amazon.ca

Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books

Blog

Islands: Perfect Settings for Stories

Islands offer wonderful settings for stories, real and imagined. They’re enisled, separate, away. They inspire intriguing metaphors. They attract interesting, some might say “quirky,” people. Surrounding waters present lulling beauty and hidden danger. And when things happen on islands, insularity stirs up complex social dynamics and demands local solutions. With islands on three coasts and scattered throughout rivers and lakes, it’s hardly surprising that these compelling literary devices have a powerful presence in Canadian fiction and creative non-fiction.

As a rule of thumb (grounded in observation, rather than any systematic analysis) the size of an island tends to shape the nature of the story. Large islands are settings for tales of distinctive communities, defined at least in part by their distance from urbanity. Lucy Maude Montgomery placed her stories of Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island as it encapsulates a nurturing rural lifestyle preserved in a changing world by its sandy shorelines. As Anne says, “Look at that sea, …

Continue reading »

On the Road Again: Literary Road Trips

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that my first novel, The List of Last Chances, features a road trip across Canada. My childhood was filled with such travels—some out of necessity, as we moved from province to province—and some for low-cost holidays, exploring the country in a station wagon filled to the brim with tents, sleeping bags, and coolers full of egg-salad sandwiches. We traversed the country more than once with four kids, two adults, sometimes a dog – and had our share of breakdowns, ripped maps, roadside meltdowns and more.

Along the way we saw the beaches of PEI, the long empty prairies which are not really so empty at all, the heights of the Rocky Mountains, and the coastal inlets of BC. As an adult, I’m still fascinated by the possibilities that road trips present (and I take them, either solo or with my own children, as often as I can) and perpetually curious about the unique and diverse personalities of the different regions in Canada.

I’m not the only one: road trips and national identity have always been a popular theme for Canadian writers. Here’s a few titles, both fiction and nonfiction that go exploring: 

*

Continue reading »

8 Books for Fans of Fabulism

The books I’ve always loved the most are those that are grounded in the real world with fantastical elements—stories that hold space for the more ineffable experiences in life. My debut novel, The Memory Collectors, falls into this category, landing somewhere between contemporary fantasy and literary fiction. Below are some books in that same vein by other great Canadian authors. Each of these is either a favorite of mine or a new release at the top of my reading list. If you crave stories that play with our understanding of reality, that incorporate myth and folklore into everyday existence, or that make you feel as though magic might just be real, these are absolutely worth checking out.

*****

Empire of Wild, by Cherie Dimaline

From the author of the incredibly powerful book The Marrow Thieves, this is a modern supernatural thriller that plays with traditional Métis stories of the werewolf-like Rogarou. A beautifully written page-turner, it follows the struggles of Joan as she discovers her missing husband at a revival tent in a Walmart parking l …

Continue reading »

Exciting Fiction to Read This Spring

New books by Camilla Gibb, Marissa Stapley, Wayne Grady, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more! These are some of the novels and short fiction collections we're excited about reading this spring

*****

Bleeding Light, by Rob Benvie

About the book: A howl into the void, a ghost story, and a bit of a metaphysical hellride.

A misanthropic ghostwriter roams an island off the Kenyan coast. An Arizona teenager awaits the next stage in a secretive covenant. A renowned poet retraces her past amid a baffling netherworld. An international arms dealer’s son drifts through time, atoning for the death of the man he loved.

For readers who take their contemporary fiction with a tinge of the otherworldly, Bleeding Light is about mystical experiences, the symbolic fabric connecting us all, and desperate people seeking affirmation—through religious, cosmic, chemical and other means—of a world beyond their own. It’s a grimly funny and often trippy take on transcendence in a hypercommodified age.

