Review of Books

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

Speakeasy by Alisa Smith

Alisa Smith’s Speakeasy tells the story of Lena Stillman’s past as a member of Bill Bagley’s Clockwork Gang of bank robbers, Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

How Festive the Ambulance by Kim Fu

How Festive the Ambulance, Kim Fu’s debut book of poetry, is a startling exploration of the banality of modern life.

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All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall by Suzette Mayr

 

Suzette Mayr is an accomplished poet and novelist, based in Calgary. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

Shot-blue by Jesse Ruddock

There is no doubt that Shot-blue is a promising debut novel. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

The Encyclopedia of Lies by Christopher Gudgeon

Christopher Gudgeon is an accomplished writer in a variety of forms, mostly nonfiction, but is also well-known for his novel Song of Kosovo. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

All of Us Reticent, Here, Together by Stephen Brockwell

The cover says Brockwell’s All of Us Reticent, Here, Together will turn around family, detritus, and the everyday of modern technology. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

Every Night of Our Lives by Rocco de Giacomo

 

Rocco de Giacomo is the author of several books of poetry. Over the years his works have appeared Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

In Search of New Babylon by Dominique Scali, translated by W. Donald Wilson

 

In Search of New Babylon marks Dominique Scali’s first novel, and one of W. Donald Wilson’s several translations. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

Little Wildheart by Micheline Maylor

The Vagaries of Love, its Loss and Renewals, Replenishment of the Self Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

Assdeep in Wonder by Christopher Gudgeon

 

Christopher Gudgeon’s Assdeep in Wonder weds a raw, intense emotionalism to a wry, detached cynicism. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

For Love and Autonomy by Anahita Jamali Rad

The cover of Jamali Rad’s book depicts a building and an outdoor courtyard with slab benches. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

Tell Them it was Mozart by Angeline Schellenberg

Angeline Schellenberg’s debut collection of poetry concerns raising children on the autism spectrum. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

The Effects of Isolation on the Brain by Erika Rummel

 

How does an emotionally deprived childhood affect one’s behaviour as an adult? Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

Hot Town and other stories by Janet Trull

 

Janet Trull, a columnist for the Haliburton County Echo, is also the winner Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

Running on Fumes by Christian Guay-Poliquin

A doctoral student named Christian Guay-Poliquin is now emerging. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

The Home Place: Essays on Robert Kroetsch’s Poetry

Dennis Cooley’s The Home Place: Robert Kroetsch, Uninvention, AND Poetic Aposiopesis

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All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

Hermit Thrush

It might seem that Mark Frutkin takes no risks in his fluid and lyric collection Hermit Thrush, but listen closer and you’ll hear the ominous vibration of a thrumming string. Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Poetry

calling down the sky

Rosanna Deerchild’s second book of poetry, calling down the sky, is a poetically and narratively powerful collection Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Fiction

After Light

Catherine Hunter’s fourth novel, After Light, is an intricate family chronicle, a story of stubbornness and self-preservation, Read More…

All Reviews | Book Reviews | Drama

Martini with a Twist: Five Plays

Clem Martini’s volume of one-act plays delivers what its title promises: Martini with a Twist. Read More…

Book Reviews | Drama

Witness to a Conga and Other Plays / Harvest and Other Plays

When I first encountered Canadian theatre, I was told a specific difficulty local practitioners faced Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

My Mother Did Not Tell Stories

Though Laurie Kruk’s latest book of poems, My Mother Did Not Tell Stories, possesses Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Bite Down Little Whisper

It is fortuitous that I began reading a book on quantum theory while reviewing this book. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Mr. Jones

Margaret Sweatman’s fifth novel, Mr. Jones, is an atmospheric tour-de-force. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems

There is such density in Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry, and such a wide range of images and concerns. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Opening Sky

As I read Reading by Lightning, Joan Thomas’s first novel, I felt grateful to my parents’ generation Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Leaving Tomorrow

Aptly, the cautionary epigraph from Ecclesiastes (12:12) with which David Bergen frames this, his most explicit and richest inquiry Read More…

Book Reviews | Drama

The Miser of Middlegate

Carolyn Gray looks back some 350 years to the French playwright Molière and his play The Miser or L’Avare Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Pluck

The first as well as the most lasting impression of Laisha Rosnau’s third book of poetry can best be summed up as “young-maternal.” Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Night-Eater

