Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, Teen
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 540
Series: #2 in the Six of Crows duology
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
First Published: September 20, 2017
First Line: "Retvenko leaned against the bar and tucked his nose into his dirty shot glass."

Book Description from GoodReadsKaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: I enjoyed the first book in this duology, Six of Crows.  It had action, a little romance, a big heist and some unforgettable characters with witty banter t'boot. Unfortunately, Crooked Kingdom didn't match up.  

Not even close.

Slow, Scattered Pacing and Lack of Direction
I am in the vast minority with my feelings.  So many people loved this book so I was surprised at how much I struggled to stay with it.  It has the same group of characters (who continue to have some great lines) but it was loooong with barely any plot direction and poor pacing. You'd have moments where the story plodded along and then Bardugo would throw in an amazing, tension filled scene and I'd think "OK, this is where things pick up!!" ... only for the pace to drop back down to snail level for another bout of overly descriptive telling.  This 'up and down' momentum continued for the entire book which was the exact opposite of Six of Crows with its plot and awesome suspense scenes.  

This book should have been whittled down considerably because the plot got lost in the unnecessary details.  I had to push myself to finish it. It felt scattered, with no direction, or more precisely too many directions because the plot kept jumping around to various smaller plots which, in the end, really didn't get much closure anyway!  These smaller plot ideas are barely tethered together, have rough transitions between them and Bardugo didn't give her readers enough time to be invested in any of them.

Weak Character Development
In Six of Crows we're introduced to a strong, varied cast of characters but their unique issues are lost in this book.  First, Kaz was a perpetual jerk and he had only one weakness: his relationship with Inej.  He was too good to be true since almost everything he did worked out, always keeping him a few steps ahead of his nemesis' plans.  That's hard to believe and boring to read. 

I enjoyed the tension and 'star-crossed lovers' vibe between Nina and Matthias in Six of Crows but in this book, that tension is non-existent.  Their relationship was a huge let down and one scene in particular felt like Bardugo added it merely to shock her readers and jump start their interest in her dwindling plot.

I think the characters deserved a better ending.  They were so strong and unique in the first book but the lack of character development and definitive plot in Crooked Kingdom killed this book for me.  This book can be summed up in the following words: underwhelming, scattered, unresolved.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Master Bedroom Reveal

Our master bedroom is finally done! We've had three houses in our almost 20 years of marriage but there was always some other room that had to be done first. Our bedroom wasn't a romantic retreat so much as a place where outdated furniture went to die.  Old bookcase. Check.  Old pine furniture set?  Check.  Old desk?  Yup. It had an Ode to University days mishmash feel to it.

There was one snafu (which I'll get to) but otherwise we are very happy with our new and much improved Master bedroom.  

When last I blogged about our Master boudoir we had just finished installing the paneled wall.  There was a lot of planning and prep involved, it took many evenings to install but wasn't an overly hard project.  To get Brad fully on board with my vision of paneling I promised to paint the paneled wall myself.  And I did.

I spent an entire Friday painting the 27 'boxes' on the wall.  We still had our TV in the bedroom so I put on movies that I loved but already seen for some background noise. Movies like Nottinghill, The Breakfast Club and Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.  I will admit that I was surprised at how long it took to prime the MDF paneling and then give the entire wall two coats of paint.  Time estimating time is my Achilles heel.  Just ask Brad.

Choosing Paint
First things, first.  I had to choose the paint.  I scoured various paint sites, Pinterest etc to find the right colours for the room.  We ended up going back to Benjamin Moore (our basement was done entirely in Sherwin Williams).  We like both paint companies equally - their quality of paint, low to no VOC paints but without one of SW's big sales, BM is easier on the wallet. 

I had a general idea of what I wanted for style and colours for the room.  We had new bedding for inspiration that I had bought from Bouclair months ago in the hopes of getting a new bedroom set.  It's the Adnan set and not only was it on sale but I loved the colours and pattern. 



In the end, we went with the following Benjamin Moore colours ...



We used Revere Pewter (one of their most popular neutral colours) for three of the walls, Chelsea Gray on the paneled wall and we'd accent (with curtains, pillows etc) with a yellow similar to Chestertown Buff.

Prepping the Wall

Now that we had the paneling on the wall ...



