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By KarenL447
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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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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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Paper Houses

Paper Houses

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Emily Dickinson is as famous for being a recluse as she is for her poetry. In this stunning novel, we see her struggling to reconcile spirit and flesh, preferring letters and reflecting that the only way to have books and life is to live through one’s own writing. Dominique Fortier brings Dickinson vividly to life, as if reanimating a flower that had been pressed in a book, through her reflections on language and what it feels like to be home.

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Inquirer, The

Inquirer, The

edition:Paperback

Shortlisted for Best Trade Fiction at the 2020 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!

When an accident jeopardizing the family farm draws Amiah Williams back to Kingsley, Alberta, population 1431, she doesn't expect her homecoming to make front-page news. But there she is in The Inquirer, the mysterious tabloid that is airing her hometown's dirty laundry. Alongside stories of high school rivalries and truck-bed love affairs, disturbing revelations about Amiah's past and present are selling papers and fu …

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

My name is Amiah Jane Williams. Amiah to my friends in Vancouver, Miss Williams at work, AJ to my redneck cousins, and just plain Miah in Kingsley. That's where I was headed at the start of this story. Hardly newsworthy, you would think.

Kingsley, Alberta, population 1431. Home of the Knights, my high school insignia and my parents' before. The large green road sign in the ditch read Kingsley 27 km, Edmonton 176 km. I was almost home. Two years had passed since I ran away to Vancouver, yet Kingsley was somehow still home....

The farm--everyone called their farm "the farm"-- wasn't far from town. Half an hour by bicycle, five minutes by car. With Kingsley in sight, I turned off the highway onto the gravel, catching my red notebook before it slid off the passenger seat.

Dust billowed into the Jeep. "Shit."

I cranked up my window. The town was probably buzzing with complaints about drought. Farmers liked to complain no matter how good the crop or beef prices. Not my dad, though. "Griping's no rain dance," he would say. Ray Williams always had a better way to spend his time with fences to mend and animals to tend. He liked to be busy. No wonder Mom was stressed. Dad was couchridden and there was no hockey on TV.

I switched off the radio as I turned into the long driveway lined with a split rail fence and Swedish aspens. All led to my childhood home, a movie-worthy red ranch house with a wraparound porch. Duke and Earl greeted me first, running and barking playfully alongside my Jeep as I crept closer to the house. Then I spotted Mom sitting on the porch steps as if waiting for me.

Mom and I were about the same height with the same build and the same oval faces that crinkled when we smiled. There was something Mom had that I didn't, though, something that drew people to her while I remained invisible. My heartstrings tugged at the sight of her. At twenty-five years old, I needed her more than ever, though I never would have admitted it.

"Hey, stranger!" Mom said. "We weren't expecting you until late."

The last we had seen each other was Christmas. I hadn't gone home for Easter break. I had used homework as an excuse, but actually spent the break with some guy named Winston. Purple skinny jeans, two eyebrow rings, barely-lasted-a-month Winston. My parents hadn't come to visit me either. They had been busy with the tail end of calving and the start of seeding. My parents were as likely to visit Vancouver as Winston was Kingsley. I hadn't mentioned the farm would survive a few days without them, and Mom hadn't mentioned she suspected I didn't want to come home.

"How's Dad?"

"He finally fell asleep. The painkillers make him drowsy and a little loopy." Mom whirled her finger around her ear. We laughed, our faces crinkling.

"Let him sleep. I'll still be here when he wakes up."

"Okay. We'll have coffee. Are you hungry? I can make you something to eat."

"I'm okay, Mom. I'm here to help you."

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