Sunday, November 21, 2021

Book Review: Astra by Cedar Bowers, published by McClelland & Stewart

 A child is born in a commune, somewhere in British Columbia, to an unwed mother.

Who is this child?

Solving this mystery drives the plot forward. Details are portioned out sparingly as we gain a clearer understanding of Astra. Insight is provided by family and friends. Astra doesn't take ownership of her story until the Epilogue.

An unwed mother dies giving birth.

Astra Winter Sorrow Brine is left to be raised by her neglectful and self-absorbed father Raymond Brine.

Who should raise a child? How? How do you maintain or establish a relationship with your child--from infancy to adulthood? The relationship between parents and children is one of the central themes.




From an Independent Bookstore in

Canada

United States


Astra
Published by McClelland & Stewart
Published in 2021
286 pages
longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2021
(Of special significance to me as a Southern Gulf Island resident, 
Cedar Bowers lives on Galiano Island)

Astra is a unique book.

Each chapter in Astra is like a stand-alone short story. The re-occurrence of one character Astra unifies the book into a novel. Cedar Bowers is a methodical author. Astra is a must-read.

Anne Logan's review of Astra by Cedar Bowers

On This Blog in November


photo by ldyck



Wednesday, November 24
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 28
Short Story
Ex
by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Visiting the Neighbours (short stories) by Leanne Dyck

 This slightly embarrassing story was inspired by a childhood memory that popped into my head as I read Mary Lawson's A Town Called Solace.


Visiting the Neighbours

I was maybe four or five when my parents sold off part of their acreage and we got closer neighbours. As it turned out very nice neighbours. I'd cross the driveway to visit them almost every day. I especially enjoyed watching Mr. "Neighbour" putter. He built things with wood--a bird with wings that flapped when I pulled a string and a lumberjack that sawed wood when the wind blew the propeller. It was like being in Santa's workshop. 

One day, he greeted me with, "Well, hello, there, my little girlfriend." He was always saying funny things, but I didn't laugh.

When I got home, I wore worry on my baby face. 

Mom asked, "What's wrong?"

I told her that "Mr. Neighbour" had called me his little girlfriend. "I don't want to break up their marriage."

Possibly, I'd been watching too many "soap hopperas".



About the picture...

While playing at the "Neighbours", I fell asleep on the chesterfield--using their Boston Terrier Perky as my pillow, but Mrs. "Neighbour" thought I'd be more comfortable on one of their beds. The trouble was, each time she came close to try to move me, Perky growled. As if to say, don't disturb her. She's sleeping. So all Mrs. "Neighbour" could do--or was allowed to do--was snap the picture.

The minute I woke, Perky jumped down, ran outside, and peed. I'm not sure how long he had been holding it.  

On This Blog in November

photo by ldyck





Wednesday, November 17
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 21
Book Review
Astra
Cedar Bowers
long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
and my winner
Because...

Wednesday, November 24
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 28
Short Story
Ex
by Leanne Dyck

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Leaving Her (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Writing this short story helped me come to terms with a piece of island history. The protagonist is Japanese, but he's also an islander; he's a Canadian. We share a commonality. I'm outraged that a Mayne Islander had to endure what he had to endure. My intention is to pay tribute to his courage.

photo by ldyck

Thank you for helping me take ownership of this story. Your support is appreciated.

Leaving Her

He looked across the bed to where his strawberry blonde beauty slept. Her chest rose and fell with each breath. He lay there wanting to stay, knowing he had to go.

Fighting his desires, he eased back the quilt. He dressed quickly, but quietly ensuring not to wake her, and as if on cat paws he hurried into the kitchen. Ladling water into the basin, he washed his face. The cold water enlivened him. He looked up, through the kitchen window. 

Two solid beams of light cut through the darkness. 

Returning to the bedroom, he retrieved his suitcase from under the bed, lay it on the chair, and unfastened the leather straps. He grabbed underwear, shirts, pants and slipped them inside.

Being unable to resist her magnetic pull, he walked over to her side of the bed. His heart longed for her. He bent down and kissed her cheek. "I will always love you," he whispered. 

Boot heels struck the porch floorboards. That was his signal. Suitcase in hand, he rushed out of the bedroom, through the kitchen to the door. He pulled it open before they knocked. Wordlessly, he followed them. 

Entrance to the gardens
photo by ldyck

In 1942, bowing to public pressure, the Canadian government began interning Japanese nationals and Japanese-Canadians citizens. Nationals and citizens were stripped of their rights, homes, possessions, and way of life. In 1944, Japanese Canadians were ordered to leave BC or face deportation to Japan. It was not until 1988 that Japanese-Canadians received compensation for the wrongs done to them during the Second World War. 

