Smoke River

Based on the unrest in Caledonia, Ontario where native land was being used for a housing development, this novel explores the many characters and issues at stake at the time. It is a fiction in every sense of the word, so the political aspects are muted and don’t overpower the character development and storyline.

But even if the story were not a gripping exploration of town/reserve relations, Smoke River would be a glorious read just for Foss’s imagery, which conjures up a hot, humid Ontario summer that seems to shimmer off the page: “Finally it arrives, the slightest mutiny of scent: sweet clover seeds, germinating in the backhoed earth, an insurrection of moisture beneath the drained and filled pond, an invasion of pollens breezing in off the river.” That connection to the land, which Shayna and Coulson share, is another powerful theme that permeates the novel. (source)Smoke River

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The World Before Us

When Jane Standen is 15, she loses the 5 year old girl she is looking after during a walk through the woods. This event traumatizes her for life. In her adult life, she works in a museum, piecing together the stories that haunt each artifact there. Her daily world is populated by the ghosts of these museum pieces and she becomes focused on solving the mystery of a disappeared young woman, lost near the same woods, but many years ago. It becomes interesting when various characters from the local insane asylum become important characters in the mystery. It is an engaging story, but don’t expect all details to wrap up tidily in the end.

The author Aislinn Hunter teaches creative writing at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University In BC.978-0-385-68064-6-e1409067559833

All My Puny Sorrows

9k=Miriam Toews has written this novel based on her own personal experiences with a sister and father who had battled depression and in the end, committed suicide. When Toews began writing All My Puny Sorrows in 2012 (the title is borrowed from a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge) she was unsure what form it would take. It was simply something she had to write, she says, a way to deal with the anger, and confusion, and sadness that threatened to become all-consuming. Many will read the novel as a memoir, and, while Toews says this is “definitely, absolutely” the most personal book she’s ever written, and much of the dialogue is based on conversations Toews had with her sister while Marj was in the hospital, it is still a work for fiction. (source)

The story is a passionate look at the connections that Elf and Yoli, sisters, form early in life and should sustain them through adulthood. But depression is an over powering monster and without timely help from the medical system, Elf sister is lost. The book brings up many questions about life, death, depression and suicide. It is a deep read.

Cataract City

This is a riveting, boys to men coming of age story that you will find hard to put down. There is something interesting happening on every page and Davidson tells the story with humourous insight and details are easy to relate to. Highly recommended!

Canadian writer and St Catharines native Craig Davidson tells a compelling story set in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Through winding flashbacks we follow Owen and Duncan from childhood through the vicissitudes of adult life. They don’t have it easy… And so Owen and Duncan hand off their bad luck like a relay baton, through high school and the short plateaus of their twenties. Their alternating narration works well to illustrate the Rashomon nature of male friendship, how stubbornness can be mistakenly read for confidence, how youthful slights can balloon into years of avoidance. Owen will pursue glory on the basketball court and even get out of Cataract City for a spell. Duncan attempts to settle down with the older and wiser Edwina, work at the Bisk, and resist the gravitational pull of local kingpin Lemuel Drinkwater. It doesn’t go well. (Barnes & Noble review)

cataract city

The Afterlife of Stars

Canadian author Joseph Kertes releases this novel this month (September 2014). It follows the life of two brothers starting from their escape from Hungary in 1956. Joseph himself had fled Hungary with his family in 1956, so he is well able to establish the credibility of this story. It begins when the Russians invade Hungary to crust the Hungarian Revolution and the brothers Robert and Attila Beck escape with their family to their great-aunt’s house in Paris. They experience heartbreak, loss and terror as they literally run for their lives out of Hungary. The story is told from their perspective which gives the story a fresh, humourous approach. The author does tend to ramble on a bit, but it is a small price to pay for this solid story. Joseph Kertes founded Humber College’s creative writing and comedy programs. He is currently Humber’s Dean of Creative and Performing Arts.

the afterlife of stars