New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

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New Non-Fiction for the week of June 7th : Of Gardens and Gardeners
The Way of the Gardener

The Way of the Gardener

Lost in the Weeds Along the Camino de Santiago
also available: Paperback eBook
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The Philosophy of Gardening

The Philosophy of Gardening

translated by Karen Caruana
edited by Blanka Stolz
also available: eBook
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A Newfoundland Garden

A Newfoundland Garden

Growing fabulous flowers, fruit, and vegetables in a maritime climate
tagged :
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The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables

also available: Paperback
tagged : vegetables, canada
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Urban Gardening for Beginners

Urban Gardening for Beginners

Simple Hacks and Easy Projects for Growing Your Own Food in Small Spaces
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The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases

also available: eBook
tagged : canada, techniques
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Shrubs and Vines for Atlantic Canada

Shrubs and Vines for Atlantic Canada

Choose the best plants for your location
tagged : perennials
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Herb Gardening for Beginners

Herb Gardening for Beginners

A Simple Guide to Growing & Using Culinary and Medicinal Herbs at Home
More Info
This week's recommended reading lists
New Children's for the week of May 31st : New YA Releases
Drone Chase

Chapter One

Huddled in a down parka, with my hands held to the campfire, I glance down the slope to make sure my parents are still on their walk. Affirmative: Their bickering voices — they haven’t stopped fighting since we moved here — are disturbing the afternoon peace of the mountainside. Next, I peer at the little red tent a few feet away from me. My sleeping grandfather’s unlaced hiking boots are sticking out from under the flap. In fact, the whole tent is shuddering with his snoring like a half-inflated balloon.

Zzz-zzz. The sound lifts my mood. It’s a good thing whiskered old mountain men need afternoon snoozes. Here at last, an opportunity to escape this boring, chilly campsite in the Canadian boonies.

It’s not the first time this city boy has been hauled unwillingly here, into a desolate land of granite peaks, waterfalls, dodgy wildlife, and monster trees, but it’s definitely not somewhere I feel at home. For one thing, dark woods scare me, and this place has endless trees. I hate trees. They have a bad habit of eating my drones.

Camping in general, in my private opinion, sucks. Who willingly goes for a hike in the sticks in May? Give me Central Park muggers any day over perilous predators hiding behind giant, moss-draped trees. I’m a New York City guy through and through.

I reach into the beefy backpack Granddad has saddled me with — “It’ll toughen you up,” he said — and touch the cellphone-sized drone the old man and my parents don’t know I’ve smuggled along. It’s a perfect antidote to the eerie woods.

“Remote-control toys are for kids,” Granddad ruled in his Irish brogue last month when my parents and I arrived. “They’re for city-park shenanigans. Got to get you in shape, teach you about woodsmanship, pry you out of that workshop o’ yours. Real life is the mountains, kid, and I’m going to teach you and yer city mom backcountry survival and appreciation for nature.”

Like that’s going to happen. As far as I can tell, Granddad has hated my “city mom” ever since she “stole away” his son to the other side of the continent. Given her high heels, makeup, New York personality, and lack of enthusiasm for the outdoors, in his mind she’s beneath his contempt. Which caused friction on our vacations here as far back as I can remember. But now that we’ve actually moved here, it’s way worse.

Sitting close to where we’ve strung up the food bag on a rope between two trees — “to make it fierce-hard for bears to reach it, grandson” — I pull out my fifteen- hundred-dollar store-bought drone kit: bird, batteries, and remote. The drone is four wavy rings joined by a centre that resembles a small bug. I call him Bug. The 250-millimetre, one-pound device can fly for about twenty minutes before he conks out. Then, clever robot that he is, he automatically returns to me. Another thing: He folds so neatly I can slip him into my jeans pocket. As in, I can hide him from Granddad’s sharp eyes.

We’re with Granddad because Dad tore us away from New York City. Granddad, an expert hunter and outdoorsman I admire but will never be like (as he reminds me regularly), lives in Bella Coola, in northern British Columbia. Bella Coola (population 150) is located in a mountain valley on a saltwater inlet maybe sixty miles — or I guess I should say a hundred kilo metres, since I’m in Canada — east of the Pacific Ocean, in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. Dad says we had to move here because Granddad’s health is “failing.” Failing? To me, the dude is stronger and more stubborn than a ninehundred-pound grizzly — and grizzlies actually live in the forests around here. Granddad is a headstrong taxidermist who stuffs and mounts dead furry animals for clients. So disgusting.

According to Dad, Granddad’s terminal cancer means he doesn’t have many months to live. It’s true he’s not as tough as he used to be, but there’s still plenty of griz left in him. And while he afternoon-hibernates, I’m outta here. Yes, I’m supposed to stick close to camp, and yes, the woods are full of dangerous stuff that scares me to death. But the trees aren’t dense and dark right around camp, and it’s a chance to launch a drone, which is what I’m all about.

I grab the bear-spray can and stuff it into my designer moto jeans pocket. Though I definitely hope I won’t meet a nasty bruin, I pretend I’d have the nerve to fire the peppery stuff into one’s face if I had to. Slapping away early-spring flies, I follow a path to a small clearing. Concentrate on the drone, not where the forest gets darker just up the slope. And don’t freak out if you see a bear. That ended badly last time.

