Friday, 31 May 2013

Review: 'The Modern Day Gunslinger' by Don Mann

The Modern Day Gunslinger: The Ultimate Handgun Training Manual, by Don Mann, US Navy SEAL, 2010, Skyhorse Publishing, $17.95, softbound, 435 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: effective. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

Written by decorated combat veteran Don Mann, this book addresses weapons and range safety, marksmanship, tactical guidelines, combat mind-set, concealed carry, and defensive training techniques. 

Mann discusses stance, of which there are dozens, as well as variations, according to the author. He advises experimenting to find the stance that works best for you. A good shooting stance will include stability, mobility, balance, and natural point of aim. Mann says that once you establish your natural point of aim, you will be able to glance away without losing your aim. 

Basic kneeling positions and ready positions are also discussed, and so are -- among many other things -- grip and trigger control, follow-through and scan, and training fundamentals. 

In the chapter on malfunctions (also known as 'stoppages'), Mann looks at those malfunctions most commonly found when firing semi-automatics. There are three types of malfunctions (some weapons trainers classify them into two categories), and Mann describes each of them in turn, as well as listing possible causes for each and the procedures for clearing these malfunctions. 

Under 'Loading, Reloading, and Unloading,' Mann tells us not to look down at your weapon when correcting malfunctions, loading, or reloading. Instead, he says, you should correct every malfunction and conduct each reload as practice  for a gun fight. 

Mann stresses the importance of regularly practising dry fire. This will help you learn and enhance your skills at trigger control, draw stroke, reloads, sighted techniques, weapons handling, malfunction clearing, and more. 

Training tips are given throughout the book, and there are quotes from various people, including Winston Churchill, Sun Tzu, and Wyatt Earp. 

This is a good book for people who train with guns as well as for writers who want to write about those people. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review: 'The Best of The Alan Parsons Project' by The Alan Parsons Project

'The Best of The Alan Parsons Project,' by The Alan Parsons Project, 1983, Arista Records. Cover: not great. Lyrics not included. 

The Alan Parsons Project can be a bit weird, which may be why the cover of this album is odd. They have seven lead singers on this tape, most of whom are quite good. 

'Eye in the Sky,' one of our favourites, is about a guy who's figured out his girlfriend is cheating; 'Games People Play' is about getting past the games; 'Time,' a slower tune, is about a guy leaving his girl and his friends, maybe forever. 

Two of the oddest tracks are 'Pyramania,' about believing in pyramid power (so weird) and 'Psychobabble,' which we like, about a guy seeing a psychiatrist. 

'Don't Let It Show' is about keeping a stiff upper lip after a break-up; 'Can't Take It With You,' which has images of the River Styx in it, is about death; and 'Old and Wise' is about getting past the things that hurt you when you're older and wiser. 

Note: mild language. 

Favourite lyrics include: 'Games people play,/You take it/You leave it/Things that they say, Honor Brite/If I promise you the Moon and the Stars/Would you believe it,/Games people play in the middle of the night' ('Games People Play'); 'Don't say words you're gonna regret/Don't let the fire rush to your head/I've heard the accusation before/And I ain't gonna take any more' ('Eye in the Sky'). 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: Midnight'

'Bates Motel: Midnight,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin. Directed by Tucker Gates. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. Mondays on A&E, or catch up on full episodes at

The season finale, and it ends with a bang. This was one of our favourite episodes, as it was action-packed and tightly written. 

It begins with Norma (Vera Farmiga) going to Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) for help with with Jake Abernathy (Jere Burns), who has demanded she give him the $150,000.00 he thinks she owes him. Romero says he'll 'take care of it,' but that isn't enough for Norma, who goes to Dylan (Max Thieriot) for a gun and lessons on how to use it. However, Dylan, who has more sense than Norma and Norman combined, says, 'you and a gun is a bad idea.' He's right, for various reasons; but of course he eventually breaks down and gives Norma what she wants. 

Meanwhile, Norman (Freddie Highmore, pictured left) offers to take Emma (Olivia Cooke) to the school dance. He also notices the sparks flying between Dylan and Bradley (Nicola Peltz), and, though he refuses to admit it, is clearly quite disturbed by this. Bad Norman is emerging again. 

Norman also witnesses a phone conversation of Miss Watson's (Keegan Connor Tracy, pictured right) and comes to be in her confidence. Norma confides in Norman, as well, telling him about her tortured childhood -- and perhaps bringing the two of them a bit too close.  

Romero does 'take care' of the problem with Jake Abernathy . . . but not in the way Norma might expect. And something bad happens when Norman is brought home from the dance by Miss Watson.

