Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Salma the Syrian Chef

Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Satisfying Endings

By Julie Booker

How do you create a sense of satisfaction in a story’s finale? The following books pull it off!

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49thShelf Summer Reads

Introducing the 49th Shelf Summer Books List: Part 2

By Kerry Clare

Our summer reads extravaganza continues with PART 2 of our Summer Books List, and once again, each and every title is up …

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Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

By Spencer Miller

Welcome to the Association for Canadian publisher’s Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video seri …

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Book Cover bread and water

Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

New books about everything, including food, beauty, art, travel, singing, healing, grieving, shopping, aging, and so muc …

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Book Cover Unlocking

CanLit Yearning

By Amy LeBlanc

"At the heart of my novella and in each book on this CanLit list is a sense of desire or a yearning (for belonging, iden …

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The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with political trailblazer Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, whose memoir, The Queer Evangelist, …

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Book Cover The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

With new books by Miriam Toews, Dawn Dumont, Douglas Coupland, Marie-Renee Lavoie, Omar El Akkad, Zoe Whittall, Trudy Mo …

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Book Cover The Quiet is Loud

Speculative Fiction: Vast and Thrilling

By Samantha Garner

"As a reader and a lightly superstitious human, I can’t deny the pull of the unusual, the not-quite-real. I love books …

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Book Cover Travels in Cuba

Writing with Four Hands

By Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel

"That’s what the Travels series is all about: sending a resourceful, observant, unafraid (well, sometimes a little afr …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

By Trevor Corkum

“Norma Jeane Baker of Troy leverages a millennia-old story of beauty and war to animate a history of the male gaze and …

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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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Thrillers: Pick Up the Unputdownable

The definition of a "thrill" is "a sudden rush of excitement," and so the thriller genre is one in which such rushes are a fundamental part of the reading experience. How writers go about creating these thrills is what makes each book unique, but the most successful employ a mix of suspense, fast pacing, and crazy plot twists that keep readers on the edge of their seats (or beds) the whole way through.

"I couldn't put it down," is how most readers describe it when a writer employs these thrills just right. 

The following are books that will be chilling bones, tingling spines, and sending heartbeats racing this fall. 

*****

The Place of Shining Light, by Nazneen Sheikh

About the book: Three men race against time to take possession of a sacred 5,000-year-old Buddhist sculpture: Khalid, a leading Pakistani antiquities dealer, arranges for the illegal importation of the statue from neighbouring Afghanistan. Ghalib, a wealthy art collector with political aspirations, has purchased the statue for his private collection. Adeel, a highly recommended ex-military officer, is hired by Khalid to transport the sculpture to its final destination.

When Adeel first views the statue in a cave in Bamiyan—known as “the place of shining light”—he has a profound spiritual reaction …

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Get Gripped: Mystery, Thriller and Crime Novels to Read This Spring

These are the kind of books they had to make up the word "unputdownable" for. 

*****

Far From True, by Linwood Barclay

About the book: After the screen of a run-down drive-in movie theater collapses and kills four people, the daughter of one of the victims asks private investigator Cal Weaver to look into a break-in at her father's house. Cal discovers a hidden room where salacious activities have taken place—as well as evidence of missing DVDs. But it may not be the discs the thief was interested in.

Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is still trying to solve two murders he believes are connected, since each featured a similar distinctive wound. And when yet another murder happens, Cal and Barry are both driven to pursue their investigations, no matter where they lead. But where they lead may be more horrific than either man can imagine.

Why we're taking notice: This is the second title in the bestselling Barclay's Promise Falls trilogy. Readers will want to know what happens next. 

** 

What's Left Behind, by Gail Bowen

About the book: The latest novel …

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The Chat With Grace O’Connell

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TREVOR CORKUM cropped

This week on The Chat, we’re in conversation with Toronto novelist Grace O’Connell. In Be Ready for the Lightning, her second book, we meet Vancouverite Veda and follow her relationship with her troubled brother Conrad and their group of childhood friends. Caught as a bystander on a hijacking on a New York City bus, Veda is forced to re-evaluate her past.

Writing in The Toronto Star, Robert Wiersema says Be Ready for the Lightning is “a novel of stunning beauty and impact, its revelations and realizations are startling, hard-earned and realistic."

Grace O’Connell is the author of Magnified World, a Globe and Mail Best Book and she was the 2014 winner of the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award. She holds an MFA in creative writing, and her work has appeared in various publications including The Walrus, Taddle Creek, The Globe and Mail, National Post and Elle.

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THE CHAT WITH GRACE O'CONNELL

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If You're Going to Read Just ONE Book This Summer....You Will Be Making a Terrible Mistake

If you're going to read just one book this summer....you'll be making a terrible mistake! Because with all the amazing new books out right now, you should be probably reading at least two, or even eighteen. And so to get you started, check out this spectacular list of gripping titles that will make for perfect reads for the deck chair, the hammock, the dock, the beach, under a tree, on a city rooftop—wherever you're getting your summer on.  

*****

When the Flood Falls, by J.E. Barnard

About the book: With her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt, and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shattered by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear. 

As snowmelt swells the icy river, threatening the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out of there, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge is swept away.

Why we're taking notice: This one won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur A …

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