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The Recommend: RomComs, Mysteries, Shoe Sellers, and Icons of CanLit

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of writers Ian Colford (A Dark House and Other Stories), Ariela Freedman (A Joy to Be Hidden), Farah Heron (The Chai Factor), Sky Curtis (Traps), Heidi L.M. Jacobs (Molly of the Mall), and Denis Coupal (Blindshot).

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Ian Colford recommends Alison Watt's Dazzle Patterns

Dazzle Patterns is a quietly seductive novel, set at the time of the Halifax Explosion, which took place on the morning of December 6, 1917. Clare Holmes, a young woman employed in the glassworks, is injured when a window is blown apart by the blast. Fred Baker, a co-worker, takes Clare to the hospital. Clare, alone in the city, longs for her fiancé, Leo, who is fighting in France. But as the war drags on, Clare and Fred frequently find themselves in each other’s company and are taken by surprise when a trusting intimacy springs up between them. Alison Watt, a professional artist, brings her interest in the visual experience to her debut novel. The writing …

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The Recommend for July 2019

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Arthur Slade (Amber Fang), Heather Smith (The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden), Jules Torti (Free to a Good Home: With Room for Improvement), Marie-Renée Lavoie (Autopsy of a Boring Wife), and Jennifer Robson (The Gown).

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Arthur Slade recommends The Absence of Sparrows, by Kurt Kirchmeier

There is something both stark and beautiful about The Absence of Sparrows by Kurt Kirchmeier. It is stark because the storyline doesn’t pull any punches, but beautiful in its depiction of the relationship between two brothers and the rest of the family in a time of extreme danger and hardship. The main idea of the story is that storm clouds have appeared on earth and they create glass storms—storms that turn individuals to glass. This “unbelievable” idea is presented with Hitchcockian clockwork precision. There is never a moment where you don’t believe the fabulist nature of the story. The novel depicts with clarity how a …

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The Recommend: Squatters, Classics, Stories, and Violence

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of writers Becky Blake (Proof I Was Here), Kathy Page (Dear Evelyn), Sally Cooper (With My Back to the World), Missy Marston (Bad Ideas), and Rabindranath Maharaj (Fatboy Fall Down).

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Becky Blake recommends Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown

While researching my novel about squatters and street-involved folks, I read Genet and Orwell’s accounts of living on the street. Then I stumbled on Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown. This nonfiction book is set in Tent City, a squatted community that existed on Toronto’s Lakeshore Boulevard from the late 90s to 2002. I remember the area well, having ridden my bike past it many times, always slowing a little, as though the faces I saw through the fence somehow added weight to my back wheel.

Bishop-Stall lived in Tent City for the last year of its existence and his book chronicles his heartbroken, hard- …

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The Recommend: Masterpieces, Celebrities, Survival, and Magic

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of book blogger Laura Frey (reading-in-bed.com), Melanie Fishbane (whose debut YA novel is Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery), Katherine Ashenburg (whose debut fiction novel—following many nonfiction works—is Sofie and Cecilia), Karen Hofmann (whose forthcoming short story collection is Echolocation), and Bruce Cinnamon (whose debut novel is The Melting Queen).

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Laura Frey recommends Éric Dupont's Songs for the Cold of Heart

I am a blurb skeptic. Blurbs are, at best, the most biased form of literary criticism. Just check how often a blurber’s name appears on the acknowledgements page. At worst, blurbs are clichéd, or taken out of out of context, or of dubious veracity (did Gary Shteyngart really read all those books?).

The blurb on Songs for the Cold of Heart got all my skeptic senses tingling:

“If the Americans have John Irving and the Colombians Gabriel García Márquez, we have Eric Dupont. A …

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The Recommend for September 2018

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light; Jennifer Robson, author of the forthcoming The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding; Alix Hawley, author of My Name Is a Knife; Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories; and Kerry Clare, author of Mitzi Bytes. IMPORTANT NOTE: This week's recommendations are part of a larger series launched in 2017 where we asked 150 Canadian authors to recommend 150 Canadian books. It's pretty awesome, so do check it out!

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Sarah Selecky recommends Sarah Henstra's Mad Miss Mimic

Readers of adult literary fiction might not have heard about this lovely book, because it’s officially published as teen and YA fiction. I recommend it to older readers, too! I loved getting lost in this subtle thriller about London in the 1870s, when the city was experiencing violent terror attacks and opium fever. This historical page-turner has everything: compelling characters, a love story, …

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The Recommend: Summer 2018

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Ian Hamilton (The Imam of Tawi-Wawi), Sam Wiebe (Cut You Down), Dave Butler (Full Curl), Mark Lisac (Where the Bodies Lie), and Dietrich Kalteis (Ride the Lightning).

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Ian Hamilton recommends Paul William Roberts' The Demonic Comedy

I'm a huge fan of the travel/memoir genre. To my mind, writers like Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby, Pico Iyer, and Norman Lewis who can weave history, personal stories, geography, politics, culture, and social mores into wonderfully complex stories are to be treasured. All of those writers have British roots, and so does another of their ilk: Paul William Roberts. But since Roberts has lived almost his entire adult life in Canada, and identifies himself as Canadian, I have no trouble claiming him as one, and I have no trouble choosing his book The Demonic Comedy as one of the best Canadian books I've ever read.