... our next job was to fill in the nail holes, dings in the wall, edges where the planks meet the outer walls and seams where the horizontal boards met up with the vertical boards.  This is SO much fun (said nobody ever). This is the crappy work that no one praises you for but must be done. I knew that I didn't want to use wood filler again because when we used it on our large DIY planked wall in the basement it was dry, crumbly and not fun to use.  Instead we went with a spackling compound that we picked up at Home Depot ...



Yes, it's a Pepto-Bismol pink!  This compound went on easily with a small spackling knife. It goes on pink and when it dries to white you know it's ready to paint.  Our MDF planks were tight against the wall so we didn't spackle around the inside of each square. Thank goodness!



Painting
Now the wall was ready to paint so the first thing I did was prime all the MDF and any knicks in the wall that we had filled with spackle. Fun times.



The next step was to add some Chelsea Gray paint.  This is my favourite part.  It's the big 'Voila!' step!  I edged the panels twice ... 



... and then rolled within each square and on the MDF planks twice.  It took longer than I had expected but I love the result. It's exactly as I had pictured it.





Furniture
After 19 years of wedded bliss we got rid of our pine bedroom set and bought something much more suited to our current tastes.  The pine set was okay and what we could afford when we first got married but our styles have changed so we went with a black, clean lined king-sized set.  KING, baby!!

We bought it at a local, family owned furniture store.  It's from Vaughn-Bassett and called Reflections in Ebony. The bed (the Mansions Storage Bed), and the set in general, gives us much more storage space. The bed has two very deep drawers at the very end, we each have a huge side table and our own dresser (the TV will be mounted on the wall above my long dresser at some point).



Even Scout, our mini Schnoodle (pictured here in his Napping Old Dog yoga pose), agrees with our choices. 



Lamps
We bought side table lamps from Costco ...



I liked how the base wasn't chunky and let the paneled wall show through more. Simple, functional, a great price for the pair and they fit with the style we were going for.

Curtains
We ended up finding curtains at The Bay. I had been checking for curtains online and in stores for awhile.  No one had what I wanted. I found some options at Wayfair but didn't know anyone who had used that site and wanted to be able to physically take them back to a store if I didn't like them.

I ended up ordering SEVEN pairs of curtains during a sale at thebay.com. I immediately loved two pairs (the other pairs I returned to our local Bay store).  



I'm a very visual person and wanted to make sure that I loved my choices so we put up the new rod and both sets of curtains to see which we liked best ...



I loved both!!  The yellow set (Exclusively Home - Neptune Sundress) brings out the yellow in the duvet cover and gives the room a pop of colour.  But I equally like the curtains with the gray medallions (Exclusively Home - Sedgewick).  I got them for 50% off so I kept both and figured we can swap them out when the mood strikes me.  The window is eight feet wide so these panels will just stay at the edges to look nice, not to cover the entire window.

Here's the snafu I spoke of at the beginning of the post -- the yellow curtains were really wrinkled so we (self-proclaimed Type A peeps) followed the washing instructions to the tee and hung them to dry.  When I heard Brad utter "Oh sh... shucky darn!" (perhaps it was a stronger sentiment) I looked and saw that the curtains were now 7 1/2-inches shorter.  What in the name of all that is good and holy!?!?  I was not happy and called The Bay -- they were willing to exchange them since they had shrunk so badly even after following the instructions but they had no more stock. Just ... my ... luck.

So either I keep them or return them and have no curtains. I sent pictures to my two sisters and friend Allison for advice. I was immediately asked by my sisters how many people traipse through our boudoir on any given day to make this an issue. Huh. Don't beat around the bush, sistas!  Their point?  If it's only Brad and I that are usually in the room and we love the curtains then keep them.  All three of my Phone-A-Friends agreed - so the curtains were a little (lot) short and looked like 'floods' pants but they would be tucked behind Brad's bedside table and his tall dresser and I loved them, right?  So, in the end, we kept them and I'm still working on being okay with the shorter look that no one will notice but me.

So that's where our most recent renovation/revamp is at.  We are thrilled with the results.  We just need to get a bit of wall art, perhaps a comfy reading chair for moi and mount the TV on the wall above my big dresser.  Oh and repaint our ensuite - but I won't spring that one on Brad yet. We adore the new furniture (which, being dark, I've come to believe is a dust magnet) and we are very proud of the vast changes we made on the walls simply with some MDF and paint.

