Oil and Honey (Bill McKibben)

honey

Bestselling author and environmental activist Bill McKibben recounts the personal and global story of the fight to build and preserve a sustainable planet

Bill McKibben is not a person you’d expect to find handcuffed and behind bars, but that’s where he found himself in the summer of 2011 after leading the largest civil disobedience in thirty years, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House.

With the Arctic melting, the Midwest in drought, and Irene scouring the Atlantic, McKibben recognized that action was needed if solutions were to be found. Some of those would come at the local level, where McKibben joins forces with a Vermont beekeeper raising his hives as part of the growing trend toward local food. Other solutions would come from a much larger fight against the fossil-fuel industry as a whole.

Oil and Honey is McKibben’s account of these two necessary and mutually reinforcing sides of the global climate fight—from the center of the maelstrom and from the growing hive of small-scale local answers. With empathy and passion he makes the case for a renewed commitment on both levels, telling the story of raising one year’s honey crop and building a social movement that’s still cresting.

—                     —                     —

America has half as many farmers as prisoners. Half.

This is one of the startling facts I learned while listening to Bill McKibben’s Oil and Honey.

I didn’t know too much about this book before I picked it out. I knew it was about the environment and that I had been meaning to read it for a few years. It takes place over several years, but begins just about the time that I was starting university. I majored in environmental studies/science, so it was particularly interesting to me to review major environmental movements that were taking place as I was learning the foundations at school.

A sad fact that McKibben repeats often is that environmental victories are always temporary. Nothing is ever defeated permanently, just put off for awhile. The fight never ends. And environmentalists seem to be on the losing side more often than not. This is why it is so exhausting to be an environmental rights activist, or even just someone who cares. The fight goes on and on, and unfortunately, big money is not on “our” side.

For example, in 2010, the Keystone XL pipeline was on the main stage in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election. Considerable pressure was on Obama to approve it and McKibben was one of the key activists trying to activate a grassroots response that would threaten Obama’s re-election if he did approve the pipeline.

Today, in 2019, this pipeline is still an ongoing battle in Canada.

The fights goes on.

Listening to this book took longer than I expected. It has been a while since I listened to something environmentally focused, and I forgot how angry these issues make me. How exhausting the failures can be when they add up. And the victories feel few and far between. I couldn’t listen before bed – it made me too frustrated to sleep – so I had to pick and choose the moments that I would listen.

I will say, something helpful I learned is the process of arrest at a political demonstration. That was reassuring in case I am ever in a similar situation. And humorous in a dark sort of way.

Climate change is global. Environmental disaster has zero respect for political borders. These issues are universal. However, most of the direct issues that are taken up in this book are based in America or Canada, so I believe that residents of these two countries will get the most out of it. Alberta’s tar sands are one of the biggest environmental disasters in the world. They are barely tapped, and already more earth has been moved than was moved in the construction of all the mega-dams in the world.

That is insane.

One of my favourite quotes from Oil and Honey, comes from McKibben’s account of the Keystone protests outside the White House. While in jail, he reported

“we don’t need sympathy, we need company”.

Narrator Kevin Collins has a smooth, relaxing voice that made the book pleasant to listen to, even if the topics were difficult to get through at times.

I am planning on watching McKibben’s interviews on The Colbert Report and his Ted Talk now. You can learn more on the website, 350.org.

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xx

 

 

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Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017

Earlier this week I wrote about Book Riots’ Reader Harder Challenge 2017 that is designed to get you reading outside your comfort zone. Expanding your horizons is a great thing, but lots of people like to stay in their favourite genres for a reason. And that is okay too.

One of my coworkers, who – like me – was less than enthused by the categories in that reading challenge this year, came across the Popsugar Reading Challenge and decided to do it instead. Well you know librarian-types, the second challenge flew around the office in no time and several of us have decided to do both!

I love the Popsugar Reading Challenge because it is designed to encourage you to keep reading throughout the year, without forcing a person to go outside their normal genres. There isn’t the inherent, if unintended, guilt-trip for a person who prefers to read trashy romance novels or Victorian mysteries over and over, rather than reading “smart” novels that focus on social issues.

Even though I intend to do the Book Riots challenge too, I am still going to read and review all my favourite authors, and erotica are my fave. Thankfully, the Popsugar list lets me get “credit” for reading those books too, and romances are a heck of a lot quicker to go through than a book of feminist essays! Hopefully working on both lists at the same time will keep me enthused and moving forward.

Here’s the link for the printable Popsugar Reading List.

xx

Read Harder Challenge 2017

So that time has come again.

Read Harder Challenge 2016 has finished. Bring on 2017 and a brand new challenge!

This challenge is put on by Book Riot each year. I participate along with most of my co-workers. Essentially, Book Riot prepares a list of 24 categories and challenges you to read a book from each section to complete the list over the course of the calendar year. The purpose is to expand your reading outside of your comfort zone, to experience new genres or ideas.

