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.

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).

‘Bye, Book!

One of the sweetest things overheard in the library: children feeding their books into our self check-in machine and calling out a farewell to each one as it is gathered up by the conveyor belts and propelled down the runways into whatever bin it is destined for. Sometimes they specifically name each book: “‘Bye-bye, Pete the Cat!”, but more often, they are all “Book,” the capital letter not merely implied, but reinforced by emphasis.  In the little voices, I can detect notes of wistfulness (that was such a good read!) and excitement (on to the next one!), as well as the usual curiosity and neato! factor that comes with peering through that little gap in the wall and catching our zippy self check-in machine in action. What they can’t see are the huge, knowing smiles on the faces of the team on the other side of the wall, as we wait for the books to drop.

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Have you recently read a book so wonderful that you would wistfully drop it into the book chute and say “goodbye”?  (Or, on the other hand, gleefully say “goodbye” to, because it was so awful?).

The Door is Ajar: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton.

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Dragon Teeth – Michael Crichton (2017, HarperLuxe, New York)

Published nearly a decade after his death, Michael Crichton’s “undiscovered” novel Dragon Teeth is a decent mash-up of history, science, and good old-fashioned storytelling, inspired by the outlandish, well-documented, and sometimes extremely violent rivalry between late 19th century American paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edwin Drinker Cope. Their quests (competition?) to find and document fossilized dinosaurs and other creatures of the distant past in a cultural climate that was struggling to wrap its collective noggin around evolutionary theory is fascinating – especially when you consider that they did most of their bone-hunting and collecting in the wild west, where, if you weren’t bit by a rattlesnake or died of exposure or illness, you could suffer death, injury, or at the very least, be swindled out of all your worldly possessions by any number of unsavory characters.  A quick, (at times overly) simple, entertaining read.