I unfold the drone’s arms and click in all four propellers, or props. Next, I give the 4K-sensor mini-camera a quick wipe-down, attach it to the body, and set the drone on the dewy grass of the clearing. After charging up my radio-sized remote controller for takeoff, I take a big step back and a deep breath and throw the throttle stick up. Yes! My slick graphite baby rises on cue and hovers in front of me with a happy hum.

A surge of excitement ripples through my body, like it does no matter how many times I do this. Flying allows me to de-stress, to take a break from missing my New York City friends and worrying about Mom and Dad’s recent arguing or Granddad’s cancer. When I’m flying my drones, even ominous woods turn into my happy place for awhile.

When the machine reaches four hundred feet (picture a forty-storey building), I admire Bug’s bird’s-eye view from the mini-tablet, slid onto my remote controller. Then, like the ace pilots I admire, I hit the throttle of the remote, tilting and thrusting till even I can appreciate Bug’s camera view of the crazy-tall trees, seriously blue sky, and icy glaciers that look like someone has spilled green Slurpees all over the mountaintops. I spot hairy mountain goats hanging out on a ridge and a real live eagle swooping high above them.

Imagining myself as a miniature pilot in my drone, I bank left, barrel-rolling for the crowds below, dogfighting with the drones of my New York City friends, Arlo and Koa. What I wouldn’t give to be back there with them.

Whoa! A nasty gust of wind catches my little guy. I do my best to keep him steady. But my remote controller starts beeping like crazy, warning me that Bug is losing connection to the controller because of wireless interference. Next thing I know, he is spinning out of control toward a tree. My fingers yank on the joystick, but I can’t get whatever’s loose to reconnect.

I hit the return-to-home button in a desperate attempt to save Bug. He doesn’t respond — Nooo! — just clips a branch and free-falls toward the ground. At least I see where he’s landed. Stumbling through the brush, I head that way, trying not to trip over stupid roots or slip on damp moss.

Phew! He is not so far away, just into the woods, on a small hillock of dirt half blocking a hole in the base of a giant cedar. In fact, my baby has parked himself partway into the entrance, like he’s shivering and wants a garage. As I sprint toward my flying machine, I see no cracks or breaks. I sigh in relief. We just might’ve gotten lucky. Except — my stomach tightens as I draw closer — for the smoke coming out of Bug’s far side. Wait, no. Not out of the drone. Out of the garage. And not smoke but —

No way. Breath! Someone or something is inside the tree breathing in the chill air. Something with a wet, black nose. Behind the nose, a massive bear’s head pushes out of the gap and gives an unholy growl, deep and menacing, like a Rottweiler crossed with a sasquatch.

My eardrums vibrate like a subway’s running through my head, and terror electrifies every nerve. But even through the panic, I reach forward to scoop up my drone. I’m that kind of dad. Then I stagger back, tucking him into the back pocket of my jeans.

“Most o’ the bears around here are still asleep,” Granddad told my parents and me before this weekend’s camping trip. “To be sure, if we do run into one, climb a tree quick smart if it’s a grizzly. If it’s a black bear, drop face first to the ground, wrap yer arms around yer head and neck, and play dead. Never, ever run.”

Every cell in my body screams, Run. But channelling all the self-discipline I can, I force myself to freeze as the bear emerges. Grizzly or black bear?

I recall Granddad’s lectures. “Grizzlies have upturned noses, small ears, shoulder humps, and long, straight claws.”

I have no idea which brand this girl is, but she’s one big customer. Seven feet tall, hairy as Chewbacca, and smelly as rancid oil. No more than fifty feet away, she’s clacking her teeth, flaring her nostrils, and making a sound like whoosh. Worse, two cubs the size of full-grown St. Bernards bound out of the tree like fluffy puppies, tumbling around Mama’s very large ass.

While frantically weighing my options, I stand tall, meet the bear’s eyes, and attempt to project calm instead of terror. Being the kid of two veterinarians, I know a thing or two about animals. It’s super important they don’t sense panic or fear. In my parents’ clinic, I’ve always had a skill for calming dogs. My parents call me the animal whisperer.

So, get a g-g-grip, Ray. Ref-f-frame the situation. Use h-h-humour. After all, I’m not a morning person either, and I’ve disturbed this brute and her babies from their long winter nap.

A side glance reveals a tall evergreen with low, sturdy branches that even a gymnastically challenged slackwad might be able to scramble up. With one hand on my bear-spray can, I take a step toward it, super slow-mo.

“Never get between a sow and her cubs,” Granddad always warns. “Just talk to the beast respectful-like as you back away.”

“Sorry, Blondie,” I say in as even a tone as I can manage. Blond equals grizzly, my half-paralyzed brain informs me. “My little drone didn’t mean to wake you up. He was just crash-landing.” I chance another step toward the tree. “He wasn’t going to hurt one of your little ones.”

The bear stomps her front feet, flattens her ears, gives me a spine-chilling glare, and lowers her head straighton. I know in my gut she’s going to charge. As my spongy knees miraculously support the final two steps to the tree, I leap onto the first branch and struggle to do my first pull-up since last year’s sophomore gym class, where I was pretty useless. Then I scramble upwards, fuelled by rocket-booster-grade adrenalin.

With a roar that sets pine needles quivering, Mama Bear lunges and in one bound reaches the tree. She raises her hairy shoulders high and rests her massive paws against the trunk just feet below my flailing silver running shoes (new, and purchased at great expense from Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market in Manhattan).

