Book of Ecological Virtues, A
University of Regina Press / 6 January 2021

A Book of Ecological Virtues: Living Well in the AnthropoceneEdited by Heesoon Bai, David Chang, and Charles ScottPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$39.95  ISBN 9-780889-777569 I made several “notes to self” while reading this anthology. Although not a critical marker re: the book’s literary or academic merit, it does indicate that the text spoke to me on a personal level. Read Canticle to the Creatures (St. Francis), I scribbled. Try editor/contributor David Chang’s awareness practice on Pg. 226/227. Google Peter H. Kahn, Jr. Share the quotes on grief with ____.   This heartening anthology of well-constructed essays addresses how one can live both ethically and full-heartedly during this epoch’s “sombre reality of ecological degradation.” The trio of editors – all professors at Simon Fraser University – asked diverse contributors to consider not only what living well looks like in these times, but also what “suffering well” means. “No one discipline, tradition, or orientation has privilege over another,” the editors explain. Indeed, they have forged a “textual garden” in which scholars, educators, and poets from various disciplines and traditions – Buddhism, Christianity, psychology, ecology, ethics, traditional knowledge systems, etc. – present their interesting, individual responses, each “marked…

Spirit Sight
Wood Dragon Books / 6 January 2021

Spirit Sight: Last of the Gifted, Book Oneby Marie PowellPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$18.99   ISBN 9-781989-078280 I’m grateful that Regina writer Marie Powell provided a map (Wales, 1282), glossary, and character list with her galloping new young adult fantasy, Spirit Sight: Last of the Gifted, Book One, because as one who doesn’t naturally gravitate toward the oft complex fantasy genre, these guideposts were helpful. Powell’s a veteran writer – see her complete library of books at mariepowell.ca – with more than forty books published, and she’s clearly not lacking one iota in inspiration. She explains that this particular novel series – the characters return in Last of the Gifted: Water Sight, Book Two – was inspired by her “adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales to explore her family roots” in 2006. The amount of research required to write a book of this complexity is impressive, and the writing’s made even more interesting as Powell fused fact and fiction: she based the story on the real-life Welsh prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d. 1282), his French wife Elinor – who was held captive by England’s King Edward for three years – and the fictional characters of supernaturally-gifted…

Baba’s Babushka Magical Ukrainian Adventures

Baba’s Babushka: Magical Ukrainian AdventuresWritten by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Amber Rees, Wendy Siemens, Olha TkachenkoPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$39.95  ISBN 9-781988-783611 Before one reads a single word of Baba’s Babushka, it’s evident that this  illustrated children’s book is far beyond the ordinary. The 175-page hardcover emanates quality, from the phenomenal production – including colourful, full-page illustrations opposite the text pages, each bordered in a Ukrainian embroidery design – to the heft of the paper used, the contributions of three skilled illustrators, the inclusion of Ukrainian recipes, and a glossary for the numerous Ukrainian words used in the text. The package is highly impressive … and then there are the four heartwarming, connected tales Mutala spins within the book.  Saskatchewan’s Mutala is already known for her award-winning, Ukrainian-themed children’s books, including More Baba’s, Please! and My Dearest Dido: A Holodomor Story, but this latest publication – essentially four books in one – is her tour de force. In each magical story, young Natalia – who lives on a farm near Hafford, SK – is whisked into her ancestral past when her recently-departed and much-loved grandmother’s (Baba’s) colourful babushka (head scarf) materializes – via flowers, swirling…

Conspiracy
7 Springs Books / 20 October 2020

Conspiracyby Ruth ChorneyPublished by 7 Springs BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$20.00 ISBN 978-0-9939757-7-6 At just 170 pages, Ruth Chorney’s Conspiracy is on the slim side for a novel, but let me assure you that there’s loads of tantalizing literary meat in the Kelvington, SK writer’s latest book, and I devoured the convincing story in one pleasant sitting. Chorney’s already got four children’s books and one other “Deer Creek” (Buried) novel under her belt, as well as anthology and magazine publications, so she comes to this story with plenty of publishing experience and it shows in the streamlined writing. She’s got a strong handle on pacing, plot (it zooms), physical descriptions – she’s especially good at describing northeastern Saskatchewan’s rural landscapes and the seasonal business of farming – and dialogue. What’s more, she truly captures the culture of rural life in “The Land of Living Skies,” through word, deed, and community activities. The story revolves around the musician, dreamer, and former world traveler, Joel Weston. Five years earlier he’d married Krissy, a Saskatchewan farmer’s spoiled daughter and agronomist with Nu-Ag, and Joel’s now running Krissy’s aged father’s cattle (“forty head of Simmentals”) and grain operation. “What Krissy wants, Krissy gets” is…

Healthy Aging Naturally
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 16 October 2020

Healthy Aging Naturally: Proven Strategies for Disability-free Longevityby Felix Veloso, M.D.Published by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$18.88 ISBN 9-781988-783604 The 2019 UN World Population Prospect report suggested that by 2050, 25% of the North American and European populations may be 65 or older. Clearly, now’s the time to address what an aging population will mean for society, and how those of us approaching our “golden years” can live happier and healthier lives as we age. University of Saskatchewan professor, author, and neurologist, Dr. Felix Veloso, brings more than 40 years of expertise to the subject, and I found his well-researched book, Healthy Aging Naturally: Proven Strategies for Disability-free Longevity, full of vital information and interesting statistics. Furthermore, he’s wisely structured his book with a conversational through-thread – between “Dr. Ferurojo” and patient “Anita Tykinlee” – so readers feel they are actually part of a story. Tykinlee asks the questions we might ask if we were in a doctor’s office, concerned about our own or an aging loved one’s health, and Ferurojo/Veloso does an exceptional job of answering her questions in an easy-to-understand, conversational style while also organically inserting the scientific facts – and quoting numerous studies from around the globe…

