Thursday, 29 January 2009

Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl by Anahareo

Grey Owl was an Englishman, born Archie Belaney.
This book was written by Anahareo, his Mohawk wife. She spent many years trapping and travelling along side him. With the passage of time they became troubled by the mass slaughter of the animals, at times to the last animal in the region, by the many trappers. At this point they focused themselves on conservation.
While Grey Owl is an interesting person, this book is really about Anahareo.
She came from a broken family. Her mother died when she was young and Anahareo was sent to live with relatives who treated her as a unpaid servant. Shortly before meeting Archie, her family had been re-united. It seems to me that when Archie offered her a relationship she was only to eager to grab on to it.
Fortunate for her, she was not the "stay at home little woman". She travelled with Archie and learned how to survive in the bush. She related several times when she was apart from Archie and needed to provide for herself. Anahareo seemed quite capable to adapt to the changing situations and do what she needed, whether it was fixing a shelter, driving a dog sled or staking a mineral claim.
Almost immediately upon meeting Archie, I didn't like him. He seemed too glib, not the type who took life even a bit seriously. At first I thought that the writing style would be grade schooling as Anahareo did not attend much school. I was pleased that she was easily able to compel me to continue reading and was even able to moderate my dislike of Archie.
While I doubt I would hold Anahareo up a the ultimate female role model. I do feel that she deserves recognition for her part in Archie's success in his conservation lectures and writing.
To learn more about the remarkable life of Anahareo visit the website dedicated to her:
The Canadian Encyclopedia has an interesting article about Grey Owl.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Needlework Tuesday

Today I am starting a new feature on my blog, Needlework Tuesday. Each Tuesday I will share with you what I am currently working on, or update you on a continuing project. Quilting and knitting are my main types of activities, but not the only ones. You'll have to come back on Tuesdays and see what I'm up to.

Today I have finished putting my cousin's wedding quilt in the frame. This has truly been a labour of love. I started planning it over 6 years ago, finished the piecing a year and a half ago and the marking last week. At each stage I felt it was more important to do the job that I envisioned in my mind rather than compromise and rush and get it done by the wedding (ok, that was in 2004). This is an original design so I can't refer you to a pattern. The blocks are traditional nautical theme patterns. The mariner's compass in the middle was designed using a method in a published book, which one? I no longer recall. The hand quilting designs are composed of bits and pieces from various books and templates that were re-sized and redrawn to fit the design.

For those interested, the fabrics are 100% cotton, batting is a wool (possibly a blend, I can't recall), it measures approximately 93 inches wide by 104 inches long. I'll be quilting with white thread.

Let me know via the comments if you would like to see regular updates of my progress. Or you can look in the lieft hand column and vote: yes, no. or only show the project again when it's finished.

For the book readers who visit here, I intend to listen to audio books while quilting. The first one will be "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks. I downloaded this from my library and listened to part of it while I was doing the marking.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Metal Sky by Jay Caselberg

This was an enjoyable and diverting read.
I was in the department store last week and they had some books really marked down. This one had an appealing cover so I bought it.
Its the second book of a series that stands at 4. Its set in an alternate/futuristic earth. Jack is a psychic investigator and 14 year old Billie, his 'niece', helps him with the computer based research. They have just moved to a new town and Jack is desperate for a new case to provide some much needed cash.
Makes for an interesting story with the police involvement, off world travel and delving into some of the seedy underworld of black market archaeological treasures.
There is the start of some good interactions between Jack and Billie. Its obvious that they are still working to make their relationship work. Neither seems to be easy to live with nor are they fully comfortable with each other. It will be interesting in future stories to see how their relationship grows.
Jay Caselberg also writes under the name of James Hartley.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

White Jade Tiger by Julie Lawson

Our story begins with Jasmine, a young teenager who is moving in with her Aunt in Victoria after her father accepts a teaching position at a University in China. While living with her Aunt she ventures into nearby Chinatown and is somehow transported a hundred years into her past.
While in the past she learns about the important role of the Chinese laborers in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
This was a well written novel that was able to pull me right into the story even though it is written with a teen reader in mind. The characters are interesting and believable. Chan Tai Keung as a 15 year old Chinese boy travelling to Canada to find his father is much a product of his time and family circumstances. I would have enjoyed reading more about him when Jasmine isn't in his time, but alas, the story wasn't centred on him.
I wonder if the author is also a quilter? In the story Jasmine and her mother have started to piece a quilt. Unfortunately the mother passes away before it is finished. They are making a memory quilt that uses bits of fabrics from Jasmine's outgrown clothing. Ms. Lawson intertwines the events and memories of Jasmine's life with the quilt and they grow together. I liked the significance of the final piece of fabric added to the quilt. It helps to complete the story of Jasmine's life to that point in time.
This story has several strengths on which I would recommend it: Canadian and Chinese history and the confidence exhibited by Jasmine. After 18 years as a school teacher, it's not surprising that Julie Lawson knows how to write to appeal to children. I would love to see her venture into a full length novel directed at adults.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Sweets of Life

Here are a few more pics of the Candy Jar quilt that I was making for my sister in October. I did get it finished in time for her arrival, though I admit that I didn't have the binding all turned to the back and stitched, so sent her home with a needle and thread and instructions. Glad to tell you its on her bed and keeping her warm.