Bad Norman, indeed.  

We can't wait for next season!  

Monday, 27 May 2013

Review: 'Transformed' by Debbie Kump

Transformed, by Debbie Kump, 2011, World Castle Publishing, $9.99, softbound, 267 pages. Category/Genre: fantasy. Cover: not bad. Where we got it: author's relative. Where you can get it: Amazon.

Thirteen-year-old Jessica Davis has a dream that she's turned into a sea eagle and is trying to help someone. When the alarm wakes her, she realises she has, in fact, turned into a giant sea eagle. But she can talk, and has anthropomorphic motion. When her mother sees what's happened, she surprises Jessica by being happy for her. Transforming runs in the family, and Jessica's mum always wanted the gift herself. 

Jessica's Grandpa Theodore could also shape-shift into a sea eagle. He died in a battle because Jessica's mother couldn't shape-shift and fight for him. Now Jessica will be trained in the art of transformation so that she, too, can go to battle.

To that end, she travels (awkwardly -- she still doesn't know the intricacies of flying) to the island of Pokapu. This is where the base camp of the Alliance is. The Alliance is an organisation of shape-shifters (or 'morphers') who protect endangered species and their habitats. Here Jessica meets the eight other morpher students who, like her, will be taught how to control their shape-shifting abilities.

But strange things keep happening to Jessica. She knows, without being told, the translation of the island's name, and she finds her grandpa's sketch of the place she saw in her dream. Her social life is also complicated: two of her fellow students take an instant and inexplicable dislike to her, and she still doesn't know how to turn back into her human form.

Then, when Shredder, one of her classmates, takes her by the hand, Jessica sees a torrent of unfamiliar faces. These visions continue to assault her whenever she comes into physical contact with Shredder. Jessica is falling for Shredder, but her best friend likes him, too.

We thought this was a stronger story than Debbie Kump's 7G; Kump's style is more suited to the young adult audience, and she has an unusual take on shape-shifters in this book. There's humour in the book, and it's well thought-out. 

Note: mild language.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?     

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Review: 'Defiance: The Serpent's Egg'

'Defiance: The Serpent's Egg,' 2013, SyFy Channel. Written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson. Directed by Omar Madha. Rated TV-14 for language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 9.00 p.m. Mondays on SyFy Channel, or catch full episodes at

This episode deals in part with Irisa's (Stephanie Leonidas) past as she recognises a man coming into Defiance; the man (we apologise for not getting his name) once tortured Irisa, and she wants to know why. So she kidnaps him and keeps him in a basement, torturing him to find out what she wants to know. 

Of course, Nolan (Grant Bowler) wouldn't stand for this if he knew about it; but he's out of town, escorting an Irathient prisoner (Kaniehtiio Horn) and the money Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) has collected to build Defiance its own railway. Along with the prisoner and Nolan are Amanda and a few other passengers, including Olfin Tennety (Jane McLean), the ambassador of the Earth Republic. Amanda has been avoiding Olfin's messages as a way of telling her she's not interested in doing business with her. 

In fiction (and so often in real life), things do not go as planned, and the roller transporting passengers and cargo is suddenly attacked. Two men arrive to steal the money Amanda has collected along with any money Olfin has. Not only that, but the prisoner, Rynn, keeps trying to escape. 

Things only get worse from there. As for Irisa, Deputy Tommy LaSalle (Dewshane Williams) follows her and finds out what she's up to -- but that isn't the end of it. 

There are a few twists and turns to keep you guessing in this episode, as well as the usual action and character development. All in all, a rousing good time!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Review: 'Eyewitness Travel Guide: London' by Michael Leapman, DK

Eyewitness Travel Guide: London, Main Contributor Michael Leapman, 1993, DK, $25.00, softbound, 448 pages. Category/Genre: travel. Cover: lovely shot of Big Ben. Where we got it: prezzie. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

This is a much-treasured prezzie we recently got from a dear friend to help us with writing about England. It's a book that has everything. 

Before you even come to the table of contents, there's a map of London area by area, with each area colour-coded. 

The section introducing London has, among other things, the history of London, London at a glance, and London through the year. 'London at a Glance' reveals the top 10 tourist attractions found in London; and 'London Through the Year' highlights what can be found during the different seasons and months. There are even charts for the average daily hours of sunshine, the average monthly rainfall, and the average monthly temperature. 

'London Area by Area' gives the reader sights at a glance: historic streets and buildings, churches, museums and galleries, monuments, and parks and gardens. This section also has a 'Street by Street' map and a look inside buildings such as the Houses of Parliament. In the area section, one may also find six guided walks and what can be seen along those walks. 

