Stories from the Churchill
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 December 2021

Stories from the ChurchillWritten by Ric Driediger, with Illustrations by Paul MasonPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-781988-783727 Ric Driediger’s positively reverent when he writes about the beauty and challenges inherent in canoeing Saskatchewan’s vast northern waterways. The owner/operator of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, SK may already be known to readers—and fellow canoeists—through his first book, Paddling Northern Saskatchewan: A Guide to 80 Canoe Routes. Now this knowledgeable paddler has penned Stories from the Churchill, and he describes it as “the book [he] wanted to write” whereas the earlier book was the one he “needed” to write. There’s a difference. What comes through the page is that Driediger’s doing exactly what he was meant to, both professionally and personally, and he knows just how fortunate he is. Even if you never intend to canoe across a morning-calm lake, brave big-lake wind and river rapids, portage through “swampy muskeg,” lose yourself in the boreal wilderness, “go solo” (“a spiritual experience”), or winter camp, this book will inform and entertain you. It’s well-written in a conversational tone, and includes anecdotes from Driediger’s own adventures and stories from his clients’ and staff’s experiences, too. Driediger’s a…

Sixty and Beyond
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 December 2021

Sixty and Beyond: Looking Forward – Looking Backby Alison R. MontgomeryPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783734 When contemplating her retirement, Alison Montgomery’s mother gave her some wise advice: “Travelling, going to the lake, walking the dog and working out are what you do on a vacation. Retirement lasts a long time, and you would be wise to find some form of purposeful work.” Alison took that to heart. After retiring as a high school art teacher, she decided to study further and become involved in adult education. These days she also continues to enjoy her passion as a landscape artist, plays the flute and piccolo in various community ensembles and enjoys a newfound delight for paddle boarding. Sixty and Beyond is a reflection of Alison’s life — past, present and future. As she puts it: “The great thing about this stage of life is that you get to reflect on what has worked well for you so far and what has not and decide if you will keep it or throw it.” This is Alison’s third book. In 2001 her life came to a grinding halt when her son Chris died in a climbing accident….

Grandpa’s Garage
Blow Creative Arts / 22 December 2021

Grandpa’s Garageby Amber AntymniukPublished by Blow Creative ArtsReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$22.00 ISBN 9781999546212 I’ve noticed that an increasing number of children’s authors—and particularly new writers—are opting to self-publish. Alternately, they could wait for months to hear back from a trade publisher regarding whether a book will be accepted for publication, then wait for up to several years (I’m speaking from experience: I had a book accepted in 2010 and released in 2020) for that book to hit the shelves. When one possesses artistic talent as well as literary talent, it makes especially good sense to self-publish, and that’s precisely what Saskatchewan creator and Arts Education teacher Amber Antymniuk did with Grandpa’s Garage. Antymniuk’s second book for young readers (or listeners) explores the wonderfully diverse items that appear in “Grandpa’s Garage,” and each page features rhyming text in a large font, an appealing watercolour illustration, and enough white space to make the words and images pop. Antymniuk mostly makes it personal, describing things that I expect actually do reside in a relative’s garage, like “farm cats,” “An old radio tuned to the local station” and “a stack of manuals and a bent fishing fly,” but near the end she writes…

Don’t They Kick When You Do That?
DriverWorks Ink / 10 December 2021

Don’t They KICK When You Do That? Stories of a Prairie Veterinarianby Dr. Gary HoiumPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-781927-570746 While conducting author visits in schools over the decades, I’d often ask students what they wanted to be when they grew up, and, invariably, veterinarian was a top response. I understand that. Who doesn’t love animals? Interestingly, Dr. Gary Hoium—veterinarian and author of Don’t They KICK When You Do That? Stories of a Prairie Veterinarian—never intended to become a vet. It was “never a goal or an ambition of mine while I was growing up in rural Saskatchewan,” he explains in his just-published collection of experiences as a mixed-animal veterinarian and clinic owner in Weyburn. Instead, Dr. Hoium had his hopes set on an NHL career, but when that and medical school admission attempts failed, he applied to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and was soon on his way to becoming a vet for the next 36 years. His conversational stories about animal patients (and their humans) are shared over 41 short chapters, many of them humourous. The cover image of this conversationally-toned book shows a smiling Dr. Hoium at work: left hand holding up…

Tunnels of Terror
DriverWorks Ink / 10 December 2021

Tunnels of Terror: Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #2by Mary Harelkin BishopPublished by DriverWorks Ink and emmbee inkReview by Michelle Shaw$15.95 ISBN 9781927570678 It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the Moose Jaw Time Travel adventure series was first published. Tunnels of Terror is the second book of the series to be rereleased and updated and will definitely captivate a new generation of readers. Tunnels of Terror takes place about a year after the events in the first book, Tunnels of Time. The book begins with Andrea and her younger brother Tony on the bus to Moose Jaw to spend some time with their grandparents and Great Aunt Bea. The last thing Andrea wants to do is return to the city where she was catapulted back in time and forced to deal with the dreaded Al Capone and his gangsters in the underground tunnels. But Tony has been ill and Andrea is persuaded that her parents really need a break so Moose Jaw it is. She’s uneasy though because she’s been having unsettling nightmares about being trapped in the tunnels and captured. Tony, meanwhile, has been desperate to learn what happened to his sister in Moose Jaw…