Here are the categories for 2017, although the link above will take you the printer-friendly version:

  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel.
  3. Read a book about books.
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigrationnarrative.
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir.
  9. Read a book you’ve read before.
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war.
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which a character of colour goes on a spiritual journey
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel
  21. Read a book published by a micropress
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of colour

There are lots of  hyperlinks as you can see. These will take you to suggestion pages that Book Riots has created, if you need help finding something suitable in a given category.

Personally, I am not nearly as excited about the categories this year as I was last year. They are clearly (in my mind) aimed at an American audience when this is supposed to be an international challenge. The NUMEROUS categories aimed at LGBT and racial discrimination is surely at least partially a result of the current political and social climate of the United States.

I don’t know that I want to fully finish the challenge this year as a result, but I am  going to work on it for as long as I can at least. No matter what, it is still good to broaden your horizons and try new literary works, and this list will at least force me to do that.

In fact, I am well on my way towards completing my first book! I am reading The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine, for the category of debut novel. Expect a review forthwith because it is excellent!

xx

Outside the Box by Jeannie Marshall

I have just finished reading an amazing book by local author Jeannie Marshall. It has been published under two titles so you might find it by looking for Outside the box: why our children need real food, not food products  or by searching The lost art of feeding kids: what Italy taught me about why children need real food.

I had read this book originally a few years ago and picked it up under the second title thinking the author had written another one. Well, a couple chapters in it was too familiar so I checked and it was exactly the same book! Fortunately it was so good that I decided to just keep going and will probably re-read it at least a couple more times in my lifetime. It is one of my favourite books and teaches you so much about food cultures and the art of looking at food as a whole, rather than just a compilation of different nutrients and vitamins to sustain the body.

Here is the blurb from goodreads:

When Canadian journalist Jeannie Marshall moved to Rome with her husband, she delighted in Italy’s famous culinary traditions. But when Marshall gave birth to a son, she began to see how that food culture was eroding, especially within young families. Like their North American counterparts, Italian children were eating sugary cereal in the morning and packaged, processed, salt- and fat-laden snacks later in the day. Busy Italian parents were rejecting local markets for supermercati, and introducing their toddlers to fast food restaurants only too happy to imprint their branding on the youngest of customers. So Marshall set on a quest to discover why something that we can only call “kid food” is proliferating around the world. How did we develop our seemingly insatiable desire for packaged foods that are virtually devoid of nutrition? How can even a mighty food culture like Italy’s change in just a generation? And why, when we should and often do know better, do we persist in filling our children’s lunch boxes, and young bodies, with ingredients that can scarcely even be considered food?

Through discussions with food crusaders such as Alice Waters, with chefs in Italy, nutritionists, fresh food vendors and parents from all over, and with big food companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle, Marshall gets behind the issues of our children’s failing nutrition and serves up a simple recipe for a return to real food.

—                    —

Marshall doesn’t come across as patronizing or elitist – something food writers and bloggers are often charged with. She doesn’t lecture you but instead inspires you to want something more for your family, and your community. She stresses the importance of societal norms in creating a food culture and its significance to overall health.

Having not grown up in a strong food culture the likes of which is common in Italy, the entire idea behind it was somewhat foreign to me but I love the idea and it is something that I desperately want to implement with my own family. I want my kids to grow up helping in the kitchen because through this they will develop cooking skills (from shopping and storage to preparing meals) as well as social skills, budgetary management skills, and will (hopefully!) associate good wholesome food with a fond, nostalgia for family and home that will carry the habit of healthy eating through the temptations of salty, fatty, sugary foods in adulthood.

The book begins with a short history of her childhood (which is to frame her experiences as an adult and make it easier for North Americans to relate to her) and how she and husband James arrived in Rome. The chunk of the book however follows her struggles as a mother to wade through all the BS and implement the healthiest choices for her son, from the introduction of first foods, to temper tantrums post-swimming lessons because little Nico wants a sugary treat from the vending machine … experiences any mother can relate to, regardless of where she lives.

Outside the Box is so much more than just a dietary ideal though. She talks about the role of advertising, particularly advertisements to children, and the subversive role they play in driving a wedge in between parents and children. Commercials and subtler ads, such as those in a television show, work on kids. Industry wouldn’t spend billions of dollars per year in America alone if they didn’t. And I can see it in the kids in my own life, how they beg, cajole and bargain to get a sweet or salty treat. To me, a treat like ice cream or McDonald’s should’t even be a once a week thing, never mind every day, or every trip to a store.

But you can’t raise your kids in isolation. Marshall uses examples such as these to explain why it is so important to have a societal food culture to raise kids in. If your child is the only one at swimming lessons to not get a treat from the vending machine, and you are the parent constantly saying no, it affects your relationship. If none of the kids get a treat, or if the vending machine isn’t there at all, it’s no big deal. Its normal.

Imagine a culture where everyone upholds a certain standard when it comes to food so that you can be sure that the food your child eats at school or his friends’ houses will be fresh and healthy rather than packaged. Advertising food products, particularly to children, subverts such a food culture.Though the culture supports healthy habits, marketing exploits your desires and weaknesses and encourages you to do what is bad for you. The traditional food culture incorporates opportunities to take pleasure in food with feast days for religious, seasonal or familial reasons. Marketing encourages self-indulgence, and when every day is special, nothing is special. Children have little defence against food marketers, and it doesn’t take long before these intruders define the culture to suit their needs.

