The Hidden Keys by André Alexis

29363400In the last two books I’ve read by André Alexis, there have been sheep and there have been dogs. The Hidden Keys has very few animals, but is still filled with interesting characters; a thief, an addict, a drug-dealer, a thug, an artist who stuffs deceased pets for a living, and a few billionaires.

What do all these characters have in common? They are all involved, in some way, in a treasure hunt; either in pursuit of the treasure, or in pursuit of the people who are in pursuit of the treasure.

It all started when Willow Azarian (the aging heroin addict) went up to Tancred (the thief), and told him the story of her family’s billions, her father’s death, the money he left them all, and most importantly the mementos he left each of the five Azarian siblings. Willow believes they hold clues to a further treasure/discovery. She’s not interested in the treasure as much as she is interested in finding out if she is right, or if there is a further message from her father who she was close to. She wants Tancred to steal each of the mementos from her siblings, and help her figure out the mystery.

Now, Tancred may be a thief, but he’s a nice person. He gives Willow his word that he will help her, starting a chain reaction of antics involving many characters; the drug-dealer and his thug who want in on the action, the artist who made the original mementos and has always suspected they held more meaning, the five Azarian siblings who have their own opinions about their father and his mementos, Tancred’s friend Olivier who helps him steal on occasion, Tancred’s friend Daniel who is a detective on the case and wishes he were not, and the man in the graveyard hired by more than one of them to keep watch over a mysterious mausoleum.

This book was a lot of fun to read. What I liked:

  • The puzzle/mystery/treasure hunt at the heart of the story. Following along while they pieced together the clues and went searching for the treasure was a lot of fun. The big question being: is there even going to be a treasure at the end of it all, and if so, what will it be?
  • The characters were all different and unique. We get a bit of backstory on each one to explain how he/she got to where they are today. None of them are good or bad, but a combination of both. I found the friendship between Tancred and his friends touching. Having been friends for life, and knowing each other so well, they are accepting of each other and how they live their lives.
  • Alexis is not afraid to make his characters look ridiculous. A couple of Tancred and Olivier’s heists turn into slapstick comedy scenes. And Colby makes a fool of himself trying to insert himself into a higher position of power. Stealing an old man’s leg to break into a building is beyond absurd. But they pull it off.
  • For fans of Fifteen Dogs, Majnoun and his owners make an appearance at a dinner party.
  • Inspired by a reading  of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, The Hidden Keys questions what it means to be faithful and what it means to be good. This theme plays out the most through Tancred’s character; to help Willow and faithfully keep his word to her, he has to lie to people he knows and steal from people he doesn’t want to steal from. For the first time in his career, he feels conflicted about what he does for a living. At a certain point, he no longer has an interest in the outcome; he is merely continuing because he gave his word to Willow. His friend Daniel (the Detective) also has some soul-searching to do when he begins to suspect who is behind the rash of Azarian robberies.

But you have to remember there is a difference between doing good and thinking you’re doing good. Almost everyone thinks they’re doing good. But we know too little, Tancred. I mean humans know too little. When a man has so little idea what the consequences of an action will be, how can he know if he’s doing good or not?

I’m convinced it takes a certain amount of faith to do good, Tancred. Not faith in God. I mean, faith that the actions you take will have the outcomes you desire.

I don’t know why people don’t worship chance. It’s as powerful as any of the gods and it doesn’t need money, doesn’t punish, doesn’t care what you eat on Friday. I’m not a believer, but if I was going to be, I’d worship chance. You could have churches that look like dice.

The only reservation I have about wholeheartedly praising this book is the ending. After the lead-up to the end, I felt ever-so-slightly dissatisfied. On the other hand, I don’t know how else he might have ended it. In any case, the journey this book takes you on is well worth the possibility of a small disappointment at the end; one that is entirely subjective.

One thing I have learned after reading three books by André Alexis: I find his writing soothing; like I know I am firmly in the hands of a good storyteller.  He’s also good at making me think. Can’t wait for his next one!

