open from May until October. Ontario Place consists of three man-made islands built atop a reef the Port Authority deemed dangerous to boating concerns. Landfill was reused to build up the reefs thus creating a waterfront park. Ontario Place is located south of the Exhibition Grounds and Lakeshore Boulevard next to Lake Ontario.

[1 - Inuksuk on Lakeshore Boulevard]

I went yesterday afternoon with some friends and was only able to take in a very small part of this lakeside attraction. For those visiting or living in Toronto, take the FREE SHUTTLE (blue bus) from Union Station to avoid parking and traffic dilemmas. It beats taking the TTC and transferring or an extra several blocks walk. Rather than pay to go through the EX (another annual attraction) we walked around the Princess Gate along the bicycle path to the Centre Entrance which prompted us to take the Free Shuttle on the way back. A word of advice about the bicycle path – watch out for cyclists! Enroute on the cyclist path is a tall Inuksuk to show you're on the correct track.

If you come on a free admission be sure to get a Summer Day Pass for $20or individual attraction tickets. There are so many things to see and do that this place requires multiple return trips.

After a noisy cheering from the crowd watching the lumberjacks from western Canada perform their chainsaw techniques on timber sections, a quieter venue was sought out from the intesne heat of the sun. The Earth Rangers put on a documentary and live visual of wild animals that are losing their habitats. It is an organization that assists wildlife live safely in their natural habitats around the world. A worthy cause for children of all ages to be interested in.

There were a number of demonstrations telling a bit about each of the birds and animals of their natural abilities:

Lemur are quite the cuties from Madagascar with great jumping ability. The Lemur used in the show was very engaging as it pulled on it's leash to bring the trianer closer rather doing his leaps from post to post.

Lemurs have very long tails to help balance them when they leap. Their front toes are used much like we use our fingers.

harrier hawk,

[3] Northern Harrier Hawk (hen)

barn owl: surprised me a little when I saw it fly to retrieve a treat from a tall post at the back of the viewing area. I suspect Harry Potter fans were delighted.

[4] This is Echo, the same owl I saw do his demonstration.

bald eagle, an amazing bird who kept surveying the crowd and above for anything that might catch his eye. This eagle was more prey oriented than the harrier hawk presented first.

[5] Earth Ranger demonstration with bald eagle

[6] - Bald Eagle head study

pine marten,

[7] Pine martens have very sharp claws to help them run along tree branches and rock ledges after their prey.

Servals are 21 to 26 inches tall weighing 15 to 20 pounds in females and 20 to 40 pounds in males. A nice sized cat. This was a very neat cat with powerful hind legs tat were longer than the front ones.


[9] Serval in savannah in Tanzania

During the demonstrations each of the animals and birds were provided with piecs and chunks of raw meat by their trainers. I'm not usually fond of seeing such demonstrations but each of these animals had been raised in captivity and had not been wild caught. Also, children have a rare treat of seeing a live specimen close up working with humans. At the rate habitat for these animals is disappearing it's defintely time to start educating people about how to save them, and in doing so, probably save humans, too, in the long run.

[10] Marina view from walkway near Marina Grille.

When passing by the marina I was sorry not to have brought a camera as there were several very impressive small yachts moored to the pier.

The weather was exceptional with hot sun for awhile followed up with a torrential downpour from a thunderstorm that moved in just after we went to the Marina Grill for a late lunch. Rather than stay longer we decided to leave.

As there are many more sites to be seen I will be back at later dates, at which time I will provide updates.

Go to My Town Monday for other participants. Clare Dickson has taken over My Town Monday from Travis Erwin who started it.

Reserach: wikipedia - Ontario Place

Photo Credits: [1]-DarkElfPhoto CC=nc-sa-flickr,[2][3][5][6][7][9]-Wikipedia,[4][5][8] earthrangers CC=nc-flickr,[10]-wyliepoon CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Monday 15 August 2011

This photo is of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia.

Photo Credit: Chris and Lara Pawluk cc=nc-nd-flickr.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Promises to Keep by Charles de Lint

From the back cover:

“The year is 1972. Jilly Coppercorn is happy, mostly. Her past was anything but. Abuse, addiction, and living on the street brought her to the brink of self-destruction. Now she’s struggling to stay clean and make ends meet. Jilly’s present life in Newford revolves around studying art at Butler University while surrounded by her supportive new family-of-choice: her caseworker, the Grasso Street Angel; best friend, Geordie the fiddler; and fellow artist, Sophie Etoile.