On Mayne Island, a Japanese garden grows as a living tribute to the Japanese-Canadian islanders who were forced to leave.

photo by ldyck

photo by ldyck

photo by ldyck

Further reading...

Book Review:  All We Left Behind by Danielle R Graham

On This Blog in November

photo by ldyck




Sunday, November 14
Short Story
Visiting the Neighbours
Leanne Dyck

Wednesday, November 17
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 21
Book Review
Astra
Cedar Bowers
long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
and my winner
Because...

Wednesday, November 24
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 28
Short Story
Ex
by Leanne Dyck


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Book Review: A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson published by Knopf


Set in the fictitious northern Ontario town of Solace in September 1972, A Town Called Solace centres on three town residents--seven-year-old Clara Jordan, seventy-two-year-old Elizabeth Orchard, and thirty-four-year-old Liam Kean. With elements of mystery and romance and light touches of humour, the story explores how circumstances marry this cast of diverse characters. 

Clara

After fighting with her mother, Clara's sixteen-year-old sister Rose runs away. Clara maintains a silent vigil--willing her sister to return home. Very little drags Clara away from the living room window--just school and caring for the next-door neighbour's cat Moses.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a retired kindergarten teacher. Three years and eight months ago, Elizabeth's husband Charles died. After his death, Elizabeth moved from Guelph to live with her sister in Solace. Elizabeth's sister has since passed away. Solace is where Elizabeth befriends Clara--thanks to Moses. 

Unfortunately, due to heart problems, Elizabeth has to go to the hospital--leaving Moses behind to be taken care of by Clara.

Liam

Liam has recently ended his career in accounting and is newly separated from his wife Fiona. He has moved from Toronto to live in Mrs. Orchard's house. Why? What is he doing in that house? That's what Clara wants to know. 


Buy this Book 

From an Independent Bookstore in

Canada

United States

A Town Called Solace

Mary Lawson

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Published in 2021

288 pages

long-listed for the 2021 Booker


Thrown headlong into the fascinating and familiar town of Solace, I read this book in big gulps. I loved every minute of my stay--up to and including the last page. I especially enjoyed the key role Moses plays in the story.

I'd highly recommend Mary Lawson's other books--Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge--as well. I've yet to read Road Ends. Perhaps, I should be quick to correct this omission--especially in light of how I've enjoyed her other books. There are just so many books and so little time. 

Mary Lawson interviewed by Penguin Random House

The Promise by Damon Galgut won the Booker

How to watch The Scotiabank Giller Prize 

Monday, November 8. Tonight! 



On This Blog in November

photo by ldyck




Thursday, November 11
Remembrance Day
Short Story
Leaving Her
Leanne Dyck

Sunday, November 14
Short Story
Visiting the Neighbours
Leanne Dyck

Wednesday, November 17
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 21
Book Review
Astra
Cedar Bowers
long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
and my winner
Because...

Wednesday, November 24
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 28
Short Story
Ex
by Leanne Dyck


I finally took a nice selfie and I just had to share it with you.

Sharing My Author Journey...

Regardless of what anyone says, no one person, thing, or event is going to

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Eyes and Skull (2 horror stories) by Leanne Dyck

Celebrate the dark nights that stretch out before us with two (or more) horror stories.

Eyes is a haunted house story.


photo by ldyck

   Eyes

    

My brother and I stayed too long at the neighbours. Night like a heavy black cloak conceals all light but the single cat scratch moon and pinprick stars. 

"I know a shortcut." My brother leads me through the woods, but we're not supposed to go this way. 

But if I don't follow him, I'll be on my own--without the flashlight. I follow him.

There's nothing around for miles, but now I see...

Grass, bush chokes the house. It's caving into the soil.

What's that? In the window... What is...? Who is...?

Struggling to catch up to my brother, I ask, "Who lives in that--?"

 The way he looks at me--I know when to keep quiet. He starts to run. We don't stop running until home is in view. 

Breathless, we collapse onto the grass. When I can speak, I ask again. 

My brother says, "No one lives there. Not any more. Not for twenty years."

I gulp.

 "But you saw something, didn't you?"

  "There, there was, was something, someone in the window."  

 He holds the flashlight under his chin. "Some say it was a broken heart. Others insanity. But all agree, he killed himself in that house. They found him dead--throat cut, eyes missing. His body was hauled out, but his ghost is still there." My brother's voice falls to a whisper. "Never tell anyone that you saw him. If you do, he'll take your eyes."