FYI - Our huge basement renovation is also done (if you don't count the fact that we have to paint the baseboards, trim and new five-panel doors).  I'll be posting the final pictures of that renovation soonish.  Stay tuned.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

A Study in Charlotte

Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Genre: Suspense, Teen
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Source: Local Public Library
Series: #1 in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (a Harper Collins imprint)
First Published: March 1, 2016
First Line: "The first time I met her was at the tail end of one of those endless weekday nights you could only have at a school like Sherringford."

Book Description from GoodReads: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.


My Rating: 2.5 stars

My ReviewA Study in Charlotte follows Charlotte Holmes and James Watson, descendants of the famous detective duo Sherlock and Watson, at a boarding school in Connecticut. This was an interesting premise and, honestly, the reason I picked up this book at my local library.  Charlotte and Jamie find themselves in the thick of a few crimes that mimic the famous mysteries that their great-great-great grandfathers solved 'back in the day'.  While it had a good premise, an interesting twist with Charlotte being a teenage girl and a decent (if a bit befuddled) mystery, there were some inconsistencies/issues that bothered me. 

First, Charlotte felt too similar to the original Sherlock. Just because she's (distantly) related to Sherlock, does that necessarily mean that she must be brilliant, socially unaware and an egocentric jerk most of the time?  I was hoping she'd have her own unique elements - perhaps a more human, softer side so readers can relate to her.  But she didn't have a uniqueness to her apart from the characteristics people relate with Sherlock, nor did she have the depth of character that he possessed. She was Sherlock 2.0 and I was hoping for a bit more.

Watson, on the other hand, came off as a wienie. Sure, he was funny at times but he was like a lost puppy blindly following Sherlock around waiting for moments to admire her (which often had a creepy vibe).  I just couldn't understand why he was so into her when she was perpetually in a bad mood, rude, mean, insensitive, brash, egocentric .... the list goes on and yet there is Watson just beggin' for her attention.  And don't get me started on the unnecessary romance angle.

This book addresses many serious issues - murder, date rape and a lot of drug use. These issues played a bigger role in the plot than I was expecting and I wasn't comfortable with Charlotte's drug use or the lack of explanation for it.  But, more importantly, I was shocked and very disappointed with how the date rape was handled in the story.  More specifically, not handled.  For a book whose audience is mainly teens I think the author missed a very important opportunity to address this serious subject.  




*** Spoiler Alert ***

Most of the people at her school think the rape was Charlotte's fault so Charlotte keeps this information to herself.  She doesn't want to reveal the attack to her family for fear of being another disappointment to her famous family. The reader must assume that Charlotte is totally alone in her torment because the rape is barely acknowledge for the vast majority of the book. I just don't understand, besides being a plot device, why the date rape was included.  I could see a person such as Holmes burying her feelings and memories of the rape but the reader never gets to see her deal with it. We only see it through Watson's eyes and that just seemed wrong.


*** End of Spoiler ***


While this book had a great premise it just wasn't the book for me.  I found the mysteries to be predictable and disjointed in their telling and I was left struggling to stay interested in the characters and plot which was much darker than I had expected. Perhaps true Sherlockians will enjoy this but I'll be taking a pass on the next book in this trilogy.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A Quiet Kind of Thunder

Author: Sara Barnard
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Teen
Type: ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Publishers Group Canada - MacMillan Children's Books
First Published: January 12, 2017
First Line: "Millie Gerdavey cheated on her boyfriend again."

Book Description from GoodReadsSteffi doesn't talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can't hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn't a lightning strike, it's the rumbling roll of thunder.


Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. 

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.


My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a teen romance between a Deaf boy and a girl who has Selective Mutism.  As a former Sign Language Interpreter, the addition of the Deaf character was the reason I picked up this book in the first place.  Unfortunately, the book is only told from Steffi's point of view so we don't get a great representation of Rhys, the Deaf teen.  

Steffi suffers from anxiety and Selective Mutism - a debilitating condition where she is unable to speak in social settings. But, over the course of the book, it didn't seem like her mutism effected her daily life as much I would have expected.  There were a few instances where she was unable to speak to people but, for the most part, she seemed to be able to overcome her social anxiety and mutism without much trepidation.  Steffi's behaviour could be explained by medication and therapy - I just thought there would be more issues surrounding her condition.  With Selective Mutism being new to me I wasn't sure if this was an accurate portrayal.  