“Rising from the ashes to take on new responsibilities is hard, and nothing comes easily. As Jilly strives to create a life she can be proud of, she recives a tempting opportunity roaring in from the past on an oversized motorcycle. Donna Birch, the only close friend from Jilly’s old juvie days, has blossomed into a confident, tattooed bass-player who offers Jilly a one-in-a-lifetime chance to leave Newford—and start afresh in a beautiful, mysterious city where dreams are almost too easily realized.

“The problem is, Jilly still has unfinished business in Newford.”

This YA urban fantasy caught me by surprise. The entire story was compelling with subtle hints of lurking fantasy. Mr. De Lint placed great emphasis on attention to detail of locations and characters while weaving Jilly’s current experiences with her past.

Jilly meets her old friend, Donna Birch, quite by accident and is invited to hear her play at the biker club “Cool Hand Juke”. Despite, Jilly’s best friend, Geordie, not believing the place exists, Jilly goes. After attending the gig, JIlly accompanies Donna to her place where she learns she has entered into another reality where unfulfilled dreams can be realized. It seems too good to be true and easy as well. Finances materialize in a bank account, an apartment is set up in no time and Jilly goes for walks, meeting other residents with flavourful backgrounds. Soon Jilly discovers the mysterious city is filled with dead people: all who had unexpected deaths before their time. Jilly questions why Donna brought her to such a place without telling her more of the details.

Things get interesting when Jilly learns the doorway in closes and she needs to find another one going out.

The story contained elements of fairy tales where one inadvertently makes a bargain and tries to get out of it. Another aspect covered was of the sociological effects of people needing to be transformed through hope for a better future. That by providing any small kindness you do for others goes a long way to improving their lives. Best of all, the novel has a satisfactory ending.

Promises to Keep is companion to the bestselling novels The Onion Girl and Widdershins.

Charles de Lint is the bestselling author of over seventy adult, YA, and children’s books, including Moonheart, The Blue Girl, Medicine Road, and Forests of the Heart. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy, YALSA, Crawford, and Aurora awards. De Lint is a poet, songwriter, performer, and folklorist, and he has a regular book review column for Fantasy & Science Fiction. He lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his creative co-conspirator, MaryAnn Harris.

The review copy was provided by Chalene Brusso of Tachyon, with thanks.

Book format: paperback, 192 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Author website: Charles de Lint

Available at:




Monday 25 July 2011

My posts of late have been rather sparse except for the book reviews due to further editing of my manuscript and drafting the subsequent ones.

Writing needs that initial leap to get started, followed by fortitude to get through the ideas that work and cut those that don't.

Often there are a multitude of distractions that have to be dealt with before returning to the crafting of a story that will be entertaining, perhaps even providing a new insight.

Of couse, once one manuscript is done then the querying starts to find a publisher. I'll be sure to let you know how that works out.

Photos were taken near Olds, Alberta.

Photo Credits: Boutofsocks CC=nd-flickr.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Temples On The Other Side by Sylvia Browne (Book Review)

From inside cover:

“Once again, Sylvia Browne brings you fascinating information from the Other Side that can help your earthly existence. This time she explores the many temples and halls “beyond the veil,” explaining how they all hold wisdom that can dramatically improve your life right now. With the aid of her spirit guide Francine, Sylvia uses her gift of trance mediumship to discuss the role of each of these wonderful places and gives you the opportunity to experience the beauty and wonder of your real Home.

“Sylvia includes easy yet effective meditations to help you access exquisite edifices, including the Temple of Learning, the Hall of Healing, and more—each of which serves a particular purpose. And not only will you feel as if you’re actually visiting these special sites, but you’ll also gain insight into how their attributes can help you overcome challenges—and enrich your life in ways you never thought possible.”

This was my first Sylvia Browne book, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised during the reading of it. Her writing style is easy to understand, while providing indepth explanations of each of the temples and halls. Some may find this pure ‘fantasy’; however, the world is full of mysterious things that cannot be explained by ordinary means. Many people already see and converse with angels as well has having the ability to see them.

