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Thrills and Chills: Your Halloween Reading List

Fun, spooky, and chilling tales for readers of all ages.

*****

Monsters 101, by Cale Atkinson (Picture Book)

About the the book: Monsters! They're so much more than just that scary thing under your bed. Join Professors Vampire, Blob and Werewolf, and their trusty lab assistant--a zombie named Tina--as they reveal eerie and frankly ridiculous monsters facts never uttered outside a crypt! For example:
  •   Monsters love competitive board game nights!
  •   Favorite monster foods include clam pudding with fish heads and pickled ant ice cream!
  •   In addition to cauldrons and spider gardens, monster homes often include homemade collages!
  •   Werewolves hate the sound of vacuum cleaners!
  •   Monsters aren't all scary! Try being nice to one for a change! Offer them a compliment!
Full of eye-popping illustrations and a story with nonstop sidesplitting laughs, plus a removable Professor of Monstrology diploma at the end of the book, Monsters 101 will have children--and adults--eager to enroll, time and time again!

*

Cabin Girl, by Kristen Butche …

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Helen Marshall: Weird Fiction

Helen Marshall's new novel is The Migration, which writer M.R. Carey calls, "A dark fable that somehow feels both timeless and urgently topical." In this recommended reading list, she explores the fantastic and mesmerizing world of weird fiction. 

*****

Weird fiction zigzags across the boundaries between horror and fantasy, sometimes chilling, sometimes beautiful, but always unsettling. 

*

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

After a deadly virus wipes out most of the world, those left behind struggle not only to rebuild, but to connect to their own vanishing past. This is not your typical post-apocalyptic novel. At the heart of Station Eleven lies an important question: If civilization fell, what parts of it would you try to preserve? 

*

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

The doyenne of speculative fiction, Atwood has produced one of the fi …

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The Chat with Craig Davidson

CraigDavidson@KevinKelly

TREVOR CORKUM cropped

Craig Davidson has returned with his latest novel, The Saturday Night Ghost Club. It tells the tale of Jake Baker, a neurosurgeon looking back on a pivotal childhood friendship and the secret ghost-busting club he forms with his mysterious Uncle Calvin. It’s a moving coming-of-age tale of friendship, creepy occult lore, and wicked nighttime adventure.

Quill & Quire says, “For sheer storytelling prowess, and the chops to scare readers screwy with monsters both real and of our own imagining, the label of Canada’s Stephen King—if we insist on handing it out—belongs to Craig Davidson, claws down.”

Craig Davidson was born and grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. He has published four previous books of literary fiction, including Rust and Bone, which was the inspiration for a Golden Globe-nominated feature film of the same name; and the Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated novel Cataract City. His bestselling memoir, Precious Cargo, about his year spent driving a school bus for children with special needs, was a finalist for Can …

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Shelf Talkers for the Dark Days of November

Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean November isn’t dark enough all on its own. Is there something inherently spooky about the autumn that lends itself to a celebration of the darker mysteries around us?

With the waning of the year, we’re surrounded by reminders of mortality, from the crunch of leaves underfoot to the snap of cold in the air in the morning to the faint whispers of smoke in the distance. And along with those reminders, the early evenings and the lengthening shadows hint at secrets beyond the darkness, beyond the divide between life and death ... Though perhaps that’s just me.

Or not.

The daring independent booksellers of the Shelf Talkers column have taken a peek into the darkness and come up with a great selection of titles for November, some fiction and a couple of local, true-to-life collections that will chill you to the bone and give you the perfect excuse to lock the door and pretend you’re not home. You’re not hiding, you’re reading.

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The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: The Haunting of Vancouver Island, by Shanon Sinn

It is the perfect time of year to brush up on your scary stories, and Shanon Sinn is here, with a compelling investigation into supernatural events and local lore on Vancouver Isla …

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Andrew Pyper: Crossing Borders

Book Cover The Damned

His new novel, The Damned, is Andrew Pyper at his finest. It's a gripping, terrifying read about Danny Orchard, a man who's famous for a memoir recounting his experience having briefly died and returned to life. His memoir doesn't tell the whole story though—that when he came back to life, he brought the spirit of his psychotic twin sister back him, and that she haunts and torments him in death as she did while she lived.

But now Danny has fallen in love, and finally has a reason to live—which makes his sister all the more determined to destroy his chance at happiness. And so the siblings are forced to meet again in a spectacular showdown between good and evil, heaven and hell, set against the fascinating backdrop of modern-day Detroit. 