*

Constant Nobody, by Michelle Butler Hallett

About the book: The time is 1937. The pla …

Continue reading »

9 Canadian Writers Who Run with the Night

Instructor is a new novel by Beth Follett, founder and publisher of Pedlar Press, a Canadian literary house. Her first novel, Tell It Slant, a retelling of Djuna Barnes’s 1936 novel Nightwood, met with critical acclaim. Her poetry, prose and nonfiction work have appeared in BrickBest Canadian Poetry 2019, and elsewhere. She lives in St John’s, NL.

*****                     

The Double Hook, by Sheila Watson

I love Watson’s book first and foremost for breaking literary ground in Canada. Her subjects include marginalization, poverty, murder, suicide, destruction.

About the book: In spare, allusive prose, Sheila Watson charts the destiny of a small, tightly knit community nestled in the BC Interior. Here, among the hills of Cariboo country, men and women are caught upon the double hook of existence, unaware that the flight from danger and the search for glory are both part of the same journey.

In Watson's compelling novel, cruelty and kindness, betrayal and faith shape a pattern of enduring significance.

*                      

Continue reading »

The Chat with Eva Crocker

Headshot2017

This week we’re in conversation with author Eva Crocker. Her debut novel, All I Ask, (House of Anansi Press) was published to rave reviews last year and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Star calls the novel “wickedly funny, sexy joyous ... with heart.”

Eva Crocker (she/her) is a writer and a PhD student at Concordia University where she is researching visual art in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her short story collection, Barrelling Forward, won the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction and the CAA Emerging Author’s Award.

**

Trevor Corkum: From what I understand, All I Ask was partly inspired by an event that happened to you personally. Can you talk more about that, and how the novel progressed from there?

Eva Crocker: I began working on this story in 2017 after a group of about ten police officers, all heavily armed men, forced entry into my home in St. John’s early one morning. They told me I was under arrest for transmission of child pornography and began searching the house.
 
I was home alone and terrified, I asked several times to use a phone and was told I wasn’t allowed. I wasn’t given a chance to get dressed and had to go alone to my bedroom with a young man wearing a gun. They wanted to collect all my electronics to comb …

Continue reading »

For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that might be just what you're looking for right now.

**

FOR FANS OF JOHN GRISHAM

Thirst for Justice, by David R. Boyd

"Fast and fierce."—Kirkus Reviews

Michael MacDougall is a talented trauma surgeon whose life in Seattle is slowly unravelling. Frustrated as an ER doctor and with his marriage in trouble, he volunteers with a medical aid charity in the Congo. Disconsolate at the lives he cannot save in the desperate conditions of the region, he is shattered by a roadside confrontation with the mercenary Mai Mai that results in unthinkable losses.

Back home in Seattle, he is haunted by his experiences in Africa and what he sees as society’s failure to provide humanitarian aid to those who most desperately need it. Locked in a downward spiral, he becomes obsessed with making his government listen to him and dreams up an act of terrorism to shock his nation awake.

Activist and lawyer David Boyd’s debut novel is a taut political thriller that begs the question: how far is too far when you’re seeking justice?

**

Continue reading »

ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

tagged: Fiction, reviews

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our attention spans, making it possible to miss really great fiction. These books caught the attention of some of Canada's foremost reviewers and we're happy to shine even more deserved light on them.

**

Even that Wildest Hope, by Seyward Goodhand

What It's About

Even that Wildest Hope bursts with vibrant, otherworldly characters—wax girls and gods-among-men, artists on opposite sides of a war, aimless plutocrats and anarchist urchins—who are sometimes wondrous, often grotesque, and always driven by passions and yearnings common to us all. Each story is an untamed territory unto itself: where characters are both victims and predators, the settings are antique and futuristic, and where our intimacies—with friends, lovers, enemies, and even our food—reveal a deeply human desire for beauty and abjection. Stylistic and primordial, Even That Wildest Hope is a chaotic and always satisfying fabulist journey in the baroque tradition of Angela Carter, Carmen Maria Machado, and Ted Chiang.

