Lost Boys
Thistledown Press / 22 November 2019

Lost Boysby Darci BysouthPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-175-4 Lost Boys is a short story collection with three-way heft: physical (eighteen stories), technical (diverse voices and plots; excellent characterizations; realism and magic realism are each employed to great effect), and emotional (wow). Effective art makes us think and feel, and in this, her first book, BC writer Darci Bysouth has mastered the tricky business of making the world seem both smaller and larger, and she’s made this reader’s heart turn over. Innate talent? I expect so, but Bysouth also honed her craft at the University of British Columbia and the University of Edinburgh, and her work’s appeared in respected literary journals and anthologies; these facts tell me that she paid her literary dues before breaking into the ISBN world with this fist-to-gut collection. I could speak of the equally convincing male and female narrators; the recurring themes of sibling relationships, poverty, addictions, and mental illness; or of settings that range from the “sheep and potholes” of Scotland to dark Canadian forests. I could write about the double entendre, the details, the poetic language, ie: “The water was such a long way below that it looked like…

Baxter and the Blue Bunny
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 November 2019

Baxter and the Blue Bunnyby Lorraine Johnson, Illustrated by Wendi NordellPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$12.95 ISBN 9-781988-783413 Baxter and the Blue Bunny is the debut children’s book by Yorkton writer Lorraine Johnson, and the story flows so smoothly along one would think it was penned by a veteran. Complemented by Alberta illustrator Wendi Nordell’s colourful and “just right” illustrations of the canine character Baxter and his home and family, this simple, well-told story hits a surprisingly deep emotional chord. The story, told in Baxter’s voice, begins at a pet shelter, with “mom and dad, and two brothers” choosing the black and white Shih Tzu-looking dog. “I am looking for them … and they are looking for me,” Baxter says, “each of us wanting to find someone special to love, to look after, and to grow up with.” It’s easy to read this story as an allegory, for isn’t that what most of us humans want in life, too? Through the text and Nordell’s inviting scenes we experience the days in the life of a happy, well-loved dog: he plays tug-o’-war with the boys, hide-and-seek with the adults, and Grandma brings a “stuffed blue bunny” which “soon becomes [Baxter’s]…

Eater of Dreams, The
Thistledown Press / 22 November 2019

The Eater of Dreamsby Kat CameronPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl|$20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-184-6 Kat Cameron, a Swift Current-born poet, fiction writer, and English literature prof at Edmonton’s Concordia University, has penned a place-specific collection of sometimes-linked stories with an intriguing title: The Eater of Dreams, and the 67-page eponymous story is a fascinating read, complete with a 100-year-old ghost, a grieving and disillusioned English teacher in Japan, and so many sensory-rich glimpses into Japanese culture – albeit from an outsider’s perspective – readers might almost believe they are there. The opening stories are Edmonton-based, and as a former resident of that city I enjoyed tagging along with the female protagonists to the Muttart Conservatory, Whyte Ave, and Jubilee Auditorium, even if these gals were not in the happiest moods. One was not having any fun being the sole woman in a trio at the Muttart Conservatory without a toddler, then she lost her friend’s little girl among the poinsettas. Zoe lives in a university-area garret that’s so cold her “breath fogged the air while she watched late-night TV, huddling under three comforters,” and she’s terrified an abusive ex will reappear. In a linked story, Zoe accompanies her new…

Flight, Volume 1
DriverWorks Ink / 22 November 2019

Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, Volume 1by Deana J. Driver and ContributorsPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Keith Foster$19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-49-4 Fasten your seat belts. Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation is about to take off. It’s going to be a wild ride. This collection of thirty-five true stories has mishaps and crashes galore. It brings out the thrill, and the danger, of flying. Author and publisher Deana Driver contributed nearly two-thirds of these stories, based on interviews she conducted. Readers will hear from, among many others, an air traffic controller, a helicopter pilot, a mechanic for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, and a pilot who had to make an abrupt landing as her cockpit was filling with smoke. Flight unveils an assortment of flying machines, from gliders to helicopters to an air ambulance. Royal Canadian Air Force Sergeant John Enright compares the smooth handling capability of the Tudor to “flying in a 737 that could instantly turn into a Ferrari.” The authors display their love of flight and love of the aircraft. “The smell of burning jet fuel is as sweet a perfume as ever there was and the roar of engines a pure symphony,” Terry Lynn Lewis writes. Lewis describes how,…