What an odd title for a book of poems. I conjure up a beast, Read More…

Book Reviews | Drama

Her Voice, Her Century: Four Plays About Daring Women

Reading plays in book form is always a different process from seeing them on stage. Read More…

Book Reviews | Drama

North Main Gothic

Playwright Carolyn Gray’s North Main Gothic follows the story of Ian Trelkovsky, Read More…

Book Reviews | Drama

The Exile Book of Native Canadian Fiction and Drama

In his introduction to The Exile Book of Native Canadian Fiction and Drama, editor Daniel David Moses Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Natural Capital

Jason Heroux’s Memoirs of an Alias surprised me with its brilliance. His ability to create images seemed bold, Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

ivH: An Alphamath Serial

Victor Coleman has been writing for a lifetime, working at the edges of poetry – never afraid to challenge any reader Read More…

Book Reviews | Drama

Metastasis and Other Plays

Metastasis and Other Plays by Alberta playwright Gordon Pengilly is a collection of three plays drawn from a sizable body of work dating back to 1975 that Pengilly has written for stage and radio. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Boy

In Victor Enns’s Boy, family and locale figure prominently, as well they might when the topic is adolescence. Enns feels dearly about his sister, not as strongly about his brother, he desperately needs his mother, and Dad keeps a leather belt in his roll-top desk. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Firewalk

In Firewalk, Katherine Bitney writes poems against a spectacular northern backdrop of aurora borealis conceived of as a “forest of green girls” (13), with the stag at the winter solstice standing with the sun “mov[ing] lower, into his antlers” (37), and the ever-hungry wolf watching over the animal and human kingdoms. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Age of Hope

Hope Plett, the protagonist of David Bergen’s seventh novel, The Age of Hope, makes her first appearance at the tail end of a misguided attempt at aerial daredevilry. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

North End Love Songs

Katherena Vermette’s North End Love Songs is a debut collection from an emerging Winnipeg poet, a book that combines elegiac and fiercely ecstatic melodies to sing of a complicated love for a city, a river, and a neighbourhood. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

What’s The Score?

It took me a while to figure it out, but now I know who David McFadden reminds me of – the late American performing artist Andy Kaufman. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Dancing, with Mirrors

Aldous Huxley said, “Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Leaving Berlin

The protagonists in the short-story collection Leaving Berlin are typically failed romantics who have been forced to change their perception of the world. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Mongrel

Think of the word “mongrel” and the image of a mixed-breed dog comes to mind. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Blood and Salt

In 1915, at the time of the First World War, the Canadian government rounded up male Ukrainian immigrants and placed them in camps. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Suspicion

Suspicion, as the reader may suspect, is a mystery, but it’s much more than that. Read More…

Book Reviews | Non-Fiction

Always an Adventure: An Autobiography

Always an Adventure is an upbeat and life-affirming story of one ordinary man who has made “a relatively successful career” (vii) and a happy, fulfilling existence for himself. Read More…

Book Reviews | Non-Fiction

A Woman Clothed in Words

Embodied in a wonderful cover illustration, the title A Woman Clothed in Words is a phrase twice abducted, from a Szumigalski poem which, like a shaman’s robe, is itself woven from sacred flotsam, favourite lines from Patrick Friesen, into an homage to him, “The Thin Pale Man” (91). Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

There are many ways to die while travelling in Peru

The main difference between travellers of old and today’s wanderers is that the former did not have to travel far from home to find themselves in a truly alien and dangerous territory teeming with shadows and tricksters. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

A Difficult Beauty

An accomplished poet with several books of poetry, David Groulx presents us with a new collection, A Difficult Beauty. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Dating

Dave Williamson’s protagonist, Jenkins, is horny. His wife of many years, Barbara, passed away a couple of years before. And now, Jenkins is looking for love in all the wrong places. Will Jenkins find love or, at least, a cure for his horniness? That’s what this novel is all about. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

The Other Side of Ourselves by Rob Taylor

Rob Taylor’s debut collection, The Other Side of Ourselves – which in an earlier version won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize for an unpublished poetry manuscript – shows considerable talent and imagination. Here is a poet who likes to play with a variety of traditional verse forms as applied to free verse: ghazals, sonnets, haiku, and lyrical poetry. Taylor has a propensity for striking metaphors that he likes to extend and mix in pumped metaphysical guise, as in “The Wailing Machines” and “What the Minister Meant When He Said Love Is Like A Flower.” Also, he is adept at analogy and allegory, as in the playful “Happiness” and the nightmarish “The Night.” Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

