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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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Shelf Talkers: December 2015

It’s that time of year again, that most wonderful time, when the evenings are long, and the air is full of the sound of Year-End Best-Of lists. What, you were expecting carolling?

Sure, the holidays are swell and everything, but as a booklover, the turning of the year is a time to look back, to recall what books brought me joy and, more significantly, to look at other peoples’ lists and see what I missed.

My book budget goes out the window in December, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

The Year-End Best-Of list has become as much a tradition as turkey dinners and fighting with your family around the table. David Gutowski has, at the time of this writing, more than a thousand such lists aggregated over at Largehearted Boy (and yes, I’m spending altogether too much time there).

But the lists, at least in their more formal iterations, are also a recurring cause of frustration. Open a newspaper, flip through a magazine, click a link, and what do you find? Writers talking about the best books of the year. Reviewers boiling a year’s work down to a handful of favourites. Media figures weighing in with their choices.  It’s as if, in the wake of the major prizes, everybody gets to contribute their voices.

Well, almost everyone.

Who don’t you find, as a rule?

Booksellers.

Sure, there’s the occasional broad-based piece: Quill & Quire usually consults with a few booksellers for an article, and Publisher’s Weekly did a great job with a survey of American booksellers last we …

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What's YOUR Canadian bookshelf, Laura Penny?

Laura Penny

"What's YOUR Canadian bookshelf?" turns the spotlight on the shelf-lives of extraordinary ordinary Canadians. The feature begins with Laura Penny, author of Your Call is Important to Us and More Money Than Brains. Laura Penny has a PhD in Comparative Literature, a MA in Theory and Criticism, and a BA in Contemporary Studies and English. She has worked as a bookstore clerk, a student activist, a union organizer, a university instructor, and her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Saturday Night, and Toronto Life. She lives in Halifax, where she teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University.

I read grossbuckets for both my jobs. My professor gig requires I read and re-read a lot of great stuff and then enjoy heaps of student interpretations thereof. Writing non-fiction requires I plough through piles of research and reports and news, horrible news. Even though my work sometimes makes me go glue-eyed, I still unwind from reading by reading. I dig celebrity junk food books: Keith Richards, Tina Fey and Jay-Z all showed me a good time, in that order. I also love short stuff. Happily, Canada has a number of exceedingly talented writers who are great at packing maximum punch into minimal pages. Since I don't want to be a blog hog—and frankly, lit …

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