My heartbeat ups by a factor of three, my teeth form a death clench, and sweat streams out of my pits. Her next bellow is loud enough to wake up the valley and raise all three hairs on my chest.

When she quiets for a second, I try to speak to her calmly, like I do to upset dogs in our clinic. “I’m planning to stay up here till you go back to sleep or a rescue helicopter shows, okay?” Talking to animals: yeah, it’s a thing in veterinary clinics.

Then I screech, “Mom! Dad! Granddad! A bear!” Maybe I shouldn’t have wandered away from our campsite after all?

The cubs peek out at me from behind their mother’s tank-sized body. To keep my panic in check, I shift my eyes to one of them, a little guy trembling like a toddler hidden in its mother’s skirts. Its whimper tugs at my heart. It’s like a carnival-prize giant teddy bear, with a cute brown nose and very pink mouth, which opens wide to emit a wail like a baby’s.

It might be five minutes. It feels like an hour. I clutch the tree’s upper branches with moist hands and watch the mother bear as she watches me. I half wish I hadn’t shouted. The last thing I need is my unarmed parents or weakened grandfather scrambling up the slope right now.

I catch movement from the corner of my eye and hear three blasts.

I cry out as the sow drops heavily to the ground, bleeding from the front of her steep forehead. She lands on the cub who was wailing, trapping it beneath her giant bulk. I turn my shuddering body toward my grandfather, who is standing there holding a rifle, looking proud.

My chin trembles and my shoulders quake as I look from my murderous grandfather to the second panicked cub as it scampers away, then halts as if torn over what to do. The one beneath its mother is bellowing in pain. A cold heaviness creeps into my chest.

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The Boi of Feather and Steel


Tav was dreaming.

The river was frozen over with thick black ice. When they knelt down, they could see blue-and-white flames trapped under the surface. They placed a palm over the ice, feeling the cold burn like fire. The flames flickered wildly, trying to reach their hand.

A hairline crack snaked its way between their feet. Tav stepped back, uneasy. As they watched in horror, the river tore itself in two, ice and water and earth splitting apart. Tav stumbled and fell, narrowly avoiding the spears of ice stabbing the air like a fractured bone puncturing skin.

A great chasm stretched across the frozen river. Tav found themselves on one side of the fierce water, which gushed through a cracked mirror of black ice.

A boy climbed out of the depths of a world splintered by frost and starlight.

Cam. Eyes like stone, hard and cold. Blue veins glistening on exposed skin.

Cradled in his arms lay the crumpled body of a girl, a sprig of hawthorn growing from her chest.

She was dying.

“I brought your heart,” he said, stepping onto Tav’s side of the river. The curve of his smile was a fishhook. He stopped an arms’ length from where Tav crouched, their fingernails etching lines into the crystalline landscape. He waited.

Tav rose slowly, unsteady on their feet. Sweat dripped down their neck. They could smell rot.

Pain surged through their shoulder blades. They cried out as great feathered wings burst from their back. The wings were black as ink, with an oily lustre of gold and purple and green. As the pain began to subside like a waning crescent moon, Tav found Cam’s eyes and forced the breath from their lungs into the shape of a single command.

“Give her to me.”

“You’ve left me no choice,” he said. His fingers curled around hawthorn, twisting brutally. The girl whimpered.

“Let her go!” Tav beat their wings and white flames burned through the ice at their feet. The ice floe was unstable, and one wrong move could lead to hypothermia and drowning. The stars glittered overhead, their lights reflected in the dark mirror. The universe was burning.

The branch snapped, and the girl screamed, a body made of bone and glass crying out in agony.

Tav lunged, nails like talons curving around Cam’s throat.

When it was over, Tav was on all fours, frost licking their knees. Blood everywhere. Body parts were scattered across the ice. Tav wetted their lips and looked down, catching a glimpse of their reflection —

the face of a witch

Tav woke suddenly and found themselves back in their apartment, the sheets soaked through with sweat. In the dim room lit only by distant streetlights, the shadows looked like blood. Tav fumbled for the bedside lamp. When the yellow pool of light showed no evidence of a crime scene, the anxiety curling its claws around their wrists and ankles released its hold. It was just a dream; already it was fading. Tav listened to the sound of their pounding heart, waiting for the rhythm to slow. Proof that they were human.

Tav closed their eyes against the pain of sudden brightness, but it was too late. Already a headache was spreading through their temples and pushing into the corded muscles of their neck.

They switched off the light and lay back down, opening their eyes to the dark. In the distance sirens sang out, the clear, sharp pitch breaking through the dull roar of engines that never ceased. Threaded through the darkness was the magic of the Heart, which wound its way through walls and doors and flesh and bone. Tav fought the urge to reach out and grab it, to make themselves strong, to heal their pain, to take that power all for themselves and use it.

Use her.

Eli was sleeping on the couch with only a wall between them. The thought sent another shiver of excitement through Tav’s body, but of a different kind. They kicked off the lounge pants they’d fallen asleep in and lay back in their boxers. Eli’s hair would be messy, her body tangled in the blanket. Tav remembered her body; they had followed the path of her collarbone with their mouth, traced the curve of her waist with their hand …

Tav rolled their face into the pillow to stifle a moan. They lost themselves to fantasy before sleep finally returned for them.

In the morning they had forgotten about the dream.