This was a slowly paced story about a sweet teen relationship but I was expecting their communication issues, social anxiety and Deaf culture to play bigger roles in the plot. Instead the focus was on the teen romance which had that sweet, first love feel to it.  Ah, l'amour! That said, I felt their connection developed too fast with their bond having an Insta-Love vibe to it.  And while I applaud the author for including BSL (British Sign Language) into her book I felt that Steffi picked up BSL unbelievably easily - we're talking about a whole new language. 

This book addresses several relevant issues - mental health, teen sexual health, first love and a strong nod to relationships with parents and best friends.  I liked seeing the different ways in which Steffi and Rhys' families dealt with issues surrounding Deafness and Selective Mutism as well as Steffi's relationship with Tem, her BFF.  These secondary relationships were well drawn and added diversity to the cast.

Overall, this was a decent, slow burn kind of read which gives readers a general idea about being Deaf in a mainly hearing world as well as what it's like for someone living with Selective Mutism and social anxiety.  I think other readers (who have more romantic souls) will enjoy this book more than I did.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to MacMillan's Children's Books at NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Trapped Girl

Author: Robert Dugoni
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Series: #4 in the Tracy Crosswhite series
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
First Published: January 24, 2017
First Line: "Kurt Schill dragged his fourteen-foot aluminum boat across the beach logs he'd set to minimize the scraping of the hull against the rocks."

Book Description from GoodReadsWhen a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?

After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight. Once again, New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni delivers a taut, riveting thriller in the fourth installment of his acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite series.


My Rating: 5 stars

My Review: Robert Dugoni is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors for a suspenseful, twisty read.  I adored My Sister's Grave and continued to enjoy the next two books in the series, (Her Final Breath and In the Clearing).  With The Trapped Girl, the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series, Dugoni once again gives his readers a non-stop story filled with suspense, tension and twists.  He had me captivated throughout and while I had several ideas of who the culprit could be, by the time Dugoni finished weaving his web, he ended up surprising even this seasoned reader.

Tracy continues to be a strong main character.  She's tough yet likable and has her flaws.  A gaggle of fellow detectives and Tracy's boyfriend round out the cast.  I'd suggest reading this series in order so that you understand where Tracy's past which continues to haunt her.  While her personal life plays a role in this book and I liked its inclusion, I'm glad it stayed in the fringes of the story to keep the tension high.

This is a well-crafted suspense read.  It's complicated without being fussy or confusing as Dugoni leads his readers through his plot leading up to a very satisfying, nail-biting conclusion. If you're in the mood for lots of twists, suspense and some solid characters you must pick up the Tracy Crosswhite series.

Highly recommended for fans of Lisa Gardner and Harlan Coben.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Thomas and Mercer for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.





Friday, 13 January 2017

Small Great Things

Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 470
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Random House Canada
First Published: October 11, 2016
First Line: "The miracle happened on West Seventy-Fourth Street, in the home where Mama worked."

Book Description from GoodReadsRuth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
 


My Rating: 5 stars

My ReviewPicoult is known for writing compelling stories about timely, ethical issues and Small Great Things is no exception. It was immediately drawn into the lives of the three main characters who share their points of view -- Ruth, the African-American nurse who is charged with a crime; Kennedy - the white lawyer who defends her and Turk, the white supremacist whose young son has died. By using these three varied points of view Picoult delves into the issue of racism. 

These perspectives engage the reader immediately with characters who are well-rounded and believably flawed. You will love some of their actions and hate some but I guarantee you will feel something. It is, at times, heart-wrenching, maddening, shocking and frustrating but always compelling. The characters face different issues and I can't say that I was 100% on board with any of them. While I abhorred Turk's racism I could also sympathize with his loss as a parent.  While I found what happened to Ruth unjust and maddening I also wondered why she didn't make other choices.  

Some people criticize Picoult for being too formulaic but one cannot deny that she gives her readers food for thought.  She, once again, uses her 'ethical issue/courtroom drama' formula (which I was fine with) but I'll admit to not being a fan of the ending which I found was wrapped up too easily and predictably.  Satisfying but predictable.

Picoult has opened the discussion regarding intolerance and racism - in both its active and passive forms.  Hopefully, this book will give readers a new perspective on racism and show how even small comments and actions only help to perpetuate the current environment of intolerance. Just because the situation is fine for us some of us, doesn't mean we shouldn't stop and think about how it affects others. It's this message of passive racism that stood out for me the most.  