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Thank you to the folks at Coach House Books for sending me a copy of this book for review!

A review of The Hiddden Keys at The Star in which the reviewer reminds us that The Hidden Keys is the third book in a quincunx, a series of five interrelated novels.

2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist

There are 6 books on the Giller Prize shortlist this year. The Shadow Jury will be reading and reviewing these books over the course of the next 5 weeks. We will be choosing a shadow winner a few days before the official Giller Prize announcement on November 7th.

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Mona Awad for her novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, published by Penguin Canada

My thoughts: I haven’t read this one yet, but my feeling based on other reviews I’ve read is that the writing will be good, but I may find myself feeling frustrated by the protagonist’s negative outlook on life. On the other hand, maybe not…

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Gary Barwin for his novel Yiddish for Pirates, published by Random House Canada

My thoughts: This may be the book I know the least about, and I think I’ll keep it that way. I’m hopeful that it will be a fun read. I mean, it’s about pirates, right?

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Emma Donoghue for her novel The Wonder, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

My thoughts: This is probably next on my reading list. I don’t know very much about it, but it’s Emma Donoghue, so my expectations are high (whether they should be or not).

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Catherine Leroux for her novel The Party Wall, published by Biblioasis International Translation Series, translated by Lazer Lederhendler

My thoughts: I’m happy to see this on the list. To find out why, see my review.

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Madeleine Thien for her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing, published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada

My thoughts: I’m not surprised to see this on the list, as it is also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year. From what I’ve read so far, I’m expecting it to be a slower read, but rewarding.

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Zoe Whittall for her novel The Best Kind of People, published by House of Anansi Press Inc.

My thoughts: I’m reading this one now, and I can already tell you that it’s a page-turner. But how will it all end?

Tell me, have you read any of these? Are there any here that you think shouldn’t be? Any that should be, but aren’t? Thoughts? Predictions?

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This link will take you to CBC Books where they have compiled The Next Chapter interviews for 5 of the 6 shortlisted books.

What the jurors had to say about each of the books on the shortlist.

 

Unless by Carol Shields

956199I haven’t read one of Carol Shields’ novels in such a long time that it was an obvious choice for the letter ‘S’ in my A-Z CanLit Project. But, which one? There are so many good ones to pick from. In the end, I went with Unless because of the premise: Reta Winters, 44-year-old successful author of light summertime fiction, has always considered herself happy, even blessed. That is, until her oldest daughter Norah mysteriously drops out of college to become a panhandler on a Toronto street corner — silent, with a sign around her neck bearing the word “Goodness.” [from Goodreads]

It was a good choice for me; I found so many of Reta’s thoughts familiar (even ones I didn’t know I had until I read them). It was comforting to see them so well articulated on the page. Reading this book felt like talking to a friend.

All my life I’ve heard people speak about finding themselves in acute pain, bankrupt in spirit and body, but I’ve never understood what they meant. To lose. To have lost. I believed these visitations of darkness lasted only a few minutes or hours and that these saddened people, in between bouts, were occupied, as we all were, with the useful monotony of happiness. But happiness is not what I thought. Happiness is the lucky pane of glass you carry in your head. It takes all your cunning just to hang on to it, and once it’s smashed you have to move into a different sort of life.

3283770Reta is “not interested, the way some people are, in being sad”. But the disturbing actions of her daughter are taking a toll on her. She distracts herself the best she can with her daily activities; she continues to clean her house, visit her friends, and work on her novel. Life goes on around her; Bush becomes President, Chretien is Prime Minister, Margaret Atwood wins the Man Booker Prize. But Norah is constantly in her thoughts, and she tries to work out what has gotten her to this place; she feels it was most assuredly something she did wrong as a mother. Reta researches the meaning of ‘goodness’ trying to figure out how to save her daughter. All the things that could be wrong with Norah march through her mind. This ‘fight’ to get Norah back leads her to ruminate about the state of the world in general, and the power of women in the world, in particular.

