Assortment, An: Darkly Delicious Literary and Visual Oddments
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 8 December 2017

An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments by Marie Elyse St. George Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-83-6 The enticing title of Marie Elyse St. George’s latest book says it all. Delve into this tickle trunk of poems, stories (both fictions and truths), drawings, paintings, and cartoons, plus a tribute to now long-passed writer Anne Szumigalski, and you’ll indeed find something darkly delicious to make you smile, laugh, and think. Saskatoon’s St. George has earned an esteemed reputation as both a visual artist and a writer, and a career highlight’s been her 1995 poetry and art collaboration (with close friend Szumigalski) Voice, which resulted in both an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery and a book which garnered the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1995. She’s also collaborated with poet Patrick Lane, provided art for the covers of numerous literary journals and books, and published an award-winning memoir. While reading An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments, I procured an image of a young girl skipping through a field of wildflowers, plucking blossoms here and there for an atypical bouquet. This image was no doubt hastened by the book’s…

Living Skies
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 November 2017

Living Skies by Craig Hilts Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $54.99 ISBN 978-1-988783-05-5 There’s nothing like lightning, baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes to get one’s adrenaline pumping. There’s also nothing like a serene sky after a rain to calm a viewer. Craig Hilts, in his hardcover coffee table book Living Skies, has experienced both. He invites readers to look skyward and enjoy a visual feast of pigmentation and textures, especially noticeable in the swirling colours of the aurora borealis. Some photos spread across two-pages, providing a panoramic view of prairie horizons. Occasionally Hilts combines two similar photos, merging them so precisely on facing pages that the combined photos appear as one seamless image. His more than 150 colour photos range from scenic landscapes to the tumult of angry skies. Sometimes the scenery can seem so calm while storm clouds churn above. No wonder Saskatchewan has earned the title, Land of Living Skies. Hilts notes that a green sky, eerie to behold, is usually a warning of an impending tornado and/or severe hail. He’s experienced the rapid-fire force of baseball-sized hail smashing into his vehicle, but fortunately the protective shielding he developed offered some protection. No stranger…

Frostbite

Frostbite by Wes Funk Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781927-756980 When Saskatoon’s Wes Funk died in 2015 at age forty-six, he was well-known and admired in the local writing community. He’d self-published novels and a chapbook of poetry and short stories, hosted a weekly series, “Lit Happens,” on Shaw TV, and mentored beginning writers. YNWP’s posthumously released Funk’s final book, Frostbite, which contains the novel of the same name, plus a novella-“Rocket of the Starship”-in one handsome package. Funk’s set both stories in Saskatoon and there are no shortages of landmarks to help locate the worlds in which his protagonists-both with cool names: “Deck” from the novel; the novella features “Dare”-roam. Deck Hall, a recently fired accountant and recently separated forty-year-old, lives in City Park, and his estranged wife is a nurse at Saskatoon City Hospital. The Bessborough Hotel, Midtown Plaza, Broadway Bridge, the Senator, Amigo’s Cantina and Diefenbaker Hill are locations that help set the stage for the aptly-named “Frostbite.” As the book opens, Deck has just finished his fourth bartending shift in a week, and he returns, wearily, to the Star Wars memorabilia and the companionship of his bulldog, Muffin,…

Lily in the Loft

Lily in the Loft by Carol L. MacKay Illustrated by Val Moker Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Allison Kydd $14.95; ISBN 978-1-927756-91-1 (softcover) Though reading some children’s picture books is an exercise in tolerance for adult readers, others have immediate appeal for both adult and child. MacKay’s Lily in the Loft, a story of hope, disappointment and ultimate reward, is an example of the latter. To a child it suggests the importance of dreams and determination, while to an adult—especially if that adult is a prairie writer—it’s richly evocative and an important historical document. The narrative of Lily in the Loft revolves around a young girl named Frances. Frances loves to write, and the story captures the vulnerability and desire of a beginning writer—or indeed of any writer. “Am I any good?” the young protagonist asks herself. “What if they don’t like what I write?” Frances is fortunate in that she has a mother and an aunt who support her dreams. She also lives on a farm, where nature and animals are part of her world and feed her creative imagination. MacKay obviously knows this world and gives the reader just enough of the setting without distracting…

Lullaby Lilly

Lullaby Lilly by Laurie Muirhead Illustrated by Debora Johnson Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Allison Kydd $14.95; ISBN 978-1-927756-94-2 (softcover) Some picture books are a challenge for adult readers: how does one read with the appreciation of a child, letting go of adult expectations about what makes a story or a poem? Lullaby Lilly is a charming tale that evokes the importance of family, creative expression and simply having fun. It is also part of a tradition that honours “child-like-ness” for its own sake. The main character in the story is Lilly Lamm, and she loves lullabies; in fact, she exhausts her family of mother, father, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandpa and grandma with her demand for lullabies. “Make up your own,” they finally say. What can Lilly do? She hasn’t yet learned her ABC’s, so how can she write her own verses? Fortunately, Lilly’s mother is “in the garden planting rosemary and sage . . .” She stops what she is doing and shows Lilly how to spin lullabies by recklessly combining all the words she knows (including some she didn’t know she knew) with images from the world around her. This book offers a…

More Babas, Please!