Andrew Pyper answered our questions about this setting, how The Damned fits into his oeuvre, and about just what mysteries might be waiting beyond heaven's door. 

*****

49th Shelf: Detroit, in your novel, is literally a level of hell. Can you tell me more about the city as your muse, and how the city’s history connects to the themes in The Damned?

Andrew Pyper: In a way, The Demonologist and The Damned are novels connected in the way they are projects of reimagining ancient mythologies—demons in the case of the former, and th …

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CanLit Is Terrifying

Book Cover Book of Tongues

Fear not! (Or at least, fear less.) Because here is your guide to a most Canadian bookish Halloween, serving to guide you through the spooky day ahead, and provide great suggestions for appropriate seasonal reading. 

CanLit Zombie expert, Corey Redekop, can hook you up with a good read via The Canadian Weirdscape, made up of selections of the nation's most outlandish, strange, and mind-boggling fiction.

Book Cover The Thirteen

Check out The Fright List for some terrifying titles, including books by award-winning horror masters, Andrew Pyper, and Susie Maloney. 

How to Kill a Vampire

Are you in the unfortunate position of the monsters in your life being not-so fictional? To that end, you might appreciate our excerpt from Liisa Ladouceur's How to Kill a Vampire, part culture guide and all practical guide. Find out how useful your handy crucifix or holy water really will be once you're fa …

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Totally Disgusting: Nick Cutter (Craig Davidson!) on The Troop

Book Cover The Troop

The worst-kept secret in Canadian publishing is the identity of Nick Cutter, author of The Troop. Though Cutter won't confirm it himself (see below), his name is a pseudonym for Craig Davidson, who was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013 for Cataract City.

Nick Cutter was kind enough to talk to us about his latest novel, which is a fantastic read and getting a lot of buzz. 

About The Troop: Once a year, scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a three-day camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story and a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. An inexplicable horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival that will pit the troop against the elements, the infected...and one another.

Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness and close to the edge of sanity.

*****

49th Shelf:  So, what happens when you write a horror nov …

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Andrew Pyper: Outsiders, Inner Demons, and Satan's Charms

Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Andrew Pyper grew up in Stratford, ON. The only student from his high school to attend university out of province, he landed at McGill, pursued English Lit, and completed a Master's degree before deciding to put academia aside for practical concerns—it was time to get a job. He turned to law and was called to the bar when for completely unpractical reasons he began to write what would become his first, highly acclaimed novel, Lost Girls. Pyper embarked on a curious though successful trajectory: he was a literary writer moving in the direction of genre fiction. Now, with The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster), Pyper makes his first unabashed leap into horror writing. But he doesn't leave his lit cred far behind.

Julie Wilson: In The Demonologist, your protagonist, Professor David Ullman, is an expert on Milton's Paradise Lost, described in your novel as "blank verse that seemed to defend the indefensible," which is great. How did you prep to become as familiar with Paradise Lost as Ullman?

Andrew Pyper: I had read Paradise Lost with great haste the night before the exam for some Intro to Literature course in first year university. In other words, I barely read it at all. But I took with me the impression left by the star of the show (intended or otherwise), namely Sa …

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"I Am Not At Peace": Ghosts and Haunting in Canadian Fiction

Graveyard at night

“There is a sense in which all novels are ghost stories: fictional characters are translucent phantoms, which readers believe in (or don’t); readers lurk in the presence of characters, spying on their most intimate moments, eavesdropping on their innermost thoughts. And however thoroughly the novelist establishes her characters’ motivations, however robustly she forges her chains of cause and effect everything that happens ultimately does so at the whim of the writer. Certain things have to happen for the narrative to progress… Every novel is haunted by a tyrannical poltergeist, in the form of its plot.” from “Poltergeist: The Little Stranger” by Thomas Jones, London Review of Books 9 July 2009

In Britain, a civilization so old that it’s nearly impossible not to be walking on a grave, it’s no surprise that fictional ghosts are abundant. From The Woman in White down to the The Woman in Black, the ghost story is a literary staple, and it’s taken comedy turns in novels by contemporary writers including Hilary Mantel and Nicola Barker.

In Canada, however, where bones underfoot are less common and those discovered often hearken back to colonial atrocities, our ghosts are not so playful. Something is extra-unnatural about the supernatural in Canadia …

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