Forever Changed
DriverWorks Ink / 11 May 2016

Forever Changed by Cheri Helstrom Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $16.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-27-2 Change is inevitable. Some changes are so massive that they can change one’s life – dramatically and permanently. In Forever Changed, Cheri Helstrom relates how a series of changes affected her father, massively and permanently. In this work of creative nonfiction, Cheri tells the story of her father, William Richard Scott, as if he is telling the story himself. Known better as Ritchie, he lives with his parents and six siblings in Alameda, SK, where his businessman father is the town’s first mayor. As the title suggests, Ritchie experiences several changes that forever affect him. The first is when his mother dies. Then the Great Depression changes everything. There are further changes when his father dies. World War II brings more changes. But perhaps the biggest change, and his biggest challenge, is when he gives up alcohol. One of Ritchie’s great joys as a youngster is going on a trip with his father to the Banff Springs Hotel, where he later works for the summer as a bellboy. Later still, he works as an office boy at the Coca-Cola head office in Toronto. When…

And It Was Very Good
DriverWorks Ink / 23 March 2016

And It Was Very Good: Everyday Moments of Awe by Ed Olfert Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781927-570227 I must begin this review with a disclaimer: I was hesitant to read and review this book, based on the recognizable Biblical quote in its title. I expected that within Ed Olfert’s pages I’d be subjected to Christian proselytizing, and I’m not particularly receptive to preaching of any kind. The quote, from Genesis 1:31, refers to God observing creation then stating “And it was very good.” Well, you know what they say about judging a book by its cover. (And in this case, the cover’s a particularly attractive photograph of what appears to be a Saskatchewan lake). I’m delighted to share that within just a few pages, my hesitancy vanished and I realized I was in for a darn good read. Firstly, the Laird, SK author comes to the page rich with life experience. He’s from a “grease under the fingernails” Mennonite family, and his work experience includes mining, welding, truck driving, and “ministering a church”. He’s a father, a proud and connected grandfather, and a volunteer who has worked in Haiti, and he often works…

Catherine of Cannington Manor
DriverWorks Ink / 2 October 2015

Catherine of Cannington Manor by Shirley Harris Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-14-2 Shirley Harris’s Catherine of Cannington Manor shows how a young woman with a brave heart sets out to escape a tragic memory. Along the way, she finds love and adventure while developing many deep friendships. After her father and lover are killed in a tragic accident, twenty-year-old Catherine Henson leaves England in 1897, bound for a fresh start in Canada. She settles in Moosomin, District of Assiniboia, North-West Territories, which later becomes the province of Saskatchewan. While listening to a choir at a Christmas concert, Catherine hears “the voice” of Michael Jones, a handsome architect and contractor. From the outset, she knows she wants to hear that voice for the rest of her life. When she compliments Michael on his dancing, he says it’s easy when he has “an angel in his arms.” Their courtship is immediate and swift, and romance blossoms into marriage. Together, they buy a cottage just outside Cannington Manor and name their farm Tanterra. They treat their business associates and friends like an extended family. A neighbour comments, “Nobody else treats the hired help like that.” Catherine writes…

Cream Money
DriverWorks Ink / 4 September 2015

Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Published by DriverWorks Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-192757019-7 I didn’t expect this. While reading Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People, I stopped several times and thought: we have no idea. “We” being anyone who did not live in rural SK in the early to mid-1900s, when even children worked hard to ensure that life ran smoothly on the farm. It was the era of large families and tight budgets, of rolling up one’s sleeves before the school bus even arrived, and of smothering foods of all kind in rich, delicious, straight-from-the-cow cream. Editor Deana J. Driver has collected 29 short and interesting anecdotes (plus several black and white photographs) from residents of the prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan who well recall how hard they worked and how different life was in earlier times, when cream was regularly sold to creameries. It was not uncommon for farmers of that time to own at least one dairy cow, and the much-needed funds earned selling cream kept many families financially afloat during lean times. Within these pages we learn about specific animals, milking techniques, the…

Pure Baseball
DriverWorks Ink / 27 August 2015

Pure Baseball: The Carl Jaxsom Legend by Ryan Thaddeus Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $9.95 ISBN 978-0-9940720-0-9 First came baseball. Then came pure baseball. That’s where the top slugger squares off against the very best pitcher. This ultimate challenge is where Ryan Thaddeus’s Pure Baseball: The Carl Jaxsom Legend takes readers. The story is related by a grandfather telling a bedtime story to his grandson huddled under the covers next to an old, worn teddy bear named Roosevelt. Gramps tells the incredible tale of a ball player named Carl Jaxsom who retired with a batting record of one thousand – one thousand hits at one thousand times up to bat. This is the stuff legends are made of, and this fictitious account reads more like a fantastical fantasy. Gramps speaks of his experience as a ten-year-old in Boston, teaming up with his pal Sal to hawk newspapers. “Locals called us the Pepper Salt twins and for good reason,” he says. “Partly because Sal was black as a burnt match to my Irish turnip-white skin, but mostly for the stinging way we seemed to rub folks.” They witness Jaxsom’s remarkable feat in 1904, the second year of the…

Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition and Work With Your Angels
DriverWorks Ink / 3 June 2015

Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels by Lisa Driver Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-13-5 Are you as happy as you’d like to be? I’m guessing that most would answer “no” to this glaring question, whether our challenges concern illness, loneliness, grief, financial woes, strained relationships, confidence issues, employment worries, addictions, or something altogether different. Of course many books promise happier, healthier living, but Lisa Driver’s Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels takes a unique approach: it combines elements of Christianity (the author was raised in a Christian home and uses “God” to describe the “loving energy” we all share) and what some term “new age” beliefs, ie: developing intuition through meditation; using crystals; participating in Angel Tarot card readings, energy work, and Reiki; and recognizing when our angels are communicating with us. Regina-born Driver was in transition in her own personal life – she’d had “about seven jobs in as many years” – when she attended a “Natural Health and Healing Expo” in her adopted city, Medicine Hat. There the “’regular’ Saskatchewan prairie girl” was introduced to an “angelic medium from…

After The Truck Hit
DriverWorks Ink / 29 April 2015

After the Truck Hit by Jennifer Kuchinka Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-16-6 When I first picked up Jennifer Kuchinka’s book After the Truck Hit, I was both intrigued and apprehensive. With a title like that, I figured I was in for an emotional journey. After the Truck Hit is both a story and a journal of Jennifer’s life before and after the accident. It’s a story firmly rooted in Saskatchewan. In Estevan, where Jennifer was born and where she lived for a time with her husband; in Macoun, a small town in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, where she grew up and where she lived with her parents and baby daughter while recovering from her accident, and in Regina, where she studied at the University of Regina, met her husband and subsequently spent almost three months in the fall of 2010 recovering from her accident. Much of the book seems to have been taken from Jennifer’s personal journal after the accident which is both fascinating and a little frustrating in that the reader experiences firsthand her jumbled and repetitive thoughts. To make it easier to follow, Jennifer “fills in the blanks” in italics, putting…

Gina’s Wheels
DriverWorks Ink / 7 January 2015

Gina’s Wheels by Mary Harelkin Bishop Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $13.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-12-8 I lived in Saskatoon for seventeen years, and during my frequent runs along the Meewasin Valley Trail, I would sometimes encounter a pleasant and energetic woman in a wheelchair. I recognized her to be Colette Bourgonje – one of Canada’s most accomplished Paralympic athletes – and I’m so pleased that the accomplished Saskatoon writer, Mary Harelkin Bishop, has penned an inspiring picture book celebrating both Bourgonje’s positive energy and achievement and the compassionate nature of a young child. Gina’s Wheels is based on a true story as experienced through a curious “real-life” girl named Maeve, whose mother co-taught with Bourgonje in a Saskatoon school. Impressed by Colette in the classroom, at three Maeve began using her own stroller like a wheelchair to “[explore] the world in a different way”. Harelkin Bishop – whose name many will recognize from her highly successful Tunnels of Moose Jaw Adventure Series – learned about Maeve when she was doing research for her biography, Moving Forward: The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje. Sometimes stories come about as if delivered on a plate, and kudos to the author…

Homegrown and Other Poems
DriverWorks Ink / 23 December 2014

Homegrown and other poems By Bryce Burnett Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 9 781927 570081 In Bryce Burnett’s collection of cowboy poetry, Homegrown, readers will discover lively and intelligent poems that reminisce on country life from the turn-of-the-century to the present day. Bryce Burnett demonstrates that he is a master raconteur, spinning narratives of wit and turning conventional wisdom on its head. The commonplace and the significant converge in this collection, as seen in a son who contemplates his father in his own shadow, in “Dad”. These poems frequently surprise with the unexpected, with humourous, at times, hilarious, twists and turns, as in the poem “Silent is Golden”. Several poems share recollections of unique personalities shaped by the country life, such as the giving spirit demonstrated by the most frugal of men (“The Scotsman”), the simplified existence of life on the land (“George Law”), the close-knit, at times, comic, relations that characterize the landed community (“Newlyweds”), the hard-headed, crafty bargaining practices necessary to turn a profit (“Livestock Buyers”), and a man who shows up “when all the work is done” (“The Blister”). This collection captures the ethos and colourful outlook of frontiersmen, presenting a melodious set…

Jamie and the Monster Bookroom
DriverWorks Ink / 16 December 2014

Jamie and the Monster Bookroom by Kerry Simpson (with Jamie Simpson) Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $13.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-15-9 Saskatchewan boasts a wealth of writers and artists, and, increasingly, companies that help new writers get their books into print. Deana and Al Driver are the experienced team behind DriverWorks Ink, a Regina-based company established in 2008 to publish “true stories of fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes, books for children, fiction and humour.” Deana Driver is a journalist, writer, and editor, while Al comes from a long history as an editor in the Canadian newspaper industry. Their evolution into publishing seems a natural one. I opened my first DriverWorks Ink book, Jamie and the Monster Bookroom, ready to embrace a fresh Saskatchewan voice. The story features a little girl, Jamie, who loves books, her local library, and, as the back cover copy states, “all the smells and textures that come with the books she’s read on her weekly visits there.” Kerry Simpson, a teacher by profession, wrote the book with the help of her own young daughter, Jamie, and from the bio notes I assume this is a story that reflects the “real” Jamie’s life….