" If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." 
- Dr. Martin Luther King

Picoult tackled this topic with a lot of research and an equal amount of sensitivity.  I encourage people to read the author's note at the end of the book regarding why she, as a white woman, took on the topic of racism.  With all the moral, ethical and racial issues that were touched on I feel that this would make an excellent book club selection.

This book continues to creep into my thoughts and I find myself wondering about the daily racism that people of colour continue to face - especially subtle, passive prejudice. What I'm hoping is that we keep this discussion going. Talk about racism and intolerance with our kids. Call people on their racist comments. Listen and believe people when they share their experiences.  Racism isn't just about hate.  It's about ignorance.  It's about an unbalanced system of power and about the little things that encourage intolerance. 

We can be better than this.  We need to do better.  Everyone has the chance to make a difference - small or great.  We just need to choose to do it.


Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Random House Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

DIY Paneled Wall - Part One

While I don't claim to be a Canadian home reno guru like Bryan Baeumler (swoon!), Scott McGillivray or Jillian Harris by any means, I do love smaller projects that Brad and I can do ourselves to make our house look nice and give it a homey feel. Not only does doing it yourselves save money but it feels great to look at something and say 'WE did that!"

Recently we decided to renovate our master bedroom.  We've lived in this house for eight years and we'll be married 20 years this June and yet we've never had a luxurious, calming master bedroom - a beautiful space of refuge from the craziness of life. 

This reno started with our need to upgrade our bedroom furniture (complete with a King-size bed!).  For the past 19 years, we had had a simple pine set which was okay (and, at the time, cheap) but definitely not our style now. Knowing we were going to have nice, new furniture we decided to add a focal wall to our Master and a coat of paint too.

I have wanted to do some sort of paneled wall in our house for a long time.  Originally, I thought we'd do one in our living/dining room but Brad wasn't on board.  So, in the name of marital accord (I just wanted to do a paneled wall somewhere!) we opted to do our master bedroom.  I scoured Pinterest and various sites for inspiration and a little help figuring out how to go about making a paneled wall.  I found beautiful DIY examples at Chris Loves Julia with their Dark DIY'd Wainscotting as well as the DIY Paneled Wall in the Master bedroom by Jenna Sue Design.  These are some very talented people and they inspired us.

Before
We started off with a very plain Master bedroom.  


Embarrassingly, this is where the magic happened for eight years. Normally our bed is on the wall behind the ladder but I didn't remember to get a Before picture of our bedroom layout before we moved everything around.  In this picture, we had started marking off the wall studs with our stud finder and laser level.  

You get the general idea - it was a lackluster space.  The wall colour was slightly darker than 'Builder's Beige' (I thought I was being so cool going darker - um, no) and we had a mishmash of furniture that was more functional than stylish.  It was blaw and not a place I looked forward to hanging out in nor was it romantic in any way, shape or form.  The paneled wall was planned for the long 18-foot wall (behind the ladder in the picture above) with our new bed in front of it.

With Mastercard magic, planning, design and sweat equity we now have a bedroom to be proud of.  After recently showing our good friends Brian and Allison our new and improved bedroom I got the reaction I was hoping for as Allison exclaimed that she loved it. I knew I liked that gal and have awarded her Awesome Friend Points.

Let's get started ...

Step One - Plan it out
You must have a plan before starting this project. We measured our wall (18' long x 8' high) and then had to decide how we wanted to do our grid.  There are lots of options - did we want it all equally sized squares?  Did we want larger areas in the middle (see picture below)?  
Picture from: Remodelaholic.com
With the design in the above picture you have a bigger gap in the middle.  I love this design but our bedroom set is huge and a lot of the wall would be covered by furniture. We wanted to have as much of the paneling pattern show as possible so we went with a more uniform design with equal sized squares.  With the help of Brad's mad Autocad skills he figured out what size of squares we needed for the size of our wall which came out to three rows and nine columns of larger squares. You don't have to have Autocad to plan it out. You can figure it out with pencil and paper or consult sites like Wall Panel Sizing Calculator to do the work for you.

This is what we came up with ...



Luckily, our three electrical outlets fit nicely within the squares. As it turns out, the two end columns each ended up being 1/2-inch wider.  Adding that little bit to each end enabled us to have simpler dimensions for the other squares (with no wonky measurements like 5.5/16" - ain't nobody got patience for that!).  And since it's such a minor dimension (and on the ends) you don't notice it.  

