From Land & Sea: Nova Scotia Contemporary Landscape Artists

 -by Dee Appleby

As diverse and beautiful as the province itself!
From Land and Sea, a fascinating introduction to the rich and varied texture of Nova Scotia’s landscape art, masterfully exhibits 65 contemporary artists and their work.

This beautifully displayed overview offers a unique visual story told by its artists, with styles as varying and exquisite as the diverse province itself… a marriage of land and sea.

Combining a remarkable play of shadows and light, deep hues and subtle tones, the stunning paintings and photography endow the book with drama and visual excitement, as the images virtually leap from the page.

The art itself is the jumping-off point for concise and fascinating descriptions of the artists, their work and important themes involving the creation of their art. Anecdotal stories regarding personal interests and inspiration of the artists and how they work, vividly personalize the pages.

Truly a book to cherish in your collection!

Bird Songs

- by Les Beletsky, Jon L. Dunn  

A beautiful book, and a treasure to own and use.

I take it along with me whenever we go on our many camping trips throughout the year, to identify and 'attract' the many birds in the National Park we visit. Such a treat!

The descriptions about each bird and the lovely full-color drawings are a wonderful complement to the sounds of these amazing creatures. It is a favorite in my collection!

South Shore Tastes: Recipes from the Best Restaurants on Nova Scotia's South Shore

- by Liz Feltham, Scott Munn

Taste and see that Nova Scotia is good!

This is the cookbook that I have been eagerly awaiting for a long time.

Many times I have dined at Nova Scotia's beautiful array of restaurants and wished upon a star that I knew the secrets to their delights. This book divulges those secrets, so that you can enjoy your favorite dishes again and again in your own home.

The photos are as mouthwatering as the recipes' results themselves.

South Shore Tastes has quickly become one of my favorite go-to cookbooks. Pick up a copy and start making your own culinary delights with a Nova Scotian twist!

The Devil on Horseback

- by Victoria Holt

The usual Holt equation = headstrong, smart (but penniless) heroine + the brooding could-be-cruel man who annoys her but ends up winning her heart.

The story is set in France, at the outset of the French Revolution. Strong-willed and clever, Minella, is suddenly orphaned when her beloved mother, an English school mistress, dies. She is given the opportunity to move to France, serving in the household of the haughty, arrogant Comte Fontaine Delibes as a companion to his wayward daughter, Margot. However France is on the brink of turmoil, as are Minella's feelings for the master of the house. It's not one of Holt's greatest, but fun brainless fluff nonetheless.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

-by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

Brimming with witticisms and a cast of lovable characters, this epistolary novel is an enjoyable read. One cannot fail to be charmed by the small island cast milling about Guernsey (a small island in the English Channel), who manage to endure the Nazi occupation with their own unique brand of pluck and pertinacity.

Juliet Ashton - a successful English journalist well known for writing a humorous column during the war years - sets out to pen a book now that the war is over. Suffering writers block for a subject, she fortuitously stumbles upon the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - a band of islanders who form an intimate literary club, originally established on the fly as an excuse to conceal contraband food from the occupying soldiers.

Once the society’s members discover Juliet has focused on their club for her novel, it is not long before they start coming out of the woodwork. Sending Juliet letter after letter, they relate their experiences of how their little society helped them cope with the occupation, rallying them together, and often times the amusing predicaments they often found themselves in. But it’s not all silly antics. The grim reality of war casts a shadow on their letters, and gives the reader a window into the lives of those affected by the Nazi occupation.

While the entire premise is enjoyable, and the wit admirable, something in the story fell a little flat. Most of the characters seemed more akin to caricatures, writing with seemingly the same intonation as each other. Still, if you enjoy a good ‘story book’ ending and fun characters, it’s a rollicking - if not fluffy - read.

Historic Queens County

- by Tom Sheppard

A beautiful portrait of a way of life

Sheppard's Historic Queens County is a well-written book brimming with history and photos about a charming coastal county in the beautiful province of Nova Scotia, Canada.

While various communities are touched upon in the book, at the heart of Queens County is Liverpool, the hub of the Maritimes in the 19th century, offering a rich ship-building and shipping industry. Reading about my hometown's history was intriguing. The chapter dealing with daily life in Queens County is especially enjoyable.