Beautiful Place, The
Thistledown Press / 9 December 2021

The Beautiful Placeby Lee GowanPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-208-9 Saskatchewan born-and-raised writer Lee Gowan has penned a thick new novel—The Beautiful Place—and it’s a beautiful thing. Gowan’s three previous novels have garnered much attention (Make Believe Love was shortlisted for Ontario’s Trillium Award), and his screenplay, Paris or Somewhere, was nominated for a Gemini Award. Currently the Program Director of the Creative Writing and Business Communications department at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, this award-winning author’s giving readers something completely different with The Beautiful Place, which delves into the sci-fi world of cryonics; the realistic world of failed marriages, 21st Century parenting, and dementia; and the ever-precarious world of art and art-making. What Gowan’s done here is ingenious: he’s imagined an ongoing life for Philip Bentley, Sinclair Ross’s protagonist in As for Me and My House. Gowan’s tri-provincial sequel to that prairie classic’s told from the perspective of the minister-turned-artist’s grandson, also known as Bentley. The younger Bentley—a fired, semi-suicidal cryonics salesman, writer, and father of two daughters from different wives—is approached by a beguiling woman named Mary Abraham who “met Jesus in a dream and walked with him to a desert…

Never Found
Off The Field Publishing / 9 December 2021

Never Found: A Poetry Collectionby Jesse A. MurrayPublished by Off the Field PublishingReview by Amanda Zimmerman$14.99 ISBN 9781775194668 Jesse A. Murray, a Saskatchewan poet and high school teacher, follows up his debut collection, I Will Never Break , with this second assortment of poems exploring different perspectives, thoughts, and ideas. Never Found is stuffed full of verses ranging from the raw to the soulful, the bittersweet to the bitter. The compositions evoke a variety of emotions—both dark and pure—and Murray even hazards to tackle some of the more heart wrenching, touchy subjects. Murray has the gift of knowing when to boldly declare the emotion he is desiring to provoke or gently nudge his readers into discovering it for themselves through his phrasing. Isn’t it always more gratifying, as a reader, when you can dip into your own experiences through someone else’s writing? That is the craft of a talented writer. Unfortunately, one of Mr. Murray’s greatest regrets is having kept his writing unpublished for so many years. He has done his best to course correct through the amount of works he has sent out into the world over the last few years and, as he finds his writer’s footing, the…

Only If We’re Caught
Thistledown Press / 8 December 2021

Only If We’re Caughtby Theressa SlindPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$25.95 ISBN 9-781771-872119 In the opening paragraph of Only If We’re Caught, the debut short story collection by Saskatoon writer (and children’s librarian) Theressa Slind, readers are viscerally transported to Aspen Grove, a seniors’ residence—where the hallway “is painted the colour of cookie dough”—and into the mind of Parkinson’s-afflicted protagonist Margaret, who can no longer speak. We soon learn that Margaret’s not just any ninety-three-year-old nursing home resident with a “porous-boned spine curling in on itself” … she’s also telepathically communicating with a visiting child. This bizarre circumstance is typical of the tales in Slind’s collection of fifteen stories, some of which previously appeared in literary journals. The borders of normalcy are blurred, and that’s what makes this collection stand out. Perhaps the finest example of this is “Amygdule,” about a funeral director, Ben, who “commune[s] with ghosts.” Ben has a crush on his employee, Alice, who delivers a fountain of black humour. She “arrives in an eddy of formaldehyde,” and says things like “I like my men ripe” and “Back to work. Mrs. Chan isn’t going to embalm herself.” This story is also about a treasure hunt,…

Peacekeeper’s Daughter
Thistledown Press / 8 December 2021

Peacekeeper’s Daughter: A Middle East Memoirby Tanya Bellehumeur-AllattPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9781771872164  The coming-of-age memoir Peacekeeper’s Daughter is impossible to put down once it sucks you in. Told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old Canadian Army brat who is dropped into the Lebanese Civil War in 1982-1983, we are immersed into the heart of the Palestinian crisis. Alongside Bellehumeur-Allatt, we travel from Yellowknife to Jerusalem to Tiberias, Israel, eventually landing in Beirut, Lebanon. The book wraps up by going full circle with a return to Canada. Bellehumeur-Allatt does a phenomenal job of making the musings of her preteen self interesting.  Bellehumeur-Allatt was able to vividly recount the details of her life back in the 1980s thanks to a gift. Just before leaving Canada to head to the Middle East, the mother of her best friend gave her a blank journal wrapped in shiny paper. The mom told Bellehumeur-Allatt: “Write everything down, all the details. One day it’ll be a book.” In response, Bellehumeur-Allatt promised her she would. The mom likely had no idea that her serendipitous gift would lead to a potentially award-winning book forty years later. The details in this book make the reader…

Pitchblende
University of Regina Press / 8 December 2021

Pitchblendeby Elise Marcella GodfreyPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-780889-778405 I didn’t know what pitchblende was before I read Elise Marcella Godfrey’s same-named poetry collection, but I certainly do now. To shortcut, merriam-webster.com describes pitchblende as “a brown to black mineral that consists of massive uraninite, has a distinctive luster, contains radium, and is the chief ore-mineral source of uranium”. It’s a measure of the poet how Godfrey takes this radioactive by-product of uranium ore—and the capitalist/colonialist/mostly male culture surrounding its extraction and usage—and transforms it into a finely-tuned collection of political, environmental, and investigative poetry. Godfrey writes from “the traditional and unceded land of the QayQayt First Nation” on Vancouver Island, and this well-researched, multi-voiced collection exhibits a deep caring for the earth and its peoples. Her cry is clear: “the neocolonial machine … promotes profit and industry at the expense of community and sustainability.” Pitchblende does not read like a first book. Godfrey’s a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan and her work’s appeared in journals and anthologies: she’s put in the literary leg work, and it shows. These poems are saturated with internal and…