The Polished Hoe // Book Club Faux-Pas

Even though a novel might come highly recommended – it isn’t always the best choice for you. The Polished Hoe is a novel that just isn’t for us. Believe me – we tried to read it, but exactly 66 pages in, I realized that I can’t do it.

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Part of being in a book club is choosing novels that you will enjoy, because let’s face it, this is supposed to be for fun. However, reading Austin Clarke’s novel brought me back to my university classes, and not in a good way.

Unlike Moby Dick where I felt accomplished after reading that novel, and could strike it off my bucket list, this isn’t a novel I can force myself through.

I’ve scratched it off our booklist only to add, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens instead. I should be receiving mine in the mail next week from Indigo. Since it’s about 100 pages, Meagan and I will let you know how it goes.

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The Witchdoctor’s Bones // Canadian Literature

Lisa de Nikolits has done it again. This Canadian author, and my friend, continues to write novels that have me hooked from beginning to end!

The Witchdoctor’s Bones is about a group of tourists that meet in Namibia for a bus tour of Africa, and simultaneously a murder mystery ensues with plenty of twists.

Witchdoctors_BonesThe protagonist, a Canadian named Kate,

“ditches her two-timing boyfriend and heads to Africa on a whim, hoping for adventure, encountering the unexpected and proving an intrepid adversary to mayhem. The tour is led by Jono, a Zimbabwean historian and philosopher, and the travellers follow him from Cape Town into the Namib desert, learning ancient secrets of the Bushmen, the power of witchcraft and superstition, and even the origins of Nazi evil” –  Inanna Publications

Lisa is originally from South Africa, so her accounts of Africa – through the voice of Jono – is both accurate and educational. You’d think that this would make the book dull or dry, but it does the complete opposite. Lisa’s vivid descriptions of African history, culture and landscape are captivating.

I’ve said it in past blog posts about Lisa’s other novels, but I’m going to say it again, I love her character development.

Funnily enough, Jono (the tour guide and bus driver) cracked me up. After recently going on a coach bus tour of my own through Southern Italy, I couldn’t help but hear our Italian tour guide named Fabrizio through the voice of Jono. I immediately connected with this character as he shared his political views, and history about African culture, which was exactly what our tour guide had done about Italy. Jono was definitely my favourite character. 

For Meagan, however, she loved Marika. Marika became Kate’s best friend on the trip, and was very relatable. She was logical and down to earth. Although, Marika was somewhat irritating as she continuously got upset over her lost luggage that seemed like it would never arrive.

Similar to Lisa’s other novels, the further along you read – the more you become sympathetic towards the “bad” characters’ flaws and mental illnesses. For example, Harrison – a huge germophobe – is annoyingly attentive to cleaning methods at the start, but you end up liking him by the end. I won’t even get started on Rydell because that would call for a spoiler alert.

At times it was difficult to maintain a suspended disbelief because so many outlandish things occur during this tour of Africa, and it is difficult to keep track of all the characters at the beginning. Yet, the novel has its own charm on account of its mysteriousness and darkness that Lisa creates. For these reasons I couldn’t put it down, and it was the perfect novel to read while commuting to and from work.

To purchase this novel, please click here. I promise that you won’t regret it.

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Buca, Yorkville // “Full of Friend Love”

At the end of our Girls Lunch today Cammie text me, “I’m full of friend love.” So – not only did we leave STUFFED with delicious Italian cuisine – but we also left lunch filled with quality best friend time.

It’s funny because on my way out to lunch, I knew I wanted to write about Buca the restaurant, yet I hadn’t expected to be so inspired by my girlfriends!

IMG_7620First things first, the food: On our table today were three main courses. Christina chose the Anolini – a stuffed pasta with roasted squash and fonduta di parmigano. Half of these divine ravioli’s had squash stuffing and the other half had the parmigano. I took one of each to start and cut them both in half. After tasting each half, I couldn’t decide which flavour I loved more. They were both equally delicious – forcing me to savour them all!

Cammie ordered the Burrata Pizza, which had preserved tomato, basil and burrata cheese. Another fine choice. The cheese was gooey, light and flavourful.

My favourite dish, though, was what I ordered – Spaghetti Pomodoro. This homemade, fresh pasta was accompanied by tomato leaves, seaside tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. One bite sent me straight back to Rome. It was on par with what I had eaten a few summers ago in Italy. You can’t go wrong with a simple and fresh red sauce.

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Last, we ordered a dessert platter that had just about all of the sweet options on the board. The most famed dessert that Buca makes is its Canoli. So, we didn’t waste any time requesting a third Canoli to add to our wooden dessert board. Inside was dried fruit and pistachios. It definitely had a Panettone taste and texture, perfect with Christmas just around the corner.

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Second, I’ve missed my besties – oh so much! With a list of personal things to share, some topics were light-hearted, but the majority were confessions. Real best friends hear your dirt, and the real shit that’s going on in your life. Things that I am scared to say out loud – because that would mean they’re real or true – I can spill to them. There is no judgement or harshness in their responses. Instead, it’s always true love and support.