For those who are curious about the Other Side this is the book to read. Just before getting this book I had a feeling or image presented intuitively of a Greek-style temple in cloud-like formation sitting on a platform floating along. Once I got into the book I realized there were answers here that I had been looking for. Though I tend to take a ‘grain of salt’ with any metaphysical book, this one became quite intriguing when I came in contact with one of the Council Elders. After that occurrence the rest of the material was read with an objective view that there are different avenues to provide insight in this area.

For those readers wanting to explore each of the meditations within: go with an open mind rather than a skeptical one.

Book format: hardcover, 274 pages
Publisher: Hay House, Inc.
Author website: Sylvia Browne

Available at:




Friday 15 July 2011

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein (Book Review)

From the back cover:

“When Berkeley student Will Taylor is introduced by his best friend Ben to the mysterious Feierabend sisters, Will falls for enigmatic Livvy, a chemistry major and accomplished chef. But Livvy’s family—vivacious actress Maddie, family historian Rose, and their mother, absent-minded Sylvia—behave strangely. The Feierabend women appear to believe that luck is their birthright. Will and Ben learn that generations ago the family made a contract with a powerful otherwordly force, and they are now all entangled in an ages-old fairy tale.

“First discovered by the Brothers Grimm, and then inexplicably suppressed, the story of the Bondsmaid had been lost to the world for hundreds of years. The sacrifice of the Bondsmaid kept what little magic long supplanted by science, left in the world. Will must unravel the riddle of the supernatural bargain in order to save Livvy from her predestined fate.”

The story revolves around the time of 1971 just after the Hippy Revolution, including references such as a car with a choke. It was a nice step back down memory lane for me combined with fantasy in tantalizing bits keeping the story fresh throughout. It delves into the known mythological history of the faerie realm: glamour, dancing, elves, witches, wars between magical groups similar to the Wild Hunt. There is also a reference of kissing frogs, one of my favourite stories from childhood.

An entertaining read that kept me spell bound from the first chapter. It takes the concept of fairy tales and provides a fresh look. Everything is well detailed including the use of dimensions that overlap and the consequences of traveling between them. An ancient bargain for family fortune has its pitfalls for any family member who meddles.

LISA GOLDSTEIN is the author of novels and short story collections. Her novel The Red Magician won the American Book Award and she has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Review copy provided by Charlene Brusso, with many thanks.

Book format: paperback, 240 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Author website: Lisa Goldstein
Available: June 2011 ISBN 978-1-61696-014-8




Friday 24 June 2011

The Road to Bedlam by Mike Shevdon (Book Review)

“There’s been an accident. It’s your daughter.” These are the words no parent ever wants to hear.

“Learning to cope with the loss of a child is only the beginning of the new challenges facing Niall Petersen. An old enemy has returned and Niall already knows it’s not a social call. As the new Warder of the Seven Courts he will be forced to choose between love and honour, duty and responsibility.”

This is the second book in Mike Shevdon’s The Court of Feyre series which follows SIXTY-ONE NAILS, when Niall Petersen discovered via a heart attack on the London underground that he had inherited ‘fey powers’,. This introduced Niall into the hidden world of magic and the Courts of Feyre, of which the Untainted are the darkest of the Seven Courts.

Following on the heels of SIXTY-ONE NAILS, Niall Petersen becomes a new Warder with the responsibility of protecting the High Council of the Seven Fayre Courts, and cleaning up after individual Fayre who go beyond their bounds.

Alex, Niall’s daughter, is involved in a terrible school mishap when her fey powers go out of control. Thinking her dead, Niall grieves; yet, through an unexpected communication through a bathroom mirror he learns that Alex is still alive.

Complicating matters are the return of Lord Altar, and two guests, Raffmir and Deefnir, wraithkins of the Seventh Court. Being the Untainted, they have a determined agenda to rid the world of all part human-part fey ‘mongrels’. To alleviate tensions Garvin, the Head Warder, sends Niall on a special assignment acting as a journalist to investigate missing girls in a northern seaside location in England. While there Niall, whose paternal cares threaten to overwhelm him as he struggles to maintain his Warder training against searching for his missing daughter.

Blackbird, who had rescued Niall in the underground in the first book, returns as his new partner. She is heavily pregnant with their first child who will be part fey/human. Aware of her vulnerability during pregnancy, with no magical powers, she assists Niall where she can.

