On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood – Richard Harrison (2016, Buckrider Books, Ontario)
Calgary poet Richard Harrison has carefully stitched together memory, reflection, and perspective in his newest collection On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood (for which he won a Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2017). The profound effects of his beloved father’s suffering and death from dementia and the loss of personal property and goods in the devastating flood of 2013 (which I write about in a post here) shape nearly all of these poems in some way, raging and trickling and dredging the reader in emotion and silt. Accordingly, they’re not beautiful poems – they’re ragged and raw, but you can visibly feel the catharsis and healing within them. From “Prayer”:
Countertop Gardens: Easily Grow Kitchen Edibles Indoors for Year-Round Enjoyment – Shelley Levis (2018, Cool Springs Press, Quarto Publishing Group USA, Minnesota)
If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that we have teeth-chatteringly, bone-chillingly long winters here in Alberta. Six months isn’t an overstatement, and it can stretch even further than that on occasion. Accordingly, our growing season is short (and often brutal). Planting outdoors is a challenge…one that we never back down from but occasionally must grin and bear. Given the vagaries of gardening in our climate, growing edible plants indoors is a very tempting option. Yet…growing plants indoors isn’t foolproof – there are so many factors to consider, such as heat, humidity, light, and space.
Fortunately, Shelley Levis has come to the rescue for situations like this with Countertop Gardens!This indoor gardening manual is chockful of inspiration and ideas for turning your indoor living spaces into miniature edible gardens. From microgreens to herb gardens to simple hydroponic systems, it’s all here. And there are some surprises, as well: have you ever considered growing mushrooms, potatoes, gingerroot, or tomatoes in your kitchen? Try them all using Levis’ tips! She also examines some of the most popular grow-light countertop garden kits available on the market today and discusses ways to maximize their use – practical information whether you’re thinking of buying one or already own one.
Countertop Gardensis a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to grow fresh food indoors all year ‘round – definitely a recommended read!
*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Countertop Gardens. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Veg Journal: Expert No-Dig Advice, Month by Month – Charles Dowding – (2014, Frances Lincoln, The Quarto Group (Paperback 2017))
What a fun, yet practical little book! Veg Journal boasts ample space to record notes and gardening to-do lists every week of the year, interspersed with beautiful photographs and detailed advice and tips on growing more than 35 edible crops, as well as how to tackle tasks such as composting, dealing with pests, and constructing a raised bed. Although the book is written by a U.K. gardening expert, the information and the journal feature remains appealing for all readers, regardless of where they garden.
I am giving away a copy of Veg Journal! If you are interested in winning it, please let me know in the comments below. The contest is open now until midnight (MST) on Monday, September 10. Giveaway is open to all. I’ll let the winner know in a post on Flowery Prose the very next day. The winner must agree to email me your mailing address so I can ship the book out to you. Good luck to everyone!
*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Veg Journal. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.
Lady Cop Makes Trouble – Amy Stewart (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York)
If you remember me burbling with excitement over the first book in this series, Girl Waits With Gun, then it probably won’t come as any surprise that I liked Lady Cop Makes Troubleeven more. This fictionalized story of the unconventional Constance Kopp, who in real life was one of the first female police officers in the United States, picks up where the first novel leaves off, with the newly-deputized Constance doing her best to help keep Bergen County safe from unsavoury elements (when she’s not looking after her quirky family, that is). All hell breaks loose when Constance makes a mistake while keeping custody of a high-profile criminal and she knows she must take drastic action or risk losing her job and harming the livelihood of her boss, Sheriff Heath. This book is less constrained by real events as the first book was, which may or may not matter to readers (it didn’t, to me – storytelling is storytelling and this is a fine example of what you can do with the spark of historical fact if you totally run with it). Careful, detailed character development and moments of poignant emotion and humour make this a real gem.
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).
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 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!
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.”