'Travelers' Needs' helps one find where to stay, how to book one's stay, and the facilities found in London hotels. There's a whole host of hotels listed with their contact information, price range,and a brief blurb on what the hotel is like. Restaurants and pubs are given their due, as well, and there's even a section on the types of food one may find in London. Plus, there's a list of restaurants that has the same type of information as that given for hotels.        

There's also a spectacular pull-out map at the back of the book. Here you will find information on getting around in London -- by bus, underground (tube), driving, walking, etc. There's plenty more to be found in this guide, as well, so if you're planning on visiting, or merely writing about, London -- or if you're simply very interested -- this is the guide for which you've been looking.  

One small nit: it would be nice if the colours of London area by area were a bit more differentiated; it's rather hard to tell some of the colours apart. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review: 'Surfacing' by Sarah McLachlan

'Surfacing' by Sarah McLachlan, 1997, Arista. Cover: pretty. Inside includes artwork and one other picture of McLachlan. Lyrics not included.

One of our favourite songs on this album is 'I Love You.' It's a slow, haunting, lovely song, and McLachlan sings it so beautifully. 

Most of the songs on this tape are from the darker side of life: there's the well-known 'Building a Mystery,' which is actually pretty weird, with dark lyrics; 'Adia,' about a love ended and the feelings left over; 'Do What You Have to Do,' about enduring when someone leaves you; and 'Witness,' which involves questions about faith. 

'Black and White' tells of living up to others' expectations and not knowing who you really are, and 'Full of Grace' is McLachlan's take on wanting to be better to your lover. 'Last Dance,' an instrumental, is one of the few tracks on the album which doesn't involve depressing lyrics. Still, McLachlan's voice is smooth and appealing. If you like Sarah McLachlan, you might want to try this album.   

Favourite lyrics include: 'And the night's/Too long/And cold here/Without you/I grieve in my condition/For I can't find the words to say I need you so' ('I Love You'). 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: Underwater'

'Bates Motel:Underwater,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin. Directed by Tucker Gates. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for    suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations,and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. on Mondays on A&E. Or watch full episodes at

 Following her discovery of Deputy Shelby's (Mike Vogel) dead (and autopsied) body in her bed, Norma (Vera Farmiga) decides she wants to move again, this time to one of the safest cities in the U.S. Norman (Freddie Highmore) likes his school -- he's getting straight A's in all his classes, and his teacher, Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy), says she thinks a story he turned in should be published. So Norman doesn't want to move. 

Meanwhile, Bradley (Nicola Peltz) asks Dylan (Max Thieriot) for a favour: she wants to visit her father's old office to gather some of his things. This turns out to be a bigger favour than either of them thought, as Gil, Dylan's boss, doesn't want anything to do with Mr. Martin, nor does he want anyone messing around, perhaps finding out things they shouldn't. Gil is a dangerous man, so they will have to sneak into the office at night and hope no-one catches them. 

Juno, Norman's dog, has been stuffed now, and is a constant companion for Norman when he's in his room. This is a nice glimpse into the man Norman will become; another such glimpse is Norman's dream about drowning Bradley. Norman has a lot of anger in him, and he's not getting any help for it. The dream worries Dylan, who asks Norman if he would ever want to hurt anyone. Of course, Norman says no -- but wanting to hurt someone and being capable of it are two separate things. 

Norma continues to have problems with Jake Abernathy (Jere Burns); not only does she believe (correctly) that he's responsible for putting the dead man in her bed, but someone sends her flowers with a note saying, 'See you 
soon . . . ' -- which of course gives her the creeps, considering what she's been through. She also spots a car passing by the motel and suspects Abernathy. But the police don't have much to go on; all of Abernathy's information, which he provided Norma with when he rented a room at the motel, is false. 

There was one odd moment in this episode (which otherwise we were quite pleased with): Emma (Olivia Cooke) eats a weed-laced cupcake. With relish, we might add. It seems a bit out of character without some sort of lead-up. Perhaps she was feeling rebellious. 

The episode ended with Abernathy forcing Norma to promise to meet him and give him the $150,000.00 he thinks she got from Kevin Summers (Earl Brown). The season is coming to a close soon, and we suspect it will end on a cliff-hanger. Hopefully, the series will be renewed.  


Monday, 20 May 2013

Authors Beware

Penguin -- a large and reputable publishing company, and one that we have supported for many years -- bought a scamming vanity press (Author Solutions) last July. Unfortunately, they're not changing the scamming tactics of the vanity press, at least not according to this:

Instead, they've given Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss a seat on the board. According to Emily Suess, guest author for the above site, the scam hasn't changed a bit. 