Raffmir is a magnificent antagonist and despite his charming mannerisms is utterly ruthless. He lures Niall into assisting him in rescuing Alex from her confinement. Rather than to go into too much spoiler detail, their activities in the lead-up to the ending is superb, racheting up the suspense.

The pacing and attention to detail are spot on, with assorted exciting incidents within that are certain to please the reader. A few such scenarios were: Niall’s encounter during a dream-state of carnivorous plants in a forested glade; and discovering a vicar had inherited ‘power’. All sub-plot threads were tied up at the end except for a few that will obviously be dealt with in the following books of the series.

Mr. Shevdon’s expertise in martial arts rings through with the sets of swordplay and developing the concept of other realms in the void beyond our known existence. Books 3 and 4 of the series are being published by Angry Robot Books, of which I look forward to reading.

The review copy was provided by Lee Harris, with many thanks.

Book format: paperback, 528 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Author website: Mike Shevdon
Available: November 2010
Also in ebook.




Saturday 11 June 2011

The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer (Book Review)

From the back cover:

“The creator of a child-swallowing manta ray struggles with office politics: a parasitical collective of co-workers, his (literally) flammable supervisor, and the hazardous whims of the fiftieth floor. A broken-hearted sharpshooter travels to a dusty border town, searching for the elusive floating city where her husband has vanished. A dissolute author – equipped only with two pearl-handled pistols, a rockhopper penguin, and plentiful vodka—is dispatched to Lake Baikal, where he hunts for his metafictional redemption.

“The Third Bear is the much–anticipated first collection of critically-accalimed author Jeff VanderMeer’s surreal and absurdist short fiction. VanderMeer, whose work has been compared by critics to Borges and Kafka, evokes exotic beasts and eccentric scenarios from the uncharted depths of our innermost psyches."

Tthese are stories about the inexplicable, and the reader ought to consider the imagery within each of the stories. Mr. VanderMeer's early exposure to the sea play upon several of the stories: to read those of a sea-faring nature brings the reader right into the story itself. There are many hidden things within the lines of each story. The genre elements of horror are mingled with fantasy and every day realism. Many of the stories have disturbing elements to them.

The Third Bear

A forest village is plagued by brutal killings by a bear. Despite repeated attempts to send hunters, the villagers turn for assistance to the witch in the woods. An intriguing aspect of this story was the door to the witch’s abode.

The Quickening

An orphan living with her Aunt in Florida acquires a white rabbit: who talks. An engaging story of growing up.

Finding Sonoria

A stamp collector hires a PI to find the place “Sonoria” from the name on the stamp. After an unfruitful search, the PI begins thinking he can see the trees moving in the wind on the mountain. Then his dreams begin.


A man slips into another reality after the death of his wife.

The Situation

Warped victimization of working in a futuristic office where the office manager is flammable.


Utterly creepy story of a scientist in an old mansion with bizarre experiments.

Fixing Hanover

A piece of machinery is washed up on shore which a man names Hanover when he is asked to repair it. An alarming incident occurs when Hanover speaks.

Shark God versus Octopus God
(based on a Fijian myth)

The Shark God, Dakuwaga, rules his portion of the sea by relentless blood lust with his army of 10,000 sharks, considered invincible. One day, Dakuwaga decides to battle the Octopus God for Kadavu Island, learning the aspect of mercy from a powerful opponent. An excellent story.


The first two sentences in this short set up the reader nicely:”I am writing this sitting in the waterlogged lobby of a rotting, half-finished condominium complex. I am surrounded by cavorting freshwater seals and have two pearl-handled revolvers in my lap, a bottle of vodka in my right hand, ahuman body in the freezer in the kitchen behind me, and a rather large displaced rockhopper penguin staring me in the face.” By the way, the penguin’s name is Juliette. Thus begins a tongue-in-cheek mission to change the future. Good fun.

The Goat Variations

A future America where the separatist evangelists have divided the country with the government fighting them. Deep beneath the Pentagon REM-stage images have been collected from segregated adepts: a collective message of a future event. A time machine is built to convey users to alternate realities.

Three Days in a Border Town

The descriptive images of desert sand and ancient buildings provide an intriguing backdrop for a woman-looking for her missing husband. In each of the border towns she discovers another clue about the illusive City in the desert.

The Secret Life of Shane Hamill

A humourous look at a bookstore employee who builds a Roman galley. There’s a nice twist at the end.