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Chapter 1: Callie
I panic when I return to the house and my brother, Kai, isn’t inside. Has he vanished while I was searching for Shay? Have they both left me behind?
But I soon find him behind the house, standing on the cliff and gazing at the sea. His arms are crossed, his body rigid. He stares at the waves breaking on the rocks, far below, like he is thinking of joining them.
I’m afraid.
Don’t leave me too, Kai. I need you. I say the words even though I know he can’t hear me. Shay wasn’t just Kai’s girlfriend and my friend: she was also the only one who could see or hear me. Now that she’s gone I’m powerless to reach him.
I place myself between him and the cliff’s edge. If I move close to him, I feel a resistance, the same as if I push against anything— a person, a rock, a door. They all feel the same to me. I stare at his eyes. They’re hazel—almost green now in the sun—and are full of rage and pain. He is my brother, and there is nothing I can do to help him. Nothing I could do to stop him if he decided to step over the edge. I could go with him, fly down the cliff, watch his body smash on the rocks and break and bleed and die, but I would just go on and on. 
It’s hard to die when you’re already dead.
But I’m hurting too. Shay left both of us. I want to tell him this, and the frustration of not being seen or heard makes me howl and wave my fists at the sea.
Kai looks towards me, his eyes startled. Did he hear something? When I screamed in the underground institute at the techs who vacuumed up my ashes after Dr. 1 had me cured in fire, they jumped. Then later one of them whistled along when I sang. Maybe Kai can hear me, even if only a little?
Kai! I’m here! I shout the words out with all that I am.
He frowns, then shakes his head, and turns and walks back to the house.
Maybe he can sense me, at least a little, but he doesn’t believe it. At least I’ve interrupted whatever he was thinking as he stared at the rocks and the sea.
Inside he paces back and forth. He reaches into his pocket and takes out a letter. It looks all crinkled, like he’d rolled it into a ball and then smoothed it out again. He looks at it but moves it around too fast for me to see what it says.
He stuffs it back in his pocket and flops on to the sofa.
“Callie, are you there?”
I’m here, I’m here! I want to cry when I hear his voice; when I hear him say Callie.
“Shay’s left. She says she didn’t take you with her, that you’d want to stay with me. That I should talk to you.” He wraps his arms around himself like he’s trying to hold something in.
“She’s gone to turn herself in at the air force base, to tell them she’s a carrier and that the epidemic started here in Shetland.  In case . . . in case that goes wrong, she says we shouldn’t follow. We should leave the island and go back to the mainland. Tell everyone we can about the origin and spread of the epidemic and don’t let them cover it up.
“She says that I should tell you that she’s sorry.” His voice is bitter with anger. “Like being sorry makes it all right!” He raises his hand in a fist, but then his body seems to collapse in on itself. “Shay, how could you?” he whispers. He fights it, but his shoulders are shaking.
And . . . and . . . he’s crying. Kai—my big brother—is crying?
This is so wrong. It makes me twist up inside like I’m about to cry, too, but tears are something I don’t have anymore. And, even worse: there is a horrible feeling gnawing inside me.
It’s my fault. Isn’t it?
It’s my fault Shay left. She thought she was contagious; that everyone—including her mother—caught it from her and got sick and died. I let her think this; I didn’t tell her the truth.
I didn’t tell her that it was me who was the carrier all along. It never occurred to her, what with me being dead: who ever heard of a contagious ghost? But all the major centers of the epidemic—from the beginning when it spread from Shetland to Aberdeen, then to Edinburgh, and then to Newcastle and beyond—were places I’d been. The disease always hit soon after I was there: it had to be me.
Later, when Shay got sick and survived, she could see and hear me. She was the only one who could after I was cured—apart from the dying. After that, the disease did follow wherever she went—but only because I was there too. She’d never even been to Aberdeen or Newcastle. She’d explained that away by saying there must have been other survivors in those places, but I never found any when I was there.
She would never have left Kai and me if I had told her the truth, but . . . 
It’s not my fault; none of it. Everything goes back to Dr. 1. He’s the one who did this to me. He’s the doctor who gave me the illness in his lab underground. When I survived and changed, he cured me in fire and turned me into whatever it is that I am now.
It’s his fault.
Everything I’ve done from the beginning—getting Kai and Shay to come to this house on Shetland to find the source of the epidemic, and then not telling Shay that it’s me who is the carrier, not her—was all to get at Dr. 1.
I wanted to go with Shay. Once she tells them Dr. 1 is the one who started the epidemic, they’ll hunt him down. I want to be there when they find him. That’s why I couldn’t tell her the truth—she wouldn’t have turned herself in if she’d known she wasn’t the carrier.
But she left without me.
Why? Why didn’t she take me with her?
Kai cries, and the rage and heat inside me strengthens, grows—a fury that could destroy and swallow the world.
Dr. 1 must pay for what he’s done.
Chapter 2: Shay
Before I can finally take off the biohaard suit that the solders made me wear, I’m locked in a small, sealed room. Even without the suit, the claustrophobic feeling of not being able to breathe fully is still there. One wall of the room is glass—very thick glass.
Dr. Morgan is on the other side of this transparent wall with two men—older ones, not the same ones who came out to get me earlier. All three are in uniform. They’re talking, but I can’t hear them.
I knock on the glass. They continue talking, but then a moment later Dr. Morgan reaches for some controls, and I can hear them clearly.
“Hello, Shay. Sorry about the barrier.” She gestures at the wall between us. “Are you more comfortable without the suit?”
I shrug. “Sure. Yes.”
She smiles, but there is an edge to it.
“Now, Shay, we’ve found out a few things about you.” She looks at a tablet in her hands. “Such as . . .  you are wanted in connection with a murder. Also, it says here that you were reported as immune?”
“I didn’t kill anybody!” Then I realize that’s not true: many, many people have died because of me, haven’t they? I sigh and cross my arms. “I mean, I didn’t shoot that boy they say I did.”