Read the article; and if you're an author, beware. If you know an author, warn him or her. Authors have a hard enough time making ends meet without being scammed by someone who claims to have their backs.    

Review: 'A Gift of Herbs' by Heidi Hartwiger

A Gift of Herbs: How to Make Easy, Inexpensive and Thoughtful Gifts Using Herbs, Heidi Hartwiger, Illustrated by Susan Tracy, 1993, Downhome Press, $13.95, softbound, 152 pages. Category/Genre: how-to/crafts. Cover: passable. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

The book opens with herb folklore and trivia before moving on to a section on culinary uses and gifts. The author does make a note of caution here: it would be wise for the reader to practise moderation when using herbs, particularly when drinking herbal teas, as some of the herbs in this book have medicinal uses and, therefore, may have side effects, as well. It would be best, the author says, to consult a physician if any unwanted side effects occur. 

A list of vocabulary words is included in the culinary section of the book. Infusion, for example, is the act of pouring boiling water over herbs and steeping them, then pouring the mixture through a strainer in order to remove the wilted herbs. The tea is then consumed. 

With each project, Hartwiger includes a 'Busy Herb Lover Method' as well as a 'Lovingly Long Method.' 

In the culinary section, the reader is introduced to herbal vinegars (which the author says are simple to make), herbal salts, herbed butter and cheese, herb jelly, herbal teas, and crystallising herbs.

Next is 'Herbs for Comfort and Beauty.' Here the reader will find a listing of floral scents, outdoor/fresh air scents, citrus scents, and spice scents from which to choose. There are methods for drying herbs and instructions on preparing an herbal facial treatment; herbs for the bath; herbs for skin care; herbal oils and shampoo; insect repellent; pet cosmetics; and more. 

There's a large section on potpourri, and there are directions for making pomander balls (air refreshers), and all-occasion crafts. Hartwiger outlines the tools, equipment, and materials that the reader will need to make the crafts, along with how to make herb wreaths, a swag, a kissing ball, etc. Plus there are crafts for busier herb lovers: a nosegay (tussie-mussie), magnetic gifts, hot pads, and more.   

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review: 'Defiance: A Well Respected Man'

'Defiance: A Well Respected Man,' 2013, SyFy Channel. Written by Craig Gore and Tim Walsh. Directed by Michael Nankin. Starring Grant Bowler, Tony Curran, Julie Benz, and Mia Kirshner. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 9.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on SyFy Channel. Or watch full episodes at

Stahna (Jamie Murray, pictured) figures neatly into the background of this story, and we're pleased not only with Murray's performance, but with the character depth this adds. 

The main characters in this tale, however, are Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), mayor of Defiance, and her prostitute sister, Kenya (Mia Kirshner). We get a bit of backstory on the two of them which helps explain their relationship. We're also told why Kenya always wears that necklace she's got (though that duct tape bra is another thing altogether). 

We're also given a deeper look into the seedier side of Defiance (which, let's face it, is never far below the surface). This seedier side bleeds into the political arena (how true to life . . . ) when Amanda discovers the town council has made a deal with Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) for illegal arms. 

Further complications arise when Kenya is kidnapped by BioMan Ulysses (Rob Archer), who we all know works for Datak. Turns out someone is draining adrenaline from people to create an illegal drug -- and Kenya may be next.   

Note: our next 'Defiance' review may be a bit late (again); we're taking an(other) extra writing day next week. Cheers!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Review: 'Skinny Ms. Superfoods' by Tiffany McCauley and Gale Compton

Skinny Ms. Superfoods, by Tiffany McCauley and Gale Compton, 2012, Quail Ridge Press, $24.95, softbound, 224 pages. Category/Genre: health/cooking. Cover: delicious-looking. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

This book begins by explaining what superfoods are. Firstly, they are at the very top of the healthy foods list; and secondly, they must meet one or more of the following requirements: they must have large amounts of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals; they must be filled with phytochemicals; they must be a generous source of omega-3 fatty acids; they cannot be manufactured by the human body, but they are generally necessary for health; they are crucial to proper brain function and normal growth and development; they are important for proper cognitive and behavioural function; they lower the risk of heart disease; they reduce inflammation in human tissues. 

Recipes include a variety of smoothies, soups, stews, and chilis, pizzas and quesadillas, and treats. We've already tried one recipe, 'Black Bean and Brown Rice Salad,' which we like to eat hot. 