The Surgeon’s Tale

This story is a variation of the Frankenstein theme.


(Fragments from the legendary city of Smaragdune’s Green Tablets)
Short stories within a larger one with vivid imagery in the prose along with bits of some of the previous stories in thus anthology.

Despite the sinister undertones in the majority of these stories there is something here for every fantasy reader.

Jeff VanderMeer is the award-winning author of City of Saints and Madmen, Finch, and Veniss Underground. He has recevied two World Fantasy Awards and an NEA-funded fellowship.

The review copy was provided by Matt at Tachyon Publications.

Book format: paperback, 384 pages
Publisher: Tachycon Publications
Author website: Jeff VanderMeer

Available: August 2010



Saturday 28 May 2011

This photo is of the Bow River at Canmore, Alberta.

Of late I've been stricken with a nasty infection that has decided to loosen it's hold. Thus, I'm on the road of repair and better health. And, just maybe, I'll be able to enjoy a walk in this lovely forested area again.

Photo Credit: 2BFotoguBkarten CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Monday 16 May 2011

My Town Monday - Going in Style - Part 3

Browns’ Limited Catalogue of 1906 covered all the usual items any settler or towns person wished to purchase:ladies’ and mens’ clothing, furniture, wall paper, floor oilcloth and linoleum, carpets and various sundry goods.

I particularly liked the different styles of rugs which are quite similar to those today. There were different types: runners of 27” and 36” wide included Axminister, Wilton and velvet, Brussels and English Tapestry, Wool and Union, Japanese Straw Matting, Cocoa Matting; parlor rugs with or without fringes, lining, reversible wool Smyrna rugs (with attestation of the wearing quality of two rungs, never curl an dlie perfectly flat on the floor), hearth rugs.

Other floor coverings popular at the time were oilcloth and linoleum used in kitchens.

Wallpaper all had upper borders illustrating a different design or pastoral scene. One particular listing states: “High class, gold tinted wall paper, the colorings are not loud but have a character that cannot but be appreciated,” and “Baronial wall paper is a high grade paper in a rich ground color of red, cannot fail to embellish libraries, dining rooms and halls.”

Window shades came in coloured cloth often with lace trim or fringe.

Many accoutrements necessary for running the household included: piano drapes, pillow cords, cushion girdles, linen collars, foundation collars, dress shields, black valenciennes and net lace, torchon laces and insertions, elastic, hari brushes, dressing combs, hose supporters, notions, shirt waist sets, ruchings and frillings, various styles of gloves, steels, spools and feather bone,corset clasps, table oilcloths and American leathers, flannelettes.

These particular furnishings and those in the earlier sections were the main stay of households throughout Canada.

Other participants to My Town Monday can be found here.

Click to enlarge any of the photos.

Monday 2 May 2011

My Town Monday - Going In Style - Part 2

Last week Part 1 focused on ladies clothing in 1906, available through Browns' Limited catalogue in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Today’s post covers sturdy oak furniture in styles that might suit some tastes to differ from modern contemporary styles .The furniture was touted as being stylish, best quality, well made while some pieces were massive others sported a more dainty appearance as not to appear cumbersome. Most were solid pieces of furniture. My grandfather had purchased six dining room chairs, a round oak table that had two leaves to extend it and a buffet cabinet from a similar company which he used as “settler’s effects”. These items he took by rail from Toronto to central Alberta in 1904.

1906 Hall Furniture

This furniture was more suited for a house in town or a larger municipality, or a large prosperous land holder. Most farmers or settlers in western parts of Canada had more modest living arrangements, often a two room house which additions were added later.

Parlor Furniture with Morris Chairs

The Parlor furniture consisted of a settee or loveseat with four variables in armchairs and chairs, some with rockers and couches. The Morris Chairs were obviously meant for the “man of the household”—nothing dainty about those massive chairs.

I have always liked the “couches” of this era: quaint pieces of furniture with embroidered velvet coverings on neat little legs with roller feet.


Parlor Cabinets

Intriguing pieces of furniture to display one’s collectibles with “British plate mirror”.

Book Cases and Musi Cabinets

Most of the music cabinets were made from mahogany.

Parlor and Dining Room Chairs

The better chairs were sturdy made from oak while kitchen chairs tended to be from another hardwood or pine.

Parlor Tables

Those necessities in every home for plants or tea services.

