Aug 19, 2007

Medusa: The Beginning, book review

Kathi Harris's Medusa: The Beginning is a 730-page novel, divided into several sections, the first section set in the West Indian island of Jamaica, where Kathi was born and raised. Here she details the lives of two young people from the countryside who meet in the capital city, Kingston, where they marry and raise a family of five girls, the last girl later becoming the heroine of this science fiction novel.

The first section, 221 pages, I would call "The Quintessential Jamaican Novel," were it a book in itself. The story reflects Jamaican customs and manners in detail, and the dialect or patois spoken and understood by all Jamaicans is used heavily in this section. Kathi has added a glossary for all readers, which "translates" some of the dialect words and expressions into standard English.

In the second section of the book, the family migrates to America and settles in Florida. There they encounter life and the culture of a different country, but more opportunities open up to them. This section deals with American politics at home and abroad and tackles global problems such as pollution, changes in the environment, and introduces in her novel, a Black president!

Kathi's website, Larksong, gives a summary of the novel's plot and the importance of the young girl, Lark, to this sci-fi story of the survival of mankind.

A higher education and counseling graduate from the University of Toledo, where she received her Ph.D., she admits she prefers writing to just about anything else and is now waiting to publish Book II in the Medusa series.

An article from the London Times discusses how sci fi can point to the things we should be concerned about:
Why Don't We Love Science Fiction:

Book provided by the author for my objective review.

Jul 22, 2007

More Garden Mystery

I have just begun the third of Anthony Eglin's English Garden Mysteries, The Water Lily Cross. As in his first book, The Blue Rose, this latest novel focuses on the consequences of creating a hybrid plant or flower that is so unusual, one of a kind, that its high value poses a personal risk to its breeder or owner.

In the Water Lily Cross, a friend of retired botany professor Lawrence Kingston mysteriously disappears on his way to a conference on global warming. Kingston finds clues left by his friend about a new water lily hybrid that can absorb salt and thus desalinate any salt water it is planted in. The implications of such a discovery are mind boggling, to say the least. Eglin lists other plants that actually do remove minerals or pollutants from soil and water. The water lily in this book is, however, purely fictional.

The second in the Eglin mystery series, The Lost Gardens, I have yet to read. As The Blue Rose won France's Prix Arsene Lupin Award for best mystery novel of 2006, I' m betting his second novel is also good.

For a review of Eglin's 2009 garden mystery, see The Trail of the Wild Rose: An English Garden Mystery

Jul 14, 2007

Chinese Food in Toronto

Once more to Scarborough, Ontario, home to a whopping number of restaurants with interesting fare. Yesterday, we tried a new restaurant close to where we were staying and were served a Hong Kong style meal.

We started with the house tea, a blend of Ceylon and other Chinese teas that together have a unique flavor. We had Cantonese dishes of tofu and beef over rice, beef and fugah (a bitter green vegetable), and Malaysian-style noodles with pork cooked in salty black bean sauce.

The Hong Kong surprise came with the after dinner choice of beverage- Horlicks, Hong Kong style tea served with milk, and Ovaltine.

Horlicks, Ovaltine, and milk with tea are definitely left over habits from British Hong Kong. These have traveled to Canada with the new immigrants.

Today, we are having fresh lychee (which I eschew as lychee is really the fruit of a nut I'm allergic to), sweet mangoes, pawpaw, roasted pork with crispy skin, and barbecued pork. This is lunch.

Our dinner tonight will be Trinidadian-East Indian-Jamaican. We are having curried goat and curried chicken, with roti.

Last but not least, this is really a family reunion, an informal one. But in any event, we enjoy conversing at the table.

Tomorrow? Dim sum, of course, with Peking duck, our final meal before we leave Canada, the land of immigrant flavors.

Jul 8, 2007

Reggae Routes: the Story of Jamaican Music by Kevin O'Brien Chang and Wayne Chen

Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music
I did some web searching and found an interesting article on the little known connection between reggae development in Jamaica and some of the Chinese Jamaicans, children of immigrants, who helped develop the movement in Jamaica as musicians and as record producers.

See the fascinating story at

The website also refers to a book on the history of Jamaican music titled Reggae Routes, the Story of Jamaican Music, written by Jamaicans Kevin O'Brien Chang and Wayne Chen.

A discussion of the book from a Temple University website:

Jun 28, 2007

Book Review: The Refuge by Sue Henry

Sue Henry has branched out from her Alaska mysteries featuring dog musher Jessie Arnold, and has begun a new Maxie and Stretch series, featuring a retired widow and her miniature dachshund, Stretch. The widow, Maxie McNabb, spends the winters with Stretch motoring outside of Alaska, driving around the Lower Forty-Eight in her 30-foot motor home, spending a lot of time in the southwest.

She solves mysteries in Taos and nearby locations in the first two books in the series, all while sightseeing and camping out in her motorhome.

But the third book in the series is all about Maxie, without Stretch.

In The Refuge, Maxie leaves Stretch and her motor home in Alaska to fly to the Big Island, Hawaii, to help an old acquaintance, Karen Bailey, who has been injured in an accident and left with a cast on her leg. She needs Maxie's help to help her pack up and move back to Alaska, where she is from.