One of the niftiest things about this book is that the superfoods are listed in alphabetical order at the back, with the pages in which recipes for them appear. Also handy is the chart which tells you all the benefits found in each superfood. There's also a vitamin chart listing the benefits of various vitamins and in what foods they can be found. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Author Interview: Joyce and Jim Lavene

How long does it take for you to write a book? It takes months for the idea to grow and fill in enough to write it. The characters have to get in line and we have to find the right place to set it. Once we sit down at the computer, it takes about three months to write the book. Then it's another few months of editing with the publishers. 

How do you write together? Do you write an outline together and then separate the chapters, or what? We come up with the basic ideas and write out a long synopsis of how we think the story will go and what will happen to the characters. After that, when we are ready to sit down and write, we tell each other the story as we type it in to create the rough draft. It goes something like this, 'And she walks out of the house and sees Roger across the street.' 'No, that's not possible. Roger is out of town.' 'Is he? Then that must be Sam.' 

What kinds of writing quirks do you have? Not sure if it is a quirk, but we have rituals. We start each morning rough draft writing session with a latte as we talk about what we're doing. We break at five pages for a short meditation time. We have a snack and write another five pages before lunch. After lunch, we do promo work and revision. We always celebrate a new book with champagne and sign contracts with our special pen set. 

Where did you get the idea or inspiration for the main character in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries? Jessie! We love her. She is every woman. We wanted her to be scared sometimes, curious, not always certain of what she's doing. She is a compilation of people, but mostly our sister-in-law, Marcia, who introduced us to the Ren Faire many years ago. She loved going! Marcia passed away in 2004 at the age of 43. Too young. But we like to think she lives on through Jessie. 

Who is your favourite author, and why? We'll have to separate on that question. Probably Jim's favourite author is Anne McCaffrey. He loves all of her books and has read them dozens of times. He has a thing for dragons and science fiction. Joyce loves Barbara Hambly and Tanith Lee equally. She loves their wonderful narratives and descriptions. 

What is the writing process like for you? Is it the same with every novel you write? Our writing process is about the same with every book. Some differences are shifting and moving offices. We now write on laptops that are networked together. Sometimes, one of us will have a virus and the other will work by themselves on editing. We quit our day jobs in 2012 and that made a huge difference because we have all day to write. 

Do you belong to a writing group? If so, how does that help you, and do you recommend joining a writing group for people who want to write for a living? We do belong to several writing groups, Sisters in Crime, national and local. We also belong to some very small (five or six members) local groups. Both of us feel that it's not necessary to belong to a group, but it's fun. If you can keep from comparing your writing to others' and not allow yourself to be overly influenced by the group, we recommend it. 

Who has been your favourite character to write about so far? Why? That would be like asking us which of our two daughters we like the best. Each of our characters has their good points and bad. Sheriff Sharyn Howard was our first, so we love her for that. Peggy Lee was very interesting with her poison plants. Jessie is the most fun to write. Dae O'Donnell in our Duck mysteries is mysterious and dedicated. Our new series features Fire Chief Stella Griffin. She's a fighter for what she believes in. Oh, and Zoe Chase in the new food truck mystery series loves food and is trying to get her own restaurant. The new Pie Shop mysteries feature Maggie Grady, who is trying to redeem herself. They are all good friends!

Do you think a writer needs an agent to get published? It all depends on what sort of publishing they want to do. Publishing avenues are opening up to writers like never before. There is a great deal of freedom publishing your own digital books when you want, and about what you want. No one telling you how to write. On the other hand, if you want to play with the big boys (and girls), you probably need an agent. They are very hard to get. We have a wonderful agent, Gail Fortune with the Talbot Fortune Agency. She knows so much more than we do about publishing. It's nice to have her in our corner. 

How do you make a living as a writer? (I hope this was what you meant.) Writing fiction. We write the occasional non-fiction, but mostly we write mystery and romance for Berkley, Charter Books, Amazon, and Harlequin. We have published more than 60 books, usually on the average of four to six books a year. 

What are you working on currently? We are working on the second book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries, set in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Stella Griffin is a Chicago firefighter who comes to Sweet Pepper to help them rebuild their volunteer fire department. She finds a lot more than she bargained for when one of the town's most influential women is killed during a house fire. She also finds out that the cabin the town gives her to live in is haunted by the ghost of the former fire chief. We have had a great time writing about Stella and her friends! Thanks for interviewing us! 

Review: 'No Strings' by Sheena Easton

'No Strings,' Sheena Easton, 1993, MCA Records. Cover: classy. We don't have the CD jacket, so we don't know if lyrics are included. 