I really liked some of the designs of the cabinets and hall furniture while wondering if there were manufacturers today who were able to make replicas or fashion their stock after these.

Next week is Part 3.

For other participants of My Town Monday go here.

Monday 25 April 2011

My Town Monday - Going In Style

Raincoat for Ladies. This coat is made of rubberized Covert Cloth;…double stiched seams velvet collar, half belt; colors, grey and fawn. Sizes 32 to 42 5.00

As most of my past posts for My Town Monday have been in various historical periods of Canada, today I am covering the fashions and furniture of 1906 from the Browns’ Limited Spring Catalogue, Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Unfortunately I do not have the men’s portion of the catalogue, however, I’m certain the ladies section will suffice. This portion of catalogue is from my Grandmother Edith who immigrated to Canada in 1906, picking this up in Winnpeg en route to Alberta. I scanned what pages remain in the hopes of salvaging the contents before it disintegrates. Thus, here are some excepts accompanied by illustrations.

Ladies – “How to Dress Well

“This is a matter of considerable importance to women. If you want to be well dressed you must select those garments which combine all that is new and up-to-date in Style, Fit and Workmanship; you want all this in a moderate cost. In this catalogue you will find a number of Northway Garments that are designed to meet this demand.

“They are always in the forefront with the new styles for each season. They are honestly made, shape-keeping garments. The fit is everthing that can be desired. The value you can judge from the garment here displayed. The materials are always the best quality possible, consistent with the price of each garment…”

Ladies and Misses’ Jackets and Cravenette Coats

An example of a listing: “618. LADIES’ CRAVENTTE RAINCOAT. 45 inches long, fly front, two clusters of pleats on each side, tacked down in centre, surmounted by strappings of self, collarless style, pleated back, pleats surmounted by self-strappings. Made in Fawns and Greys, and also similar styles in Fawn Covert Cloths. 15.00, 17.50 and 20.00

Ladies’ Wrappers, made of strong print, 8-in flounce on skirt, tight-fitting back, with fullness from waist line; frill around yoke; large sleeves made to button at cuff; colors, navy and white, black and white, red and white. Sizes 32 to 44 1.50

Child’s Dress

Ladies' High Grade Style Skirts

These wool skirts come with pleats, some trimmed with tabs and buttons; in various colours of black, fawn, tweeds. Prices: 5.50, 7.75, 8.50

And those fashionable undergarments ladies wore: the underskirts made in black staeen with various rows of gathered flounce trimmed in ruffles.

Luckily togay women don't have to wear those form fitting, cinched up corsets made with whale bone staves.

Part Two next week. Click to enlarge any of the photos.

For other participants in My Town Monday please go here.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Solemn Vows by Don Gutteridge (Book Review)

From the back page:

“It’s a steamy June in Toronto, 1836, Lieutenant Marc Edwards has again found himself sitting atop a lit powder keg in more ways than one. A prominent politician has been assassinated, and in their haste to catch the killer, Marc, and his troops are responsible for the death of an innocent local man. Making matters even worse, Marc may have accidentally gotten himself engaged to the wrong woman, while the right woman still won’t answer his letters.

“In order to track down the real assassin, Edwards joins forces with Constable Cobb of the newly created Toronto police force. Cobb’s methods are somewhat different from Marc’s; and investigations always end up in the local tavern, where it seems everyone knows far too much about Marc’s romantic entanglements.

“Between keeping track of Cobb, solving the murder, and extricating himself from his accidental engagement, Marc Edwards will be pushed to his limit once more.”

Solemn Vows is the second novel in the Marc Edwards Mystery series set in a historical era that I’ve posted about. Despite not having read the first book, Turncoat, the story had enough detail from the previous one to carry forward. The background of the plot covers the conflicts between the British government and the population, namely farmers and merchants, seeking to resolve grievances over taxes, roads and schools.

Sir Francis Bond Head, the new Lieutenant-Governor, takes some underhanded methods to keep the British government as the ruling force by disbanding the Assembly prior to calling elections. Marc Edwards as his camp-de-aide has concerns over his ethics while trying to be honest. Edwards is assigned to find the murderer of the politician as well as the writer behind anti-government sentiments in the local paper run by William Lyon Mackenzie.

As the story unfolded I began to like this character, Marc Edwards, despite being upstaged by the Toronto cop “Horatio Cobb”. Through Cobb’s investigative talents via frequenting the local taverns for gossip, it is determined that the assassin of the politician was hired.