Marshall, Jeanie. Outside the box. pg. 81

To me, protecting your children from food marketers is as important as teaching them not to accept candy from people in vans. Someone is coming into your home, through the computer or tv, and attempting to establish a relationship with your child, encouraging them to become consumers who enjoy a treat all the time. Children see commercials as factual and authoritative, according to the American Psychological Association; they can’t ignore or reflect critically on what is presented to them. And many companies go further, portraying parents as dumb old adults who don’t understand children or fun, rather than loving individuals who have to be the bad guys and make you eat broccoli instead of that cupcake because they care about your health.

One of the sections I was most interested in reading in Outside the Box was when Nico was a baby and Jeannie was introducing him to solid foods. In North America, it is still common to introduce foods one at a time in case the baby has a food allergy. In Italy, mothers make a pureed soup broth with veggies and a little rice or pasta for their baby. It incorporates the little into eating with their family unit, as they eat at the table at the same time as everyone else, and are introduced to a healthy and savoury combination of food that continues their introduction into the traditional food culture of their region.

outside the box

By the way, I read this book as a part of my 2016 Read Harder Challenge!

It was cool to see that Marshall offhandedly includes some traditional Italian recipes in her writing, ones that I am excited to try! I highly recommend this book. Try to find it at your local library or bookstore and give it a try if you have any interest in healthy living, cooking, food justice and sovereignty, or raising healthy children.

* * * * *

xx

More than the Tattooed Mormon by Al Carraway

More than the tattooed Mormon is author Al Carraway’s personal story of growing up in a non-practising Catholic NY state family, her sidewalk meeting with two missionary boys in funny helmets and eventual conversation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have been following Al on social media for about a year now and I’m so glad I finally sat myself down to buy and read her book.

I read More than the tattooed Mormon as a part of the Read Harder Challenge 2016. It was my fictional or non-fiction book about religion 🙂

tatooed

Before I get into my review, here is her blurb, courtesy of Goodreads.

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Al Fox Carraway has spent the last four years inspiring the world with her story of conversion, redemption, and finding faith. As a blogger, social media personality, and award-winning public speaker, her message has reached millions. This moving biography and up-close account of her life and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the “LDS” or “Mormon” church) will show you what it means to truly trust in the Lord.

“Don’t go, Al. You won’t fit in.”

Being baptized and following the Lord has made Al’s life harder than it ever was before. She endured criticism from friends and family for becoming a Mormon. She faced harsh judgments from Church members for her appearance. She gave up everything and felt more alone than she ever had in her life. All because she chose God.

Now she shares an up-close look at how trusting God has led her to places she never expected. As a blogger, YouTuber, and award-winning public speaker, her message has reached millions. Sharing her love of the Savior, Al goes beyond her own conversion and encourages readers to choose God above anything else. This uplifting book inspires readers to build a true relationship with the Lord that will bring them real, lasting happiness.

—             —

I found Al’s testimony to be incredibly inspiring. She has such a positive and happy attitude towards life that I would consider her a role model for any person, regardless of religious beliefs. I admire her faith and inner strength. Taking steps on faith in God and trusting everything to work out with your best efforts put forth is much harder than it sounds, and something that I have been struggling with for a very long time.

I also thought that her book shed a lot of light on the LDS Church without being judgmental, or too wrapped up in the practices of the Church.  This might sound crazy for a book about religion, and admittedly there are verses throughout, but I didn’t find the book to be as “religious” as I expected. I felt as though Al was sharing her testimony in a positive way and hoping that it reached to the very souls of her readers, but not that she was attempting to convert the masses.

In full disclosure, I am a “convert” to the LDS Church myself. I identify as Mormon. But I’m kinda a lackadaisical convert. The nearest meeting house is only about 30 minutes away, but thus far I have been too nervous to go by myself, even though I can feel God telling me that is what I should do. I do own a bible which I have read through and the Book of Mormon, which I have rather fallen off the wagon from reading the last year. But I participate in the General Conference Sessions biannually and try to follow as many of the beliefs as I can.

So I feel like I can say Al’s book was more spiritual in nature than religious, because I didn’t learn too much more about the Church than I already knew (although hey!, apparently I am an investigator?!) but she did fill me with a desire to take further steps towards being baptized and receiving a Temple Recommend.

I would like to go to one of her firesides in person. I do feel like she might be a better public speaker than she is a writer, although Al freely admits she writes from the heart and it isn’t her strength. That is obvious at times and she does repeat herself sporadically throughout, but her message was so clear and pure that I know I will read her book again and again.

