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Showing posts from March, 2017

The Break by Katherena Vermette

The Break by Katherena Vermette is set in Winnipeg's North End. One fateful night a crime occurs witnessed by a young Métis mother. The Break is narrated from several viewpoints, adding to the complexity and interest of the storyline. 

"I choose to live in hope," Katherena Vermette said at a Canada Reads event at Indigo Chapters last month. And when you read The Break, you see that this theme lingers in the background, despite the gut-wrenching narrative. The protagonist, perseveres. 

The story revolves around the crime committed but the reader is forced to piece together the journey captured from various viewpoints and make sense of the differing frames. Shifting narratives, by people connected with the violence, narrate the story leading up to the night of the crime, making the pacing and suspense thoroughly satisfying. All in all, there are ten perspectives that act as the magnifying glass to the solving of the mystery. One of these, is the girl at the centre of the cri…

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Does human intelligence lead to happiness or misery? That’s the question at the crux of André Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs.
The book already won the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and rightfully so. Masterfully created, not to mention, a philosophical wonder, Fifteen Dogs once again won the hearts of the CanLit world to sit as one of the five finalists on the esteemed 2017 Canada Reads list. 
How do you take a book centred around dogs and make it add meaning to the modern era? Not easily, but André Alexis has managed to do it with panache. 
The novel is set in Toronto. The gods Hermes and Apollo, are already downing down a few pints at a tavern, when they decide to make a bet. A small group of animals would be ingratiated with language and intelligence. The outcome is to determine whether the theory that human intelligence is “an occasionally useful plague” is true, and whether it will cause more misery than gratification.
" I wonder", said Hermes, "what it would be like…

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Company Town is a city-sized oil rig, set in a posthuman world. Its residents have been enhanced in some shape or form, whether it’s to make them smarter or stronger. Everyone, except for Hwa. The protagonist of Madeline Ashby’s novel has zero bio-engineered enhancements, and while this may seem like it could be limiting for her survival, it actually proves to be a great strength. 

With her martial arts expertise and her sharp wit, Hwa is always one step ahead of people who are bigger, faster, and stronger than her. She’s tough and looks it too, because of the big scar across her face. But, don’t feel sorry for her, because while this may seem like a permanent disfigurement, it actually is a huge advantage for her, as she is able to go undetected in facial recognition software.
Hwa’s a bodyguard, who teaches self-defence classes and protects sex workers. When the oil-rig is bought by a wealthy family, the Lynchs, Hwa is approached to protect the youngest member of the clan. In the meant…

The Right To Be Cold by Sheila-Watt Cloutier

One woman's story of protecting her culture, the arctic and the whole planet.
The Right To Be Cold is a memoir about Sheila-Watt Cloutier's early life in the Arctic and her fight against climate change as an adult. At a young age she and her friend Lizzie were taken from their Inuit family in New Fort Chimo, to live in Nova Scotia with Joseph and Peggy Ross. The journey south was traumatic, and as Sheila-Watt Cloultier puts it, foretelling of the struggles soon to come. 

When they arrived in Blanche, Sheila-Watt Cloutier was bedridden for the next three days, unable to eat. The Rosses felt that the faster the girls adapted to southern ways, the better it would be for them. Their diet was an important part of this adjustment, and it was the first in a long line of adjustments that they would have to make in order to survive this new journey. 

Ten years old, and very naive about what it really meant to be away from her mother, grandmother and community, she was as she puts it, &quo…

Paint like Picasso

Our stressed-out lives demand some sort of sanity and most recently this sort of therapy has emerged with an onset of a slew of creative pursuits. Trends have included colouring books, crafts, pottery, and painting. These are all things we did as kids (and loved them), now as adults, it makes sense for us to go back to that happy place.

People who know the writer in me, may not be privy to the fact that I pursued a lot of art growing up, evening winning a competition or two. But over the years, in pursuit of a career path and long work hours, I haven't painted as much as I would like. Once in a while, I frequent my favourite art stores like Deserres and Curry's and buy myself a range of art supplies. 

I recently acquired DK's book Artist's Painting Techniques, and it's just the inspiration I needed to make my part-time hobby into a full-time obsession. Growing up, I never really had any proper textbooks on art theory and techniques. We followed the teacher's guid…

The Senses Deform, The Mind Forms.

“Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted.”  ~ Rebecca West
Rebecca West's iconic quotation speaks to her belief of art transforming our human existence into something that is meaningful. In our lives we are inundated with materialism and simply surviving ("being"). 

But art gives us more, and coming to appreciate, and love art in its many forms need not be the purvey of an elite few. It can be learnt, but learning need not give flashbacks to arcane dryness of academia. No, for the rest of us -- the silent majority who wish to cut through the obscure jargon of art history and the inaccessibility of theory -- there is "The Art Book -- Big Ideas Simply Explained". 

The Art Book is packed with almost every tidbit of knowledge you’d care to know about your favourite artists, from Pablo Picasso to Vincent van Gogh, and those modern maestro…

Making Sense Of A World That Just Doesn't Seem To Add Up

How do you take a story about a girl with autism and make it relatable, heartwarming and funny? Well, Benjamin Ludwig sure knows the secret formula. In his first novel, his protagonist, Ginny Moon, is just a normal teenage girl who plays the flute in the school band, enjoys basketball and studies Robert Frost poems for English class. She also currently lives in her Forever Home with her Forever Mom and Forever Dad. If you didn’t quite glean from the latter statement, Ginny is an adopted child. Her Forever Parents are great and love her very much, but Ginny longs to return to her drug addict birth mother, Gloria, and take care of her Baby Doll.
So, she plans her own kidnapping. And if anyone can pull it off, it's this smart resourceful girl with a heart of gold. While kidnapping is not the savviest of solutions, Ginny's reasoning is so compelling that we are willing to take a backseat on her journey, although our hearts desperately ache for her to see reason. 
I had mixed feeling…