Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ghost Messages by Jacqueline Guest

Who is the mysterious Davy? 
Foilhummerum Bay, Ireland, 1865

Thirteen year-old Ailish, a feisty Irish fortune-teller, is about to become part of history. She becomes trapped on the mighty Great Eastern just as the ship sets off on its voyage to lay the very first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. Escape is impossible! Ailish must pretend to be a boy to keep from being pitched into the ocean by the superstitious sailors, while dodging a dangerous ruffian who has stolen her golden treasure. She frequently gets help from a pale young boy named Davy, who seems to know everything about the Great Eastern, but won't ever 
come up on deck. Will Ailish's wits, her determination, and her friendships help her to survive the trip, find her treasure and solve the mystery of her young companion?

An interview with Jacqueline Guest

A mixture of history and the paranormal, Ghost Messages draws in readers with a ghost tale and before they know it, they have learned how modern communication started.  All those cell phones, iPads and laptops students use daily have a direct connection to the story.  A kid-centric tale, Guest uses facts, mystery and action sequences to reveal a little known piece of Canadian and world history.  Perfect for grade 3-6, this story was enjoyable, well-paced and informative.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds

"I’d rather laugh in bad taste than cry in good taste."
 That’s how Josie Marshall deals with the death of her detective husband, Gabe, found naked outside their home on the beach with a bullet in his brain. Everyone calls it suicide. Josie knows it isn’t . . . but fears it could be. After all, she had provided Gabe with a motive. The clues are so strong that even Josie begins to believe Gabe shot himself. But when a horrific slaying occurs literally at her feet, she knows Gabe was murdered, and her determination to prove it carries her toward dark corners of the beach strip and exposes the darker sides of its residents. Fending off her fears with humour and outrage, she encounters a drug-crazed drifter, an organized-crime boss with romance on his mind, a woman with a murderous past and a pervert who’s been frequenting her garden shed. When a chance remark leads Josie to the astonishing truth of Gabe’s death, her story takes a shocking turn that no one could have seen coming.

It took me a while to put my finger on an underlying tone to the feel of the novel but finally I put a name to it: bitterness.  After a bit of thought, it made sense to me.  The loss that Josie experiences along with the freshness and manner of it easily lend itself to that feeling.  What I liked was that Reynolds wove that feeling into the fabric of the story and not into Josie herself.  As readers, we were exposed to the feeling without being buried by it.

Overall I enjoyed the novel.  It took me about 60 pages to really get into the story, I think that was about how long it took me to get to know Josie enough to start rooting for her.  There were a lot of characters and a lot of information on the locations in the book that, while interesting and valuable to the story, slowed down my progress.  I also would have liked for Gabe's partner to have been a bit more rounded. A few of the other characters would have benefited from more character traits as well to make them less like caricatures and have more full bodied personalities. Aside from that, I thought that the writing was very good.  Reynolds weaves local history into the landscape in a personal way that never drones, instead he is able to pepper the information as though it were the readers own memories on the page.  I have driven over both bridges that feature in the book and had a passing curiosity about the houses along the beach. I snuggled into this book with a feeling of familiarity and the nosiness of a neighbour peering over the fence.

About two-thirds of the way through the novel, I did guess the identity of the culprit but still very much enjoyed watching the mystery and final confrontations play out to the end.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Inspired Designs

Not just pages on the shelf these days, discarded and new books have been converted into everyday items: furniture, lamps, art, jewelry, purses and bags, and more.   

They have also inspired fashion and decor in other ways.  Here are is sampling of innovative literary-inspired creations. (images from http://pinterest.com/bookpatrol/books-in-design/)

Comic wall; bathroom reader; bookshelf towel and shower curtain
Fiction theme cakes; book wedding cake
fireplace art; books converted into a flower box; book themed phone 
Book lights; book inspired rug, Andrew Martin Bookshelf Wallpaper
(1)Dress made of romance novels; Hamlet tights (2) DIY comic book heels; romance novel cover decoupaged heels (3) mini-book bracelet; literary quote metal necklace; Pride and Prejudice text scarf
wedding dress made from fairy tales; book text tights; book bag; nail art

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Art by Mike Stilkey

From the official Mike Stilkey page:  Los Angeles native Mike Stilkey has always been attracted to painting and drawing not only on vintage paper, record covers and book pages, but on the books themselves. Using a mix of ink, colored pencil, paint and lacquer, Stilkey depicts a melancholic and at times a whimsical cast of characters inhabiting ambiguous spaces and narratives of fantasy and fairy tales. A lingering sense of loss and longing hints at emotional depth and draws the viewer into their introspective thrall with a mixture of capricious poetry, wit, and mystery. His work is reminiscent of Weimar-era German expressionism and his style has been described by some as capturing features of artists ranging from Edward Gorey to Egon Schiele.

Some insight into his work from an interview with Dave Kinsey posted on another blog.
I like to think of my artwork as one giant poem. I never really have a concrete idea of what I'm going to do. I just kind of feel my way through it and it comes out in a way that I don't always expect. I really try not to edit myself too much.
I was painting on book pages for forever, and actually published a book in 2005 titled “100 Portraits” in which I drew one hundred portraits on old book pages. At the time, I was drawing on books, records or anything else I could find at a thrift store. Eventually, I started drawing on the books themselves. I was going to do a project where I just drew on the covers of the books, and as I finished them I would stack them against the wall. It dawned on me that it might be a good idea to paint down the spines of the books instead of just on the covers.
You’d be amazed at how many books are thrown out. I like the idea of reusing all of these discarded items as canvases for my work. I even asked the library up the street from my house if they had any books that they were getting rid of, and they said no. When I explained to them how I use them, they gave me access to a huge dumpster in the back parking lot of the library. The dumpster was filled with thousands and thousands of books. I spent the afternoon fighting with some homeless guy over who got which book from the dumpster.


More pictures on Mike Stilkey's Facebook page and official website: mikestilkey.com

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World Readers...Where do You Fit In?

Article by Carolyn Kellog, published July 2, 2013 in Los Angeles Times online
How many hours a week do you read?

If it's 10 hours or more, you might try moving to India -- you'll be among your people. According to this infographic, Indians spend more time reading books than the residents of any other nation. Each week, the average Indian reads for 10 hours, 42 minutes.

[Edit]: Canadians were tied with Spain for 21st in rankings with 5 hours: 48 minutes spent reading.  This is just a few minutes more than nearby American readers.

The big reading nations, after India, are Thailand (9 hours, 24 minutes), China (8 hours), the Philippines (7 hours, 36 minutes), Egypt (7.5 hours) and the Czech Republic (7 hours, 24 minutes).

Of the 30 nations surveyed, Koreans spent the least time reading: 3 hours, 16 minutes each week.

The data comes from the World Culture Score Index from a survey of 30,000 people worldwide.

Since the survey was taken in late 2004 and early 2005, it would be interesting to see if, and how, any of those measures changed.
The infographic was created by Russia Behind the Headlines and spotted by Publishing Perspectives.