Here are some of the most important messages that I took away from The Tattooed Mormon:

We are all born with the Light of Christ; every single one of us has it. But when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the promise that it is ours to keep and have always is very real. Oftentimes we as members don’t recognize His presence because of its consistency in our life. -Al Carraway

This passage was particularly meaningful to me because it spoke to my self-doubts and cynicism. I have begun to realize that maybe God speaks to me through my instincts, little feelings I get sometimes and that learning to “listen to my gut” will help me to better follow the path God has set before me. When others speak about God answering their prayers with wisdom and guidance, I scoff and doubt the veracity of the Church. But this passage made me wonder if I just can’t recognize God’s work in my life because he has always been there and I just never noticed.

Choosing God is choosing happiness. -Al Carraway

Yes! Happiness is a choice. It is a choice you have to make every day. Sometimes multiple time an hour every day. But it is a choice. I think it is one of the hardest and greatest gifts that we receive in this world, free agency. It is so very much harder to be positive and happy than it is to feel angry and bitter, to have a bad attitude, especially when life isn’t going perfectly. But happiness doesn’t come from invisible dust that the Happiness Fairy sprinkles about. She doesn’t deliberately skip you while visiting the rest of the world at night. Happiness is the clear choice, but it is so friggin’ hard. Choosing God does help me to slow down and keep perspective, to enjoy the simple things in life. Choosing God helps me to choose not to be offended or slighted. And to remember than I am in charge of more than just my emotions in the moment, I am in control of my happiness throughout this mortal life.

And in that moment, I thought of Christ. I thought of the time He fed the multitude and when He raised Lazarus from the dead. I said out loud, ‘Holy cow, those are great miracles!’ And while waving my hand up at Heavenly Father, I yelled, ‘That is what I need, a miracle!’ And I thought, what happened right before those miracles came? Well, Christ prayed, right? But they were prayers of gratitude. And I thought, Wow, what an incredible example. -Al Carraway

Al, you little genius. I asked God for a lot in my prayers. They are usually altruistic things, like helping a family member in need, to bring comfort to the sick or distressed, but I rarely think to thank God when things are going poorly. I say the occasional ‘thanks for providing for me’ or ‘thank you for this wonderful life’ but in no way do they come close to equalling out the requests, and usually only come during the rare moment everything is going right. Al’s thinking has turned mine on its head.

Ok, so I promise that I am not copying out all my favourite highlighted passages and I am still only up to Chapter 2. Clearly, this book spoke to me. So I’m going to leave off with one last quote, because I think it is one that is helpful to the religious and non-religious alike.

I remember having to make a decision. It’s a decision I had to make and continue to make; it’s a decision you have to make every single day: choose to get mad, choose to get bothered or offended, or choose to not. Choose to keep going, choose to trust, choose to have faith – or not. What it came down to and what it will always come down to is this: choose God or don’t. -Al Carraway

Well, maybe the end got a little religious. Sorry. It goes to my point though, you decide what emotions you want to feel. You have an angry, jealous and bitter wolf inside of you and a happy, positive, loving one. The one who grows is the one you feed.

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xx

Read Harder Challenge 2016

Book Riot published their inaugural reading challenge in 2015 and released a new challenge for this year. They provide a list of 24 tasks, designed to help you read outside of your normal comfort zone. Looking through the list, I’d guess there are at least 5 categories that will feel “at home” to the average reader, but in others, you will definitely be stretching yourself.

Here is the link to the Book Riot challenge page. They provide lots of helpful tips for finding books to fit each category if you are struggling, and if you post about, use the hashtag #ReadHarder ! The printable pdf is on the link provided as well, but here is a quick snapshot of the current challenge.

ReadHarderChallenge2016_checklist-1

My co-workers and I are all participating (I work in a library, so we’re obviously all “book-y”) and I’ve been meaning to post about it on here for a while! I got a late start because I worked two jobs all winter and had no time for books. Don’t feel as if you are behind, come join me in the challenge!

I’ve only checked off a couple of categories so far. For a book under 100 pages, I used Saving for School by Gail Vax-Oxlade, which I already reviewed on this blog. And for the book that you read to another person, I used the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in my story-time program. I’m still working on the others, so when I review, I will try to remember to note that it was a part of this challenge! Hope this helps inspire you to read something new 🙂

Saving for School by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a Canadian personal finance guru. She was the host of television shows “Til Debt do us Part” and “Princess”, which is where I first learned some of her lessons. I am actually super passionate about both personal finance and national debt / state budgets, but I took a break from reading non-fiction because I went back to school around the time that I started this blog. I’m looking forward to reading more for learning over the next little bit, now that I don’t have to focus on boring old text books!

saving for school

I LOVE this book. It is perfect because it is super easy to read. Let’s face it – books about money can be intimidating to read. The average person worries that they won’t be able to understand it, or that they will be faced with some hard truths … maybe that they’ve messed up so bad they won’t ever be able to sort it out or that they are going to have to make big changes to create the future they want.

It’s easy to put aside for “later” and never really get into it. Don’t do that!

“Saving for School” is short and sweet. The book itself is small, like the size of a Harlequin Romance paperback. And it is only 84 pages. I read it in a couple of hours … in the same room where my parents and sister were talking and my nephew was (loudly!) watching soccer. There were a lot of distractions around. I promise you can get through it too.