Pumpkin by a neighbour
photo by ldyck

 In Skull a monster speaks.


Skull

When I was but a lad, I was given a special gift, a talent, really. Look into people's eyes, I could, to read their minds. I could hear their thoughts, hear them sing...


Rap, rap, rap/Let my ghost out

Crack open my skull/And let my ghost out

So I may travel, hither and yon/So I may float like a cloud/so I can see distant lands

Rap, rap, rap/Let my ghost out


Hear, I never had no choice. I had to help them. Had to.


"Scarecrow"

Made and modeled by Leanne Dyck

circa 1980s

More short stories...

I enjoyed listening to Clive Barker's The Forbidden--which became the horror movie The Candyman. 

Larry by Leanne Dyck is a ghost story

Ownership by Leanne Dyck is a haunted house story

It Was Nothing by Leanne Dyck

2021

"On Halloween, if you hear a knock, don't open the door.

Just look at who could be on the other side..."


Yes, this is me--the one who answered the door.

On This Blog in November

photo by ldyck

November is literary award month--
the Booker (November 3) and Scotiabank Giller Prize (November 8)

I've chosen my winners for each prize and will review them here, on this blog. 

Wednesday, November 3
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 7
Book Review
A Town Called Solace
Mary Lawson
long-listed for the Booker
and my winner
Because...

Thursday, November 11
Remembrance Day
Short Story
Leaving Her
Leanne Dyck

Sunday, November 14
Short Story
Visiting the Neighbours
Leanne Dyck

Wednesday, November 17
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 21
Book Review
Astra
Cedar Bowers
long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
and my winner
Because...

Wednesday, November 24
Podcast Author Reading

Sunday, November 28
Short Story
Ex
by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Book Review: The Almost Wife (thriller) by Gail Anderson-Dargatz published by HarperAvenue

 Nothing is what Kira thinks it is. Will she find the truth before it is too late or die at the hands of a "man-child"?


Buy this book

Written by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Published by HarperAvenue

an imprint of HarperCollins

Published in 2021

280 pages


Everything in Kira's world is perfect. She has an adorable eight-month-old baby Evie, a handsome, successful fiance Aaron, and she lives in a luxurious house. Sure, Aaron's ex "Mad Madison" is adding stress to their lives but--.

One weekend in July, Kira travels from her home in Toronto to Manitoulin Island, and her world is forever changed. 

Clip-in and hold on, The Almost Wife will take you on an unstoppable wild ride of twists and turns, and truths and lies. 


 On this blog in October


Wednesday, October 27
Podcast Author Reading
My Knitting Haven (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 31
Short Story
The by Leanne Dyck


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Dream (short story, romance) by Leanne Dyck

Romance, love is his heart and in his mind, but will she ever say yes?


photo by ldyck

He kept the ring in his breast pocket, close to his heart. Each evening he devotedly polished it. With every stroke, his image of their life together deepened in detail. He saw her in her wedding gown, glowing in splendour like a swan. Their big day forever to cherish. His ring on her finger. They would stand side by side through all life's triumphs and tribulations.

Memories, dreams, hopes, all made richer because they were shared by two.

Sheltering the ring in his pocket, he steeled himself. Today--today would be the day.

Each morning, for thirty years, when he opened the door to the diner, the first face he saw was hers.

"Order, please?" she'd ask, in her candy apple sweet voice. Then she would grin. It was the smile that did it. He had built a lifetime on that smile. 

His heart would race; his brow sweat. Quick, what was he going to say?

 No...not...maybe...no. Ashes...ashes...And just like that, his dream died. To be born anew in twilight.



 On this blog in October


Wednesday, October 20
Podcast Author Reading
Jaron Cardw, Author (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 24
Book Review
The Almost Wife (thriller)
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Wednesday, October 27
Podcast Author Reading
My Knitting Haven (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 31
Short Story
Eyes by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

What an amazing adventure I get to tell of an island gal and her incredible blog...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Book Review: The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (Sci fi, humour) by Douglas Adams

 Arthur Dent is living in a non-descript house overlooking the peaceful English countryside but...but then his world explodes--literally. Yes, The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy is a comedy. It offers a chuckle a page. All you have to do is find the funny bites.




Buy this book

Published by Pan Books

an imprint of Macmillan Publishers

Published in 1976

159 pages


Arthur Dent is blissfully unaware of... Well, a lot of things, actually. One of the biggest things is that his best friend Ford Prefect though pretending to be an out-of-work actor is, in fact, an alien--like from another planet. As it turns out, that's a good thing because when the earth explodes Ford being from another planet is the only thing that saves him. 

