Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Book Cover the Dancehall Years

Feels Like Summer 2016

By [Kerry Clare]

Our pick of great new books that celebrate the season. 

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Book Cover Forensics Squad Unleashed

On Our Radar: The Mystery Month Edition

By [Kerry Clare]

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing.

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Shelf Talkers: May 2016

Shelf Talkers: May 2016

By [Rob Wiersema]

Is it spring where you are, or summer ... or more of a mishmash of weather?

With the sheer size of this country, and the …

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Book Cover Blood Red Summer

Crime Fiction Virtual Round-Table

By [Kerry Clare]

We talk with Wayne Arthurson, Steve Burrows, Hilary Davidson, Dieter Kalteis, Ausma Zehanant Khan, Suzanne Kingsmill, Ja …

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Book Cover Do You Think This is Strange

Aaron Cully Drake's All-Canadian Reading List

By [Kerry Clare]

...or "Books by Canadian Authors Who Are All So Horribly Good at What They Do That They Are Now Discouraging People from …

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The Recommend: May 2016

The Recommend: May 2016

By [Kiley Turner]

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 …

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Book Cover My Two Grandmothers

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Great, Great Books About Grandparents

By [Kerry Clare]

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Book Cover The FOLD

Amanda Leduc: On Owning It and The FOLD

By [Kerry Clare]

Amanda Leduc continues an important conversation about literary diversity. 

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Book Cover Victory Gardens for Bees

Plant Some Seeds With These New Gardening Books

By [Kerry Clare]

Gardening books for all kinds of green thumbs—even aspiring ones. 

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Books to Inspire Writers in the Thick of It

Books to Inspire Writers in the Thick of It

By [Kiley Turner]

You're looking at what you've written, and it's ... not very good. You can't figure out the voice. You can't make a city …

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Feels Like Summer 2016

tagged : summer books
Book Cover The Dancehall Years

Novels, picture books, cookbooks, a cottage reference guide and a colouring book make list this a cross-genre feast of summer delights that will help you make the most of the season.

*****

The Dancehall Years, by Joan Haggerty

About the book: Both an epic adventure and an interracial drama, this spellbinding novel brims with gorgeous writing. The complex family saga begins one summer on Bowen Island and in Vancouver during the Depression and moves through Pearl Harbour, the evacuation of the Japanese and three generations into the 1980s. Gwen Killam is a child whose idyllic island summers are obliterated by the war and consequent dramatically changed behaviour of the adults around her. Her swimming teacher, Takumi, disappears along with his parents. The Lower Mainland is in blackout, and Gwen’s beloved Aunt Isabelle painfully realizes she must make an unthinkable sacrifice.

The island’s dance hall, a well-known destination for both soldiers on leave and summer picnickers, becomes the emotional landmark for time passing and time remembered.

Why we're taking notice: This is a novel twenty years in the making. Haggerty's previous book, The Invitation, which was nominated for the Governor General’s Award in 1994.

**

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On Our Radar: The Mystery Month Edition

Book Cover Blood Red Summer

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books from all around the Internet and elsewhere. This month we've had fun finding books that fit our May editorial theme, which is Mystery. (And while we're on the subject, don't miss our amazing Crime Fiction Virtual Roundtable)

*****

Fiction

Blood Red Summer, by Wayne Arthurson

A bestselling book this week in Edmonton:

Métis journalist Leo Desroches has just been released from jail. Fortunately for him, he is re-hired at the paper to write a popular column about crime. It’s summer, the city is hot and buzzing with mosquitoes and it’s on track for a record number of homicides. Called to the scene of an apparent overdose of a young Native man in the inner city, Leo witnesses some rocks falling out of the body bag, and he picks them up. At first he believes they are crack cocaine, but discovers that the rocks are really rough diamonds. As he digs deeper into the story, he finds that the victim was a highly trained mudlogger at one of the new diamond mines in Canada’s High Arctic. Leo gets dragged into a deadly conflict between the mining companies and a murderous Native street gang, who are fighting for control of the …

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Shelf Talkers: May 2016

Is it spring where you are, or summer ... or more of a mishmash of weather?

With the sheer size of this country, and the vicissitudes of climate change, it’s tough to get a handle on the change of seasons. In Victoria, for example, it’s been positively balmy for weeks now, and while Alberta is struggling with a tragically early summer, eastern Canadians are finally, tentatively, shoving winter coats into the darkest corners of closets in hopes they remain there.

We live in a country not of two solitudes, but of climatic blur. Book-wise, though, we are a united country, and on that is clearly in the spring. From coast to coast, the intrepid indie booksellers of the Shelf Talkers project are enthralled with what’s sprouting on the shelves, the first new growth of a fine literary year.  It’s time for renewal, and our booksellers, as always, have just the thing.

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The Bookseller: Carolyn Gillis, of King’s Co-op Bookstore (Halifax, NS)
The Pick: Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Like all of Kay's previous works, the scope is vast and the characters are incredibly well drawn. Kay always manages to make my heart ache and feel uplifted, often at the same time, for his characters. Their lives are entwined with destiny and none of them are safe from its …

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Crime Fiction Virtual Round-Table

Book Cover A Language of Secrets

What happens when you gather eight of Canada's most exciting authors of crime and detective fiction to take the pulse of Canadian crime fiction today? Among the discussion topics: Is CanCrime a genre and how do we define it? What writers served as literary inspirations? How is one affected by writing about violence and brutality? And so much more, including the authors' answers to the essential question: What books are you excited about right now? Our participants' enthusiasm for books and literature is palpable and will no doubt spread like, well, a crime wave. 

*****

49th Shelf: In 2014, we talked to critic Sarah Weinman about the possibility of “CanCrime,”—the notion that Canadian crime fiction might be a genre unto itself. Sarah had theories on the subject, but she hadn’t developed them entirely. What are your thoughts?

Hilary Davidson: That’s such a tough thing to quantify, and my answer is going to be based on—and biased by!—the authors I’ve read (there are many I haven’t read yet). But to me, CanCrime explores grey areas. It’s not about easily identifiable villains and heroes; there’s more shading and nuance. There’s a lot of thought given to the psychological life of all the characters. I know Sarah mentioned empathy, and I think that’ …

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Aaron Cully Drake's All-Canadian Reading List

Book Cover Do You Think This Is Strange

Aaron Cully Drake's first novel, Do You Think This is Strange? has had an exciting spring. It was longlisted for the Leacock Medal for Humour and is on the shortlist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. He's created a fun list for us of his favourite Canadian books, books that have inspired him to become a writer...which are sometimes also the books that make him wonder why he bothers.

****

This is my list of favorite stories by Canadian authors, and the overriding theme is, I believe: "Books by Canadian Authors Who Are All So Horribly Good at What They Do That They Are Now Discouraging People from Picking Up the Pen, Just Like How Everyone Stopped Going to the Moon After Neil Armstrong Dropped the Mic with His ‘One Small Step’ Quote."

**

Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden:

Reading Joseph Boyden is like standing on the lip of a canyon, watching a rock fall to the bottom, and you realize how small you are compared to the grandness before you. Sometimes I wish Joseph Boyden wasn’t so great a writer.

** 

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