Unless is the worry word of the English language. It flies like a moth around the ear, you hardly hear it, and yet everything depends on its breathy presence… Unless you’re lucky, unless you’re healthy, fertile, unless you’re loved and fed, unless you’re clear about your sexual direction, unless you’re offered what others are offered, you go down to the darkness, down to despair. Unless provides you with a trap door, a tunnel into the light, the reverse side of not enough. Unless keeps you from drowning in the presiding arrangements… Unless is a miracle of language and perception… It makes us anxious, makes us cunning. Cunning like the wolves that crop up in the most thrilling fairy tales. But it gives us hope.

1355260Happy marriages: For those of you who have, like me, noted the lack of happy marriages in novels, you’ll be interested to know that the couple in this book have a happy marriage. They choose to comfort and support each other through the trial of their daughter’s lifestyle choice, rather than let it come between them.

A few more passages that struck me:

The radio host in Baltimore asked me – he must have been desperate – what was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. That stopped me short. I couldn’t think of the worst thing. I told him that whatever it was, it hadn’t happened yet. I knew, though, at that moment, what the nature of the “worst thing” would be, that it would be socketed somehow into the lives of my children.

This matters, the remaking of an untenable world through the nib of a pen; it matters so much I can’t stop doing it.

Blurting is a form of bravery.

All I wanted was for Norah to be happy; all I wanted was everything.

What Carol Shields book(s) have you read and loved?

Unless’ movie trailer (2016)

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Shadow Giller: The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux, translated by Lazer Lederhendler

27133420The first thing I noticed about The Party Wall, even before reading the first page, was the story/character sequence; ABACADABACADA. Intriguing, right? Then, after about four stories into it, I had no idea where any of it was going (a good thing). Even more enticing are the little clues giving us hints as to when each of the stories take place in relation to each other; essential later for making connections between the stories.

Clues about the time aren’t the only ones being dropped by the author; as you get further along into the book, bits of information help you begin to make the connections between the characters. The connections aren’t huge and mind-boggling; they’re small and almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But, this just serves to make them more powerful. The revelations made by the characters throughout the book, however, are life-changing for them.

There are moments nothing can prepare you for. Such as fainting on shaking hands with a stranger. Or reading your mother’s name for the first time. You don’t know what to do, how to behave. You forget how to breathe, blink your eyes, swallow the stones building up in your mouth.

Connections between the stories are fun, but they’re not the only reason to read this book. The writing is wonderful. And the stories are strong enough to stand alone, or show their connection through theme; duality and siblings are strong themes in this book, in unique and surprising ways.

She can’t find the words to tell him that is not how life works, to explain to her still very young son that the world is not a vast pair of scales where bad actions offset each other, where misdeeds are consistently sanctioned. The world is an unjust place where the good go bad from never being rewarded, where the truly wicked are very rarely punished and where most folk zigzag between the two extremes, neither saints nor demons, tacking between heartache and joy, their fingers crossed, knocking on wood. Every person split in two, each with a fault around which good and evil spin.

To say more would be to give too much away. This book is more rewarding the less you know about it. Read it. Especially if you are into creative forms of storytelling. (If you like your novels to be straight-forward and linear, this might not be for you.) And, while you are reading it, pay close attention. I’m sure there are things I missed along the way; this is a book that begs to be read again.

18455586At the end of The Party Wall, Catherine Leroux  talks about the real-life stories that inspired her characters, and in an interview she describes them as “so unbelievable, I kept thinking no writer would ever dare to invent something like that.”  In the stories Leroux created, she “wanted to reflect on what is inherited from one generation to the next, what resurfaces after it’s been buried or forgotten.” There is a focus on twins and siblings; a theme of duality in which her characters are “questioning dualism; they are repositioning in relation to the boundaries between each other, learning that their “party wall” is thicker or more permeable than they thought.”  “… we are not on one side or another, we are not building it, climbing it nor breaking it. We are inside of it. There is life within the thinnest barrier.