What does it all mean?

Here's a guess: The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy is about the encroachment of technology into our everyday lives. 

When Douglas Adams wrote this book, in the 1970s, there were no social media. No cell phone. Heck, there weren't even personal computers. Hard to believe but true. Only a mere fifty years later, can we imagine our lives without the World Wide Web? Sometimes it's nice to try.

'"What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"

"You ask a glass of water."' (p.49) 

I meet Arthur Dent when I was 21. I could relate to Arthur. My world, like his, had just exploded. (After coming home from participating in a nine-month youth group, I'd enrolled in university.) 

After reading and loving Douglas Adams' books, I lent them to a friend and... and... The friend refused to give them back. In his defense--. Sorry, no, there's no defense for this crime. 

Thankfully, my boyfriend, now husband, had the books. Did I marry him so I could re-read the series? 

Hmmm... 

Next year my husband and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. And I just re-read the first book in the series. So, no. I married him for love not books. 


(in Manon's garden)

 On this blog in October


Wednesday, October 13
Podcast Author Reading
Basket Weaving (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 17
Short Story
Dream (romance) by Leanne Dyck

Wednesday, October 20
Podcast Author Reading
Jaron Cardw, Author (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 24
Book Review
The Almost Wife (thriller)
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Wednesday, October 27
Podcast Author Reading
My Knitting Haven (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 31
Short Story
Eyes by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

Congratulations our blog is eleven years old. I write "our" and I mean "our". I firmly believe

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Guest Post: Author Brian Van Norman (Science Fiction author)



Once a teacher, playwright, professional theatre director and adjudicator, Brian left those worlds to travel with his wife, Susan, and take up writing as a full time pursuit. He has journeyed to every continent and sailed nearly every sea on the planet.  His base is Waterloo.  For more, his website is www.authorbrianvannorman.com.


-How/why did you start to write?


Really, I started writing when I was about twelve.  Life got in the way, however, and I deferred writing until after University.  I wrote a thriller about Columbian/Cuban drug smuggling in Florida for a large Publishing Company (remaining un-named) which died in 1982, a year after they had sent me back to research more information to improve the book.  This set six authors, all under the tutelage of a brilliant editor, completely free.  I was so fatigued and shattered I stopped writing and did other things, and shifted my focus to playwriting.


-How did you become an author?


I’d been on the road as a Theatre Adjudicator for Theatre Ontario for quite a while.  When Susan, my wife, retired, she asked me to stop and pay more attention to my writing, treat myself more professionally as a writer.  After an initial brush with a disorganized and simplistic publishing house I was able to leave that contract and very soon after, Guernica Editions selected my novel IMMORTAL WATER for publishing.


-What did you do before writing full-time? Did it help your writing, how?


Every experience helps one’s writing as long as one is open to it.   I have used multiple people I’ve met to help create single characters with depth and genuine persona.  I’ve used places I’ve been as settings.  I worked in theatre for a long time and understand that publishing any book takes the efforts of multiple people from Printers to Editors to Designers and Artists.  I am very open to editing.  It seems to free me to make changes I’d considered but not accomplished.


-What inspires you to write?


I’m not sure.  For some it’s notoriety, for others its money, and for many more, it’s not being inspired to write, but understanding your need to write.  Perhaps it was inspiration, and I know many authors are avid readers who have favourite books they read which made them want to produce something similar, or very different.


-Why do you write science fiction? What is it about the genre that attracted your interest?


Because of this trilogy AGAINST THE MACHINE: LUDDITES, AGAINST THE MACHINE: MANIFESTO and (tentatively) AGAINST THE MACHINE: EVOLUTION I knew I was going to push borders. I was accustomed to historical fiction writing and even contemporary literary style, but I’ve never written speculative fiction and find it requires even more research and concentration than any other style I’ve tried.


-What science fiction authors have helped you develop your author voice?


In order to understand this style of writing, I’ve had to read quite a bit, but the authors who helped me find a narrative stye?  Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Bradbury, Gibson, Atwood, Stephenson, Wells, Orwell and Huxley, I have read nearly every book of speculative fiction I could find and I’m gradually discovering a voice through a mix of several authors at one time.


-What are the most important ingredients that must go into very book?


To my mind characters who are unique, believable, complex and intriguing, mixed with action in the form of what these characters actually do and why, are the key elements to any novel.


-Reflect on your writing process...