She nods, a careful look on her face, disbelief in her aura.
No. No way. Are they not going to believe anything I say because I was framed by SAR?
I grip the edges of the table between me and the glass and lean forward. “Listen to me. You have to listen.”
“We’re listening,” she says.
“I had the flu. I thought I was going to die. My mother did die.” I push the pain away. “And we went back to Killin—”
“We? That’d be you and Kai Tanzer, currently also wanted after mysteriously going missing from a police cell in Inverness. Do you know where he is now?”
“No. Anyway, I said I was immune, like Kai. We helped at the hospital tent in Killin. Then this creepy lieutenant from SAR—”
“Special Alternatives Regiment of the army.”
She half raises an eyebrow, and I can see it: she’s never heard of this regiment. How can that be? I know this is an air force base, not an army one, but I wouldn’t have thought they were so separate that they didn’t know the names of each other’s regiments.
“Anyhow, this lieutenant—Kirkland-Smith, he said his name was—came looking for me and said he knew I was a survivor and that SAR were taking me away to help study the epidemic, but he was lying. They wanted to kill me.”
“How did you know he was lying?” “I just did.”
“I see. Try this, Shay. I’ll tell you two things—one a lie, and one the truth, and you tell me which is which.”
“Seriously? Aren’t there more important things to be—”
“Humor me. Please.”
I stare back at her, then shrug my shoulders. I’ll go along with anything, if it’ll help them believe me. “Okay, fine,” I say.
“All right. My middle name is Hannah. My middle name is Helen.” As she speaks, I study her aura: the waves of color that surround her, unique to her, change with her thoughts and feelings. When she says Helen there are ripples of silver blue, and I feel the truth within them. When she says Hannah her aura is disturbed, with slashes of mustard and green—it’s a lie.
“You lied about Hannah; your middle name is Helen.”
“That’s just a fifty-fifty guess,” one of the men says. They’ve been silent until now. “Try again,” he says and gives me a list of ten possible middle names for himself.
I roll my eyes. “Your middle name is Monteroy. Congratulations on middle name weirdness. Can we carry on now?”
He nods.
“Impressive,” Dr. Morgan says. “Okay, so let’s just assume you knew this lieutenant was lying. And then?”
“I ran away. They shot at me and hit me in the ear.”
“That wasn’t that long ago. I didn’t notice any injury?”
I shrug. “I healed it.”
“Oh, for . . . Look.” I bite my lip, hard. A trickle of blood runs down my face and the pain helps me focus, to keep my temper.
“See? I’m bleeding.” And then I close my eyes and reach for the pain, reach inside me; to the blood and tissue and their components, down to a cellular level, then molecular, and atomic. Atoms are made up of particles; particles that can behave as waves—waves that can be influenced and changed. I heal my lip and wipe off the blood from before. The cut is gone. “And now I’m not.”
Dr. Morgan frowns. “I don’t know what trick that is, but—” 
“It’s not a trick. It’s part of being a survivor.”
Her aura shifts; she’s pleased. She’s pleased I confirmed this?
“All right, then,” she says, “let’s say you are a survivor. Now let’s get back to this boy you shot—”
“I didn’t shoot anybody! A soldier from SAR shot at me, and Duncan pushed me out of the way and saved my life. The soldier shot Duncan.”
“Really?” She doesn’t believe me. If she doesn’t believe that, how will she believe anything else?
After everything we’ve been through, after having to leave Kai—I push that pain away, too, to save it for later—could it come down to this? That they won’t believe me? I focus on Dr. Morgan; disbelief shimmers through her aura.
And on top of everything else, I’m tired, hungry, and getting more and more angry with these word games. “Now you three are going to sit there and listen. Not another word, all right?” Tendrils of my anger whip out and find the part of their auras that allows their free will to speak, to form words, to stand up or do anything really, and I hold it fast. All they can do is  listen.
And I tell them everything. About SAR kidnapping Kai to try to trap me; about how I rescued him; how we got away. That I came to Shetland to trace the cause of the epidemic. About the boat trip across to the island and the plague ship. About Dr. 1 and the research institute underground and what he was doing there with a particle accelerator: making and extracting quantum particles of some kind and using them as a biological weapon. He tested whatever he created on subjects and killed people. That it got out, and this is how the epidemic started. And then I tell them everywhere I’ve been and when as the epidemic followed me across country about a day behind. I leave out that Callie and Kai came here with me, but I tell them everything else.
When I finally stop talking, I’m exhausted—both from reliving the tale and from the effort of influencing all three of them at once. I release them.
“What did you do to us?” Dr. Morgan asks, her eyes round.
“You wouldn’t listen. I made you listen.”
There is fear on their faces, clear enough without even looking at their auras. They get up and almost run out of a door on their side of the glass.
At least they listened.
Uneasy, I wrap my arms around myself. Maybe that display wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe I’d have been better off keeping the things I can do to myself. But I didn’t plan to do that. I was angry, and it just sort of happened.
Too late to second-guess it now.
Someone comes to the door just as I’m falling asleep in the chair. He’s in a full biohazard suit and goes through the double airlock into my small room.
“Hi, Shay. I’m here to help you put on your suit.”
“And then what?”
“We’re flying you to England, to talk to some experts there about the Aberdeen flu.”
The knots inside me loosen. Did they believe at least part of what I said?
I get up and he holds out the suit; I step into it. Again I have to fight the automatic urge to push it away, to stop his hands doing up the seals.
“I’ll just adjust the ventilation,” he says and does something to the top of the suit before snapping it closed over my head. I’m so distracted by not wanting to be closed up inside of this thing that by the time I notice the deception in his aura, it’s too late.
There’s a funny taste and smell inside my suit. My head spins. “What . . . what have you . . . done?” I manage to whisper the words, but the world is lurching—I’m falling. Like he was expecting this, he’s there, ready, and I feel his hands through the suit catching me.
Everything goes black.