This is Sheena Easton's take on some classic songs. Her voice is very well suited to the type of song she chose for this album, though we do wish she didn't waver quite so much, particularly in 'Someone to Watch Over Me.' 

'If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)' is one of our favourites on the CD; it's quite well done, is just slow enough, and has excellent, lonely lyrics by Jacques Roman Brel. There's some nice piano playing in 'Body and Soul,' about a love lost; and then there's the jazzy medley 'I'm in the Mood for Love/Moody's Mood for Love,' about feeling romantic when the right person is next to one. 

'The Man That Got Away' is another good example of Easton's singing abilities, about a woman still in love with the man who left her. The thrill of being in someone's arms is explored in 'The Nearness of You,' and there's another medley, 'Little Girl Blue/When Sunny Gets Blue' -- the two songs have very similar lyrics and work well together. Easton also does Barbara Streisand's 'Never Will I Marry.'  

Favourite lyrics include: 'I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood/I know I could, always be good/To one who'll watch over me' ('Someone to Watch Over Me'); 'How many roses are/Sprinkled with dew? . . . How far is the journey/From here to a star?' ('How Deep Is the Ocean'); 'If you go away, if you go away, if you go away/If you go as I know you must/There'll be nothing left/In this world to trust/Just an empty room/Full of empty space/Like the empty look/I see on your face' ('If You Go Away'). 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: A Boy and His Dog'

'Bates Motel:A Boy and His Dog,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Bill Balas. Directed by Ed Bianchi. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for      suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on A&E; or catch up on full episodes at

This episode shows us how Norman (Freddie Highmore) gets interested in taxidermy, as he brings his dead dog, Juno, to Will Decody (Ian Hart) to be stuffed. Will notices Norman's interest and encourages him, giving him a book with all the details and explaining the process himself, allowing Norman to sit in. 

At school, Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells Bradley's (Nicola Peltz) friends that Bradley and Norman slept together. This upsets Bradley, which in turn upsets Norman -- so much so that he leaves school without permission. His teacher, Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy), tries to stop him and is met with undue resistance, and Norman is suspended for three days. He's also asked to meet with a psychologist. 

You may think, 'Ah, good, at least the boy is getting some help.' But Norma (Vera Farmiga) goes with Norman to the psychologist's (Hiro Kanagawa), and things naturally go awry. 

The situation between Dylan and his co-worker is coming to a head, and a bar fight ensues (bar fights seem to always solve everything). And, after observing some odd behaviour on his part, Norma follows Jake Abernathy (Jere Burns) . . . 

Beware, there's a gruesome cliffhanger at the end of this episode!

Note: our next review of 'Bates Motel' may be a bit late (again); we're taking an(other) extra writing day next week. Cheers!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Review: 'Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America' by Boughton Cobb, et. al.

Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America, by Boughton Cobb, Elizabeth Farnsworth, and Cheryl Lowe, Illustrated by Laura Louise Foster and Elizabeth Farnsworth, 2005, Houghton Mifflin, $20.00, softbound, 417 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: well done. Where we got it: prezzie. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Another of Peterson Field Guide's wonderful books. Filled with fascinating facts, photos, and diagrams, Ferns takes the reader into the world of green things which populate woods and back yards all over the country.

The authors describe the life cycle of a fern (which reproduces from spores instead of seeds), the relationships of ferns in the plant kingdom, and give the names of ferns, as well as going into fern habitats and conservation. The morphology of a fern is particularly interesting, and has drawings and descriptions of the various parts of a fern. 

The book is then divided into true ferns and fern relatives, after which we learn something about the cultural history of ferns, and about ferns in the garden. Useful web sites are included, as well as a glossary and bibliography.  

Most of the photos and drawings in this book are disappointingly small, and there sadly isn't a photo or drawing for every fern in the book . . . but the rest of the book makes up for it. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Review: 'Defiance: The Devil in the Dark'

'Defiance: The Devil in the Dark,' 2013, SyFy Channel. Written by Michael Taylor. Directed by Omar Madha. Starring Grant Bowler, Stephanie Leonidas, and Julie Benz. Airs 9.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on SyFy Channel; or catch up on full episodes at

Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas, pictured) is having visions which she and Nolan (Grant Bowler) put off as post-traumatic stress disorder. Her visions have been going on for some time, and became stronger after she and Nolan came to Defiance. Now she faces the truth, that the visions are actually psychic: she can see the past. (There's a nice, if brief, scene in which she admonishes Nolan for making her think the visions are PTSD; she says he makes her afraid of being who she is.) 

Murders are being committed, and an unusual weapon is being used: the pheromones of Hellbugs. Hellbugs will attack anything with their pheromones on it, and someone has been soaking people's clothing with the stuff. 