A few more spoiler-free passages:

The daffodils blossomed early and she has cut nine of them, one for each year since Micha died. This is the first time she’s thought fit to pick such cheerful flowers. Before, she would bring lilies and tulips. In their black hearts, tulips understand the gravity of grief, and the lilies’ heady fragrance speaks the language of the dead. The daffodils, with their double petals, their frills and sparkling colours say something quite different: “I no longer mourn for you,” and Madeleine confirms this out loud as she straddles the small springtime brook that splits the property in two. The truth is she stopped mourning years ago. But she has never dared to declare it to him so clearly.

The cameras are broadcasting real-time shots of the house, their house, with the blue paint that appears to be taking flight in the chilly air, the second-floor shutters, arms spread wide, the yellow bicycle with the flat tire chained to the balustrade, and the swing pushed by the August wind as if a ghost were seated on it.

Far away from the major cities, the noise of the new reaches them somewhat blurred; the distance lends an unreal sheen to events. Politics has taken on the shape of a masquerade for them, and human-interest items seem like sordid tales drawn from mythology… As far as the planet’s decline is concerned, they have let go. They are ordinary spectators of a world grown so warped as to beggar belief.

When he decided to marry and start a family, Simon never would have believed you could feel so far removed from those to whom you were supposed to be closest.

Victims and executioners often coexist in the same person. Those who forgive them are the ones who enable the world to heal.

A melody rises in a minor key, the scale that never finds happiness yet does not despair.

This is a beautiful book that I would be happy to see on the Giller shortlist this year. 

Update: The Party Wall made it to the shortlist.

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Thank you to the friendly folks at Biblioasis who sent me a copy of this book!

If you’ve already read the book (or after you read it), and you want to listen to a discussion of the book, visit Write Reads with Tania and Kirt.

In this review and interview, Montreal Gazette calls Catherine Leroux’s The Party Wall “a revelation”.

 

‘Flannery’ by Lisa Moore and ‘Trapped In Ice’ by Eric Walters

26113800Flannery by Lisa Moore

I have to admit that when I saw that Lisa Moore’s new book was written for young readers, I was disappointed. But, there was no need. I was sucked into this book from page one; Lisa Moore has a way with words and characters that still surprises me.

Young and old readers alike will fall in love with this book, and in love with Flannery herself, even without the aid of one of Flannery’s love potions. Who knew I would so love reading about a 16-year-old girl?

 

About Flannery (the character):

  • She lives in St. John’s Newfoundland.
  • She’s in grade 12, and is working on a project for her Entrepreneurial class; the creation of love potions.
  • She has never known her father. He sailed in one day on a boat made out of garbage. Then he sailed out again.
  • She calls her mother Miranda. Miranda has a parenting blog  and wears a tiara that she calls her ‘thinking cap’. She buys her son a drone but doesn’t have enough money to pay the bills. She has many quirks, but she’s a good mother.

Adults could be evil.

Evil was something Miranda had made sure, up until then, I knew nothing about.

Miranda had lots of boyfriends, but every one of them was kind to me. Every one of them offered to cut my steak, or they carried me on their shoulders. Every one of them was the kind of guy that daubed blue icing on the end of my nose if we had a birthday cake from Sobeys, which you could get cheap if it had somebody else’s name on it written in icing and it hadn’t been picked up or if it was three days old. We’ve had cakes that said Happy Birthday Declan or Raoul or Jasprit, or Keira or Fiona or Sally or Molly.

  • She has a 6-year-old brother named Felix.

It’s pretty hard to look Felix Malone in the eye and deny him anything. His little pointy chin  reaching up to rest on the edge of the counter. He widens those big blue eyes and out pours all his burning hope.

  • She’s in love with Tyrone, a graffiti artist, who she has known since birth, but who is becoming increasingly absent and aloof.