At the Gates of the Theme Park by Peter Norman

Peter Norman’s debut poetry collection covers a lot of ground without staking out any particular section as its very own. Norman rhymes a bit, messes with perspectives, fiddles with techniques, primps a tendency to lists and catalogues, and it all sounds refreshing and at ease. The writing is not laboured and only occasionally over-written. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

A Dark Boat by Patrick Friesen

During a taping of the radio show Speaking of Poets, Patrick Friesen and I were discussing the trip he took to Spain in 2010, following an earlier one to both Spain and Portugal in 2005. Patrick, who doesn’t appear to do anything in half measures, was delighting me with his discussion of Portuguese fado music. If you’ve never heard fado music, you should. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Louis: The Heretic Poems by Gregory Scofield

Finally, a Western Canadian, a Métis, writing about the mythic Western Canadian hero Louis Riel, whose first language was French and who was raised a devout Catholic. Father of Confederation for Manitoba, elected to parliament three times but unable to take his seat in Ottawa because of the warrant out for his arrest. Exiled, begged to return. Resisting armed conflict, turning himself in. Tried and, against the jury’s recommendation, hanged for treason. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Girl in the Wall by Alison Preston

According to author Alison Preston, strange things happen even in quiet suburbs. In fact, her sixth novel spins such a tale. Winner of the 2012 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, the book recounts the story of an eccentric young woman and an unsolved murder in Norwood Flats, a Winnipeg neighbourhood. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Valery the Great by Elaine McCluskey

It may say something about Canada and Canadians that one of our canonical twentieth-century novels was called Beautiful Losers. And perhaps, in light of the 2012 Olympics, it’s instructive that as a nation we’ve focused so much attention on a soccer team that was, arguably, cheated out of a gold medal game, and a pair of triathletes who respectively entered their race with an injury and crashed spectacularly partway through. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Sometimes Lake by Sandy Bonny

Science and mathematics are never far away from the consciousness of the characters in this first collection of twelve short stories by Saskatoon’s Sandy Bonny. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Kalila by Rosemary Nixon

Kalila by Rosemary Nixon is the poignant story of a couple whose baby girl is born with severe medical problems, including an enlarged heart, very high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and an undeveloped kidney. Born just under four weeks early and weighing five pounds, Kalila is transferred after three days to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, where she undergoes a battery of tests to try to determine exactly what all her problems are. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Drugs by J.R. Helton

The use of drugs is a fact of everyday life as well as the subject of significant literary scrutiny, ranging from the avant-garde to the conventional in both form and content. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

A Book of Great Worth

A Book of Great Worth consists of a series of interconnected stories that centre on author Dave Margoshes’s father, Harry Morgenstern (alias Margoshes) and his Galician Jewish roots in New York. Although the collection has the distinct feel of memoir due to the inclusion of real names, dates and historical events that lend authenticity to incidents, Margoshes in the “Afterword: Listening to My Father” describes the stories as fictive for the following reasons: the first-person speaker of memoir is not always present; the focus is placed not on the narrator’s experience but on that of other characters in the story and, most importantly, events have been rearranged to make them function more effectively as stories (249). Read More…

Book Reviews | Non-Fiction

Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science

A scientist, I am not. The closest thing to a science course I’ve taken in a long time was a requirement-filler at SFU, a delightful 3-credit offering that came to me during an equally delightful summer session. The course, which shifted my thinking – as all great courses should – was Physics for Arts Students. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Day and Night: Poems by Dorothy Livesay

Day and Night was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1944 and established Dorothy Livesay as a writer. More than 60 years have passed since then and I wondered why the publishing company made the decision to print an anniversary edition. Upon reading the poems however, I realized that Livesay’s poetry is still relevant, particularly in light of present-day political unrest and economic uncertainty. Her poems concern themselves with the human penchant always to want more and the consequences of that greed, with wars and the unpredictability of weather. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Stopping for Strangers

Victoria’s Daniel Griffin makes his CanLit debut with a collection of short stories that are mostly about the demands of relationships. It is rather unusual that four of them deal with grown-up brothers and sisters. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Shrinking Violets