Meanwhile, the Irathient spirit riders are creating some discomfort among the town's residents. Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) struggles with accepting Christie (Nicole Munoz) as one of his own; she's staying with the Tarr family, but doesn't adhere to their customs. Stahna (Jaime Murray) continues to try to smooth things over, and suggests that she and Datak need to try and mend things between Christie and her father (Graham Greene). 

In this episode, we get to find out a bit more about the Irathients, or at least about those with the sight. Personally, we'd like to see more, and hopefully this won't be the last of the episodes in which Irisa has visions. The Hellbugs are effectively creepy, and the CGI on them is quite well done. It must cost a fortune to do the show's special effects; it would be nice if that didn't mean a quick end to the show. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Review: 'Talk on Corners' by The Corrs

'Talk on Corners,' The Corrs, 1999, Atlantic/Wea. Cover: lovely. A very photogenic family. We don't have the CD jacket, so don't know if the lyrics are included. 

The Corrs are a band who blend their Irish background with a pop sound. The band consists of three sisters and a brother: Andrea (the vocalist), Caroline (drummer), Sharon (violin), and Jim (guitar/keyboard). 

This CD has a nice mix of songs. It's a retooled version of the original 'Talk on Corners,' minus a few songs; because we don't have the original album, we can't compare the two.

One of our favourite tracks on the CD is 'I Never Loved You Anyway,' a bitter song about a girl who's SO over her guy. Another favourite is the Celtic instrumental 'Paddy McCarthy,' which has a really good rhythm . . . and it's hard to go wrong with a Celtic sound. There's a distinct Celtic sound (notably in the violin strains) in other songs, as well, most particularly in 'Runaway' and 'I Never Loved You Anyway.'

There are a couple of cover songs: Stevie Nicks' 'Dreams' (another favourite) and Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing.' In our opinion, the Stevie Nicks version of 'Dreams' is the superiour, but we like this one, too. We also like 'Only When I Sleep' -- this one has interesting island references in the lyrics, and a dark and dreamy melody.    

Favourite lyrics include: 'In the stillness of remembering what you had/And what you lost/And what you had/And what you lost' ('Dreams'); 'And come to think of it/I was misled/My flat, my food, my everything/And thoughts inside my head' ('I Never Loved You Anyway'). 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: The Man in Number 9'

'Bates Motel: The Man in Number 9,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Kerry Ehrin. Directed by SJ Clarkson. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on A&E. Or watch full episodes on

The trouble Norman (Freddie Highmore, pictured) and Norma (Vera Farmiga) have been having because of the sex slave ring seems to be at an end: Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell)  is taking the credit for stopping the ring and killing Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel) in the line of duty. This should make everyone happy (it makes Norma ecstatic); but Dylan (Max Thieriot) is miffed he doesn't get the credit for saving Norma and Norman's lives. And he's still going to move out when his arm heals in a few weeks. 

Meanwhile, Norman keeps having erotic dreams about Bradley (Nicola Peltz), who still isn't answering his texts or calls. Norma wants Norman to pay more attention to Emma (Olivia Cooke), who she's hiring to help out at the motel. Norman sees this as the manipulation it is: a way to get him and Emma together more so he might fall for her. But Norma claims it's because she needs the help. 

Norman also finds a stray dog under the porch, who he names Juno. Juno is quite unfriendly, growling and snarling at Norman before running away; but Norman decides he's going to lure her with food and kindness, and keep her. 

And, finally, the motel gets its first customer: a man named Jake Abernathy (Jere Burns), who knew Keith Summers (Earl Brown) and had a standing reservation when Summers owned the motel. Abernathy is less than forthcoming about the information he's asked to provide, and it's pretty clear he has something to do with the sex slave ring; but Norma ignores all the signs and rents him the rooms he wants. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

On the Bookshelf: Books to Be Read May 2013

We're trying a new author, Irene Radford: 'Chicory Up' is a book we got from N3F to review for the club.

Review: 'Southern Appalachian Wildflowers' by Barbara Medina and Victor Medina

Southern Appalachian Wildflowers, Barbara Medina and Victor Medina, 2002, The Globe Pequot Press, $24.95, softbound, 215 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: attractive. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Colour-coded for your convenience, this book is meant to help people identify the many beautiful wildflowers found in Southern Appalachia. 

In the introduction, you will find line drawings of a few different types of leaves, flowers, and the reproduction system of a flower. 

Each plant has a colour photo alongside its name along with information about the flower; a description is given, plus the bloom season, habitat, and other comments. There's a section titled 'Places Cited,' in which all the places mentioned in the field guide are listed, along with addresses, phone numbers, and web site URLs. The book also lists other places where a large variety of wildflowers may be seen. 

