Out of My Mind

“Out of My Mind: A Psychologist’s Descent into Madness and Back”by Shalom CamenietzkiPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9780889776890 Don’t let the compactness of this pocket-sized book fool you – it packs a punch.  Out of My Mind is a chronological journey with Camenietzki from the time his bipolar disorder symptoms first appeared at the age of 32 to his life now in his early 80s. As the decades go by, Camenietzki also suffers with serious bouts of depression, manic episodes, and suicidal contemplation. It is fascinating to step into his shoes and experience his struggles alongside him.  Camenietzki tries a wide range of treatments in his quest to get mentally healthy. He runs the gamut from a constant string of medications to shock treatments to hospitalizations to a variety of counselling methods. Ultimately what helped him was the drug Seroquel, which was approved by Health Canada in 2010 as a possible treatment for bipolar disorder.  To anyone who hasn’t suffered from mental illness, this book will be extremely eye-opening. Ever since Catherine Zeta-Jones announced in 2011 that she suffers from bipolar disorder, I’ve wondered what it would be like to live with the lifelong…

Snow Shovelin’ Man
Miles of Smiles Publishing / 4 February 2020

Snow Shovelin’ Manby Bob KingPublished by Miles of Smiles PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch$20.00 ISBN 9780981121727 If you are looking for an escape from the suffering in the world and itching for some lighthearted fun, pick up a copy of Snow Shovelin’ Man. This book contains a wealth of Canadian-based humour.  Author Bob King has a fantastic sense of humour and it shines through from the first page to the back cover (where his author bio doubles as his future obituary – priceless!) His “Self-Evaluation Report” had me laughing so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath.  My favourite line: “Bob does still tend to worry too much sometimes. He pledges to correct this weakness now that he has become more familiar with reality.” And I love that King believes, “…maybe it is my purpose in life to cause women to shake their heads.” ROFL! Of the 23 songs and snippets in this book, “Awesome Dude” is my favourite. Who doesn’t love a song about growing up in the 1990s, regardless of whether it was us or our children who did so.  King is refreshing, finding pleasure in things that few of us ponder. Take breathing, for example. He spends…

Xeno Manifesto – Redepmtion
Brysen Mann / 3 September 2019

The Xeno Manifesto: Redemptionby Brysen Mann Published by Time Matters Publishing Review by Toby A. Welch $17.99 ISBN 9781775363927 Picking up the third book in a trilogy is always tricky for me. I am invested in the story by the time the first book ends, and fully committed by the time the second book wraps up. My expectations are usually high as I want book three to be just as juicy as its predecessors. I shouldn’t have wasted one moment worrying about that in this case as The Xeno Manifesto: Redemption is just as thrilling as The Xeno Manifesto and The Xeno Manifesto:Reclamation.  Mann picks up book three with the return of past characters that he developed so thoroughly in the first two books. The Tsiatko and the Handlers are back. The Committee is gung-ho to achieve their goal. Frank, Zach, Willow, and the Orb continue their adventures. Everyone seems to be on their own quest to save the world using their own methods.   This book gave me warm fuzzies – a good thing! – when Frank’s extended family was brought into the storyline in a deeper way. They appear in an abstract context but it is a heartwarming reprieve…

Organized Violence

Organized Violence: Capitalist Warfare in Latin AmericaEdited by Dawn Paley and Simon Granovsky-LarsenPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889776104 What an eye-opening book! The amount of research required to end up with Organized Violence is staggering. Besides Paley and Granovsky-Larsen, 15 additional experts contributed to this meaty tome. The result is a well-rounded, masterful exposé on the violence in Latin America. But it is so much more than that; it’s an in-depth catalogue of human rights, social justice, and global capitalism mixed with violence.  Organized Violence is so packed that it isn’t easy to give a true glimpse into the book in a brief review. The subject matter is multi-faceted, with more layers than are apparent at the outset. Add the emergence and growth of capitalism into the equation and you have a subject that is extremely complex. The war on drugs, an abundance of poverty, and people living in constant terror complicate it even further. I was simultaneously horrified and humbled at how little I know of what is going on in other parts of the world. Take Honduras for example. One of the predominant cultures in that area – the Garifuna people –…

Xeno Manifesto and Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation
Brysen Mann / 26 April 2019

Xeno Manifesto and Xeno Manifesto: Reclamationby Brysen MannPublished by Brysen MannReview by Toby A. Welch$16.99 / $17.99 ISBN 9781773703237 / 9781775363903 The Xeno Manifesto and The Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation (the second book in the trilogy) deliver everything that is magnificent about the science fiction genre. We have the Tsiatko, a group of creatures related to the Bigfoot myth. We have funky Earthly spectacles like lava tubes. We encounter Handlers, a group who re-establish planets but it’s to save them, not take them over. We have weather modifying technologies, Roswell references, DNA anomalies, and Alien Neanderthal Cloning, all of which makes for entertaining reading.    Regina-based writer Brysen Mann does a phenomenal job of crafting characters that readers care about. Take Frank Smirnov, the main character in the books. Mann spends chapters covering Smirnov’s childhood and some of his adult years up to the present day (Smirnov is almost sixty.) So much backstory is usually irksome but in this case, we need it to fully understand Smirnov. Kudos to Mann for pulling off the perfect balance with the history lesson. The Orb, a sphere-shaped device that contains all the data regarding a takeover of the Earth, features heavily in The Xeno…