More Babas, Please! by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Olha Tkachenko Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 9781927756928 Award-winning author Marion Mutula’s latest book, More Babas, Please! is a happy celebration of grandmothers. All grandmothers everywhere. “Big ones, small ones, fat ones, tall. Curly-haired, straight-haired, wig-wearing, bald.” The rhyming has an almost sing-song rhythm which seems so natural that you instinctively know that a lot of work has gone into making it seem so effortless! The layout is classic and clean with lots of white space and large type, perfect for early readers and grown-ups with bad eye sight. Each left page features a beautiful full page colour illustration by Ukranian-born illustrator Olha Tkachenko. Although the book celebrates grandmothers of all nationalities, Mutala’s love for her Ukranian heritage and her babas is a constant thread throughout the book. She uses Ukranian words like holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and dyakuyu (thank you) and for non-Ukranian speakers there’s a helpful glossary at the back of the book. There’s even a recipe for Baba Sophie’s Borscht! The book gave me a warm feeling as I reflected on my own grandmother. It speaks to all the good that grandmothers do…

Shepherd’s Watch

Shepherd’s Watch by Counios & Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 9781927756959 Shepherd’s Watch is the second book in the Shepherd and Wolfe mystery series by Regina authors Angie Counios and David Gane. I’m always a bit wary of being introduced to a new author or series but this book exceeded all my expectations. I loved it so much, in fact, that I went out and bought the first book in the series so that I wouldn’t miss out! The books revolve around the lives (and adventures) of two high school students, Tony Shepherd (well-adjusted, athletic and bright) and “wise-ass troublemaker”, Charlie Wolfe. In the first book, Along Comes a Wolfe, Tony’s girlfriend goes missing and it’s suspected that a serial killer is at work. The boys investigate and barely escape with their lives. Shepherd’s Watch is set a few months later at the lake where Tony and his family are spending the summer. Charlie arrives at the cabin unannounced and soon the boys are investigating the disappearance of a local man who has inexplicably gone missing. From the start of the book, I had an idea of where the plot was going….

Along Comes a Wolfe
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 28 February 2017

Along Comes a Wolfe by Angie Counios and David Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Mazin Saffou $19.95 ISBN 9781927756782 When high school student Sheri Beckman mysteriously disappears, her boyfriend, Tony Shepherd, finds himself in a dubious partnership with the streetwise smart aleck, Charles Wolfe, in order to find out what happened to her and to stop a vicious spree killer. Subtle influences of noir and Hardy Boys mysteries influence Counios and Gane’s compelling young adult murder mystery in Saskatchewan’s queen city. Along Comes a Wolfe takes the reader on a journey through the quintessential world of coming of age teenagers from the safe, yet banal suburbs, bustling high school hallways, busy shopping malls, and parties out of town, but also into the macabre domain of the killer in hollow, abandoned industrial buildings and construction sites on the edge of the city – taking Tony further away from his safe and ordinary life. Tony Shepherd is driven to find out what happened to Sheri and yet at the heart of the story is Tony’s conflicted relationship with the enigma that is Charlie Wolfe. In contrast to the levelheaded Tony, Charlie is a troubled and mischievous youth from…

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 20 January 2017

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-53-9 Stress: every person deals with some amount of it. Some turn to vices (drugs, alcoholism, over-eating); some become angry, fearful, or depressed; many become physically ill; and fortunate others view stress as a challenge to be dealt with in positive ways (ie: changing routines, practicing mindfulness, exercising). If stress is threatening to sink you, reading Saskatonian Allan Kehler’s latest book, Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!, could be a swell start to swimming out of it. Kehler is a public presenter with a wealth of experience, both professional (addictions counsellor, clinical case manager, and college instructor) and personal (mental health and addiction issues) that fuel his authority on stress and living a healthier life. The blurb on Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! is a strong motivator for any potential readers: [Kehler] empowers you to take an honest look at what lies beneath your stressors, and provides the tools to heal through a holistic approach. You will be inspired to stop existing and start living …” What I appreciate most about this book is the great and diverse analogies Kehler employs, ie: he…

Good Morning, Sunshine!
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 7 December 2016

Good Morning, Sunshine! (A Story of Mindfulness) by Trina Markusson, illustrated by James Hearne Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.95 ISBN 9-781927-756775 There’s much talk these days about mindfulness, and truth be told, this reviewer has signed up for a class on that very topic. I’m also starting to hear that mindfulness-or “living in the moment”-is being taught in some schools, and I can only imagine how much this will benefit students who adopt the practice into their daily lives. Perhaps you remember some of the worries you had as a child, or you recall how stressful teenage years can be. Maybe you have a son or daughter who is fearful or anxious, and you don’t know how to help them. Let me introduce you to Good Morning, Sunshine! (A Story of Mindfulness), a gently-told (and sweetly-illustrated) children’s book by Regina teacher, speaker, and writer, Trina Markusson. Drawing from her youngest son’s experience, as well as her own, Markusson, has penned a sensitive story about Zachary-a boy old enough to play football but young enough to enjoy the company of a teddy bear-that demonstrates how hanging on to the past or worrying about the…