My process requires a discipline.  I will descend to my office/library and remain there for four hours.  Sometimes it seems a waste of time and sometimes you explode with ideas and find yourself writing six and even seven hours, though at that length of time you may not be making the best judgements.  I realize the discipline is what keeps me going.  Sudden important elements might come to mind when I’m not writing so I always have a small pad and pen to write these out and attach them somehow to my basic outline or concept.


-Please offer some advice to new authors...


This is a hard question to answer because there are so many different styles and genres of writing.  I have to return to the tried and true: “Write what you know.”  If you’ve paid attention the small things which many people don’t notice, a setting can acquire surprising significance, and pieces of character can become interesting characters when put together, but the most important element of any writing, use action to express character or setting or mood: so show the audience what you want rather than tell the audience.





With three highly acclaimed novels currently on the market THE BETRAYAL PATH, IMMORTAL WATER and his latest, AGAINST THE MACHINE: LUDDITES available through Chapters/Indigo and Independent Bookstores(Canada), Barnes & Noble (USA), Waterstones (Great Britain), Amazon, Goodreads and his publisher www.guernicaeditions.com, Brian's next book, the sequel to LUDDITES set in Waterloo Region, is titled AGAINST THE MACHINE: MANIFESTO.  It will launch this fall on October 1

He is currently researching and writing a third book for his AGAINST THE MACHINE trilogy. An unusual trilogy, it deals with a single them: human/machine interface, but in three very different styles and time periods 200 years apart.  



LUDDITES is historical style with a twist (one person called it Jane Austen meets Quentin Tarrentino).  




MANIFESTO, set in modern Waterloo, Canada is in a more contemporary style (this one is referred to as Breaking Bad comes to Waterloo).  


The third novel, now in progress is written in the varied styles of speculative fiction and is set in a place called Toronto MEG, in 2212.  


His author site is www.authorbrianvannorman.com


Visit Brian Van Norman online at...


Website:

 www.authorbrianvannorman.com     

Facebook:

 https://www.facebook.com/brianvnauthor

Google:

https://www.google.com/search?q=brian+van+norman&rlz=1C1GCEA_enCA924CA924&oq=brian+van+norman&aqs=chrome..69i57j46j0i22i30l2j69i60l3j69i65.5160j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8



Sunday, September 26, 2021

Book Review: My Daughter Rehtaeh Parsons by Glen Canning with Susan McClelland (non-fiction)

I'm very impressed by the courage and strength it took to write this book. I know whatever I write in my review will fall short of what this book deserves. Still, I have to try...




Buy this book

My Daughter: Rehtaeh Parsons

Glen Canning (blog)

with Susan McClelland

Published by Goose Lane Editions

Published in 2021


I've had a blog since 2005. I know first-hand that cyberspace can be a force for good or ill. I believe that it is up to us--all of us--to ensure that good wins. So when I read a tweet about this newly released book I knew I wanted to read it and help review it. So I contacted Goose Lane Editions and they supplied me with a copy.

My Daugther Rehtaeh Parsons is a story about what can happen when cyberspace is used to destroy a life. We all can be victimized but it is the most vulnerable., the children, who are at the greatest risk.

Glen Canning shares a heart-wrenching account of how his daughter "Rae" was victimized, how a system failed her, and how cyberspace perpetuated her victimization.

Glen writes in the Introduction to the book...

'This book is not about sexual assault...

  'Nor is this book entirely about the institutional failures that let Rae down...

   'It is, more than anything else, about a culture that has normalized and accepted gender violence; a culture in which even women and girls play a role in perpetuating and normalizing that violence...

This book is about Rae, but it's also about how all of us, hopefully, may begin putting ourselves back together.' (p. 10-11)

What we need to do is follow Glen's lead. He could have become a vigilante and set out to make the quilty pay. He could have, but instead, he became a healer. The quest he has begun is to attempt to heal the world or as he writes put us back together. He needs, he deserves our support.

  


 On this blog in October

Sunday, October 3
Guest Post
Brian Van Norman
(Science Fiction Author)

Wednesday, October 6
Podcast Author Reading
Without (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 10
Book Review
The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams
(Science Fiction, Humour)

Wednesday, October 13
Podcast Author Reading
Basket Weaving (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 17
Short Story
Dream (romance) by Leanne Dyck

Wednesday, October 20
Podcast Author Reading
Jaron Cardw, Author (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 24
Book Review
The Almost Wife (thriller)
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Wednesday, October 27
Podcast Author Reading
My Knitting Haven (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, October 31
Short Story
Eyes by Leanne Dyck