Not believing in something requires a lot of effort. It is easier to believe. Once I have accepted that something is true, I have a hard time losing faith in it.

I believed in Tyrone and I will always believe in him. I mean that there is something in him, something that I can’t even say or put into words that makes me love him and it’s so scary, loving someone.

It’s a big, out-of-control, jumping-jack love that makes me crazy and lonely.

  • Her best friend is a competitive swimmer named Amber. They have never not been friends. Until this year when Amber becomes infatuated with sleazy Gary. Now she won’t answer her texts.

Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary.

What a weird word it is. Gary. When you hear it over and over. There’s only one word worse than Gary.

And that word is we.

Since when did Amber become we, I want to ask her. I used to be half of we, I’d like to tell her. I hardly knew what she meant, when I first heard her say it.

We have to study for biology. We think what’s going on in the Middle East right now is scary. We both got 89 on that quiz. We think it’s dangerous for girls to drink because they’re vulnerable. We think that when girls get drunk, like, what do they expect? We think sexual assault is not okay, obviously, but, like Gary says, we think you have to take care of yourself. You can’t just go passing out all over the place. Like, who goes down to George Street dressed like that? Like, let’s not get all victimy here.

  • She has a talent for expressing herself (which she probably gets from her creator).

I was flabbergasted. That’s the word. It’s a word that shows up in the old yellowed Agatha Christie novels you find at your friends’ summer cabins. There are British people in those novels with big green lawns and rock walls and there are little old ladies who murder people with arsenic or by stabbing their straight through the forehead with an ice pick, and portly butlers with double chins and cooks with bright red faces and rectors, whatever they are. Those are the kinds of people who get flabbergasted.

What I love about Flannery (the novel): 

  • The writing. Obviously, the writing.
  • It’s refreshing. Most people’s lives have some good things going along with the bad. This book is not all anxiety and depression, bad parenting (unique parenting might be a good way to describe Miranda’s style) and substance abuse – it feels a lot more like the world I grew up in than some other YA books I have read.
  • It’s set up like a fairy tale, but may surprise you. Even the book description sounds like a predictable romantic comedy, but is really not.
  • The characters. All of them. I especially love Flannery’s small family – they are quirky and lovable, and oh so imperfect. They serve as a reminder that loving families come in all shapes and sizes and personalities.
  • The message. This is not an obvious message – children reading the book may not even notice it. But as a mother of 3, I fully appreciate and am grateful for it: Life does not always go the way you want it to, we all make mistakes, everyone is different, you are not a princess, this is not a fairy tale, you have the power to make your own life good and meaningful; don’t wait around for someone else to do it for you.

If you have never read any of Lisa Moore’s books before now, I urge you to run out and get one. And, as Buried In Print says in her review, “if Lisa Moore’s Flannery is the first in a string of YA novels, I will be spending more time reading in that department.”

Review of Flannery at The National Post.

“Flannery is a fully realized and nuanced protagonist, contradictory in all the most consistent ways. Flannery is smart enough to understand the realities and limitations of her world, but fanciful enough to dream up an idealistic version of her life where everything shimmers just enough.”

 

580789Trapped In Ice by Eric Walters

A while ago, I read and loved Eric Walters’ Safe As Houses. When I was re-organizing my kids’ book shelves, I found this one, and decided to read it. Trapped In Ice is children’s historical fiction at it’s best; I hadn’t heard of this event before reading the book.

Trapped In Ice is based on the true story of the ill-fated Canadian Arctic Exploration of 1913. What could be better? Shipwreck, the Arctic, ice, and polar bears.

The story is told through the eyes of young Helen; on board ship as the daughter of the seamstress. The Captain had warned them right away that it was no place for children, but their mother was determined to have them with her. Michael is filled with wonder at everything, while Helen is often fearful. She finds many chances, though, to show her bravery throughout the pages of this book; she experiences the sinking of the ship, hypothermia, a run-in with a polar bear, and a long journey over the ice before the spring thaw (when the ice would melt away causing the whole expedition to sink below the surface of the sea).

