Book review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar.

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Gwendy’s Button Box – Stephen King and Richard Chizmar – 2017 Cemetery Dance Publications, Maryland

Packed into this compact novella is a coming-of-age story about fate, destiny, and choice – themes Stephen King has explored in the past with similar sensitivity and outrageous aplomb (usually both at once).  When twelve-year-old Gwendy meets a stranger who gives her an astonishing gift, her life – and the lives of others around her – change in irrecoverable ways.  Going through adolescence is difficult enough…but then there’s the button box to contend with.  This entertaining read is familiar territory for King fans: alternately humorous, nostalgic, and suspenseful.  I’m not sure which parts Richard Chizmar worked on, but I’m intrigued enough to check out some of his short story collections.  (His latest as of this post is called A Long December).

Book review: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny.

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The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (2007, Headline Book Publishing, Great Britain)

The Cruelest Month, the third installment of Louise Penny’s much-beloved Chief Inspector Gamache series treads the familiar woods and shops of the village of Three Pines, and brings back all of our favourite characters to solve a freaky murder involving a creepy old house and an Easter séance.  As Gamache and his investigative team work to undercover the identity of the killer, Gamache is forcibly confronted with the violent demons of his past. Although this sub-plot has been an undercurrent in the previous books, things boil over and revelations abound in The Cruelest Month, adding to the drama and urgency of the case at hand.  As always, I’m awestruck with the clever way Penny builds her books – her gift of pacing and characterization is positively criminal (see what I did there?).

Book review: The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology, edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb et al.

“Book Review August and Possibly Part of September” doesn’t really have a zippy ring, but here goes….  I should note that all of the books I’m going to post about over the next few weeks have been read in the past year and a half, and there is quite a eclectic jumble of genres, audiences, etc..  If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll already know that my reading tastes are pretty wide-ranging.  I hope there will be something here that will pique your interest!  

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The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology – Edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Paul DiStefano, and Doug Neilson (2016, Loft on Eighth Calgary)

This collection of twelve stories and poems from both established and new Calgary writers is a delicious treat (pun intended!), a showcase of talent born out of the Loft 112 Creative Hive, a local writer’s group.  Put on your walking shoes and explore the city of Calgary, from the hidden spaces of the Calgary Stampede and the end of childhood, to a park bench by the cancer clinic, a suddenly crowded lane in a swimming pool, and the foot of a graffiti-scrawled underpass downtown. It’s all a bit gritty, unsettling, and heart-wrenching – you’ll see.  Standouts (for me): Doug Neilson’s devastating “Hymenoptera,” “At This Confluence,” the eloquent, elegant series of poems by Jessica Magonet, and poet Diane Guichon’s urban snapshots, “Sidewalk Litanies.”

Book review: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood.

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Kerry Greenwood –  Murder on the Ballarat Train (2007, Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona)

When a fellow passenger is murdered and nearly everyone else is poisoned while on a train voyage, Phryne Fisher doesn’t hesitate to take on the case with her usual smarts, skill, and style.  In between tracking down suspects, Phryne manages to seduce a member of the local rowing club and attempts to suss out the mysterious appearance of a traumatized, amnesiac young girl – who may or may not be connected to the murder on the train.  With this, the third installment in the series, Greenwood shows more polish than the first two books, as Phryne and her supporting cast become a bit less caricature and take on fuller lives.  An entertaining, quick read!

Book review: Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer.

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Red Planet Blues – Robert J. Sawyer (2013, Viking, Toronto)

Life in the Martian city of New Klondike is a bit akin to the wild west, gritty and shady (albeit with some serious tech).  When exiled private eye Alex Lomax is called upon to work a case of a missing man who has recently undergone a body transfer, he is quickly embroiled in a complicated mystery involving fossilized treasure, a secret diary, and the long-buried facts behind a historical planetary landing.  When people truly aren’t who they appear to be and the body count begins to mount, Lomax has to use all of his street smarts, charm, and brute force to save his own skin and solve the case.  This is crafty science fiction noir with a generous side of humour and a few deft, creative turns.  The occasionally annoying first-person narrative may rankle some readers, and Lomax’ sexist opinions are a turn off (remember, however, that this is an homage to classic noir, where that type of attitude prevailed), but the actual storytelling is entertaining and the pacing is appropriately speedy.  A fun book to kick back with in the lawn chair this summer.

 

Tuesday tidbits.

A co-worker recently recommended the book Stitches to Savor and the website (here) of a marvelous quilt-maker, expert embroiderer, and (as my colleague stated) “rock star” of the stitching world, Sue Spargo.  The book was written in 2015 and as the subtitle states, it is a “celebration of designs by Sue Spargo,” created from wool, embellishments of scraps of silk, velvet and other fabrics, beads, various threads and so on.  I was previously unfamiliar with Spargo’s work and to say that I was absolutely blown away by it is a massive understatement.  The photography in the book is utterly stunning as well, capturing the intricate detail of the motifs so perfectly that you can almost feel the textures. What an inspiring treat, and highly recommended if you can track it down at your local library.

I don’t know if any of you out there are soap makers (I’m not, but it’s on an unfathomably gigantic list of things that I want to pursue some day), but if you are or if you want to try something new, this recipe for Gardener’s Soap might be right up your alley.  When she lived in Calgary, I worked at the library with Margot, the owner and creator of Starfish Soap Company, and this is one of my favourite soaps that she makes. She is based out of Gabriola Island, in British Columbia.

My favourite recipe from last week?  These Chocolate Chip Blondies with Chocolate Ganache that I made for my hubby’s b-day.  The recipe is so easy you think it can’t possibly be accurate, but it is and the end result is decadent, sweet, and definitely special-occasion-worthy.  You could omit the ganache if it’s not someone’s birthday, I guess, but why not go big and bold? It’s chocolate, after all.

Have an amazing week!

Book review: Gardening Complete by Authors of Cool Springs Press.

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Gardening Complete: How to Best Grow Vegetables, Flowers, and Other Outdoor Plants – Authors of Cool Springs Press (George Weigel, Katie Elzer-Peters, Lynn Steiner, Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule, Jessica Walliser, Charlie Nardozzi, Rhonda Fleming Hayes, and Tara Nolan) – 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota

I ♥ the concept of this book! Take eight highly knowledgeable and experienced garden experts and get them to write individual chapters covering essential gardening topics and bundle it all into one comprehensive volume. Everything you need to know to start a new garden or refresh a mature one is here: understanding soil, managing weeds, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, composting, mulching, propagation, and harvesting. The detailed, accessible writing and sumptuous photography make this book a delight to browse AND the kind of reference you’ll find yourself going back to over and over again. The design chapters are also highly useful, addressing native plants, water-wise gardening, pollinator-friendly landscapes, and container and raised bed set-ups.  This is a well-researched and beautifully-presented project – definitely a recommended read!

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Gardening Complete; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.