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This week's recommended reading lists
New Children's for the week of May 24th : Beautiful New Picture Books
Dear Black Girls

Dear Black girls /I love the way your Black skin wraps itself around you /as if it never wants to let go /as if your colour is the richest thing it has ever known. /Dear Black girls /I love the way the kinks in your curls twirl /bouncing and free, /afros worn like crowns /with hair defying gravity /protected in locks and braids /and under wigs and weaves /because whatever you choose is up to you, Queens. / And know that this goes /for the rest of your body /and anyone who tells you different /doesn't have to live, breathe, exist, be in it, /so please let it be known /that your body is your own /and only yours, dear Black girls. /

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You Hold Me Up / Gimanaadenim

You Hold Me Up / Gimanaadenim

also available: Hardcover
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This week's recommended reading lists

Museum Books

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New Non-Fiction for the week of May 17th : Lives of GIrls and Women
The Girl from Dream City

The Girl from Dream City

A Literary Life
also available: Paperback eBook
tagged : literary, women
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The Menopause Manifesto

Introduction: The Manifesto

If menopause were on Yelp it would have one star.

This establishment has temperature control issues. Drenching heat followed by terrible chills. Defies the laws of thermodynamics. Would not recommend.
Awful, awful, awful! Bleeding was scheduled, but was rebooked without notification so arrived 3 weeks later than expected while I was in an Uber and I flooded the car. The driver gave me a terrible review!
The sex was dry.

And it’s no surprise. Most women have no idea what to expect when they are no longer expecting a period, and it’s uniquely awful and disempowering to not understand what is happening to your body and why. Menopause is like being sent on a canoe trip with no guide book and only a vague idea where you are headed—although the expectation is it’s awful. There will be no advice on how to get there or how to manage any of the obstacles, such as rapids. That is if any exist. Who knows? Have fun figuring it out! Good times. Oh, and don’t write. No one wants to hear about your journey or what it is like when you arrive.

Fear? Check. Uncertainty? Check. Medical ramifications? Check. Unpleasant symptoms? Check. Societal irrelevance? Check.

No wonder menopause receives such awful reviews.

The culture of silence about menopause in our patriarchal society is something to behold. Menopause doesn’t even rate the shame that society gives to the vulva and vagina. Apparently there is nothing of lower value than an aging woman’s body, and many in our society treat menopause not as a phase of life, but rather as a phase of death. Sort of a predeath.

What little that is spoken about menopause is often viewed through the lens of ovarian failure—the assertion that menopause is a disease that exists because women and their ovaries are weak. The only grounds for this claim are that men don’t experience menopause. But comparing women and men in this way is the same as comparing the liver with the heart. The liver isn’t weak or diseased because it doesn’t beat like the heart, and women aren’t diseased because the ovaries stop making estrogen.

The absence of menopause from our discourse leaves women uninformed, which can be disempowering, frightening, and makes it difficult to self-advocate. Consequently, many suffer with symptoms or don’t receive important health screenings or therapies because they have been dismissed with platitudes like “This is just part of being a woman” or “It’s not that bad.” But the issues with menopause even go beyond these knowledge gaps and the medical neglect. Women tell me that menopause is lonely; that there are no stories or culture. And so there is no whisper network to take up the slack from medicine. Nothing to offer comfort.

But many women are desperate to know more about menopause so they can understand how and why their body is changing, and they want information so they can make decisions that work for them. They also want to talk about what is happening to their body.

I contrast these experiences with my own. Having started medical school when I was twenty years old and my OB/GYN training when I was twenty-four, I can’t remember back to a time when I didn’t have a detailed understanding of the hormonal changes of both the menstrual cycle and menopause. And not just the biology, but how to apply it practically to my own body. I never once thought, “Wow, that is unexpected,” or “Why am I sweating so much at the age of forty-five?” or “WHAT IS GOING ON—WHY AM I BLEEDING EVERYWHERE!?”

My medical knowledge didn’t prevent me from having menopause acne, hot flushes, or those “special” heavy periods that are all typical of the menopause transition. But because I knew exactly what was happening and when to seek care, it made the whole process feel routine. Because I knew the tests that were indicated and those that were not, and because I understood the medicine, it was much easier for me to navigate the treatment options and choose the safest most effective therapy and avoid the snake oil. By the time I entered my own menopause transition, I had spent over twenty years speaking with women about their menopause and helping them manage their symptoms and any health concerns, so I had heard many stories and had knowledge of the range of experiences as well as the treatment options. It was fortunate that my view of the subject wasn’t confined to what I saw at home. My mother’s menopause was volcanic, and if that was all I had to go on, I would have been quite frightened.

