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Little Fortress

Little Fortress

edition:Paperback

In this captivating and intricate novel Laisha Rosnau introduces us to three women, each of whom is storied enough to have their own novel and who, together, make for an unforgettable tale. Based on the true story of the Caetanis, Italian nobility driven out of their home by the rise in fascism who chose exile in Vernon, BC, Rosnau brings to life Ofelia Caetani, her daughter Sveva Caetani and their personal secretary, Miss Juul. Miss Juul is the voice of the novel, a diminutive Danish woman who …

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October

October

edition:Paperback
tagged :

The time: the waning years of the 1990s at the dawn of the millennium.
The place: an isolated rural town called Auburn, which could be anywhere at all - a town where everyone knows everyone else?where dark secrets run through its veins like blood.
Everyone knows that sixteen—year old Mikey Childress is "different." A target for bullies since he was a small boy, everything Mikey does attracts abuse: the way he walks, the way he talks, the way he looks. Everyone knows he's not like the other bo …

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Of Vengeance

Of Vengeance

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

“Let's be honest: Who hasn't fantasized about shooting someone in the face with a hunting rifle?”

One day, a thirteen-year-old girl decides to startle a classmate. Instead, she accidentally kills him.

And she likes it.

Over the years, she begins experimenting with murder. Her victims are, of course, people that deserve it: a careless driver, a CEO of an energy corporation that is destroying the planet, a rapist. Every crime scene is flawless — untraceable and made to look like an accident or …

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Excerpt

Let’s be honest: Who hasn’t fantasized about shooting someone in the face with a hunting rifle? It doesn’t matter why. In the heat of the moment, one reason’s as good as the next. When the reasons still seem good after enough time has passed, I take action.
Every day I look a murderer in the eye. There she is, through the looking glass. An inverted image of the same person standing on my side of the mirror. I’m a murderer; the murderer’s face is my face. Voilà. I know exactly what a murderer looks like. Hey, friend.
I look myself in the eye, hands resting on the rim of the sink, and perform my daily affirmation. “I’m a murderer.” It’s my own personal version of “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. I can do this.” My lips move and, depending on the words I say, a few teeth appear. The same ones that show when I smile.
I recite each word slowly, either in my head or ever-so-quietly out loud. Sometimes I take a chance and say it slightly louder, in my normal speaking voice. I like the sound of my own voice. It’s a murmur in my silent apartment, slipping out of the bathroom only to be drowned out by the electrical hum in the walls. I listen to the irregular clicking of the baseboard heaters, generating heat without the slightest concern about who I am.
Another reason for this daily ritual: I’m scared of forgetting who I am. Sometimes life is good, and I take breaks.
It’s a summer afternoon. I’m twelve, finished with elementary school. I’ve been on summer holidays for three weeks now, and I’m hanging out down by the river. There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending entire days outside, coming home only to eat. Sometimes I even skip meals, though my parents disapprove. I come home when evening falls and it gets hard to see. Get some sleep and head right back out the next day. Eighteen hours of daylight is my version of bliss.
I’m in a place I think of as my spot. There’s a tree that’s perfect for climbing, with three branches in all the right places: one under my ass, one to prop up my feet, and a third to rest my back on. Together they form a chair of sorts. I have a nice view of the little river flowing through a ditch down below. I can also see the opposite bank. If I stretch, I enjoy an almost unobstructed 270-degree view all the way to the cemetery, where the trail runs. I can’t see behind my position, but that’s no big deal; all that’s out that way is forest too dense to play in this time of year. Beyond the forest is a city park, but no one really bothers with it — why would you, with all this pristine nature, teeming with life?
Up in my tree, no one can see me. Sometimes I pack a lunch. I make my own. My parents think I’m responsible and have stopped worrying that I’ll starve to death. I’m almost a teenager, so it only makes sense that I’ve more or less stopped talking to them. That’s their theory, anyway.
I wrap my food in nonreflective packaging. No aluminum foil, no plastic bags. I watched a movie once where the murderers caught sight of a witness because of a ray of light that reflected in the lens of her binoculars. That won’t happen to me. I also steer clear of sunglasses. They’re just one more thing to carry around, one more thing I’d probably lose anyway. Noise isn’t such a big deal up here. It’s okay to open a container, move around, let out a sigh. The river drowns out most sounds. Except for screams.
I found my spot last week. I was out early to do a little scouting before anyone else showed up. Sometimes I arrive too late, and there are already people at the river bank or the path leading up to it. When that happens, I turn right back.
One morning, eight days ago to be precise, I got here early enough one day to find a nice quiet spot. Just the kind of place no one would think to look. Eureka: the perfect tree. Next to it was a large rock that I could stand on to reach the higher branches. It was a massive balsam fir that had by some miracle survived an entire century without being massacred at the altar of Christmas. An old, almost dead tree with barely any remaining trace of scent and not a lot of sap to stick to my clothing. Sap smells great, but it’s hard to get off your clothes, so I stay away. I don’t want hassles with my mom.
I’ve been counting the days since I found my tree: eight. I count a lot of things. The number of kids down below, the tiles on my ceiling, the holes in my runners, the exact number of seconds it takes an egg to cook so the yolk is still a little runny but not slimy. Careful planning minimizes the chances of nasty surprises.
My first time was a stroke of random luck. I responded with sound reflexes, and discovered the sheer pleasure of it. Now I come mentally and physically prepared, and bring all the equipment I could ever need.
I’m still startled every time I catch a glimpse of myself in a window, a mirror, or a photograph. My face is all wrong. Some might put it differently; they’d say I have the perfect face. My theory is that I was born with someone else’s face, and my real one is off somewhere else, attached to the wrong soul.
I just don’t look the part. My face should be angular, striking, and slender, with that sickly pallor certain men find irresistible. But the allure of the mysterious femme fatale, that image we’re bombarded with day in and day out, just isn’t me. I’m fresh-faced, with the most innocuous features imaginable. I emanate innocence and wholesome pleasures, like farmers’ daughters advertising milk or girls on the packaging of anti-acne medication. Just like them, my pores breathe healthily. I have slightly rounded features, a ready smile, straight teeth, and smiling eyes. Even the beginnings of crow’s feet, if you look closely. My pale skin turns rosy in the wind, or in the cold, or when I exert myself. My cheeks are like scrumptious fall apples. People have been saying it since I was a little girl. All the hours I spend outside, plus these freckles: How could anyone imagine I’m not an exemplary young woman?
Where did that other face end up, the one that should be mine by rights? What happened to that pointed jaw, those big feverish eyes and salient cheekbones? Who got that intimidating head of hair? Was my soul mixed up with another in some limbo, like babies switched at birth in a Latin-American hospital?
I wonder if ugly people feel the same way: startled by their own reflections in the mirror, disgusted by an unattractiveness no amount of torment will ever inure them to. Do they feel the same confusion I do after performing certain acts? Are they, like me, unable to believe that the symmetry of their faces remains unchanged? If my outward appearance reflected my inner self, I’d look dangerous, like the bad guys who get killed off at the beginning of the movie: dark-skinned cannon fodder, balding villains, disfigured hoodlums, random henchmen. I might also give off that whiff of danger, but I have to face facts; I just don’t. My pheromones collide with those of other people without causing so much as a ripple. Yet the real danger is her. This woman I spy from the corner of my eye in every window I pass. She’s there in the bathroom, just above the sink. She’s the one staring at me innocently.
I look like a nurse, or a librarian, or a soccer player. My face is my best alibi.

