Review of Books

Book Reviews | Fiction

A Mariner’s Guide to Self-Sabotage by Bill Gaston

In Bill Gaston’s short story “Hello:,” the narrator tells us that, according to some Tibetan Buddhist teachings, guardian spirits called Protectors exist, whose “sole purpose is to promote our wakefulness” Read More…

Book Reviews | Fiction

The Heavy Bear by Tim Bowling

The Heavy Bear is Tim Bowling’s latest novel and like In the Suicide’s Library (2004) its focus is on the ghosts of great male artists.

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The Midwife of Torment & Other Stories by Paulo da Costa

The author’s subtitle, “60 Sudden Fictions,” illuminates much of what a reader experiences in delving into Midwife of Torment: Read More…

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You Are Not Needed Now by Annette Lapointe

Witches and teeth, hippies and cleaning ladies, pregnancy and ghosts, tattoos and sex in a Saskatoon bus station bathroom Read More…

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In the Cage by Kevin Hardcastle

Kevin Hardcastle’s book In the Cage is not for the faint-hearted. Hardcastle takes readers into a part of society where poverty hovers and taunts at the shoulder. Read More…

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Bridge Retakes by Angela Lopes

Re-reading A Lover’s Discourse in 2017, it’s hard not to consider how Roland Barthes’ impatient Proustian temperament in love might stand to update. Surely Barthes would be hitting ‘refresh’ incessantly, Read More…

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The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova

Like a demon wearing a porcelain mask that sits on your shoulder, whispering sweet crypticisms in your ear, Camilla Grudova’s The Doll’s Alphabet captures the alluring texture of nightmares. Read More…

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Bibioasis’s 2017 “A Ghost Story for Christmas” Collection

As Andy Williams once sang in his holiday standard, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

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Mad Richard by Lesley Krueger

 

Lesley Krueger—A distant relative of the Victorian era painter Richard Dadd— creates a generous and thoughtful portrait Read More…

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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…

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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…

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Shot-blue by Jesse Ruddock

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

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Hot Town and other stories by Janet Trull

 

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

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Running on Fumes by Christian Guay-Poliquin

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

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After Light

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

Book Reviews | Fiction

Mr. Jones

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