Day I Lost My Bear In Cypress Hills, The
M Larson Books / 16 October 2020

The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills: Adventures of the Barnyard BoysWritten by M Larson, Illustrated by Kaustuv BrahmachariPublished by M Larson BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$13.99 ISBN 978-1-7753218-5-9 Melanie Larson’s children’s book, The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills (Adventures of the Barnyard Boys), is a simply told and colourfully illustrated day-in-the-life story of five-year-old Finn and his family. Finn wakes at his grandparents’ log cabin in Cypress Hills, raring to begin an adventurous day with activities that range from swimming lessons to rock climbing. As the title reveals, the enthusiastic boy loses his treasured “stuffie” during the day, and he “[needs] his bear to sleep!” The book features large-font text and bright images – the illustrator nailed Cypress Hills, with its distinctive evergreens (including Lodgepole pines) featured on nearly every image. I suggest that this upbeat story be read to and by youngsters for its vibrant celebration of the great outdoors, and its display of how much fun can be had doing things that don’t require anything but an imagination. Particularly now, during a global pandemic, it’s so beneficial for children of all ages to discover how it’s the little things – like going…

Burden
University of Regina Press / 22 September 2020

Burdenby Douglas Burnet SmithPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 (softcover) ISBN 9-780889-777729 In award-winning Canadian poet Douglas Burnet Smith’s seventeenth collection, Burden – a sparely-written account of a distant cousin’s World War I experience – I often found myself wincing. This visceral reaction’s a testament to the efficacy of the Governor General-nominated poet’s precisely-chosen words; to the bone and spirit-shattering power of war; and to this harrowing, personal story that wields the force of a novel in just fifty-nine taut pages. The title, Burden, alludes to the seventeen-year-old British soldier, Private Herbert Burden, whom the poet’s relative, Lance Corporal Reginald Smith, befriended and fought alongside; to the permanent weight of war on one’s psyche; and to Reg Smith’s personal burden of being one of the ten soldiers who killed Burden – a deserter suffering from PTSD – upon firing squad order. The first four poems, written in couplets and each several pages long, are delivered from Reg Smith’s point of view from the war field or from a hospital in England or Scotland, while the final poem, “Herbert Burden,” is a one-pager told from the deserter’s perspective – almost one hundred years after his death – at…

Sleeping Brilliant
All Write Here Publishing / 22 September 2020

Sleeping BrilliantWritten and illustrated by Jessica WilliamsPublished by All Write Here PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$16.99 ISBN 978-1-9995397-7-1 Here’s what I know about Saskatchewan writer Jessica Williams: she’s originally from British Columbia; her first book, Mama’s Cloud, thoroughly impressed me with its gentle handling of depression; and she continues to prove herself as a prolific and talented writer of childrens’ books. Her latest offering, Sleeping Brilliant, delivers a delightful spin on a fairytale we all know – but may not all love, with its prince-as-saviour theme – and this time Williams has even illustrated her own clever story. We learn from page one that Williams is going to have great fun turning this traditional tale on its crown. The “beloved” King and Queen longed for a child, and thus “adopted a charming baby girl from a nearby village”. The baby’s named Niamh – pronounced “Neev” or “Nee-iv,” which is Gaelic for “brilliant” – and the child lives up to her moniker. Upon Niamh’s arrival her parents throw a “great feast” and invite “the entire kingdom,” as one does, but of the thirteen forest fairies, only twelve receive their invitations, thanks to a “fierce wind” that magically lifts one invitation from…

Serenity Unhinged
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 September 2020

Serenity Unhinged (a memoir)by Jim DugglebyPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783574 As a writer myself, I’m always curious about other writers’ inspiration for their books. In his memoir Serenity Unhinged, Regina writer, editor and journalist Jim Duggleby mines the landscape of his own history – family, childhood, career – and his bright imagination for material, but the essays and articles in this fun read really owe their existence to a Regina writers’ workshop that took place between 2017 and 2019. The workshop, which included “fewer than a dozen people” at Regina’s Lifelong Learning Centre, was facilitated by Bob Juby and Ivan Millard, and was “loosely themed ‘As I Remember’”. Duggleby has a long history with and passion for the written word. The former Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reporter professes that he “can’t recall a time when [he] didn’t love writing” in various genres, from history to futurism, and his joy and wit translate into 21 entertaining stories in this recently-released softcover with YNWP. The author earns five stars for his captivating opening lines, ie: “Perhaps the most surprising thing about my mother’s death is that some people were saddened,” and “My father died twice.” (Interestingly, Duggleby’s pop was “the…

Fully Half Committed
Wood Dragon Books / 22 September 2020

Fully Half Committed: Conversation Starters for Romantic Relationshipsby Barbara Morrison and Ed RislingPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078167 If you’ve been single and searching for a healthy new connection over the last decade or so, you’ll know that the dating and relationship landscape has changed significantly, in large part due to the popularity of online dating. With a few key strokes, finding “another fish” at the first sign of conflict or boredom is a mighty temptation for some, and short-term relationships are the new norm. Tragically, our throw-away society’s come to include people. But what about actually working on a relationship and allowing it to evolve? And why are people less likely to commit, fully and completely, today? Professional couples’ therapists Barbara Morrison and Ed Risling address these topics and examine relationship issues like communication, curiosity, awareness, and libido differences in their book Fully Half Committed: Conversation Starters for Romantic Relationships. With sixty years of combined counselling experience, the pair – who met as students – have collaborated on “writing a book about the reoccurring themes” they see in their practices, and each short chapter addresses an issue. There are also numerous examples of how…