As a life-long Queens County resident, this book is a charming reminder of my roots. Readers are treated to stories of days gone by and the history behind people and places that make Queens County what it is today.

This is highly recommended reading for history buffs, especially those interested in Canada's rich past.

No Name

- by Wilkie Collins

A virtually unknown masterpiece, and a new favourite from a picky reader

After the untimely death of their parents, the Vanstone sisters, Norah and Magdalen, face the stark reality of social stigma in Victorian England. Orphaned and penniless, they learn the devastating truth - they are illegitimate (children with "no name", hence the title of the book). And due to an anomaly in their father's will, the entirety of his wealth and estate is legally entailed away to their heartless uncle, who has no regard for their futures.

Vastly different in temperament, the elder sister, Norah calmly accepts her change in circumstance, resigned to accept work as a governess, while independent and scheming Magdalen refuses to accept the fate that their uncle has bestowed upon them and sets out on her own, vowing revenge.

To carry out her complex strategy of retribution, Magdalen enlists the assistance of the wily Captain Wragge, a distant relation and a self-confessed defrauder, who proves to be a comic relief with a tender humane heart at the core. Readers will be delighted to discover Wragge is just as memorable as many of Dickens' likable miscreants (not unlike Little Dorrit's Mr. Pancks).

Wragge and Magdalen face an uphill battle of wits, trying to outsmart the ruthlessly sharp Mrs. Lecount, the controlling and manipulative housekeeper of the will's beneficiary, Noel Vanstone. While Norah dutifully carries on with her life without incident, the intrepid Magdalen continues on with her quest for justice - at any expense - culminating in a surprise ending.

Perfectly plotted, though admittedly a tad bit slow at the outset, No Name is a treat for any classics lover and is well worth the time invested in its 700+ pages. Highly recommended!

The Convenient Marriage

- by Georgette Heyer

 A fun "Georgian Romp" well worth reading!

Fun, well-written, and refreshingly comedic, I thoroughly enjoyed The Convenient Marriage. It was everything I hoped it would be and, while lacking in the deep-thinking department, it more than made up for it in wit and humor. 

At the outset of the story we are introduced to the eldest Winwood daughter, Elizabeth - a beauty of of noble birth, yet virtually penniless. At the prodding of her well-intentioned mother, Elizabeth is about to turn her back on her true love, Captain Heron, and marry a complete stranger, the Earl of Rule, solely for his vast wealth. However...

Enter: Horatia ("Horry") Winwood, Elizabeth's younger rebellious sister. Though rather young and uncouth, as well as stuttering and stubborn, Horry decides to save her sister from a loveless match! After much scheming, and to her elder sister's relief, Horry eventually takes her her position as the Countess of Rule. The Earl accepts the swap, but not without 'enduring' the adventure and hair-brained antics that ensue, involving the Countess herself, Pelham (the Winwood's congenial gambling brother) and his drinking buddy.

The Convenient Marriage literally brims with witty dialogue and interesting back-and-forths, with well-drawn characters and a quickly moving, easy-to-follow plot. The ending, albeit predictable, will satisfy any romantic at heart.

This was my first Heyer experience - I was so charmed by it that I *know* it won't be my last. :)

Kristin Lavransdatter

- by Sigrid Undset, Tiina Nunnally (Translator)

As much as I was interested in this detailed life-epic, I must admit the story was not a good 'fit' for me. Not that it lacked a lot of things that make for great story telling, but perhaps it failed to captivate me due to the fact that I could not relate to the main character. I can see why some may be captivated by Kristin's story and inner battles. I can see this novel appealing to those with children (or those with a "maternal instinct"), as they will better be able to understand most of Kristin's plight as a parent throughout the majority of the story.

Perhaps it was also the translation into English that made the book lackluster to me. I felt the text lacked a lot of feeling, and was written a little too "matter of factly" for my taste. No doubt the original manuscript, in Norwegian language, was much more rich and engrossing.

As I cannot give this trilogy a stellar review for the aforementioned reasons, I have given it 3 stars for all the intriguing information I learned about life in 14th-century Norway.