Gail has a way of writing as if she is sitting down next to you explaining. Her books don’t come across as academic or “lectury” to me. It could be a friend or a parent trying to explain something, only with Gail, I’m sure it isn’t well-meant but completely inaccurate advice.

So who is “Saving for School” written for?

Anyone with an interest in post-secondary education. That could be a parent of a teenager or a pre-schooler, or someone planning to become pregnant.

It could be a grandparent, uncle, church leader, or the student himself (or herself).

I’ve already graduated from university, but even I found some tips to help me pay back my student loans in a way that reduces the interested that I pay, and how to do the calculations that will tell me how much interest I’ll pay based of different payment options.

Ideally though, the earlier you (parent/student) start planning for post-secondary expenses, the more prepared you will be, both in the knowledge of how to take advantage of the system and how much things cost, and in how much money you will have managed to squirrel away for tuition and other expenses.

“Saving for School” helps explain the ways to get free money from the government.

FREE MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT?!!! Is it possible?! Yes!!!

Truly. I’m not taking about OSAP, I’m talking about the Canadian Education Savings Grant money. You don’t have to pay it back. And you can earn interest on it in the mean-time. I did have an RESP from my parents, which covered the academic expenses for about one year of uni. But I didn’t have any idea of the CESG or whether my parents were able to take advantage of it or not. If a little bit of planning and strategic saving can give you $7200 (plus whatever interest you earn on that!) for each child’s education, you want to take advantage of it!

Other ways to save for university: apply for scholarships and bursaries. I’m not that smart (remember, I dropped out of school and it took me a while to go back … seriously, I’m not Harvard Med material over here) or that poor. I still got entrance scholarships that were renewable for each year, and bursaries. Apply even when you don’t think you will get anything. Easy money! You can apply directly to your university and to scholarship websites like… :

http://www.scholarshipscanada.com/

Scholarships, grants and bursaries for Canadian students

You can also make money by working during high-school and university, or borrow from a family member or the bank. Predictable response, I know. Sorry.

I like that Gail reminds the reader to make sure that a young adult goes off to university with lifeskills, like how to shop at the grocery store, or do laundry. Moms and Dads have a tendency to want to do everything for their child, but that isn’t actually helpful. A parent’s role is to raise a competent adult who knows how to do things for themselves so that they are prepared to handle what life throws at them.

I would add a point of my own here – it is awesome to have activities and hobbies as a child and a teenager and this should be continued through adulthood. It is fun and healthy! After all the purpose of life is to be happy, not to work that 9-5. But if you can guide a child into some activities that may be lucrative later in life …. not the worst thing either.

I feel that most of my hobbies are not something that I can market to make money in the “no-collar” economy when I need a little more. I had friends making minimum wage at McDonald’s and friends making twice that working as lifeguards and swim instructors during school. Guess who ended up with more money and fewer hours at a job?!

Yup. Splash splash.

Same with less organized hobbies, like sewing or knitting, playing a musical instrument … these are all things that a poor university student (or newly employed-broke-dying under student debt young adult) can leverage at certain times to make money, by selling a product or teaching others. My nephew loves hockey and soccer, but it would be hard to make extra money as a soccer instructor, especially mid-way through the academic year which would be January. In Canada. His sister could be a great swim teacher through, if she stuck with it. She is “artsy” too, maybe she could sell her skills in that division.

Probably getting a little off track of the book review, but I think the point is really important and as an Auntie, I try to hammer it into those kids’ heads. They think they understand now but they won’t really until they are halfway through university and eating Ramen noodles three times a day. I don’t want them to be without marketable skills when they realize it.

“Saving for School” teaches the reader the most effective ways to leverage your savings – whether it is $20.00 a month or $200.00, to put someone through university. It covers how to engage a financial institution to create an RESP (registered education savings bond) and get the CESP (grant money) and the great tool that TFSAs (tax free savings accounts) can be to keep your money out of the tax man’s hands. It gives some advice for how to prepare a child to become a responsible university student and how to establish a credit history as a young adult.

I HIGHLY recommend it and hope you pick up this book.  If you feel it wasn’t for you, you only wasted about two hours. And I’ve searched about five local library systems and they all had a copy. So you can go borrow it for free.

* * * * *

xx

P.S. Gail has a website with tools on it. Check it out here.

P.P.S. Still stuck on that comment I made about paying off student loans and interest calculators? I copy and pasted this from Gail’s website for you. Credit to her please!

Let’s say, for example, that you have a $20,000 loan at 8%, and you want to have your student loan paid off in 3 years, which is 36 months.

First, the interest: $20,000 x 8% ÷ 12 (months) = $133,33. That’s the interest part of your monthly payment.

Now the principal repayment: Take your total principal of $20,000 and divide it by the number of months you want to take to pay off the loan, in this case 36.

So, $20,000 ÷ 36 = $555.55.

Add the principal amount of $555.55 to $133.33 in interest and your monthly payment is $688.88.

That’s a good indicator of what your monthly payment will be on the loan. It’ll actually be a little less since interest is calculated on a declining balance (as you pay off your loan, the principal goes down, so the amount of interest goes down).