Travellers May Still Return
Thistledown Press / 21 November 2019

Travellers May Still Returnby Michael KenyonPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Juliana Rupchan$20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-187-7 Travellers May Still Return is a collection of three fiction pieces: two novella-length stories, bridged by a third, shorter piece. Michael Kenyon is based out of Victoria, but the collection is published by Saskatoon’s Thistledown Press, known for publishing literary poetry and fiction. Kenyon’s previous work includes five books of poetry, four chapbooks, and seven books of fiction, including The Beautiful Children, which won the 2010 ReLit Award for best novel. This extensive cross-genre experience shines through in Travellers May Still Return. The stories have the tension and smoothly crafted characters of a practiced fiction writer, woven through vivid imagery and existential questions that evoke a poetic practice. South and Central America are the main settings, and a strong sense of place as well as a tension of displacement are powerful forces in the longer novellas. While the narrative is not always easy to follow, Kenyon has created striking stories with just the enough mystery to stick in a reader’s mind, like a vivid dream half-remembered. The first novella, “The Prehistory of Jesse Green”, does an excellent job of sketching the central characters, and explores desire…

Absolute Prairie
Landscape Art Publishing / 21 November 2019

Absolute Prairie: Saskatchewan Landscapes in Watercolor and Pastelby Fritz Stehwien, Compiled by B. StehwienPublished by Landscape Art PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$19.95 ISBN 9780991964956 Absolute Prairie presents a collection of iconic Saskatchewan images that are beautifully rendered by a man who was passionate about both his art and the prairie landscape he came to call home. Born and educated in Germany, where he was traditionally trained in fresco and mural painting, Fritz Stehwien immigrated to Canada and settled in Saskatoon in 1968 where he continued to express himself as a visual artist. In the foreword to this small, beautifully captivating collection of Stehwien’s work we are told that “for a man of few words and one who never held a camera in his hands his estate of thousands of works tells an amazing complete and fully illustrated life story.” This collection comprises 39 of his works and, while some scenes are instantly recognizable, there is a helpful list of the places he captured with his art at the back of the book. Subjects range from Pike Lake in summer, sunset on Wakaw Lake, the Saskatchewan River in Fall colors, a historic view to the University of Saskatchewan, moose grazing at the…

Honest Woman, An
Thistledown Press / 21 November 2019

An Honest Woman: A Novelby JoAnn McCaigPublished by Thistledown PressReviewed by Ben Charles$20.00 ISBN 9781771871785 An Honest Woman: A Novel, written by JoAnn McCaig and published by Thistledown Press is a self-proclaimed “bookish novel” that lives up to this description with an undeniable charm. It is truly a reader and a writer’s book. The book begins with a lucid dream in which a writer mysteriously named “JM” reels at the thoughts and experiences of her romantic life. This bizarre account of life and romance also acts as a segue to introduce the character Janet Mair, who is also a writer and a mother. This portion of the novel has an interesting narrative in which fantasy and reality both play integral roles to form a complete story. Janet’s recounts of fantasy and her return to reality are signified throughout the novel by symbols that signify to the reader which part of Janet’s psyche they are currently experiencing. I must admit that when I was first introduced to this concept, I was somewhat dubious about its narrative potential. I am delighted to have been wrong and watch this narrative enigma unfold in several ways that I could have never imagined. The story…

Beautiful Stone, A
Radiant Press / 20 November 2019

A Beautiful Stone: Poems and Ululationsby Lynda Monahan and Rod ThompsonPublished by Radiant PressReview by gillian harding-russell$20.00 IBSN 9781989274200 A Beautiful Stone is a unique collection of poems written collaboratively by Lynda Monahan and Rod Thompson. At the Radiant launch, Lynda explained their creative method whereby the two poets took turns editing a virtual copy of poems over the internet and, in this way, the poems like stones in a stream were shaped by the combined experiences of both writers ( Lynda lives in Prince Albert and Rod lives “west of the city in the woods” according to his author bio). Lynda’s rationale for their chosen method was that they had both shared common experiences, such as the loss of a father, and so she hoped by interweaving the best of the images from two minds they could together create a seamless poem that had a greater universal appeal. As a past writer-in-residence for the John M. Cuelenaere Library in Prince Albert, Monahan strongly supports the idea of art as therapy for life’s downfalls. The collection is divided into a trinity of sections: “Choice of Light,” “Loon and I,” and “Ululation.” The first section introduces a mature speaker whose chosen…