Quest for Black Beach
Wood Dragon Books / 10 May 2024

Quest for Black Beachby Neil ChildPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Toby A. Welch  $17.99 ISBN 9781990863288 This quick read takes a riveting look into the future for those with an interest in fantastical worlds and times.  I call a book like this a pocket read. It’s small enough that you can slip it into a pocket and finish it within a day or two. Visiting a futuristic place for a brief time is a pleasure.  One thing I love about books that take place in the future is that they are as varied as an author’s mind allows. Thanks to writers with limitless imagination, readers can get pulled into whole new worlds that are intriguing places to visit. And this is what happens in Quest for Black Beach – we take a journey into an extraordinary time.  Quest for Black Beach takes place 89 years from now, just far enough that we can only guess what life will be like. (Do you think anyone in 1934 could even remotely have guessed the realities of the world we are living in today? I don’t think so either!) You’ll find four groups roaming the planet, many of them created when ‘blasts’ occurred. …

Eroding a Way of Life
University of Regina Press / 23 April 2024

Eroding a Way of Life: Neoliberalism and the Family Farmby Murray KnuttilaPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$39.95 ISBN 9780889779457 I admit I had to look up the definition of neoliberalism before cracking into this book. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explained it in a way I could almost understand: “The philosophical view that a society’s political and economic institutions should be robustly liberal and capitalist, but supplemented by a constitutionally limited democracy and a modest welfare state.” In terms of reform policies, we are talking about eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, and lowering trade barriers. With that in mind, I dove into Eroding a Way of Life.  This book looks at the history and trajectory of farms in Western Canada and specifically Saskatchewan. Once that is established, we see how that intertwines with national and international political economy. Social class is an essential component in these chapters as it is a vital factor at play when understanding the transformation of rural Saskatchewan.  Knuttila begins with a look at merchant capitalism from the 1500s through to the Industrial Revolution. We move onto industrial capitalism, the period from the 1770s to the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Then we delve into conditions…

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door
Welcome Home Publishing / 3 April 2024

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door: Prairie life on the family farmby Sheri HathawayPublished by Welcome Home PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch  $20.00 ISBN 9781738822317 Lilacs by the Kitchen Door is the dramatic telling of the lives of Sheri Hathaway’s parents, Harold and Louise, and their supporting cast of extended family and friends. “They represent most rural prairie dwellers of North America, living their lives through the 40s, 50s, and 60s.” Instead of one chronological tale, each chapter can stand on its own. As Hathaway points out about the chapters in her book, “Think of it as a fruit basket. Pick the ones you like or settle in for a long buffet.” At the very front of Lilacs by the Kitchen Door, even before the acknowledgements and introduction, you’ll find a family tree that has twenty-three limbs. There is a branch for each family member mentioned in this book. It is an invaluable resource as you work your way through the family saga. For example: Oh yeah, Wesley married Varina. Alice and Edward had two children, Constance and Harold. So helpful! My favourite chapter in Lilacs by the Kitchen Door is number ten: Richard. The year was 1947. Louise and Harold went through five horrific tragedies in that…

Stones Will Sing, The
Cold Blue Press / 2 April 2024

The Stones Will Singby Alanna VanePublished by Cold Blue PressReview by Toby A. Welch  $12.72 ISBN 9781738023301 The premise of The Stones Will Sing seems to be the question of whether music can be a life-changing force. It is a quirky yet fascinating topic to delve into, wrapped inside a fantastical tale of adventure.  The novel opens as the king of the country of Koshluk goes rampant on a quest to quash all the arts. Included in his declarations is that musical instruments are illegal and anyone caught singing will have their larynx removed. You can imagine the chaos that ensues when these rules (among others involving books, theater, etc.) are made known.  On one hand, you have Prince Ash, the second son of King Marcus of Koshluk, who is on a mission to protect the people of his country and their freedoms. Then there is Cedar, a woman who’s drawn to music with an inexplicable force. The duo embark on a journey, both carrying their provisions but also the weight of their secrets. For example, Cedar has no clue that Ash is a prince. Ash’s brother, James, is weaved through the tale as well as many other characters that keep things interesting…

Cowpies and Lies
Cameron Narratives / 21 March 2024

Dysfunctional Regulatory Bodies: Cowpies and Liesby D. R. CameronPublished by Cameron NarrativesReview by Toby A. Welch  $24.99 ISBN 9781738687725 Last year I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dysfunctional Regulatory Bodies: Scarecrows and Stupidity. So when I received a copy of its sequel, Dysfunctional Regulatory Bodies: Cowpies and Lies, I couldn’t wait to dig in.  Like its predecessor, Cowpies and Lies is a humorous satire poking at regulatory bodies. Three self-regulatory bodies are given character designations and a story plays out that involves a Tea Party, a subsequent inquisition, and shifting bylaws. Cowpies and Lies picks up where the first book concluded. BruceG is a main character in this book, just as he was in Scarecrows and Stupidity, and he still resides in the imaginary Kingdom of Aspen. He gets drawn into changes being made as to how the environment ministry (Ministry of GoodforAll) handles projects. BruceG must deal with the ensuing bureaucracy and drama in the environmental realm.  BruceG is still a fascinating character. He grew up a farm boy with a traditional rural upbringing. He went to university and became an expert in soil, crops, and hydrology with a PhD in Watershed Science. He continued farming as an adult with a family of his own. He started an environmental consulting firm…