The government of Canada has a website that offers a loan repayment calculator (http://tools.canlearn.ca/cslgs-scpse/cln-cln/40/crp-lrc/af.nlindex-eng.do) to take the math out of the exercise, if you’re number-challenged. You can enter up to three scenarios at a time to see how much you’ll have to pay monthly along with the interest you’ll pay over the life of your student loan.

Happy saving!

Favourite Author Series – Christine Feehan

This is the third in a series of three blogs discussing my favourite authors. They are written to help readers who may be looking for new books, and to thank my favourite authors for their efforts by publicizing their works.

(By the way, the spacing is messed up in this post and the previous couple and I have no idea why. I tried to fix it like twenty times, but the updates aren’t taking. Please forgive).

Christine Feehan was my favourite author for ten years or so. I absolutely loved her and couldn’t pass a book up. I salivated over a new release for weeks, if not months, obsessively stalking her website for when the first chapter and promotional book trailer were posted, and then participated in the comments section.

The last couple of years I have moved on to other who have surpassed her as my favourite authors (see my two previous blog posts) but she is still in my top three and will likely be so for a long time. Christine currently writes four series. Below is a bit about each one, with some hunky cover art.

The Leopard Series:

This series is about the a race that evolved alongside the rest of humanity and they can change into leopards. Feehan describes them as being companions to one another with both species residing in the same body. The are romance novels but slide up against the barrier of erotica. They are her most erotic series.

I have loved the last three books to come out, but the author seemed to have trouble finding her stride with this particular series. The first four or five books weren’t as popular as the ones in her other series, but they have greatly improved since. If you are on the fence about reading them, you could skip the first few and start with Burning Wild or even Savage Nature without losing very much background information. While reading all of the books in her series in order will give you a better sense of each community, they are written in a way that allows them to be read as stand-a-lones.

leopard-series

Series order:

#1 The Awakening

#2 Wild Rain

#3 Burning Wild

#4 Wild Fire

#5 Savage Nature

#6 Leopard’s Prey

#7 Cat’s Lair

#8 Wild Cat (pub November 2015)

cats lair wild cat

The Dark Series :

This is the oldest and longest-running series by Christine Feehan. There are twenty-odd books published with many more announced. They are about an ancient Carpathian species existing in the modern day world. Similar to vampires, only honourable and possessing many more gifts, they are a separate species from humans and on the verge of extinction when leaders realize that women who have special powers (clairvoyant, etc) can survive the conversion and find their lifemates.

dark-series

The Dark series is amazing and has a ton of books in it. Most are full novels but there are also a few novellas.

Along the way, the author has introduced other human-like races such as mages and lycans into the mix, but my favourite aspect of the series is its focus: a lifemated couple. I love the fact that they can talk to each other telepathically – this is a Carpathian gift so even if the woman wasn’t able to before, she can so after her conversion. I envy them this intimacy. How amazing must it be to be able to share all your thoughts and emotions with the person you spend all eternity with.

Series order:   *novellas marked (n)

#1 Dark Prince   #2 Dark Desire   #3 Dark Gold   #4 Dark Magic   #5 Dark Challenge

#6 Dark Fire  #7 Dark Dream(n) #8 Dark Legend  #9 Dark Guardian  #10 Dark Symphony

#11 Dark Descent(n) #12 Dark Melody  #13 Dark Destiny  #14 Dark Hunger (n)

#15 Dark Secret   #16 Dark Demon   #17 Dark Celebration   #18 Dark Possession

#19 Dark Curse   #20 Dark Slayer   #21 Dark Peril   #22 Dark Predator   #23 Dark Storm

#24 Dark Lycan   #25 Dark Wolf   #26 Dark Blood   #27 Dark Crime (n) (pub Aug 2015)

#28 Dark Ghost (pub September 2016)     #29 Dark Promises (pub March 2016)

The Ghostwalker series:

The Ghostwalkers are book versions of action movies. While still romance, they are the most popular series among men. They feature heroes who are military specialists (Seals, Rangers, etc) and have been genetically enhanced to have physical and mental super-abilities, including psychic gifts. Many of the women in this series have also received military training. They are enhanced, and many were raised in laboratory settings, unlike their male counterparts.

ghosts

I love the ghostwalkers books for their action and sense of team camaraderie. I like how you get more than just the main couple, you see interactions between teammates and their women. When done well, this is my favourite aspect of a story in books and media.

spider game

Series order:

#1 Shadow Game  #2 Mind Game  #3 Night Game  #4 Conspiracy Game

#5 Deadly Game  #6 Predatory Game   #7 Murder Game   #8 Street Game

#9 Ruthless Game   #10 Samurai Game  #11 Viper Game  #12 Spider Game (pub Jan 2016)

Sea Haven:

Feehan’s Sea Haven books are my favourite series that she writes. It started out with an original seven books about the Drake Sisters, seven sisters who inherited magical gifts from their mother. There is an ancient prophecy in their family that each seventh daughter will produce seven more daughters who will inherit the gifts and pass them on to her children. Each generation, when all seven are grown, the prophecy unfolds and each will find the one they are meant to be with in life, over the course of a year.