IMG_7618Telling them things that I don’t want to admit to myself is hard. But once it’s out in the open, I feel so much better. Our hardships in life should be shared just as much as the good stuff – though, only with the people you really trust. It’s rewarding to know that I’m lucky enough to have these two friends (and two others) in my life that will listen, and help me see that I’m not the only one with these types of worries.

It’s normal to feel defeated in your twenties for a variety of reasons. Life isn’t always easy, and knowing that I can confess my sins – or bitchiest, meanest thoughts to these lovely ladies – makes me feel a WHOLE lot better.

Thank-you Buca, Yorkville for being the location where we bared our souls today. Oh, and for the delectable Italian mains & desserts!

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The Littlest Cousin // a tale of turning 19

photo 1When you’re the last one to turn 19 years old in a big Italian family – you get spoiled rotten. My first cousins and I have always been close, so it’s no surprise that we came together to celebrate Emily’s 19th birthday this past October.

Providing club and bar recommendations was only the beginning. Emily had been excited for this day since she started to witness cousin after cousin leave New Years Eve at home with the family to party with friends instead! Honestly though, each New Years away just lead to returning to spend it with family the following year. Out of the last 3 NYE’s, I’ve spent 2 with Emily at our Nonna’s house.

photo 2Emily’s pre-drink was filled with family, and a brilliant hand crafted gift. I ventured to the LCBO and chose a selection of my favourite go-to drinks. This was a combination of 5 unique beverages: Strongbow Cider, Mill Street Organic, Mott’s Clamato Ceasar, a Swedish berry cider, and Guinness. I individually wrapped each tall can in tissue paper and wrote a number from 1 to 5 on each one. Each number corresponded with a “Drink Card” that explained the reason I chose each drink for her to try.

Once everything was wrapped, and written out, I placed the tall cans in a box that I tied with ribbon. Simultaneously, Emily opened each tall can and photo 3read the “Drink Card.” My present to Emily was basically a starter kit to drinking. Why not buy a 19-year-old a selection of alcohol, so that she can figure out what she likes and doesn’t like? Plus, she can save some money this way!

This little party animal is just getting started in the club scene. That night was filled with blue glow-stick rings (free from my work), plenty of drinks, laughter and dancing. I think we chose a good spot for her club-debut, Tequila Jacks.

The best part of Tequila Jacks is its resident DJ. Talented and original, DJ Ase mixes songs that you would never think of putting together, making Tequila Jacks a very fun place to get your groove on. Thanks to DJ Andy Steves, I appreciate awesome DJ’s even more now.

The next day was Thanksgiving at our Zia’s (Aunt’s) house, and Emily was looking pretty rough. Yet, leave it to me to be the only one who threw up the night before (the 26-year-old), though, it wasn’t because of any alcohol but a stomach bug instead.

Classic Dee.

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Guest Post: Mansion Keg // A Haunting Experience

My dad is a huge believer in ghost stories. Ever since I was little, he’d have scary movies on in the background while babysitting me. A lover of Halloween and all things scary, he ventured to the Mansion Keg (515 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario) to have a paranormal experience of his own. He lives to tell the tale here.

Written By: Michael Holmes (my dad)

I had heard and read all the stories about the spirits which inhabit the Keg Mansion in Toronto – and tonight I was determined to “see” them!

043Armed with a Rosary, Candle (battery operated) and pack of cards, a friend and I went for dinner at the Keg on Friday, October 24, 2014. I wanted to bring a Ouija Board as well, but they were completely sold out – I suppose since it was close to Halloween, plus the release of the new movie with the same name.

After having drinks at the 2nd floor bar, we proceeded up the darkened stairs to the 3rd floor. This office and storage area is closed to the public, but there is a table and a few chairs at the top of the stairs.

I laid out my cards and Rosary, turned on my battery-operated candle and quietly addressed the spirits saying, “If you are present, please show yourself.” Nothing happened. Meanwhile, my friend began taking photos.

049I then picked up the Rosary, held it straight up in front of me and said, “If you are present, make the Rosary move.” After a few seconds, the Rosary started to move slowly in a circular motion. I commanded “faster” “faster” and it rotated faster and faster as wide as 18 inches in diameter.

After a while my dinner companion, whom I think was a bit freaked out by the whole incident, blurted out “Okay, that’s enough, make it stop!” Immediately the Rosary came to an abrupt stop – not a slow stop but an abrupt stop! She said to me, “I was watching your hands the whole time to see if you were moving it – but it was rigid and in one place.”

After a few moments, I raised the Rosary again and said, “If you are still here, make this Rosary rotate again – but this time in a counter-clockwise manner.” Immediately the Rosary started to move in a circular motion – and yes, counter-clockwise! My dinner companion and I watched in complete awe! Again the cross moved as wide as 18 inches in diameter.