There's a handy section on additional reading at the back, as well as a glossary and index. 

Although we have come across a number of wildflowers that are not in this book, this would be an excellent source to have along if one were visiting the area. 

If you like this one, try: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden; An Instant Guide to Edible Plants by Pamela Forey and Cecilia Fitzsimons. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Review: 'Defiance: Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go'

'Defiance: Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go,' 2013, SyFy Channel. Written by Kevin Murphy and Anupam Nigam. Directed by Michael Nankin. Starring Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, and Stephanie Leonidas. Rated TV-14 for language, sexual situations, and violence. 

In this episode, we're surprised to find out that Ben (Douglas Nyback) isn't dead, after all. He's 'jump-started' by a dangerous drug known as vrytex and given new orders: he's to follow the 'old plan.' This means stealing some gulamite, going underground, and setting off a bomb (created by the gulamite) to release radiation to kill the townspeople of Defiance. Nolan (Grant Bowler, pictured far left), Rafe (Graham Greene), and some other miners go underground to stop him.

Meanwhile, the Castithans are having a cleansing ceremony for Elah Bandik (Robert Clarke), an admitted coward. The ceremony, which involves torture, unsettles a number of people, particularly Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas, pictured far left). But Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) is reluctant to stop it due to a previous tragedy. So Irisa takes matters into her own hands. 

Will Rafe get revenge for his son's death? Will Elah survive the torture? Will Irisa get away with trying to save Elah, or will convention rule out? These questions are answered, but we're still left with unfinished business, like why is former mayor Nicky trying to kill everyone in Defiance? Guess we'll just have to keep watching to find out. 


Friday, 3 May 2013

Review: 'Family Guide: Washington, DC'

Family Guide: Washington, DC, 2012, DK, $25.00, softbound, 255 pages. Category/Genre: travel. Cover: makes you want to open the book. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

If you're planning on going to Washington, DC with your kids -- or if you're looking for a research book to help you write about Washington, DC -- then this could be the right book for you. 

This guide provides practical information (such as getting round, accommodations, health, etc.) along with expert recommendations for sightseeing with kids. 

There are also some really nice colour photographs, along with interesting facts about Washington -- facts which adults will enjoy as much as their kids will. For instance, the book says that Abraham Lincoln's shoe size was a staggering 14 -- whereas the average shoe size for a man is 10 1/2.  

Each chapter has a 'best of' feature followed by key sights in the area and ideas on where to eat, drink, and have more fun. There are sections on 'Washington, DC on a budget,' 'Washington, DC by season,' 'Three days in Washington, DC,' and 'Theatrical Washington, DC.' 

There's information on getting to your destination, whether you're going by air, bus, car, or rail. 

If you like this one, try: Frommer's Washington, DC 2012 by Elise Hartman Ford; The Rough Guide to Washington, DC by Jules Brown and J.D. Dickey.  

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: 'Swinging on a Star' by Bing Crosby

'Swinging on a Star,' Bing Crosby, MCA. Cover: good. We don't have the CD jacket, so don't know if it comes with lyrics or not, but except for not knowing Latin, this may not matter; Crosby's voice and enunciation are so clear that you'll probably understand every word.

Our parents instilled in us a love of Bing Crosby's music, so this album is sentimental and special to us. Perhaps predictably, it has a bent towards romance: 'Moonlight Becomes You' (which shows off Crosby's voice nicely), 'Constantly,' 'Sunday, Monday or Always,' and 'The Day After Forever' are all romantic, as is 'If You Please,' which has some truly poetic lyrics. 

There are also some really upbeat songs: 'Road to Morocco,' with Bob Hope, is one of our favourites. Then there's 'Ain't Got a Dime to My Name,' about a guy who's free and doesn't care that he's broke; the slower (but still happy) 'Going My Way'; and 'Swinging on a Star,' a quirky song which tells kids to stay on the straight and narrow if they want to grow up right. 

There are two Christmas classics, 'Ave Maria' (to which Crosby's voice is well suited) and 'Silent Night.' We also like 'Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (An Irish Lullaby),' which Crosby does as appropriately soft and tender. 

Favourite lyrics include: 'We may run into villains but we're not afraid to roam/Because we read the story and we end up safe at home (yeah)/Certainly do get around/Like Webster's Dictionary we're Morocco bound' ('Road to Morocco'); 'Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral/Too-ra-loo-ra-li/Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral/That's an Irish lullaby' ('Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral'); and all of 'Silent Night.'