Although there is a supernatural element to the stories, The Twilight Before Christmas is the only story that features it heavily. The remainder of the books are contemporary romance, with sexy heroes, most of whom have a military past. There are over-arching themes and storylines so I would strongly suggest you read them in order. This would be the most important series to read in order, IMHO.

Series order:

#1 Magic in the Wind (novella)

#2 Twilight Before Christmas

#3 Oceans of Fire

#4 Dangerous Tides

#5 Safe Harbor

#6 Turbulent Seas

#7 Hidden Currents

drake sisters

After the last Drake Sisters book was released, Hidden Currents, a sister series was released about other inhabitants of Sea Haven. There is some crossover of characters and the books are similar. They are about 6 sisters of the heart, women who found each other in group counselling and decided to buy a farm together in Sea Haven. They also possess special talents, and are bound to elements that they can control. This series is two thirds finished unfolding.

water spirit air earth

Fire Bound and the as-yet-untitled sixth book should be out in the next two years. After they are released, the Sea Haven saga will continue with a new series about its residents. The author has released very little information thus far, but the bits and pieces of information floating around make me suspect that this series will be about other Russian specialists, like Aleksandr (Oceans of Fire) will be coming to settle down. Hopefully Feehan accelerates the rate at which this series is released!

Other:

There are a few other books that are stand-a-lones. The Scarletti Curse and The Lair of the Lion were both very early pre-cursors to Dark Symphony but they are in no way considered to be Carpathian novels.

scarletti curse lair of the lion

Christine also wrote the novella Rocky Mountain Christmas which was a novella in The Shadows of Christmas Past and After the Music, another Christmas novella from A Very Gothic Christmas.

christmas gothic christmas

I highly recommend each of the three authors I have written about and hope you give them a chance. My thanks and appreciation to Ann Mayburn, Cherise Sinclair and Christine Feehan for all the hard work and hours of love poured into each tale.

Now that I have finished this mini-series of blogs, I’m going to go back to my regular reviews and ramblings. I have a ton of books to review, and a few movies, that I’ve been holding onto. My OCD tendencies wouldn’t let add something in part way through.

xx

Favourite Author Series – Cherise Sinclair

This is the second in a series of three blogs discussing my favourite authors. They are written to help readers who may be looking for new books, and to thank my favourite authors for their efforts by publicizing their works.

(By the way, the spacing is messed up in this post and the next couple and I have no idea why. I tried to fix it like twenty times. Please forgive)

Cherise Sinclair is an erotica author who writes stories about relationships that incorporate aspects of bdsm. Many of her books feature heroines who are just discovering bdsm which makes them excellent for any reader who is also new to the sub-genre. I love how the characters in her books are dealing with real-life shit, but still get their happily ever afters, while always practicing safe, sane and consensual kinky play.

I’m going to start off by mentioning two books that are stand-alones, at least so far.

Starlight Rite is the only science-fiction novel written by the author. It takes place on a planet that believes in slavery, including sexual servitude. They are a very sexy race, considering Terrans like us to be rather puritanical. It was, admittedly, one of my least favourite books from this author, but I don’t like sci-fi, so this could be way more your thing than mine. A lot of other fans are begging for a sequel.

starlite

The other stand-alone by Ms. Sinclair is The Dom’s Dungeon. It follows a recent transplant to Seattle, Mackenzie, and her beau, Alex.

I absolutely love this book and really wish there was a sequel in the works. In a recent poll on her facebook page, requests for books about Dom’s Dungeon secondary characters Steel and Drake topped the poll. Hopefully that means we get to travel back to Chains soon!

dom's dungeon

Now, the main series this author writes is called Club Shadowlands, also the title of the first book in it. There are currently ten in the series, and each provides updates on some of the past couples, so you see ‘old friends’ get married and start having babies, theirs ups as well as their downs.

1-6

This is my favourite series that Sinclair writes, and despite a ‘mind-reader’ in the first novel, it’s entirely contemporary from then on out. Most of the men and some of the women are current or former military/LEOs and ousting the bad guy to rescue the girl is a common theme.

I love these types of books, and the author does a great job of making each one seem different. One of the ways she does this is by exploring different relationship styles in some books. Book 6 is about a couple who enter a master-slave relationship, book 7 features a male sadist, 8 is a menage relationship (M-f-M), and the newest novel (#10) features her first female dominant-male submissive relationship.

Book 1

Book 1

Book 10, releasing July 28, 2015

Book 10, releasing July 28, 2015

Club Shadowlands (book #1) is actually available as a free ebook on amazon. The author changed the pricing sometime after the fifth book in the series came out in the hopes it would encourage readers unfamiliar with the genre to try a new book. See what a sweetie she is?! Makes it a great way to try out the author and see if you like her style.

The second series that Ms.Sinclair writes is called the Wild Hunt series. This is a paranormal romance, featuring the Daonain, semi-human shapeshifters who descend from the fey, who lived on Earth before people. These books have fewer elements of bdsm than the Club Shadowlands series and no public play. In my opinion though, they are kinkier because they feature menage relationships of two men and one woman. There is no direct action between the men but they do have playtime with the woman together.

