A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review: I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

Mary-Ann Kirkby is a fantastic writer. Her first book is I Am Hutterite, which chronicles her childhood experience living on a Hutterite colony and her family’s integration into community life off the colony in the 1970s. It’s jarring and enlightening for both the reader and the 10-year-old version of Mary-Ann in the book.

In 1969, Mary-Ann was happily living on a Hutterite colony near Portage la Prairie, MB, which is about a hour drive from Winnipeg. With seven children in the family and an insular lifestyle, Mary-Ann’s family is representative of the Hutterite families I knew growing up.

In case you’re not from that part of the world, the prairies are home to the largest concentration of Hutterites in the world. They dress very conservatively, with women wearing handkerchiefs and long dresses. The community lives together and shares resources, including childcare, food preparation, farming and manufacturing. Like the Amish and Mennonites, they trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century and most of their beliefs and practices have been passed down through the centuries.

Mary-Ann’s portrayal of life on the colony is certainly an eye opener. I only visited 1 colony growing up and was at a teenage stage where I couldn’t imagine having grade 12 education and then cooking and cleaning for the rest of my life. My other experiences were with kids whose families had left the colony or with young men from the colony who would visit with my step-father to discuss farming and to sneak in a little bit of hockey watching in our family room.

Mary-Ann’s insights open up that world and the hierarchal structures in a way that is charming and enlightening. Her take on both colony life and off-the-colony communities was interesting to me since I’ve been hearing more Canadians talking about “co-housing” and other options for community life. Mary-Ann’s portrayal of the traditions of colony life offer interesting checks and balances to those co-housing models. But, back to Mary-Ann and her book ...

In Mary-Ann’s case, her parents decided in 1969 that the support of the colony was no longer viable for them. Intolerance and mistrust forced their hand and they moved off the colony. The majority of the book chronicles life on the colony, with the final quarter or so being about Mary-Ann’s trials and tribulations trying to figure out how to fit in with the English kids at school. Not only is clothing different but lunch, dancing, and social structures are fraught with misunderstandings—all of it is at times overwhelming to her.

Since the release of I Am Hutterite in June 2007, the self-published book has sold 75,000 copies and surely deserves to sell more. A great book. You can buy the book here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Launches the RPG Series

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, creators of “magickal, pagan and mythological” scents, have released the RPG Series — perfumes inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. The Halfling Scent, for instance, is made up of “Porridge, kukui nuts, and pastry crumbs,” while the Dwarf smells of “Iron filings and chips of stone, Styrian Golding hops, and soot-covered leather.” Love it!

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s RPG scent series is designed to be layered: layer your class, race, and the two fragrances that compose your alignment to construct your character scent. Very fun.

In addition to BPAL, you might be interested in my own Harry Potter inspired scents under my perfume label Botany of Delight. See my magical fragrances for muggles. If you live in Vancouver, they’re only $10 and I’ll personally deliver them to you. Cash accepted upon delivery. If you’re outside of Vancouver, use the credit card link, $15 and that includes shipping.

Happy Easter!

(Thanks to Kate and Boris)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chromaroma: The London Tube-Travel Game

Chromaroma is game that turns London tube travel into a system of rewards and points for its players.

Players sign up with Chromaroma and then provide their Oyster Card data (London’s transit card), along with other details such as teams or friends they want to connect with on the site. Chromaroma imports the player’s Tube history and awards points for each trip. Players can track their stats and also see new ways to travel, new destinations or ways to gain bonus points by connecting with fellow passengers and discovering mysteries attached to particular locations.

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

Chromaroma seems like a great way to encourage transit travel in any city: team up with your co-workers, try to beat your friends’ point score, discover new routes or connections. Very cool.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Book Review: The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding


While recovering from my head cold on the weekend, I was looking for an escape novel. Something fun to read. I wasn’t convinced that this book was going to be fun considering it’s called The Solitude of Thomas Cave. Doesn’t promise a rollickin’ time, does it? But I was hoping it would be well written and worth the time investment. And it is.

The Solitude of Thomas Cave is a survival story. As I tried to make it to the 4-hour mark when I could have another dose of Tylenol sinus, my hero was trying to survive the elements on a remote island in the Arctic in 1616. Dear Thomas is left there by his whaling crew, and quite purposely. The whaling ship Heartsease ventures each year into the Arctic and returns home with their bounty of whale meat and blubber. On 1616 tour, Thomas calls out Mate Carnock as he mocks William Sherwyn’s tale of a sailor abandoned in the North who survives the year. What’s called into question is whether it’s possible for a man to survive. Thomas decided that he will take the wager that he can stay and survive a year until the crew’s return.

This is a literary castaway story about the lonely realities of living amongst humans and the vulnerabilities of living among nature. Left to fend against blizzards, avalanches, bears, and his own misery over the lost of his wife and baby son, Thomas reasons his way through the days, trying not to be taken in by the phantoms around him.

I was on cold medication, but I’m certain this was a beautifully told story of survival.

The Solitude of Thomas Cave
by Georgina Harding
Published by Bloomsbury
This seems to be the latest edition on Amazon.ca

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Book Review: The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

imageI know Michael Chabon’s work only because of his Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but I recently borrowed a copy of The Final Solution: A Story of Detection from my friend Julie, who enjoyed the novel, as did I.

The Final Solution is a quirky little detective novel, sort of like a pop culture version of a Sherlock Holmes tale. Although, it is set during WWII so maybe not “pop culture” but more pop than Sherlock. Like Sherlock, Chabon’s detective spends his retired days tending to his bees. (In fact, perhaps Chabon’s 89-year-old detective is the great Sherlock Holmes.)

This caper involves a 9-year-old, mute, dyslexic Jewish refugee and his African grey parrot who is prone to singing and repeating numeric sequences. There’s a murder, the parrot goes missing and old man “Sherlock” goes to work on the case.

A pretty fun way to spend a Sunday.

The Final Solution on Amazon.ca