Roberts—who has a doctorate in ancient Middle Eastern history—writes about Iraq pre …

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The Recommend: April 2018

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Shawna Lemay (The Flower Can Always Be Changing), Andrew Battershill (Marry, Bang, Kill), Claudia Dey (Heartbreaker), Elinor Florence (Wildwood), and Sarah Henstra (The Red Word).

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Shawna Lemay picks Nicole Brossard’s Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon

It’s difficult to say precisely how well known an author is but it seems fair to say that Nicole Brossard should be much more appreciated. Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon is virtuosic, a work of art, in the way that Virginia Woolf’s books are art. Two women meet at a hotel bar every night and talk. One of the women is trying to finish her novel, and the other catalogues artefacts at a museum. They enter into a dialogue that is both shifting and solid, detached and intensely engaged. One of the characters asks, “What is the value of a question in a dialogue? How important are the answers?”

The shape and the construction of the book is something Woolf surely would have ap …

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The Recommend: February 2018

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Carrianne Leung (That Time I Loved You), Sharon Butala (Zara's Dead), Dimitri Nasrallah (The Bleeds), Kim Clark (A One-Handed Novel), and Naben Ruthnum (Find You in the Dark).

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Carrianne Leung picks Catherine Hernandez's Scarborough

Catherine Hernandez's Scarborough is a love letter to the underrepresented folks and communities that are so marginalized that they are often erased in public discourse, let alone in literary fiction. Scarborough tells stories of everyday people in a pocket of a suburb. Through multiple characters across a linear timeline, Hernandez leads us through one year in their lives. These are little stories told through the eyes of children, single mothers and Ms. Hina, a city worker who tries to do these families justice. I admire Hernandez's delicate attention to these characters. They are fully realized, fully fleshed, complicated characters for whom we ache and cheer on. Hernandez reminds that e …

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The Recommend: September 2017

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Greg Rhyno (To Me You Seem Giant), Pamela Mordecai (Red Jacket), Alix Hawley (All True Not a Lie In It), and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer (All the Broken Things).

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Greg Rhyno recommends Andrew Hood's The Cloaca

Andrew Hood has written a pile of great stuff including book reviews, essays, and a biography on Guelph lo-fi legend Jim Guthrie. But for my money, Hood’s primary talent lies within his ability to birth a killer short story.  His second collection of these slimy diamonds is The Cloaca, appropriately named after the orifice where everything bad comes out of a bird. The stories in this book are messy, cathartic, and hilarious.   

The narrator in “Manning” spars with a deformed man-child over a rookie baseball card. In “Beginners,” a woman’s martial arts dreams are dashed when her sensei keeps looking down her karategi. The smell of a used diaper in “I’m Sorry and Thank You” reminds the main character of things he …

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The Recommend: June 2017

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Jennifer LoveGrove (Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes), Marjorie Celona (Y), Veronika Martenova Charles (The Land Beyond the Wall), Leanne Dunic (To Love the Coming End), and Danika Stone (Internet Famous).

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Jennifer LoveGrove recommends RM Vaughan's Troubled

This is a poetry collection about a love affair. About the end of a love affair. About a relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient. And the patient is the poet.

I’ve been a fan of RM Vaughan’s poetry since I first read it in the 90s, and this 2008 book has all of his characteristic ferocity, wit, and beautiful, devastating imagery. The collection depicts a dangerous, fraught, taboo relationship—one between a psychiatrist and patient. One where the patient, this time, is the poet. To say it is autobiographical would be an understatement; it is fiercely vulnerable, it is the poetry of redemption and vengeance and testimony, and it is devastating and beautiful.

Th …

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The Recommend: April 2017

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Joanna Lilley (If There Were Roads); Matt Murphy (A Beckoning War), Robert McGill (Once We Had a Country); Samantha Rideout (The People Who Stay); and Sheree Fitch (If You Could Wear My Sneakers, plus two dozen or so other books!).

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Joanna Lilley recommends Karen Enns’ Ordinary Hours

If you find poetry intimidating or just don’t think it’s for you, try sitting at the kitchen table with a copy of Karen Enns’ collection, Ordinary Hours. Enns writes as if she’s sitting at the table with you, her hands around a mug of tea, glancing every now and then through the window into the garden as she tells you about her day and asks you about yours.
 
I used to be daunted by poetry—both reading and writing it. I think Enns’ poems are the sort of poetry I was always looking for. She writes about everyday life: rain and wrens, memory and wonder. She confronts the realization some of us can have that we really have no id …

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The Recommend: December 2016

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month, we're pleased to present the picks of authors Yaskuko Thanh (Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains), Mark-Leiren Young (The Killer Whale That Changed the World), Danila Botha (For All the Men and Some of the Women I Have Known), Melanie Martin (A Splendid Boy), and Mia Herrera (Shade). 

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Yasuko Thanh recommends Anosh Irani's The Parcel

Sometimes you read a book that understands you. Where you find yourself dog-earring pages that were written so truthfully or that speak to you like you’re the only one in the room that you can’t let them go. Anosh Irani’s The Parcel recounts the story of Madhu, a retired transgender sex worker living in Bombay’s red light district. The tragedy of Madhu’s life is felt in every line. Every third sentence or so I had to check my heart because the story kept stopping it.

But the power of this work goes beyond its subject matter. There is an urgency behind each word driving the narrative that makes this book m …

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