We knew we were using 4-inch planks so the next step, figuring how many boards we'd need, was easy to calculate.  And by easy, I mean Brad and Autocad figured it out.



Step Two - A Trip to Depot
Based on our calculations we knew we needed two sheets of MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard).  This stuff is strong, cheap ($25CDN for each sheet) and our friendly peeps at The Home Depot cut it into our 4-inch strips for free.  



After stocking up on more brad nails for our pneumatic nail gun and some adhesive for paneling and drywall .. we headed for home.

Step Three - What You'll Need
Stud finder
MDF boards - we used two 4'x8' sheets cut into 4-inch wide strips
sliding compound mitre saw
brad nails
brad nail gun (pneumatic if you got it!)
adhesive for paneling and drywall
laser level (or traditional level)

Step Four - Puttin' Up the Planks
The first thing you'll do is mark off the studs in your wall so a stud finder is essential. Once we found the stud we set the laser level on it which made it easy to mark the stud down the length of the wall with pencil.  Knowing where your studs are is important since you want to hit as many of them as you can to ensure that your boards stay on your wall. 

Next, you'll want to put up the top and bottom planks on your wall but you need to ensure that they are level.  Your baseboards and/or ceilings probably aren't may not be level but your MDF boards need to be.  A laser level works well to ensure your boards are straight and in line with each other.  If you get one board slightly off it will affect the others so you'll need to verify, as you go, that the planks you're putting up are straight. You can see the red lines of our laser level in the Before picture at the beginning of this post.

The bottom row of MDF sat right on top of our original baseboards and is only very slightly deeper than the baseboards. We weren't eager to pull of the original baseboards and I'm glad that we didn't. We ran a 'wiggle' of the adhesive down the face of the first 8' piece of plank ...



Always the helper!  Good job adding the adhesive, Brad!
... then we placed the plank on the wall and used a laser level to ensure that the first row was straight. The adhesive gives you extra bonding to the wall and allows you about 30 minutes before it fully dries to wiggle it into place along the laser line.  This board ... must ... be ... straight or it will throw things off later on.  

Once we had the plank in place we used a pneumatic air nail gun to secure brad nails at the top and bottom - about five inches apart along the plank.  We did the same process for the next full board and then had to cut a 2-foot board to finish off that lower row. 

Things were going great!  And then we went to do the top row. Our bedroom has a partial vaulted ceiling but what we didn't realize is the wall/ceiling in the vaulted area wasn't straight. 

You have got to be kidding me! 

We opted to keep the planks for this upper row straight (according to the laser level/rest of the room and not the wonky wall/ceiling).  This decision gave us a gap that started off with a 3/8-inch gap at the beginning of the vaulted area and ended up with a over an inch gap in the corner!  

What fresh hell is this?!?

Brad to the rescue!  He measured the height of the 'wedge' between the top plank and the ceiling at various points and cut pieces to fit like one long, boring puzzle. Do I love this man or what?! 




After patching and painting the seams (which I'll show you in the follow-up post) I dare you to notice that the top row of planking is taller in the corner.  It is seamless and I do so lurrrve my man!



After the top and bottom planks were adhered to the wall we measured where our two central vertical planks would be.  We measured, cut and adhered the two planks ...



then added the smaller horizontal planks which we measured and cut separately to ensure a snug fit (and used the laser level to make sure they were straight). 


Our room had horrible lighting hence the headlight.
We continued along the left-side of the wall and then the right - using the laser level to ensure that the horizontal planks were all in line with each other for a nice smooth look. We started in the middle to make sure that if there were any issues with our measurements the outer two columns, which you're less likely to focus on, would take the brunt of any measuring miscalculations. In the end the outer columns are an extra 1/2-inch wider but it's unnoticeable. 

This is where we were at after a week of evenings working on this wall.





It was a lot of work (mainly because we are so Type A and insist on everything being straight) but we couldn't be happier.  It's exactly how I pictured it and even with some blips along the way (stupid uneven ceiling) we made it work and we love it!

