Book review: Maya and the Book of Everything by Laurie Graves.

th_0997845309

Laurie Graves – Maya and the Book of Everything (2016, Hinterlands Press) 

A mysterious library, magical books, and unexpected journeys to new lands and times?  A resourceful, intelligent, and thoughtful teenaged protagonist that we can relate to and love and root for?  A clever, fresh (and extremely relevant) take on the classic battle between good and evil?  Creative plotting, beautifully realized characterization, precisely detailed world building, and perfect pacing?  I’m all in.  Laurie’s book really is everything!

As it is the season of gift giving, if you’re having a difficult time buying for the young teenagers in your life, well, have I got a suggestion for you.  And while you’re at it, click an extra copy into your cart for yourself.  Because we could all use a Book of Everything in our lives.  🙂

(I’m sure glad she’s already working on the sequel because I’m not certain how long I can wait, given that juicy wallop set up at the end…).

 

Alberta snapshot: Chester Lake.

CLFPNormandeau1a

I completely understand why this is considered one of the finest snowshoe treks in Kananaskis Country, in the Canadian Rockies.  My hubby and I did this one a week ago, and we were fortunate to share this utterly incredible space with a few cheeky gray jays and a moose that gave our salt-flecked truck a helpful (!) scrub.  😉

CLFPNormandeau2Photo credit: R. Normandeau

 

 

Book review: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

9780345809872

Hope Jahren – Lab Girl (2016, Vintage Canada)

Geo/paleobiologist Hope Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl is a passionate, inspiring exploration of life – her life as a scientist, her life as a woman, the lives of the plants she studies.  Alternately humorous, heartbreaking, reflective, and poetic, Lab Girl is beautifully written and illuminating. Jahren takes the reader through her cold Scandinavian upbringing in Minnesota and her refuge in studying science, to her struggle to obtain her own laboratory and gain acceptance from her colleagues.  She chronicles her deep friendship with her unconventional lab partner, Bill, who accompanies her on all of her journeys (even when they end in car crashes or bold moves across the country); their witty, hilariously off-kilter banter is a perfect foil to the serious revelations of the book. Framed by lyrical passages about plants and the lessons they can teach us, Lab Girl is filled with wonder and insight.

Book review: The Harvest by Chuck Wendig.

the-harvest-700px

Chuck Wendig – The Harvest (Book Three of The Heartland Trilogy) (2015, Skyscape)

Broken, battered, and full of fury and fight, the gang’s (mostly) all here, as Cael McAvoy and his friends struggle to survive and marshal forces against their crushing Empyrean overlords in a twisted world driven by the commodity of genetically-engineered corn.  Complications plague them: divided loyalties and politics, love triangles (quadrangles? “Squares” doesn’t have quite the same ring), infection and mutation from the same strain of Blight that affects the corn crops, killer androids, and, oh yeah, a group of seriously frightening female assassins. As in Under the Empyrean Sky and Blightborn,  the other books in the trilogy, Wendig’s world-building is staggering in scope and crazy-inventive, and he doesn’t pull any stylistic punches…he shoves the reader from edge to edge and keeps the action dialed up quite a few notches above what you think you can possibly stand.  It’s a fantastic ride and a fitting finale to this dark, creative trilogy.

(Wild)flowery Friday.

swFPNormandeau

In the foreground: a new view of marsh smartweed, a plant I profiled on Flowery Prose around this time last year.  (Take a look at my original post here, along with a close-up view of the flower).  I shot this photo from our boat as we followed the northwest shoreline of McGregor Lake (near Milo, Alberta), on a crazy hot and smoky August afternoon.

I’m not certain of the ID of the large reeds in the background; I’ve done some tentative digging but haven’t come up with anything conclusive. I’ll update this post if I can find out any more info about them.

Art: “Black Gold” by Sandra Sawatzky.

I spent the morning downtown at the Glenbow Museum, which is currently hosting an absolutely incredible art exhibit: a 67 meter long (220 feet!) embroidered tapestry called “Black Gold,” by Calgary artist Sandra Sawatzky.  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry and split into 8 panels for ease of showing/viewing, this is the complete history of oil and its connection to humankind, from before we were even kicking as a species, during the days of the dinosaurs, through all the technological movements we’ve made right up to our modern car-culture.  Every detail of the story was meticulously researched and planned, each image/scene representative of people and culture and significant events on the timeline. I would have been impressed with the storytelling alone, but I can’t even begin to find words sufficient to describe the perfectly formed and beautifully executed stitching, the vibrant colours of thread she selected, and the stylized imagery and borders reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry.  I had to repeatedly remember to clap shut my gaping jaw; “Black Gold” is truly a masterpiece!

I was impressed by something I read in the artist’s statement about the medium of embroidery on fabric – Sawatzky is also a filmmaker, and she commented on the fact that the USB flash drives, external hard drives, and the computers we are currently using to edit and save film images will not survive far into the future (hopefully we will be able to save the data in a new way!), but she was resolved to create something far more durable and lasting with the cloth and thread that comprise “Black Gold.”  (In another gallery of the museum was an exhibit called Eye of the Needle; in it, there were gorgeous examples of different types of embroidery and beadwork, as well as projects detailing the quilling and tufting artistry of Canadian Indigenous people.  Some of the items were modern, while others were over a century old – an indication of the longevity of the medium).

It took Sawatzky nine years to complete “Black Gold” from start to finish, and you can read details of how she went about the work on her project blog, here.  (This separate link will take you to the Glenbow Museum’s site, where you can read about the exhibit. As the webpages change to reflect new exhibits, this link won’t last beyond May 2018, I believe, but you can at least read it now).

Next time I feel daunted by a large task (creative or otherwise), I will have to immediately remind myself of “Black Gold” and the beyond-impressive amount of work that went into it.  I am so pleased to have had the chance to see it. (And it was also delightful taking in some of the fantastic abstract paintings of Lawren Harris – one of the members of the Group of Seven – which were on display at the Museum in a separate gallery).