Personally, I’m attracted to skinny books, the way they acknowledge the limitations on my time, my immersion in a culture dominated by 30-, 60-, and 90-minute story times. And the way they whisper “poetry” without actually saying the word. These benefits accompany Heidi Greco’s 120-page novella, Shrinking Violets. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Hold Me Now

Hold Me Now is told from the point of view of Paul Brenner, whose son was beaten to death by a group of homophobic young men who came upon him running naked in Stanley Park. Although Stephen Gauer in the acknowledgments mentions a real-life source for his novel, he notes that his story deviates from the original in some of its most central details, with even the age of the victim changed from real-life Aaron Weber’s forty-two years to the fictive character Daniel’s twenty-seven years. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Dying a Little

Don’t think that because Barry Dempster has published four books of poetry in three years you can slide your eye past Dying a Little.1 This book is exceptional – carefully structured, beautifully written without a false word, taking us face to face with illness, death and grief, and turning back at points, to life. By the end, we have experienced the other world without ever leaving the poet’s home territory north of Toronto. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Small Change: Short Fiction

Perhaps there are some septuagenarians out there who remember George Amabile as a fixture of the folk-singing circuit, but mostly he is known as a poet and retired University of Manitoba English professor whose work has been published in such notable journals at The New Yorker and Harper’s. There might be others who recall him as the editor of a University of Minnesota student publication who turned down the work of a Minnesotan by the name of Robert Zimmerman, or as someone who jammed with a former refugee from that state known as Bob Dylan – the two being one and the same. What they probably don’t know him as is a fictionista – and yet, here he is in that guise. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

A Page from The Wonders of Life on Earth by Stephanie Bolster

In A Page from The Wonders of Life on Earth, Stephanie Bolster uses startling juxtapositions as a means for irony and to perceive the world from jagged, deconstructing angles. Although her milieu is urban, birds and animals, frequently from a zoo setting, inhabit her verses. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Odious Child and Other Stories/Shag Carpet Action/The Reverse Cowgirl

We have all likely heard the criticism that Canadian fiction is too aesthetically conservative: committed to realism, prudish, backwards-looking, and dominated by small-town settings. Our dominant author of short fiction, after all, is so identified with small-town Ontario that the rural countryside beyond Toronto is known as Alice Munro Country. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

What the Bear Said: Skald Tales of New Iceland by W.D. Valgardson

What the Bear Said: Skald Tales of New Iceland is a collection of fourteen tales by W.D. Valgardson. Told in the compelling voice of a seasoned story-maker, the tales bring to life the ‘folk’ ways of the early settlers in the Icelandic Canadian community in Manitoba. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling by Eden Robinson

Heiltsuk/Haisla/Canadian writer Eden Robinson is a storyteller who bears witness and educates as she entertains. Like her award-winning fiction, the stories in The Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling sparkle with Robinson’s self-deprecating humour as she tells of who she is as an individual and of how she is connected. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Hordes of Writing by Chus Pato; translated by Erín Moure

Erín Moure’s translating career can be considered on two planes. The first, the one she began in 2000 in collaboration with Robert Majzels, was the translation of domestic works which, in this case, involved Nicole Brossard’s Installations. Two further translations of Brossard’s works, with Majzels as collaborator, appeared Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

High Speed Crow by Sheila McClarty

High Speed Crow is a first collection of short stories by Manitoba writer Sheila McClarty. It was the winner of the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book at the 2011 Manitoba Book Awards. As such, it deserved my attention, and I am happy I read it. This is an author whom I’ll watch for again. Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

Pretty by Greg Kearney

Toronto’s Greg Kearney has a laconic style that is well suited to his subject matter, be it sex comedy or serious issue. His considerable talent is on display in a new collection of eleven short stories called Pretty. His shock tactics gradually become less shocking and more predictable, but he offers up a variety of distinct and believable characters in sometimes comic, always real, situations. Read More…

Book Reviews | Poetry

Outskirts by Sue Goyette

I am delighted with the new poetry collection from this Nova Scotia poet who stole so many hearts when she launched her first book, The True Names of Birds, in 1998. Firmly rooted in Nova Scotia’s natural environment and culture, the poems in Outskirts feel quite at home in my urban prairie setting. As I feel in Gus’s Pub. Read More…