I tried my best to fall asleep but I couldn’t shut off the sound of the ice. Popping, groaning, banging, grinding, and smashing. Sometimes it sounded like voices calling out, or a baby crying or animals growling. We were frozen solid, but there was nothing solid about the water underneath the ice.

The ‘Karluk’ is captained by Captain Robert Bartlett, a Newfoundland-born Arctic explorer. He’s gruff, blunt, and knows how to get things done. If I’m ever lost in the Arctic, I would want to have him along.

I was always struck by how big the Arctic was, how it could just swallow somebody up and make them vanish.

It’s a middle-grade kids’ book, so you may be able to guess how it ends, but the fun is in the journey. The book is suspenseful and filled with obstacles to overcome all along the way. Another highly recommended Eric Walters book.

Best line: “Sorry, Michael. Mothers outrank Cap’ns….”

The 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist

This is the 23rd anniversary of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a prize that was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his wife, the late literary journalist Doris Giller. The prize awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

The 2016 Giller Prize jury members are: Canadian writers Lawrence Hill (Jury Chair), Jeet Heer and Kathleen Winter, along with British author Samantha Harvey and Scottish writer Alan Warner. You can find more information about the jurors here.

This year I will be joining Kim from Reading Matters and Alison from The Globe and Mail on the Giller Prize Shadow Jury. The shortlist will be announced on September 26th, after which we will be reading and reviewing all the books on the list, and making our shadow selection a few days before the real winner is announced on November 7th.

So, stay tuned for some Giller Prize content in the near future…

Here’s the longlist (announced September 6th):

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Mona Awad for her novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, published by Penguin Canada

Gary Barwin for his novel Yiddish for Pirates, published by Random House Canada

Andrew Battershill for his novel Pillow, published by Coach House Books

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David Bergen for his novel Stranger, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Emma Donoghue for her novel The Wonder, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Catherine Leroux for her novel The Party Wall, published by Biblioasis International Translation Series, translated by Lazer Lederhendler

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Kathy Page for her story collection The Two of Us, published by A John Metcalf Book, an imprint of Biblioasis

Susan Perly for her novel Death Valley, published by Buckrider Books, an imprint of Wolsak and Wynn Publishers

Kerry Lee Powell for her story collection Willem De Kooning’s Paintbrush, published by HarperAvenue, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

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Steven Price for his novel By Gaslight, published by McClelland & Stewart

Madeleine Thien for her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing, published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada

Zoe Whittall for her novel The Best Kind of People, published by House of Anansi Press Inc.

Have you read any of these, or plan to? Anyone wish to make a prediction about the shortlist?

My Bookish (and not so Bookish) Summer 2016

The title of my post is inspired by the meme Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts, which, as far as I can tell, originates at Bookishly Boisterous.

1) The annual book sale. This is usually in May, but this year it had new organizers, a new location, and a new time. But I was still there. And, as in all the years past, I assumed there wouldn’t be much for me to find. And, as in all the years past, I was wrong.

Canadian

Canadian finds

Non-Canadian finds

Non-Canadian finds

A closer look at the cute little Penguin short stories I found.

A closer look at the cute little Penguin short stories I found.

2) Camping trips. Most of our vacation time has always been reserved for summer camping with the kids. And, now that they’re older, I can sometimes get some reading done while we’re camping. There’s nothing better than reading in the woods, by the lake/ocean, or in the tent.

White Point Beach Resort. A quick trip with my parents. Beaches and bunnies!

White Point Beach Resort. A quick trip with my parents. Beaches and bunnies!

Our bike trip in the Annapolis Valley. The book I had with me was The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake.

Our bike trip in the Annapolis Valley. The book I had with me was The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake.

Endless treasures and Endless Shores. Bridgetown, NS. A quick stop on the way home from the Valley.

