Violet Quesnel
Thistledown Press / 26 September 2013

Violet Quesnel: Stories by Coby Stephenson Published by Thistledown Press Review by Jessica Bickford $9.95 978-1-927068-10-6 Regina author Coby Stephenson’s first book, Violet Quesnel, is at least as unique as her title character’s name. This book of connected short stories peeks in on Violet at various stages in her life, sometimes from Violet’s perspective and sometimes those of her family and friends. The stories seem to drift and shift unreservedly between points of view, periods of time, and physical locations, but the titular character holds everything together in a patchwork of history and growth. Violet struggles with bi-polar disorder, and this leads to the inevitable conflicts between Violet and her family, and even Violet and herself. She fights for normalcy against crippling bouts of depression and family members who either refuse, or simply fail to understand what she’s up against. In each episode we learn more about Violet and her compulsions, her intrusive thoughts and how she intersects with the lives of those she meets. This slim volume of stories manages to not only illuminate an extraordinary character, but deftly and realistically navigates the challenges of mental illness as experienced by both Violet herself, and those around her. We see…

How To Be A River
Wild Sage Press / 20 September 2013

How to Be a River by Brenda Niskala Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978-0-9881229-2-5 $15.00 Brenda Niskala’s How to Be a River offers to readers a set of poems as diverse as they are nuanced, as piercing as they are enigmatic. Niskala’s writing is crisp and tight, unburdened by sentimentality, and the poems glimmer with an immediate and luminous arousal of recognition, of the sense of truly “being here.” The poems capture surprising crossways of feeling and consciousness, with subjects that range from the tragic, such as in “Blunt Instrument”, a poem about a young man lost to his loved ones and subject to the criminal justice system, to the provocative “Room Full of Men”, a poem whose character, Anita, will arouse much discussion for her free, unquenchable spirit and her ardent devotion to men. Niskala is a poet with exquisite taste in subject matter and a native ability to capture forms and expressions of human connectedness. The poems in this collection are not only luminous, but they transport the reader with their tracings of the numinous. Niskala writes with an attentive human interest, and her work is rooted in seldom explored realms and rhythms…

St. Victor Petroglyphs

St. Victor Petroglyphs: The Place of the Living Stone by Tim E.H. Jones and S. Louise Jones Published by The Friends of St. Victor Petroglyphs Review by Keith Foster $22.95 ISBN 978-0-9917298-0-7 As Saskatchewan is the “Land of Living Skies,” so too St. Victor is “The Place of the Living Stone,” a reference to the carvings etched into stone there. These petroglyphs, though hundreds of years old, are still evolving and thus very much alive in the minds of archaeologists. Located in a provincial park near St. Victor, SK, about 35 km south of Assiniboia, the site offers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Among the 340 sandstone carvings are etchings of bison, grizzly bear tracks, hand prints, and human faces. St. Victor Petroglyphs: The Place of the Living Stone contains fascinating facts and details in its 215 pages, with 156 illustrations, mostly black and white photos and sketches, plus 34 in colour. Appendices and references run another 38 pages. In spite of this wealth of information, the authors contend that more research is required even to determine the age of the petroglyphs. Best estimates date their origin from 250 to 1,800 years ago. The authors also surmise that…

My Battle of the Atlantic
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 5 September 2013

My Battle of the Atlantic by Donald A. Bowman Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $16.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-99-6 There’s something about the sea that seems to attract men from the Prairies. Donald Bowman was one of them, and he records his personal experiences in his memoir, My Battle of the Atlantic. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Bowman enlisted as a teen at the outset of World War II. After trying his hand at bayonet practice, and reading about rats in the trenches during the First World War, he realized the infantry was not for him. The Air Force appealed to him, but only if he could be a pilot, and he didn’t think he had the qualifications for that. So the Navy it was. While on leave in Saskatoon, he married his sweetheart, Muriel Beatty. They booked a room at the Bessborough Hotel, but the war cut short their honeymoon. Bowman regales readers with his adventures as an officer on HMCS Edmundston, a corvette intended for coastal duty but used to escort convoys across the Atlantic, and named for a city in New Brunswick. In heavy seas, it would be flung about with as much grace…