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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

On Our Radar

New books by Marnie Woodrow, Frances Backhouse, Priscila Uppal, Leah Horlick, Rui Umezana, Robin Stevenson, and Melanie Florence. 

"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 in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.


Book Cover Heyday

Heyday, by Marnie Woodrow 

Reviewed by Jade Colbert in The Globe and Mail

Marnie Woodrow’s latest novel since 2002’s Spelling Mississippi follows three women through parallel love stories. In 1909, Bette and Freddy, young women from very different worlds, meet on a roller coaster at the (now defunct) midway at Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands. In the present, Joss, a photographer who lives on the island, falls into old, bad habits as she mourns the recent death of her partner, Bianca...Propelling the book is the question of how these stories converge. They do, and it’s a twist.

Read the entire review


Book Cover Once They Were Hats

Once They Were Hats, by Frances Backhouse

Reviewed by Rebecca Tucker in The National Post:

Once They Were Hats is deeply, enthrallingly, page-turningly fascinating. Backhouse plays two roles: narrator and historian; in one chapter she may be investigating the evolution of the beaver species—visiting the Canadian Museum of Nature’s warehouse to look at some whittled, wooden evidence of prehistoric beaver-like animals—and in another she is describing through dialogue her visit with a Native elder, whose Deisheetaan clan held the beaver as a crest animal. It’s in this way that Once They Were Hats is both a reliable source of scientific information and an interesting anthropological text, drawing two parallel lines through Canadian history: one human, one beaver.

Read the entire review.


Book Cover Sabotage

Sabotage, by Priscila Uppal 

Reviewed by Jennifer Deslisle in Arc Poetry:

Sabotage is guerrilla warfare against personal loss and injustice, the forgetting of history and the trivialities of modern life. But there are also moments of joy and exuberance. In contrast to the first section’s “Class Action Suit,” several of these poems are about a love affair with literature itself—literally. In “In Defense of the Canon” the speaker declares, “Sidney I would have seduced out on the battlefield / in my naughty nurse outfit,” and “Stein, I could have been her flapper mistress.” Elsewhere the speaker exchanges emails with Rilke; in “Books Do Hold Me at Night” books are life partners, who “sweat with me on the elliptical” and “grieve when I’m sad.” If art has the power to harm it also has the power to provide pleasure, companionship, and redemption.

Read the entire review.


Book Cover For Your Own Good

For Your Own Good, by Leah Horlick

Named a Stonewall Honor Book in Literature by the American Library Association. 

More about the Stonewall Book Awards: The first and most enduring award for GLBT books is the Stonewall Book Awards, sponsored by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table. Since Isabel Miller's Patience and Sarah received the first award in 1971, many other books have been honored for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

Visit the ALA Stonewall Book Awards Page.


Book Cover Strange Light Afar

Strange Light Afar, by Rui Umezana

Reviewed by Amy Mathers at the National Reading Campaign:

A highly enjoyable read by a talented storyteller, Strange Light Afar gives a glimpse into the stories that are part of Japanese culture, combining the frightful and magical and offering to a new audience fables for readers to savor and cherish.

Read the entire review.


Book Cover Under Threat

Under Threat, by Robin Stevenson

Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews:

Out of the mouths of teens come a most succinct and unabashed argument for reproductive rights... Though the author offers such openly pro-abortion and pro-gay stances throughout the book, she doesn’t preach to readers but allows the conversations to organically arise in familiar circumstances, such as a lovers’ quarrel or a family discussing the meaning of safety.

Read the entire review.


Missing Nimama

Missing Nimâmâ, by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Francois Thisdale

Reviewed by Helen Kubiw at CanLit for Little CanadiansMissing Nimâmâ is heartbreaking. It’s soulful and breathtakingly painful, and all the more so because of Melanie Florence’s free verse text. Never have I read free verse so aptly applied in a picture book.  Melanie Florence, an Aborginal writer, has demonstrated a powerful skill at creating rhythmic emotions with words. The tugs at the heart are aching for the story they tell and the artistry with which François Thisdale tells it.

Read the entire review.

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