Edwards feeling spurned by Beth Smallman’s failure to respond to his letters, he accepts the affections of Eliza Dwight-Smythe, niece to a prosperous wine entrepreneur. Despite the new feelings towards Eliza, Edwards discovers the old ones for Beth haven’t quite disappeared.

There were a few areas of concern when Edwards didn’t take back up when he responded to urgent messages, but that allowed the author to set him up. However, despite this there were many comedic romantic and social events to lighten the story and made for excellent reading. The ending came action packed with a satisfying conclusion and a good chuckle.

I hope Don Gutteridge continues to write more about Horatio Cobb in future books in the series, and I look forward to reading the next novel Vital Secrets.

Don Gutteridge taught English at the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, before starting the Marc Edwards mystery series.

Review copy provided by Anneliese Grosfeld.

Book format: Trade paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Available: January 2011
Also available in eBook



Tuesday 5 April 2011

Heartsone by C J Sansom (Book Review)

From inside cover flap:

“Summer, 1545.

“England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.

“Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr, which will lead him into the corrupt labyrinth of the King’s Court of Wards. Asked to investigate claims of ‘monstrous wrongs’ committed against his young ward Hugh Curteys by Sir Nicholas Hobbey, a Hampshire landowner, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant, Barak, journey to Portsmouth. Shardlake has taken the case, despite the imminent threat of invasion, as it also gives him the opportunity to investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettiplace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam whom he has befriended and whose family once lived nearby.

“Arrived in Portsmouth, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a battle zone. The mysteries surrounding the seemingly normal Hobbey family nineteen years before, involved Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the king’s great warships, gathered in Portsmouth harbour, waiting to sail out and confront the approaching French fleet…”

This is C.J. Sansom’s fifth novel in the Shardlake series, two of which I have already read: Dissolution and Dark Fire I have the fourth: Revelation, waiting in the bookcase. What is nice about each of the books in this series is they are completely stand alone stories with little portions carried over from the previous ones. True to nature, Shardlake continues to have sympathy towards orphans and widows in poor circumstances. A stalwart defender of defenseless women: young or old; and the poor.

There is detailed historical fact woven to provide a rich tapestry behind the major plot and several subplots. The author goes into splendid descriptions of the countryside enroute to Portsmouth, the conditions of the soldiers preparing for battle with the French, the warships Great Harry and Mary Rose engaged in battle, the relationship Shardlake has with Queen Catherine Parr, including the politics of 1545.

There are secondary characters carried over from the previous novels: Jack Barak, Shardlake’s clerk, who helps with investigations of the legal cases taken on. To add domesticity, Barak’s wife, Tasamin, is expecting; and Guy, a foreign physician. New secondary characters, William Coldiron, Shardlake’s steward, with an interesting past; his daughter, Josephine; provide a look into the difficulties of having servants.

Bits of short recollections from previous books to keep the storyline cohesive are provided, such as a mention of Shardlake visiting “…Hampton Court, to see Archbishop Cranmer after having been falsely imprisoned in the Tower.” Each of these provides a link within to other characters who tend to have nefarious motives. Such as Sir Richard Rich, and defense lawyer, Vincent Dyrick.

While at Hoyland Priory investigating the allegations about Nicholas Hobbey’s ward, Hugh Curteys, Shardlake and Barak participate in a staged hunt in a deer park. An exciting thread with a stand off by a ten-point stag (though I wished the stag had done a bit more damage to the hunters before his demise).

Apart from the deer hunt, bodies start turning up resulting in new questions to be answered. With new investigating to be done, Shardlake lands in inevitable trouble, of one sort or another. He follows the twists and turns, coming up with a few red herrings, but all the questions are resolved with a satisfactory conclusion.

I thoroughly enjoyed this superb book though it took some time to get through the 600 plus pages as I tend to read slowly while savouring the moods the wording presents. I look forward to another in this splendid series.

C. J. SANSOM was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a Ph.D. in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. C. J. Sansom also wrote the bestselling novel Winter in Madrid. He lives in Sussex.

The review copy was provided by Cassandra Sadek.

Genre: Mystery and Detective, Historical
Book format: hardcover, 640 pages
Publisher: Random House Canada

Available: Sep 28 2010