Forty-One Pages
University of Regina Press / 10 April 2019

“Forty-One Pages: On Poetry, Language and Wilderness”by John Steffler Published by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $21.95 ISBN 9780889775879 I have a confession to make: this Forty-One Pages intimidated me. After finishing the introduction, I shook my head. I could not have put into words the gist of what I’d read. I took a breath and dove back in. I was rewarded with a glimpse into a completely different way of looking at writing and language. I felt like an alien whose ship touched down on the Saskatchewan prairies – discombobulated yet awestruck. The entire book continued in this vein. It challenged ideals I’d never questioned before, opening my eyes to a multitude of previously unthought-of possibilities. Even though I am a writer, I’ve never given as much thought to writing and language as I did while devouring this book. Steffler delves deeply into those themes from all directions. The history of language and the history of words are covered in detail. He even compares the parallels between writing and photography, between the camera and language. Engaging with words on a page is a theme that runs throughout the book. It is an enormous thought, especially…

Black Writers Matter
University of Regina Press / 18 March 2019

Black Writers MatterEdited by Whitney FrenchPublished by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $27.95 ISBN 9780889776166 This collection of 23 stories touched on every emotion I am capable of feeling. And that is a good thing! It’s a refreshing change when a book can take you far out of your comfort zone. As a Caucasian woman, it was eye-opening to read about experiences and issues that Black Canadians face. It’s hard to miss the Black Lives Matter movement or the ongoing worldwide racial struggles if you spend five minutes watching the news but this anthology takes us to a new awareness level. With this book in hand, you are able to experience the pain as well as the joys that Black Canadians go through. There is an underlying tone of rage in many of the stories, helping to convey the angst and frustration some of the writers live with. The level of creativity in this book is mind-blowing. I was presented with phrases and thoughts that will linger with me because of their sheer uniqueness. Even the titles are ingenious – “Glass Lasagna” and “A Picture of Words” immediately come to mind. Words like “bludgeon”, “diaspora”, and…

Unexpected Cop, The
University of Regina Press / 5 February 2019

The Unexpected Cop: Indian Ernie on a Life of Leadership by Ernie Louttit Published by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $21.95 ISBN 9780889775992 Some of my favourite books have been ones that taught me something. The Unexpected Cop did just that, opening my eyes on a variety of topics. While it touches on so much ground, the heart of this book is about policing, leadership, and race issues. Even though Indian Ernie and I come from opposite backgrounds, I felt a strong kinship with the humble, gracious man. He said people inspire him every day to be a better person, something I aim for, too. His belief that optimism is powerful echoes my opinion. No matter the details of your past, you will find Indian Ernie a relatable guy, struggling with many of the same issues that the rest of us face. As a woman, it was fascinating to read about Indian Ernie’s experiences with feminism. Despite the constant discussions around women’s rights in the media these days, I never fully grasped the conflicts that men may endure in our culture. Ernie wrote eloquently about his struggles with womanism, compounded by a childhood led by a…

every day we disappear
Radiant Press / 7 December 2018

every day we disappear by Angela Long Published by Radiant Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $22.00 ISBN 9781775183938 I am a firm believer that the best writing – or at least the most entertaining writing to read – comes from authors who hold nothing back. Those that dig so deep that they must’ve felt like they were laying in the gutter after they poured out their words are my favourites. In every day we disappear, Angela Long proves herself to be one of those writers. When she listed the lovers she’s had, I applauded her honesty. When she shared her inability to leave a toxic relationship, I felt her pain. Long spares nothing. It is refreshing to experience in the often politically correct world we live in. It was glorious to travel the world with Long from the coziness of my reading chair. I could almost feel the chaos of India as we meandered across the country, from Delhi to the Zanskar mountain range and a dozen other places. I felt at home with Long in Montreal. Her time in Italy has me seriously contemplating moving there. And northern BC sounds like another planet, albeit a fascinating one The…

Paths to the Stars
Shadowpaw Press / 19 October 2018

Paths to the Stars: Twenty-Two Fantastical Tales of Imagination by Edward Willett Published by Shadowpaw Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $19.95 ISBN 978-1-9993827-0-4 In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve read Willett’s work before. I’ve enjoyed every novel of his that I’ve consumed and hoped that his latest work would reach the same high bar. It didn’t – it hurdled right over that bar and left it hanging. This collection of twenty-two short stories spans Regina-based Willett’s career. Some of the stories were written as far back as the 1980s while others are from this century. I assumed I’d be able to detect which tales are his earlier works but I was wrong; all of the stories are expertly written. The only indicator of when Willett penned the stories was the blurb at the start of each one. It’s a requirement of mine for science fiction works to push the boundaries of imagination. And Willett didn’t disappoint. Who else would’ve thought to create a slug that sings (“A Little Space Music”) or a hibernation induction trigger that can put a human to sleep for seventy-two hours (“The Strange One”)? The readers are the ones who benefit from Willett’s willingness…