Book Review: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.

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Amy Stewart – Girl Waits With Gun (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Boston, 2015)

Go look this one up at your local library or the nearest bookstore.  Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun.  I’ll be here until you get back.

Okay, do you have a copy in your hands? This is why you have to read it NOW:  Stewart takes the true story of historical figure of Constance Kopp, one of America’s first female crime fighters, and runs with it, producing a brilliantly creative, fun, and beautifully written (fictionalized) tale of a woman who doesn’t quite fit into the time she lives in, yet makes the best of her situation to get herself and her sisters out of a serious muddle, as well as help others less fortunate. In this first book of the series (yay!  It’s a series!), Constance and her sisters inadvertently attract the sinister attention of Henry Kaufman, a powerful factory owner – and things are complicated when it is discovered that Kaufman is involved in many more criminal acts.  Terrified for her family’s safety, Constance reluctantly seeks the help of the police, and together with kindly, overworked Sheriff Heath, this fierce, driven woman goes to war.  Some books you savour, some you devour – this definitely fit into the latter category for me.  I could barely get anything else done while I was reading it, I was so invested in Constance’s story.  Perfect pacing, careful research, and just the right amount of heartwarming humour further solidified it for me – I can’t recommend Girl Waits With Gun enough.

November blog fun.

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It has been quite a few months since I’ve done one of these posts – let’s launch into it right away, shall we?

Have difficulty pronouncing plant names?  Me, too.  I even mangle them when I’m very consciously thinking about how not to – actually, that’s when the tongue-tangling gets truly terrific. This pronounciation guide may help.  At the very least, it’s interesting reading.

You may not live in New England (I don’t!) but your region may include some of the same plant species.  Or, you might just want to have fun with a fully interactive dichotomous key.  I’m here to help – I found this great link from GoBotany that will helpfully ID all 3,500 taxa in New England. I played with it a bit and, as expected, found that we share some of the same plant species here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Here is another ID tool – this one for bird feathers.  It is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so it won’t likely be conclusive in other locations.  As we share many of the same bird species in Canada, it may work in a limited fashion for us.

It’s Canada’s sesquicentennial this year and Mercury Filmworks has created an animated short to illustrate Canada, coast-to-coast.  The artwork is vibrant and fun, and there are some delightful references to some of our most famous pop culture icons.

Here’s another post that celebrates Canada’s history – this time of the Rocky Mountains.  Take a look at this small collection of photos of people working, playing, and living in the mountains – it’s an eye-opening trip!

If you enjoy reading science fiction and you’re particularly interested in the work of writers during the 1950’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s, you may wish to check out this gem: the complete run of IF Magazine from 1952 to 1974 is available to read for free, here.  Some big names wrote for and edited this magazine and if you’re a fan of the genre, you will recognize some of them.  I love that these stories won’t be forgotten.

Writers and film buffs might have fun with this incredibly comprehensive list of narrative devices and tropes.  How many of these do you recognize in your favourite movie or book?  How many of these have you used in your own writing?

Finally, libraries and museums such as the Met, the New York Public Library, and the Smithsonian have made a ton of images from their collections available for everyone to download and…well…colour.  I believe the whole sharing to Twitter part is over with for the year, but you can still access the images for your own use. #ColorOurCollections will likely return in 2018, so watch for it.  Many of these are botanical prints, so that’s rather lovely for anyone who is interested in that sort of thing (me, me!).

Clipart credit.

Alberta snapshot: Bighorn Falls.

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Bighorn Falls, Ya Ha Tinda, Alberta, September 2017.  This was my first time to Ya Ha Tinda, which has the distinction of being “the only federally operated working horse ranch” in Canada. The horses that are raised and trained here are used by Parks Canada staff to patrol the national parks in Alberta and other parts of western Canada.  The ranch has a long history dating back to the early 1900’s, and there is evidence that the site was inhabited well before that!  (You can read more here).  I was absolutely amazed by the incredible wild beauty of the area and a return trip is already planned for next year!

Fairness for All: Equity.

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One of my most rewarding writing projects this year was the work I did on a children’s nonfiction book for a series called “To Be Canadian,” published by Beech Street Books in September.  My contribution is called Fairness for All: Equity, and I only recently managed to get my hands on a copy, hence the reason I haven’t posted about it until now.  Designated for school-age children in grades 2 to 4, the series covers topics such as freedom, democracy, just society, sustainability, and inclusion.

