Claudia
Coteau Books / 28 October 2009

Claudia by Britt Holmström Published by Coteau Books Review by Sandy Bonny $21.00 ISBN-13 987-1-55050-395-1 Britt Holmström’s fourth novel Claudia moves along the fine boundaries of appearance and private truth. An upper middle-class widow living in Regina, Claudia Hewitt has framed her life perfectly. Childhood poverty in Sweden with her Latvian refugee mother is far behind her, as are the embarrassments of her ‘too big’ nose and adolescent chubbiness. Her grown children’s mishaps are glossed by white lies, and Claudia has carefully protected her family and aging mother from the fact that she has witnessed three brutal murders – first as a teenager in Sweden, later while backpacking in Spain, and finally from the window of her beloved husband’s study in Regina. Does bearing witness make her complicit in these tragedies? Does her silence? And what secrets, out of love or fear of judgment, have Claudia’s mother and children kept from her? Claudia is written in a world where violence is inevitable, where female sexuality can corrupt and degrade as well as empower, and where love can nourish healing. Moving backward and forward in time, and between Winnipeg, Regina, Sweden, Spain, and Latvia, ‘Claudia’ covers a lot of ground. Details…

Dead Rock Stars
Backroads Press / 21 October 2009

Dead Rock Stars by Wes Funk Published by Backroads Press Reviewed by Gail Jansen $15.95 ISBN: 978-0-9781396-1-8 Growing up different from others always makes its mark on who we become as adults. For Wes Funk’s main character Jackson Hill, in his novel Dead Rock Stars, growing up gay on a farm in small town Saskatchewan, with two red-necked brothers and a past that haunts him, it’s a mark that has led to isolation, no matter how far he thinks he has come. Yet as Funk writes, “there comes a time when a person has to make peace with his hostility.” In his engaging story about Hill and the Dead Rock Stars theme that plays on throughout his life, Funk subtly pushes the reader to look beyond the stereotype to see the man that Hill has become, and to see the very real issues he faces in confronting his past; a confrontation he is helped gently through with the aid of the handsome and charismatic Frank. While we have all faced such moments at one point or another in our lives – defining moments that lead us to embrace life, or run from it – in Hill’s case it’s a run…

Return of the Fearsome Critters
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 14 October 2009

Return of the Fearsome Critters by Warren S. James Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shanna Mann $12.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-26-2 Have you heard of the horrible Hodag? Do you know what an Agropelter is? Regina storyteller Warren James has parlayed his interest in cryptozoology into this creative and original book of poems featuring some of the nearly lost creatures of North American folklore. Each silly poem is preceded by a short encyclopedic entry (complete with pseudo-scientific name!) of the fearsome critter in question. The handsome facing illustrations by Susan Hopkins McQuarrie are reminiscent of Edward Gorey or Maurice Sendak. The whole family will enjoy the spooky illustrations and the amusing and inventive poems. The poems are clearly meant to be read out loud, the same way that many years ago these stories were told by lamplight. Though the stories began as eerie tales told to frighten unwary greenhorns and travelers, the regrettable lack of gullible greenhorns (and the resultant lack of sightings) meant that these weird and terrifying creatures would have been almost forgotten, if not for the author and his delightful poems. Take this book camping with you, or read it around the fireplace for an authentic…

No Apologies for the Weather
Thistledown Press / 7 October 2009

No Apologies for the Weather by Taylor Leedahl Published by Thistledown Press Reviewed by Carrie Prefontaine $12.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-51-5 No Apologies for the Weather is Saskatoon poet Taylor Leedahl’s bold poetic debut. Tracing the poet’s movement into maturity, the volume confidently and intricately explores identity, sexuality, and intimacy. Saturated with a wisdom beyond the poet’s years, the poetry also retains the sparkle, vigour, and occasionally, idealism, of her adolescence. Many of the poems are firmly rooted in places that will be familiar to Saskatoon readers, reminding us how strongly our experience of place shapes our sense of self. In the poem “Out Here I Declare Myself,” for example, prairie bluffs provide an appropriate backdrop for the poet’s struggle to define herself: “Out here I declare myself / And reap entertainment from birch trees. / Slender knobby knees, paper peels / to reveal another layer / of the same flaking skin. / If only a piece of me had these qualities…” Leedahl has an eye for detail and she paints those details into multi-layered, melodious poems. Indeed, Leedahl’s poetry is coloured by music and her wordplay is brightly lyrical. Poems such as “A Personal Revolution on Your Skin,” “Ocean in Autumn…