Watch for my upcoming post about finishing up this paneled wall including the paint we used and pictures of the finished product with our new furniture.  We could not be happier with the result.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Unrelenting: Love and Resistance in Pre-War Germany

Author: Marion Kummerow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Series: 1st in the World War II Trilogy
Source: Author
Publisher Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
First Published: June 14, 2016
First Line: "Dr Wilhem Quedlin didn't know it, but today, the course of his life was about to change."

Book Description from GoodReadsBerlin, Germany 1932. In a time of political unrest and strife, one man finds the courage to fight back...

Dr. Wilhem "Q" Quedlin, chemical engineer and inventor, lives for his science. A woman is not in his plans-nor is it to be accused of industrial espionage.

But things get worse from there.

Watching Hitler's rise to power spurns his desire to avoid yet another war that will completely destroy his beloved country. Q makes the conscious decision to fight against what he knows is wrong, even if working against the Nazis could mean certain death for him- and anyone he loves.

Hilde Dremmer has vowed to never love again. But after encountering Q, she wants to give love a second chance.

When Q discloses his resistance plan, it's up to Hilde to choose between her protected life without him or the constant threat of torture if she supports him in his fight against injustice.

She has witnessed enough of the Nazi government's violent acts to be appalled by the new political power, but will this be enough for an ordinary girl to do the extraordinary and stand beside the man she loves in a time of total desolation?

This World War II story is based on the true events of one couple's struggle for happiness while battling a war against their own leaders.
 


My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Unrelenting is the first novel in a trilogy by author Marion Kummerow which details how her grandparents met on the brink of World War II. Part love story, part history read, Kummerow reveals Hitler's ascension to power as seen through the eyes of her grandparents, Dr Wilem "Q" Quedlin and Hilde Dremmer.  

My favourite part of the book was getting the perspective of ordinary German citizens as Hitler's fanaticism takes hold over their country.  Often people will look back at major world issues and wonder 'How could people have let this happen?'. This book details exactly that and I was equally intrigued and appalled at how smoothly and expeditiously Hitler took hold of Germany and its future.  Germany's economy and people were suffering with millions of Germans out of work and many families quite literally starving.  This made it easy for Hitler to 'come to the rescue' with his sadistic and xenophobic ideas to make Germany strong again.

This historical aspect was eye-opening and my favourite part of the book.  Unfortunately, I found the characters and the relationship between Hilde and Q to be weak. I'm not a big fan of romances but I felt that the courtship was drawn out between these two characters who felt overly naive and needed more complexity to their characters and dialogue.  

I think that this is a wonderful tribute that Kummerow has written about her grandparents.  I loved being taken into pre-war Germany and having a better understanding about how Hitler could rise to such all-encompassing power using ruthless and unconscionable means to do so.  For fans of this book, the story continues in the second book in the series titled 'Unyielding: Love and Resistance in WWII Germany'.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Marion Kummerow for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Author: Lindsey Lee Johnson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Random House Canada

First Published: January 10, 2017
First Line: "Cally Broderick lingered in the doorway of the resource office, waiting to be noticed."

Book Description from GoodReadsA captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld's PrepThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.
 

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review: This book focuses on the lives of a select group of teenagers in an upper-class suburb of San Francisco as they move from middle school into high school.  While it's set in beautiful California the experiences of these teens, and one of their teachers, are less than ideal as readers get glimpses into their lives and their own unique sets of problems.

The story is told using multiple POVs with each character getting their own chapter. When combined, these shorter scenes tell the bigger story of this group of teens who seem to have it all - including seemingly unlimited funds and no parental supervision. 

Johnson touches on many serious issues plaguing today's teens - the influence of social media, peer pressure, bullying, the pressure to succeed, drugs/alcohol, lack of connection with parents etc.  That's a lot of issues and honestly, it felt like she may have taken on too many issues for one book.  

Johnson's writing is good and she pulled me into her world, but I had hoped for more complexity and depth to the story lines and characters as well as less predictable endings. Several of her characters verged on clich├ęs (with Miss Nichols, the idealistic and naive teacher being the most frustrating).  With only being given a small number of pages to tell each of their stories, unfortunately I can't say that I was invested in any of their lives.

I had a love/hate relationship with this book.  While teen angst and (too?) many issues are brought to light that affect teens today, I didn't find it as powerful as I had expected and wish there was more depth to the plot and characters.  I hovered between a 2.5 and a 3-star rating but opted to bump up my rating to 3 stars because Johnson was able to keep my interest.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Canada and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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