The research for Fairness for All: Equity was hugely engrossing and fascinating – let’s just say I logged in many, many hours on the Statistics Canada website and I now know significantly more about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Commission than I did before!  And fine-tuning an age-appropriate example to define “equity” versus “equality” was an interesting challenge, to be sure. The book covers a wide range of topics, from gender stereotypes and pay inequity in the workplace, to discrimination based on language, culture, race, or ability – and, of course – includes some suggestions for treating one another fairly and with respect.  I hope Fairness for All: Equity and the other titles in the “To Be Canadian” series will be helpful for children and educators as they explore key concepts such as responsibility, community, and family in the curriculum.

Book review: Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes.

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Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes, illustrated by Jo Robinson (Weaverback Press, 2017)

How do you go about talking to small children about difficult concepts such as bullying, exclusion/inclusion, and diversity?  How do you comfort and instill confidence in a child who has been made to feel different?  How do you encourage bullies to respect others?  How do you help parents and educators give the children in their care the tools they need to celebrate individuality?

With the help of a purple turtle named Myrtle, perhaps! Myrtle may be absolutely adorable (just look at her!), but she’s on a serious mission in Cynthia Reyes’ new children’s book, a smart and sweet story about loving and accepting your special place in the world.  Beautifully and sensitively written, and illustrated by Jo Robinson with the most lush colours imaginable (can you even believe those purples?), Myrtle the Purple Turtle transcends “cute” with an important message, one that will resonate with readers…of all shells.

Book review: House Plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.

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House Plants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants

By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf (Cool Springs Press, 2017)

Throwing millennials and houseplants together seems to be a thing in the media these days; this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) article from The Washington Post is only one example of many that I’ve come across lately.  One glance at the racks in your local garden centre will tell you that indoor gardening is indeed experiencing a resurgence – for everyone’s benefit!  There are so many more plant selections available, and not just the succulents and air plants that have been trendy for the past few years.  Looking after houseplants is meditative, nourishing, and just plain enjoyable, but only if you know what you’re doing.

That’s what Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book is for: to help you succeed with your growing endeavours.  In House Plants, Steinkopf (thehouseplantguru.com) thoroughly and precisely covers every detail: soil, water, light, containers, siting, propagation, and troubleshooting pests and diseases.  Her advice is practical and easy to understand, even for those just getting into the hobby – this is a book that will definitely inspire confidence when it comes to keeping houseplants.  (The chapter on propagation particularly impressed me, with its clear directions and accompanying photography).  Indoor gardeners will appreciate that she even touches briefly on bonsai, topiary, living walls, water plants, and holiday plants, as these somewhat specialty niches become more mainstream.

Of course, it’s truly the more than 125 profiles of houseplants that attracted me most to the book…I feel like I now have a goal to try them all at some point (don’t tell my hubby!).  I love the fact that individual plants are categorized according to their difficulty of cultivation and maintenance (again, this gives me something to work towards!).  From ferns to figs to palms, orchids, and dracaena – it’s all here and each one is beautifully photographed to aid in identification.  Comprehensive, useful, and a delight to pore through, this really is the “complete guide” to houseplants!

 

(Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book House Plants by Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group. All opinions are 100 percent my own.  Heck, 300 percent my own).

Alberta snapshot: Seven Sisters Mountain.

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I don’t know what season it was when Captain John Palliser and the other members of the British North American Exploring Expedition (more commonly known as the Palliser Expedition) worked their way through the Crowsnest Pass at some point between 1857 and 1860, on their mission to survey a massive chunk of western Canada. If it was in the autumn, with the aspen trees putting on a brilliant show, they were probably especially awed, as I was a few weekends ago, at the magnificence of Seven Sisters Mountain, first named The Steeples by one of the explorers.  Almost one hundred years after the expedition passed through, in 1951, a daring Swiss-born mountaineer named Bruno Engler became the first person to successfully ascend the Seven Sisters, “with considerable difficulty“…and, as this account from 2014 shows, not too many people have attempted it since.  Staying on the ground to admire the impressive “steeples” seems much safer and very, very pleasant.