The bunny sitting on top of the shelf is named Barlow, and he has travelled with her for over 20 years. Yes, he's wearing a night shirt and even has bunny slippers (they don't show in the photo). He is leaning against a stack of books. The titles all pertain to aspects of my sister's life as do the various items on the shelves. I did leave some blank spaces that we will fill in the future.

The cowboy boot in the second picture is almost identical to the pair of boots I bought in July when I visited her during the Calgary Stampede.

The background fabric was chosen because it looked like wallpaper that would naturally be found behind a book shelf.

This was a very fun quilt to make. I did start with a pattern to get the dimensions for making the jars, but then I went wild and did what ever I felt like doing. There is traditional piecing, paper piecing and fusible applique. The Eiffel Tower is a marker drawing.

The quilt fits a twin size bed and the batting is 80cotton20poly by Hobbs.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

My son was reading this for English class, so I got a copy from my library and caught up with him. It was good to have a common book to discuss. The difference in ages did provide for diverging views.
We both agreed that a group of kids could shake off the constraints of civilization rather quickly depending on who became their leaders.
I think that if Piggy had been a more likable fellow, then he'd have been the type of leader that could have kept them 'more civilized'. He was the first to notice and seemed the only to care when the one little kids with the birth mark on his face disappeared after the first fire.
I can truly imagine the youngest ones shedding all remnants of civility in very short order, with no one telling them what to do they would revert to basic instincts: food, sleep and play.
I found this a very good read, though a bit scary when you imagine what lies beneath the surface veneers of society.
Thanks to William Golding for getting me to stop and ponder about the people I surround myself with.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

With a Vengeance by Dell Shannon

This was a surprisingly good police mystery. I say surprising because it was a hardcover book that I found at the recycling depot, it had no dust jacket thus no review to entice me. The only reason I rescued it was because the author's last name was the same as my daughter's first name. Not one of the best reasons for choosing a book, but it worked.

Several murders have occurred in Los Angles where the killer has left a card upon the body which reads "The Vengeance is Just".

Now Mendoza and his team are in a race to determine why and who before he strikes again.

At times reading this book was like opening a time capsule. Imagine no cell phones to reach a detective when he's away from his desk, no computers to do research, having to go to a records room to search through tonnes of paper files, no DNA traces to compare and having to manually compare fingerprints.

Dell Shannon was the pen name of Elizabeth Linington. She also wrote under the names Ann Blaisdell, Lesley Egan, and Egan O'Neill. She was a very prolific author with dozens of books to her credit.

Thanks to for use of the cover image. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich

In 1932 11 year old Mary, 14 year old Karl and their month old brother are abandoned by their mother. After a stranger takes the baby, they hop a freight train in search of their Aunt Fritzie in Argus, North Dakota.
While Mary makes herself part of the family, in a panic Karl gets back on the train and his life doesn't intersect with Mary's again for many years.
I love the story telling style of this book, Ms. Erdrich takes the everyday happenings of Mary, her cousin Sita, her best friend Celestine and of Karl, and turns them into riveting events. I just wanted to keep reading and reading to find out what would happen with each of them next.
Each chapter has its own narrator and we often learn of an event from more than one perspective. I have read a few books written in this style, but this is by far the most effective.
Lousie Erdrich is a prolific author of poetry, children's books, fiction as well as non-fiction. Her most recent novel "A Plague of Doves" was released in April 2008.
When I told a friend of mine that I was reading novels by First Nations Authors, she sped out of the room and returned moments later with this book for me to borrow. Thanks Pauline.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Maggot by John Fowles

Set in 1736 in the far south-west of England, 5 travellers retire to an inn for the night. They include the gentleman, Mr. Bartholomew, and his man-servant Dick. The gentleman's uncle, Mr. Brown, and his man-servant Farthing, and Louise, a lady's maid. Very quickly we become suspicious that all is not as it seems.

We meet these characters over the period of one day, 50 pages. Then we skip forward 6 weeks to when Dick's hanged body is found. At this point a lawyer, Mr. Ayscough, takes up the trail of the four missing travellers. While the story has not quite captured my imaginatiion I am curious of how Mr. Fowles is going to spend 400 pages with the lawyer questioning the witnesses. I continue to read.

Recalling books that I've read that were actually written in this period, this novel is true to form. As much as there is story telling, there is a fair bit of political and social commentary. When these passages continued for longer than a paragraph my eyes would glaze over, they would mechanically trace the lines and I would blankly turn pages having no idea what I had read.

While I won't recommend this book to most readers, I can imagine it done up as a very compelling movie with rather dramatic courtroom scenes.

If 18th century British novels are your thing, then you will enjoy this book. Mr. Fowles wrote several other novels before he passed away in 2005.

Friday, 2 January 2009

unshapely things by Mark Del Franco

Back to the world of Faerie.

Connor Grey is a Druid who has lost most of his powers. Thus he finds himself working with Boston Police to solve a series of murders.

This is an interesting twist to most of the Faerie type novels where the magical folks try to keep their existence a secret from the humans. This one embraces the differences and builds upon them.

This book was fun to read. Mr. del Franco has written two more books that continue the adventures and investigations of Connor Grey.  Visit his site to read the opening chapter of each novel.

update August 11, 2013:
This series has now grown to six books. Time to search them out and get reading.

Connor Grey Series:

1 unshapely things
2 unquiet dreams
3 unfallen dead
4 unperfect souls
5 uncertain allies
6 undone deeds (2012)