Reviews

“Some of these stories, such as the opening 'Enkidu' (The Epic of Gilgamesh, redux) and 'So I Can Win,' the 'Galatrax Must Die,' bring to mind the off-kilter worlds of Paige Cooper. But my favourites here are the maybe quieter but still pleas …

Continue reading »

Launchpad: SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, by Saleema Nawaz

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today we're launching the latest novel by Saleema Nawaz, championed by Jael Richardson, who writes, "I could not stop reading Songs for the End of the World. I felt a mixture of shock and delight as I read it because it captured the experience of a novel coronavirus pandemic so well. Even though Saleema started this book seven years ago, there were portions of the story that felt so true to now that I gasped out loud. And isn’t that the best kind of read—the kind that shocks you while also remaining familiar? I have had such a hard time reading books during quarantine, but this one brought me back to the beauty of the written word by reminding me of the unique perspective and the critical importance of stories and storytellers. This book simultaneously reminded me why I read AND why I write."

*****

Continue reading »

2020 Fiction: Books of the Year

If ever there was a year to get away (while staying right where you are) 2020 was the one, and this is why our Books of the Year list puts its focus on fiction.

These are the books that rose to the occasion of this most peculiar moment and helped us to escape for a while and to see the world a little more clearly at once.

Enter to win these amazing titles through our Books of the Year Giveaway Bonanza!

*****

Keepers of the Faith, by Shaukat Ajmeri

About the book: Keepers of the Faith is set within a small Muslim sect of India, ruled by an avaricious priesthood that demands absolute submission while enforcing archaic social customs. When a section of the community rebels, it is summarily excommunicated, shunned by friends and family and denied religious rites. The peaceful community is split into two.

The novel follows the fates of two blissful young lovers, Akbar and Rukhsana, in the historic city of Udaipur. When the communal split occurs, their families are on opposite sides; the lovers' dream of a happy life together is shattered, and they are forced into separate destinies. Akbar, from the rebel group, goes on to become a writer and family man in Mumbai, while Rukhsana gets married to an immigrant engineer from the United States fanatically devoted to the pries …

Continue reading »

25 Reasons to be Hopeful

In difficult times, sometimes hope is maligned as something frivolous, a symptom of one's inability to engage with reality and look trouble in the face. But of course, the certainty of hopeless is its own kind of limitation. As Rebecca Solnit writes, "To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.”

The following books are infused with hope—that what we do and who we are really matters, that second chances are possible, and so too is a better world.

*****

This is Not the End of Me, by Dakshana Bascaramurty

About the book: Layton Reid was a globe-trotting, risk-taking, sunshine-addicted bachelor—then came a melanoma diagnosis. Cancer startled him out of his arrested development--he returned home to Halifax to work as a wedding photographer—and remission launched him into a new, passionate life as a husband and father-to-be. When the melanoma returned, now at Stage IV, Layton and his family put all their stock into a punishing alternative therapy, hoping for a cure. This Is Not the End of Me recounts Layton's three-year journey as he tried desperately to stay alive for his young son, Finn, and then found purpose in preparing Finn for a world without him.

Wit …

Continue reading »

Alberta, Today

Katie Bickell’s first novel, Always Brave, Sometimes Kind features a cast of Albertan characters whose lives intersect through the years 1990 - 2016. Set in the urban and rural reaches of Alberta, “Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.” Here, Bickell lists 18 novels that pay homage to the contemporary stories, landmarks, events, people, and communities associated with the land and larger community now known as Alberta.

(Author's note: All books are novels set in and referencing Alberta, and all take place within —or can be assumed to take place—within the last 50 years. Sorry in advance to any I might have missed!)

*

A Rhinestone Button, by Gail Anderson Dargatz

In the rough-and-tumble farming community of Godsfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum lives a solitary existence, raising cattle and farming the land, like his father and grandfather before him. Yet the surrounding pasture do not old much attraction for him. Instead he prefers his humble farmhouse kitchen, where cooking …

Continue reading »