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.

***

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 fickleness. Their struggle to control their own fates is universal. They strive to be More. For me, this book is also about some of the many ways we, as humans, love. Can love hold souls to this world? Can love bring you home? What does it mean to place your heart into someone's keeping? Children of Earth and Sky is also an adventure story rooted in the sense that history is changed by individual choice. This review in no way encompasses the breadth or depth of this book.  

**

The Bookseller: Shelley Macbeth of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)
The Pick: In-Between Days, by Teva Harrison
With grace and passion Teva Harrison paints a genuine portrait (literally and figuratively) of living with terminal cancer.  Without ever descending into a pity party, Teva's honesty and ability to share the truth strikes a chord with all who read her graphic memoir.

**

The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books (Creemore, Ontario)
The Pick: The Voodoo Killings: A Kincaid Strange Novel, by Kristi Charish
The world of urban fantasy is filled with strong female heroines, but Charish gives us a fresh take with Kincaid Strange. Kincaid is a talented necromancer who has been forced into the oddest of jobs since raising zombies was recently outlawed. She pays the rent by bringing her grunge rocker ghost roommate Nathan Cade to parties, until a recently raised zombie named Cameron Wight contacts her. Kincaid soon realizes that Cameron's raising is part of something bigger—and much more dangerous—involving some unsavoury Otherside forces. Soon Kincaid, Cameron, and Nate are trying to save other zombies even as they try to save themselves. Interesting characters, a talented but very human heroine, and a deliciously atmospheric Seattle setting will have you reading far into the night.

**

The Bookseller: David Worsley, Words Worth Books (Waterloo, ON)
The Pick: Congratulations on Everything, by Nathan Whitlock

Jeremy’s ambition for as long as he can remember has been to own his own bar and he finally has the keys to The Ice Shack; Charlene is the most empathetic waitress in the world but she’s desperate to get out of her smothering marriage. Add a dash of bitters, shake well and serve in a salt-rimmed highball. Whitlock serves up a touching, empathetic, and darkly funny exploration of small lives under scrutiny, and the ramifications of a few wrong turns. I used to work in a place like this and everything rings true. Grab yourself a deck chair, a drink of choice, and settle in.

**
The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)

The Pick: The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel


Another stunning work of fiction from Yann Martel! This one is a bit of a slow burn, but stick with it and you'll be rewarded. Told in three parts—Homeless, Homeward, and Home—this novel tells three stories of love and loss. Each character is dealing with significant grief—the loss of a lover, a child, or a spouse, and learning how to continue to live. The stories are interwoven in such delicate and deft ways that you'll want to go back to the beginning and start reading again as soon as you've finished.

May 25, 2016
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