Critters: Underdark
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 18 December 2019

Critters: Underdarkby Allan DotsonPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783437 How best to describe Regina writer, artist and teacher Allan Dotson’s monster-inspired graphic novel, Critters: Underdark … a 153-page, 10-years-in-the -making labour of love, and black and white demonstration of great talent? An equally touching and humorous allegory for our socially-fractured and racially- divisive times? A textual and artistic tour-de-force? Each of the above applies, but at the heart of this fantasy’s success is the creator’s unique imagination, his skill at storytelling, and his deft ability to create individuated “monsters” – both visually and literarily – that readers of all ages will quickly care about. It’s easy to suspend disbelief and get wrapped up in the train-wrecked world of innocent Eddy – a pincered “ettercap” who looks like a louse – and his first friend, the snaggle-toothed monster Sally, who tells also-caged Eddy: “You’re not alone. We’re all scared.” Eddy’s toddler-like diction is adorable, ie: “Is we all getting’ stuffs? Like weppins?” and “O nos! Thems gonna git us!” Many things are “skeery”. In the first few pages we learn that these creatures, captured along with several others by the dwarves at the bidding of the medusa queen,…

Raymond Raindrop and Swings and Things
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 18 December 2019

Raymond Raindrop and Swings & ThingsWritten and illustrated by Eileen MunroPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$12.95 ISBN 9-781988-783444 I was introduced to the fun-filled illustrations and down-home text of Saskatchewan artist Eileen Munro in 2014 via her rural-themed alphabet book, ABC’s Down on the Farm. Now, five years later, she’s followed up with another picture book, this time featuring two educational stories: Raymond Raindrop and Swings & Things. Munro’s cover advertises “Facts and fun – 2 Books in 1” – it’s a double treat for young readers and story listeners, and an ingenious way for a writer using YNWP’s excellent publishing services to get the most bang for her buck. As the title reveals, Raymond is a raindrop, which Munro visually presents somewhat like a grey Hershey’s Kiss with simple facial features, three-fingered white hands and two black ovaline feet. Raymond’s character, however, is far from simple. “Shy and a little bit proud,” he “stayed by himself” while his fellow raindrops “bounced and bubbled” together. Our watery protagonist notes that the people on the land below him look worried re: the lack of rain for their crops. The story is about the importance of working together….

Frenemy Nations
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2019

Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate Between Neighbo(u)ring StatesBy Mary SoderstromPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Michelle Shaw$27.95 ISBN 9780889776722 In the summer of 1968, Mary Soderstrom and her husband loaded up their Volkswagen Beetle and immigrated to Canada from the United States. “We were young, we were disgusted with the [Vietnam] war, and we were hopeful that we’d find something different across the border,” she says. “But to be honest, we didn’t expect things to be too different. After all, weren’t Canada and the United States very much alike?” The contrast between their new home and their old led to a long running reflection that continued to intrigue her over the years.…How could two places that are similar in so many ways be so disparate in others? In Fremeny Nations, Soderstrom looks at a range of geographical “odd couples” that she has encountered over the years. In addition to the United States and Canada, the book also examines the two Vietnams, Algeria and Tunisia, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Brazil and the rest of South America, Burundi and Rwanda, Scotland and Ireland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Vermont and New Hampshire and, intriguingly, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The book explores these…

Finding Fortune
Garnet House / 12 December 2019

Finding Fortuneby L.A. BelmontézPublished by QueenPin Books, an imprint of Garnet House BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$25.00 ISBN 9-781999-567606 It’s astounding how frequently completely disparate parts of one’s life intersect. I recently booked a flight to Colombia for early 2020, and recently received a review copy of L.A. Belmontéz’s telenovela-type novel, Finding Fortune, which is set, in part, in Colombia. While reading I paid close attention to what I might learn about Cartagena through the former prairie resident and debut-novelist’s 399-page debut title. The book’s main character, Las Vegas resident Valerie Verlane, has authored a book titled The Princess Problem: From the Pea to Prosperity. Verlane comes from money and much attention is given to clothing brands, vehicles, and other luxury-material matters. She has her nose and breasts “done,” and is the type who “had never taken a bus and she never would”. Verlane’s told her daughter that the girl’s father is dead, and for all Verlane knows, Dmitri – the worldly young lawyer-in-training who’d waltzed into her 24-year-old life in Los Angeles – has in fact died. The Canadian-born protagonist was working in a high-end furniture store in Santa Monica when playboy Dmitri swept her off her stilettos. After…

Corridor Nine
Thistledown Press / 11 December 2019

Corridor Nine: A Novelby Sophie StockingPublished by Thistledown PressReviewed by Ben Charles$20.00 ISBN 9781771871815 Corridor Nine: A Novel, written by Sophie Stocking and published by Thistledown Press is an exceptional book that expertly encapsulates the extremes of soul-crushing emotions and outlandish behaviour in a way that is very accurate to the human experience. Even though this novel could be read within a weekend, it packs wallop. At under 200 pages this novel makes no room for literary fluff; every word is a thread that weaves into a beautiful and fantastical yet tender and tragic story of life and loss. The story follows Bernadette Macomber, who thought that she had all but completely cut ties with her troubled father, Fabian, to begin again and start a family of her own. In the wake of Fabian’s sudden suicide, Bernadette finds herself returning home. All is not over for Fabian, however, as he finds himself in a completely foreign afterlife named Corridor Nine and in the company of an angel/griffin-figure named Bune. As Fabian traverses life-after-life, Bernadette or “Bernie”, is left in the mundane to seek the source of her father’s recent insanity. As the twin narratives consecutively play out, they also intertwine…