There are no fans or air vents up in that area so it couldn’t be blamed on air moving. The cross was made of metal (heavy) so the weight would be hard to move.

Finally, I laid 5 cards out on the table, face down, and said, “If you are here, make the cards move.” Nothing happened. I removed one card and repeated the instruction. Nothing happened. I removed another card and repeated the instruction. Nothing happened.  So I said “maybe cards are not your thing,” gathered the cards and put them away. [As an aside the next day my dinner companion suggested there was no response because I did not lay the cards face up!]

My dinner companion and I quietly talked about our experience, noting that the temperature did not drop at any time during this experience and that the air was still during the experience.

We both thanked the spirit(s), saying how much we loved their home, talked about how overwhelming it must be to have so many strangers present in their home…and stressing that we mean no harm, that we come in peace because their home is so beautiful and we thanked them again for allowing us to visit.

Additionally, as we were reviewing the photos later – we discovered 3 of them contained Orbs*.

038You will see that in the photo an ORB can be seen just to the right of my shoes against the staircase. This was on our way up to the 3rd floor. We believe the Spirit(s) were accompanying us up to the third floor.

In the second photo, two Orbs can be seen on the staircase to the left. You’ll notice the Orbs are higher on the staircase in the first shot – then further down the staircase – as if they are descending the staircase ahead of us. In the second photo the Orb is much much brighter!

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*FOOTNOTE
Orbs // A Paranormal Interpretation
Consistent with pareidolia, Orb backscatter has been broadly interpreted as a highly variable range of supernatural paranormal phenomena without verifiability—including invisible spirits, unexpected lights, auras, angels, ghosts, energy fields, psycho-energetic artifacts, energy balls, etc.

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What Alice Forgot // Epilogue Endings

What AliceWhat Alice Forgot is the second Epilogue of our Book Club for Two novel selection.

Now that I think about it, Moby Dick was no different and The Witchdoctor’s Bones also has an Epilogue.

First and foremost I think including an Epilogue is sort of cheating. Authors should finish their stories once and for all in a final chapter. Epilogue’s are a shitty way to wrap up as it leaves the reader feeling unattached and disconnected from the narrative. Oftentimes, I feel in disbelief because the author “neatly” ties up ALL those complicated loose endings.

With the Epilogue out of the picture, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading What Alice Forgot.

The last discussion that Meagan and I had definitely requires a SPOILER ALERT for anyone planning to read this novel.

Alice’s body remembering more than her brain after suffering a severe concussion was very intriguing, and quite possibly, my favourite part of the novel. The part that I hated the most was the Epilogues explanation that after everything Alice went through – she gets back together with her ex-husband.

Experiencing Alice’s new, loving relationship with her kids’ principle made it seem like this divorce was irreversible. Especially after seeing Nick’s (ex-husband) rude reaction towards Alice’s injury and personality throughout the entire novel.

However, the distasteful epilogue made it clear that Alice and Nick reconnected, he moved back into the family home, and their relationship was on the road to recovery. This ending wasn’t believable, and usually I’m not this harsh on fictional novels.

Something else that stuck with Meagan and I was how Alice’s real age didn’t match her reactions to things. Oftentimes, she was a naive school girl fawning over her ex-husband. I really wanted to shake her at times and say, “WAKE UP ALICE! Maybe you should focus on re-getting to know your kids instead of chasing after your broken relationship!”

I don’t think she would have listened.

Regardless, it was a novel that I enjoyed reading and would recommend it to anyone! In fact, I believe that I already have. On to the next novel.

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Welcome to Yesterday // I’m Home

Lately, I haven’t had the voice to write. With a new(ish) full-time position as a Marketing & Project Coordinator in the Media industry – I’ve been a little distracted.

There will always be a learning curve in any new role. With my type-A personality, and being an organization maniac, I’ve taken a lot of time to learn the ropes. Immersing myself in my job is something I enjoy doing, but I do plan to bring the writing back – now that I’ve somewhat gotten things under control.

This two month hiatus from my blog is coming to an end. I want to get the juices flowing again, no matter how drained I am on a daily basis. If you’re a regular reader of my blog – you’ll notice that I’ve changed it up a bit.

I love the above banner-image from Honest Ed’s in Toronto. It always makes me laugh, and is somewhat inspirational. As if my cousin and I were “lucky” to have gotten lost within this landmark on that warm, summer night a year or two ago.

More importantly, there have been a lot of exciting things going on in the Holmes family. My older brother has asked his beloved girlfriend, Flo, to marry him! Not only that, but I’ve been asked to be my future sister-in-law’s Maid of Honour.

New job, new sister, and tons of fun on the horizon – makes me feel excited, anxious and I’m just trying to soak it all in. Now that a wedding date has been chosen, we are off to try on dresses today!

Get excited readers! There is plenty more of my writing on the way…
I have to write a speech after all.

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