There are myserious circumstances surrounding Karen and unexplained attempted break-ins to the house in Hilo, Hawaii when Maxie arrives there. There is a suspicious stranger lingering nearby the house, and later on, a search of the house that leaves packed boxes torn open and contents trashed.

Maxie meets and hires a young man to help with the packing and shipping of her friend's belongings. Intending to work faster without having to take care of Karen too, she sends Karen on ahead to Alaska and works with the young man, Jerry, to finally ship and sell Karen's belongings.

After the packing and shipping has been done, they rent a truck camper to tour the Big Island while they wait for Maxie's flight back to Alaska. But the mystery surrounding Karen follows them around the island, even as they visit tourist sights such as Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park, the park's Kulanaokuaiki Campground, the Chain of Craters road, and The Refuge, a place of cultural and historical significance, where the mystery comes to a head and Maxie and Jerry barely escape with their lives.

The book's best quality is the description of the Big Island and the places you can visit and see with a truck camper. From this point of view, the plot is really just incidental. I chose the book because of the setting, and I wasn't disappointed in the virtual tour of Hawaii, with some mystery thrown in.

Jun 12, 2007

Book Review: Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols

Be led down the garden path in a pleasant way with Beverly Nichols' 1932 original book on country gardening. I found Down the Garden Path, a hardcover, at a library sale and got it for about 50 cents or so. It doesn't have the original jacket cover but was printed in 1932, when the author was in his 30s. Yes, Beverley Nichols is a "he", and of course, he's British.

Who else but an English gardener would rhapsodize on every page about flowers and plants and pamper them to an extreme, to the extent of sheltering a foxglove with an umbrella during a particularly heavy rain (because, as he says, foxgloves don't like to be wet).

After buying a country cottage in the English countryside, Nichols proceeds to fill the garden with flowers and bushes, and goes on to plant a wood, build a great rock garden, dig a pond, and of course, hire a gardner. Nichols, in his gardening frenzy, competes with the neighbors, in particular a Mrs. M, who never fails to find fault with his landscaping and the health of his plants.

He gets his revenge when he catches her red-handed, unearthing pots of flowers she had bought and planted in her garden, pots and all - the flowers she claimed to have grown from seeds bought in a "penny packet."

Down the Garden Path is entertaining and informative, and at the end, Mr. Nichols promised to write many more books on gardening, and he did. He wrote this book in his 30s and he died in his 80s, so he had a lot of time to rhapsodize some more about the modernizing of his thatched cottage and the development of his extensive garden.

At the beginning of the book, the author is determined to find flowers and plants and even trees that will flower in the dead of winter. He finds the winter aconite, the Christmas rose, mimosa, and others with Latin names he doesn't give us the common names for.

I used Botanica, an Illustrated Book of 10,000 Garden Plants, to look up a few. Of course, the English climate is milder than ours and English gardens will have blooms in winter that we won't have here.

Would you believe that Down the Garden Path is often reprinted, in hardcover! The original is illustrated with garden scenes of cupids, garden tools, and country landscapes, and I think the reprints also have these illustrations.

This book was a lucky find at that library book sale!

Jun 9, 2007

Lion's Head Maple

Acer Palmatum Shishigashira

I can't believe I have a shishigashira in my backyard!

I bought the unusual maple many years ago (it was expensive! and there were only two in the lot). It's now about 6 feet tall and trying to get taller. I took a close-up shot of its unusual leaves this spring. You can see the leaves curl one on top of the other and give the impression of a shaggy lion's mane. A few of the stems are showing new growth.

The tree sits in a shady spot under a large overhanging oak, and only gets sun part of the day. But it seems to be thriving and is not at all straggly.

2009 Update: Recently, I found out that the tree should not sit in wet ground, but in well drained soil. Mine didn't do well in the heavy rains of spring 2009, and half of the tree died, with only the bottom branches showing leaves. I guess I'll have to trim it back later, but will wait to see how it recovers this spring.

Here's what I found about the history of this cultivar:

"After 125 years in cultivation, the famous Lion's Head Maple is still acknowledged as one of the best and most unique Japanese maple cultivars. It is a compact, slow-growing shrub, usually to around 6', though taller trees are possible with good cultivation. By 'compact', we mean that the leaves are closely packed on the twigs, and the twigs closely-packed on the branches. This leads to a tufted look: clusters of leaves alternating with leafless areas of branch. The leaves themselves are small, deep green, and crinkled, thickly textured. No wimpy sunburning here. The transition to fall color is like caterpillar to butterfly, with the deep reds and oranges completely changing the visual effect.This is a good tree for the landscape, container, or bonsai. The name is a reference to a mythical Japanese lion."
from World Plants

For more pictures of the Lion's Head Maple, visit Wood Water Garden, for Shishigashira, Lion's Head Maple


Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

  Currently reading:  Missing and Endangered   by J.A. Jance, February 16, 2021, William Morrow Genre: thriller, suspense Source: library Ab...