Online, on book tour for The Vagina Bible, and during many interviews with reporters I often heard (and still hear today) “What do I do?” and “Where do I turn?” from women about menopause. I remember one interview in particular that had nothing to do with menopause or even menstruation and when for some reason I tangentially mentioned I was using an estrogen patch the conversation derailed and all the reporter wanted to discuss was menopause. Hearing over and over again from women from many countries about this need for knowledge made me obsessed with the idea that every woman should know about menopause like a well-informed gynecologist and so that is what I have set out to do in these pages.

For women to navigate menopause, they need facts because empowerment requires accurate information—but they also need feminism because our bodies, our medical care, and even our thoughts have been colonized by the patriarchy. The cultural absence of menopause from our discussions isn’t because that’s what women want. The often pejorative language about menopause and the medical neglect also aren’t up there on the meno wish list.

Women often only hear the awful stories about menopause, but the truth is the menopause experience is a vast diaspora. Many women have mild symptoms, some moderate, and others severe. Often these symptoms are temporary, but occasionally they’re long lasting. Menopause does start a series of biological events that increase a woman’s risk of several medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. But menopause isn’t the only paint on a woman’s canvas. Age, other medical conditions, diet, exercise, and even adverse childhood events are also adding color to her portrait. So when a woman wants to consider what she should do, it’s important to step back and look at the whole picture. Managing menopause is the ultimate exercise in whole body or holistic medicine.

Menopause is not a disease. It is an evolutionary adaptation that is part of the survival of the species, like menstrual periods or the ability to suppress the immune system during pregnancy so the body doesn’t attack the fetus. Like these other biological phenomena, menopause is associated with downsides—in this case its bothersome symptoms for some women and an increased risk of several medical conditions. But menopause also occurs while a woman is aging, so it’s equally important not to brush off every symptom as hormone related. It’s vital that women know about menopause, but also everything that is menopause adjacent, so they can understand what is happening to their own bodies, put that in perspective, and advocate for care when indicated.

A manifesto is a public declaration or proclamation and we are well past due for a manifesto on menopause as 2021 is the 200th anniversary of the introduction of the word. My manifesto is for every woman to have the knowledge that I had to help them with their own menopause. I demand that the era of silence and shame about menopause yield to facts and feminism. I proclaim that we must stop viewing menopause as a disease, because that means being a woman is a disease and I reject that shoddily constructed hypothesis. I also declare that what the patriarchy thinks of menopause is irrelevant. Men do not get to define the value of women at any age.

If you are years from menopause, this book will hopefully help you understand the road ahead. My hope is that it allows you to view menopause as a phase of life, as well as inform you of the preventative care that can be taken to lessen any impact of menopause on your health. In addition, may this book provide the knowledge to best manage your menopause with a view to your unique concerns.

If you are already on Team Menopause, I hope this book helps you understand how you got here—biologically speaking—and informs you of important health considerations that may still lie ahead. It’s never too late for preventative health care and many symptoms and medical conditions may still need managing.

And if you are in your menopause transition and experiencing that hormonal chaos, know for many women this is the rockiest phase. Often just that acknowledgment can help. I hope the information here helps you reframe what is happening to your body, and if you are suffering I hope you take comfort knowing there are many explanations for how and what you are feeling, as well as therapies—and these rapids won’t last forever. My hope is that this book helps to hold your canoe steady so you can catch your breath.

Facts can bring order to the chaos and uncertainty of menopause, because knowledge can dispel fears and open up treatment options. Even if the option is to take no action, it is still a position of power because it is an act of self-determination. Feminism can help women see the biases that may have informed previous beliefs and reframe their menopause not as a terminal event, but as another phase of life.

Women want more information about menopause and that knowledge can reduce suffering. Knowing what’s happening to your body and that you’re not alone in your experiences is powerful medicine. Facts empower women to make the health decisions that work for them—you can’t be an informed patient with inaccurate information.

It shouldn’t require an act of feminism to know how your body works, but it does. And it seems there is no greater act of feminism than speaking up about a menopausal body in a patriarchal society.

So let’s make some noise.

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Women of the Pandemic

Women of the Pandemic

Stories from the Frontlines of COVID-19
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As stay-at-home orders were issued across North America in early March, it became clear that the story of the pandemic would be different for women—that, in many ways, the story of the pandemic was the story of women. In Canada, women comprise 81 per cent of healthcare workers. Notably, they make up the vast majority of nurses, social workers, and personal support workers (PSWs). Beyond the healthcare front line, the New York Times estimated that one in three jobs held by women had been designated as essential during nation-wide shutdowns, and that racialized women, specifically, held more essential jobs than anybody else. Throughout the pandemic, these women were tasked with keeping our bodies and minds healthy, with keeping us fed, with keeping our hospitals and public spaces clean, with helping the most vulnerable among us, and with being near our bedsides when we died. They led us through, even as they lost the most, and the harsh, uncomfortable truth is that sometimes they led us simply because they couldn’t afford to lose more.