Book 1 is about were-cats and book 2 is about were-wolves (just not the monster full-moon kind). Big Wolf on Campus this is not.

Book 1

Book 1

Book 2

Book 2

Book 3 is currently a WIP and will likely be available early 2016. It features werebears.

The final series (at the moment) is another contemporary, no-magic world set in Northern California and San Fran. It is the most confusing to explain.

Essentially, it began as two series, Mountain Masters (written exclusively by Cherise Sinclair) and Dark Haven (a series written by several authors, though predominantly by Sinclair at this point). Personally, I only liked the novels and novellas penned by Sinclair, I wouldn’t recommend the parts written by other authors. You don’t miss anything pertinent to the series by skipping them either.

In the early days, characters occasionally wandered through both series but at this point there have been cross-overs so often (virtually every full-length novel and some novellas) that it is considered one giant series, just enough to drive those unfamiliar with the works crazy while they figure out what order to read them in.

Here is what I would suggest.

 #1 Master of the Mountain

#1.5 Doms of Dark Haven 1 (three novellas published in one edition)

or

Simon Says Mine (Sinclair’s novella is being republished on its own)

#2 Master of the Abyss

#2.5 Doms of Dark Haven 2: western night

#3 My Liege of Dark Haven

#4 Edge of the Enforcer

#5 Master of Freedom

The author has declared her intention to consider the series, but as of yet, nothing has been announced officially. Have I confused you yet?

 —       —       —

I don’t have a favourite book by Cherise Sinclair. But I love that her writing is laugh-out-loud funny at times. Here are a couple of the best quotes.

‘“Those [gold armbands] identify the Shadowlands Masters.”

“And that’s different from a dom how?”

Sally rested her tray on her hip and thought for a second. “Okay, you know how some doms are just a little dominating like maybe a one-scoop ice cream, and others have a lot more—maybe two scoops of domination?”

Gabi nodded.

“Well, with the Masters, think supersized hot fudge sundae.” Sally giggled. “And that’s only the domination part. Add in beaucoup experience and control and all that. They’re voted Master status by the members, and it’s sure not a popularity contest.”’

– Make Me Sir, by Cherise Sinclair

‘“Rat bastard,” she huffed. She knelt, and just when he thought she’d lost her touch, she glanced up at him and said loudly, “I can’t believe that out of one hundred thousand sperm, you were the fastest.”’

– Make Me Sir, by Cherise Sinclair

xx

Favourite Author Series – Ann Mayburn

This is the first part of a three series blog

(By the way, the spacing is messed up in this post and the next couple and I have no idea why. I tried to fix it like twenty times. Please forgive)

I want to talk up some of my favourite authors and share what types of books they write and the different series they write. When they spend so much of time creating something that ultimately brings a great deal of joy to my life, the least I can do is recognize them and maybe recruit another fan.

This post is about Ann Mayburn. I only discovered her about 14 months ago but she has sky-rocketed to my top three authors. The funny thing about Ann is, I love love love two of her series, and couldn’t care less about her others. It’s strange. All of her books are intensely erotic though. If you like reading sexy-time, she is for you.

Ann has two series that I am in love with. The first is the Submissive’s Wish series. It features male protagonists who on in the Russian mob, or bratva. She describes them as good men who do evil things. Their women are (usually) experienced submissives and these stories have lots of action and lots of lovin’.

The first two are already out:

Book 1

Book 1

Book 2

Book 2

Aren’t they just smoking?!

This is one of two series that I read that I would love to jump into, if magic ever comes my way. Books 3 & 4 are both coming out this summer and I am beyond ecstatic. They are a two-parter set. Alexandr, a character we are introduced to in both of the above books, gets a prequel from five years ago illustrating his backstory and then the second book takes place from where book 2 leaves off. Watch for my reviews of these books in the next few months.

Book 3

Book 3

Book 4

Book 4

Both of the series that I follow from this author have a fair amount of violence. I like this aspect, because she is writing about worlds that are very violent in real life and I like my romance grounded in a realistic world, even if the relationship timeline gets compressed to fit a book.

I also like the Iron Horse MC series, about a group of outlaw bikers. The first two books are about Smoke and Swan, and introduced us to the biker world as well as the characters.

Book1

Book1

Book 2

Book 2

The third and fourth book are also following the prequel – sequel format, and will be about Beach and Sarah.

I love how Ann is able to weave together such intricate, complicated series that have vibrant back characters. That is something most authors are not able to do. In Dimitri’s Forbidden Submissive, there are a couple of paragraphs where Dimitri is telling Rya about his ancestor whose portrait she is looking at. Such a simple little part of the book that really isn’t at all important, and yet it is so interesting that I really hope the author writes a book or novella about the ancestor one day.

I highly encourage you to pick up either Ivan’s Captive Submissive or Exquisite Trouble as soon as possible.Both are also available on audible.

Next up in this blog series, later this week, are Cherise Sinclair and Christine Feehan.

xx