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The Girl Who Stole Everything

The Girl Who Stole Everything

edition:Paperback

A stolen house on a Polish square. A pop bottle on Vancouver's east side. Nadia Baltzan knows a few things about theft. The Girl Who Stole Everything is a fresh and telling portrait of the relationship between prewar Polish shtetl life and Jewish lives today. In Poland, a house stands empty on a village square seventy-five years after its owners were killed. In Vancouver, the aftermath of a murder overturns the life of the victim's niece. In these old and new worlds a mystery lurks, and Norman R …

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Excerpt

"What is this field?" Nadia wonders aloud as the camera people jostle with their equipment. Charlie glances at her a little shyly. "We needed something, you know, unpeopled. With a good view into the distance." She waves at the trees, the escarpment, the cloudless sky. They walk toward the chair. Nadia settles herself on it. "We need you," Charlie says, "to sit still when you play." Nadia puts her boots firmly on the grass and gets her instrument in place, mid-thigh, to feel the right looseness. She gives the strings a strum. Charlie hovers nearby and then is gone. Gazing into the distance Nadia wonders if she will ever again play music in so strange a setting. "So?" Charlie is back. "Are you ready?" Nadia nods. Her song is titled "Rumanische Fantasien." Of the recordings she sent as possibilities, it's the one that fit the filmmaker's idea of a Jewish-Polish song. Or a Polish-Jewish song, depending on who she corresponded with. Charlie had written to say the director thought Nadia played like "an old Polish bluesman." "BURN THIS AFTER READING," she wrote. "CAN YOU BELIEVE HE SAID THAT?" Charlie lays a light hand on Nadia's shoulder and speaks quietly. "When I've backed away, count fifty. Then play. You won't be aware of us at all. The camera guy will be able to shift his depth of field, so we'll bring you in close. Okay?" Nadia nods. Once Charlie is out of view she counts from fifty to ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, slowing herself at four, three, two, one . . . and into the slow repetition of the song's first chords. A bird calls and she takes this as her cue to shift into the quicker pace at the centre of the song, a whirl of rhythm, four times as fast as the rest, which might have once given dancers at a wedding what they needed to propel the bride up on a rickety chair, like the one she sits on. Ecstatic music. Then back to the slow, stately march in order for the song to close in on itself and return to where it started. It's a song that could, effectively, go on forever, in and out of its fast and slow sections. Nadia listens to the way the dulcimer sounds in the meadow. As she nears the song's final movement, a crazy thing happens. In the near distance, by a line of fence posts, a figure appears, bent over at first, then upright, carrying something under her arm. The figure comes closer and Nadia sees that it is a woman. Old and stout. She carries a basket under one arm. Her hair is white against the greens and browns of the countryside. The woman stops to listen. This is a distraction, but Nadia winds the song up without a hitch. She sits still, hands on the dulcimer's strings. The crew begins to grumble and call in Polish. "That was great!" Charlie rushes by, heading toward the woman on the field. Nadia watches as they talk. Then the old woman walks off toward town. Charlie makes her way back. "That was beautiful. The crew loved it. That," she points at the old woman heading down the road, "we didn't expect. But we're going with it. A little local flavour. Okay?"

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