Storms and Scarabs
H.R. Hobbs / 6 March 2024

Storms and Scarabsby H. R. HobbsPublished by H. R. Hobbs BooksReview by Toby A. Welch  $15.00 ISBN 9780995344860 My first question when coming across Storms and Scarabs was: what the heck is a scarab? For those like me who were clueless, a scarab is an ancient Egyptian gem, one that was typically in the shape of a scarab beetle. As foreshadowed by the word in the title, scarabs play a vital role in this interesting fiction read.  Storms and Scarabs revolves around sixth-grade best friends, Mitch and Brock, who are thrown back in time thousands of years. They arrive in ancient Egypt via a portal to the past. Luckily they come across a man who has encountered people like them before, people who’ve “visited from the Great Beyond.” What comes next is a gripping journey involving an embalming shop, an amulet, a sarcophagus (a big stone container that holds a coffin), a Pharaoh and his family, and numerous other historical aspects. A spyglass plays a key role, almost becoming a character itself. The boys struggle to get back to modern times but I won’t ruin the ending by telling you if they make it or not – you’re welcome! I would wager that this book is…

Legend of Sarah, The
Shadowpaw Press / 26 January 2024

The Legend of Sarahby Leslie GadallahPublished by Shadowpaw PressReview by Toby A. Welch  $24.95 ISBN 9781989398494 The Legend of Sarah was first published in 1988 under the title Lore Master. It has now been republished in this third edition by Shadowpaw Press Reprise based out of Regina. Myself and anyone else smart enough to grab a copy of The Legend of Sarah will be grateful that it was chosen for republication. A few minor references were changed to make them more up to date but the novel is otherwise unchanged. The Legend of Sarah is as relevant today as it was 35 years ago. The title character is a 14-year-old who lives a rough life. Sarah survives on the streets of the fictional town of Monn, rigorously trying to avoid trouble. A storyteller she regularly encounters weaves formidable tales, unknowingly providing inspiration for Sarah to aim for a better life. But of course things are never simple. She gets caught up in the crossfire of numerous evil and negative forces that aim to muscle their way into her world, trying to pull Sarah to a darker side. Boiled down, she is trapped between two cultures.  Sarah is an interesting character. She is a tenacious young thing, working hard every day…

See You In Le Touquet
DriverWorks Ink / 26 January 2024

See You in Le Touquet: A Memoir of War and Destinyby Romie ChristiePublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Toby A. Welch  $24.95 ISBN 9781927570845 If any book should be made into a movie, it’s this one! See You in Le Touquet reads like a gripping historical fiction novel but it is a true story. Retired Canadian journalist Romie Christie tells the story of her inspiring parents, Sandy and Dorothy, in this fascinating peek into their lives. As Christie points out in the About This Story section in the back of See You in Le Touquet, this is a work of creative nonfiction. “It is based on fact, with some creativity and imagination woven into the story… Throughout this book, I have endeavoured to stay as true to actual events as I was able.” For the parts of the timeline that Christie didn’t have firsthand knowledge of, she assembled the information via personal essays Sandy had written, Le Touquet history books, Dorothy’s diaries, photos, historians, and stories from the family members and friends of her parents.  The cast of characters in See You in Le Touquet is lengthy as many people weave in and out of Dorothy and Sandy’s lives. If you struggle to remember who’s who as I did,…

We Go Where They Go
University of Regina Press / 23 January 2024

We Go Where They Go: The Story of Anti-Racist Actionby Shannon Clay, Lady, Kristin Schwartz, and Michael StaudenmaierPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889779082 I knew the moment I cracked open We Go Where They Go and saw that it was published by the University of Regina Press that I was in for a stimulating read. Every book I’ve read by the University of Regina Press has stuck with me even years later. They only publish deeply researched works that are powerful and interesting. Even if the subject matter doesn’t initially intrigue you, odds are that it will by the time you finish the book.  Trying to explain what this book is about in a few short paragraphs won’t come close to touching on the depth of the work but let’s give it a go. In response to community invasions in the 1980s by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, people retaliated. Anti-Racist Action (ARA) was formed. Thousands of members strong, the ARA fought against Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, anti-abortion fundamentalists, and racist police. This is a truly fascinating account of people with a common goal uniting to fight back. As this took place in the era before so much was…

Nation Provisoire, La -The Provisional Nation
Éditions de la Nouvelle Plume / 16 January 2024

La Nation Provisoire -The Provisional Nationby Laurier GareauPublished by la nouvelle plumeReview by Toby A. Welch  $20.00 ISBN 9782925329053 What a fascinating book for anyone interested in Canadian history or the role of the Métis in our country’s past. The Provisional Nation explores how Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont – two of the most well-known Métis leaders – approached dealing with colonization; Indigenous people lived through a century and a half of colonization after Canada acquired Rupert’s Land. In this book, Gareau delves deep into the days of the last armed Métis resistance against Canada’s invasion into their traditional lands. I love how The Provisional Nation is laid out. The first half is the French version and the second half – starting at page ninety-nine – is for those who prefer to read English. Once you jump in, the content is written like a play. You’ll find a list of the cast of characters, a description of the stage setting, and then fifty subsequent scenes. [My favourite scene was number thirty-five. It opens with Louis Riel on his knees in prayer. (Riel was allegedly a deeply religious man.) Then Dumont enters the scene and the two discuss what will come next…