To compound all of this, at the same time they were performing these essential jobs, many women abruptly became responsible for home-schooling their kids, juggling their children’s needs with their own, often without support. Single and low-income mothers scrambled to buy diapers, to figure out child care, to keep scraping by. Still more women lost their income, accounting for 62 per cent of the job losses between late February and March, and for 50 per cent more vanished work hours than men. Women between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four, in particular, lost more than two times the jobs that men did. Economists began calling the chilling economic nosedive in North America the “she- cession,” noting that for the first time in history, women were more affected by mass job losses than men. And, as COVID-19 swept through long-term care (LTC) homes in Canada at twice the rate of other developed countries, we also became one of the only places in the world where more women than men were getting sick and dying. Many people’s worlds were getting smaller, scarier, more uncertain, but it was arguably women who felt this most keenly—women who balanced barefoot on the razor’s edge.

But it was also women who, amid the horror and disaster, gave us hope, leadership, and resilience. Across Canada, when we were at our most isolated, women brought us together. On Facebook, two Toronto women, Mita Hans and Valentina Harper, decided to reach out to their neighbours with a modest question: How can we help? The resulting mutual aid group— who, in a refusal to give in to doomsday fearmongers, cheekily named themselves “Caremongers”— quickly became a worldwide movement. Within a month, similar groups had formed across the United Kingdom, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, and the United States, all with the intent of ensuring their community’s most vulnerable were not, once again, forgotten. Women banded together to organize mask-making drives, stitching and distributing over 220,000 free coverings through the grassroots group Canada Sews. Elsewhere, women offered free emergency therapy services to frontline workers and organized funding drives to pay people’s bills when their Canada Emergency Response Benefit didn’t arrive fast enough. In Nova Scotia, Black women lobbied for COVID-19 testing sites in historically overlooked and underserviced neighbourhoods. In every city and town, women were determined to bring out the best in us, even when we were told to expect the worst. People gave millions of dollars, gave time, gave themselves.

“It was such a huge undertaking,” said Lee-Anne Moore-Thibert, who founded Canada Sews. “It was such a huge show of Canadian spirit.” When she started the group on March 22, she named it Durham Sews, thinking she’d just make a few masks with a few friends for Oshawa, Ontario, and, maybe, the surrounding region. Within twenty-four hours, she had received eight hundred requests and more than three hundred people had joined her sewing army. Watching the numbers climb, she remembers joking with her husband, like, “Ha-ha-ha, let’s see if we can hit fifty thousand masks.” It was the most far-fetched number she could think of—so distant and so big it didn’t even really seem like a goal. But within a few days, the group had grown large enough that she’d renamed it Ontario Sews. Within a week, it became Canada Sews. There were so many requests, and so many volunteers to coordinate, that Moore-Thibert, who is also a managing partner at a para-legal firm, an at-home caregiver for her mother-in-law, and had recently given birth to her first child, was working twenty-two hours every day. She’d wake up at 5 a.m. to nurse her daughter, answer requests, and coordinate volunteers. And, on April 30, when the organization hit that previously unimaginable number of fifty thousand mask deliveries, she broke down and cried. It felt like every hour was filled with fear about the future, but at least she could say that, when it seemed like the world was ending, she did one thing that helped people.

Beyond these everyday small acts of leadership, were the big, life-or-death ones. I have never seen so many women leaders— or their compassion, vulnerability, and humanity—so widely celebrated. In Vancouver’s Gastown, artists painted colourful, calm-faced murals of Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Bonnie Henry. Others emblazoned the likenesses of the country’s many women public health officers on T- shirts, coffee mugs, posters, and pins, usually donating proceeds to various foodbanks and charities. In Alberta, where Deena Hinshaw is the chief medical officer of health, in just six days, one woman sold over 750 shirts that read “What Would Dr. Hinshaw Do?,” giving all $20,023 in sales to the province’s foodbanks. B.C.’s Henry, easily the most popular of the bunch, even got her own fan club and a namesake pink-and-plum John Fluevog shoe. In June, the New York Times ran a profile of her under the headline “The Top Doctor Who Aced the Coronavirus Test.” Looking warily toward the failed leadership to the south during the first wave, observers praised the way Canada’s majority-women medical leadership navigated one of the worst crises in modern history. Henry’s practical advice mantra resonated and reverberated, becoming both a balm and a gospel: “Be kind, be calm, be safe.”


It’s impossible to guess at the full consequences of COVID-19. University of British Columbia sociology professor Sylvia Fuller said in July of the disproportionate impact of the virus on women, “By this point it’s become clear that the pandemic is not the ‘great equalizer.’” As much as we pine for, or rush toward, the new normal, the pandemic isn’t over. We cannot know how far the ripples will extend, or what else will be redrawn. Surely, we’ll see both good and bad changes, resurgent kindness and unaffordable setbacks. Already, we’ve seen calls for better social supports, health care, and higher pay for essential workers. Already we’ve seen a widening gender pay gap, an uneven return to work, and an increase in gender-based violence. As we attempt to chart our paths forward, it’s important for us to reflect on this exceptional year, to honour it, and to unflinchingly examine its darkest truths. So, yes, let us rebuild with hope and generosity, but first let us pause and pay attention to what this time, and these extraordinary women, have to teach us.

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Changing the Face of Canadian Politics
also available: Hardcover
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Seconds Out

Seconds Out

Women and Fighting
also available: eBook
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Home on the Strange

Home on the Strange

Chronicles of Motherhood, Mayhem, and Matters of the Heart
also available: eBook
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Big Reader

Big Reader

also available: eBook
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This week's recommended reading lists

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