Endless treasures at Endless Shores. Bridgetown, NS. A quick stop on the way home from the Valley. Finally, Glass Voices!

Fundy National Park. Located on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy. Where I read This Marlowe by Michelle Butler Hallett.

Fundy National Park. Located on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy. Where I read This Marlowe by Michelle Butler Hallett.

Prince Edward Island National Park. Where I read *Congratulations On Everything by Nathan Whitlock.

Prince Edward Island National Park. Where I read Congratulations On Everything by Nathan Whitlock.

 I won this in a giveaway at 49th Shelf, and it was sent to me by the folks at ECW Press. A smart and entertaining novel about the service industry and some of its pitfalls. And a lot of drinking. (Maybe that's one of it's pitfalls?)

I won this in a giveaway at 49th Shelf, and it was sent to me by the folks at ECW Press. A smart and entertaining novel about the service industry and some of its pitfalls. And a lot of drinking. (Maybe that’s one of its pitfalls?)

Kejimkujik National Park. This is our favourite place to be. Ever.

Kejimkujik National Park. This is our favourite place to be. Ever. Where I read The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey, Unless by Carol Shields, and Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien (reviews to come).

More Keji. Just because.

More Keji. Just because.

And more. Because Keji is the best!

And more. Because Keji is the best!

Thomas Raddall Provincial Park. Where I read The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis (review to come).

Thomas Raddall Provincial Park. Where I read The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis (review to come).

3) A visit with TJ from My Book Strings. TJ and her family vacationed in Nova Scotia this summer, and although I have no proof (why didn’t we take a picture?!), we met for a quick visit. I can now say for sure that there is a person behind the butterfly.🙂 Come again, TJ!

4) Thrift store finds. We have a good spot to find books for $1 each in our town, and I have a hard time staying away for it for more than a few weeks at a time. Here is my summer pile:

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5) New book shelf. My 13-year-old son built me this book shelf all by himself using leftover wood he found in the basement, and I couldn’t be more delighted. It holds almost all of the books I had floating around in piles. The shelves are deep and sturdy, so I have books behind the books.

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6) My 10 Books of Summer. This was my first year joining in on the 20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. I fully read and reviewed 8 out of 10 of the books on the list – and I liked (or loved) them all! To read my reviews, just go to my list of books and click on the titles.

I also read my extra bonus book, Unless by Carol Shields, but haven’t reviewed it yet. Hint: It’s lovely.

I partly read The Motorcyclist by George Elliott Clarke. I read about 50 pages in, and although the writing was poetic as always, the subject didn’t appeal to me (there’s a lot about the love he has for his motorcycle, as well as the love many women apparently have for his motorcycle, or him because he has a motorcycle. Also his love for women. But it is based on the real diary of a young man, so…) and I had no great desire to keep reading. But I did want to know how it ended, so I skimmed through the rest of it and read the end. I think the best thing about it is the look you get at the life of a young black man in 1959 Halifax. I’d love to know what you think if you’ve read the whole thing!

I did also (mostly) read through his poetry collections, Blue and Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues, and would recommend them for fans of poetry and George Elliott Clarke. I find them a mix of bold, confident, sensual, and uncomfortable (in a good way).

I recommend the poetry collections Blue and Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues for fans of poetry and George Elliot Clarke. I also read my bonus book Unless by Carol Shields. Review to come. Hint: It's lovely.

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Looking forward to the Fall: 

I was excited and honoured to be asked to participate in this year’s Giller Prize Shadow Jury that takes place every year at the blog Kevin From Canada. (You can read about the history of it here.)  A big thanks to Kim from Reading Matters for carrying on the tradition that Kevin started.

It feels bittersweet to continue what has become an annual tradition without Kevin steering the ship, but we felt it was the best way to honour him and I’m sure it’s something he would like us to do given that championing Canadian literature was so dear to his heart. And, as the kicker says on Kevin’s banner above, “the show must go on…”

See the 2016 Giller Prize longlist here.

More on the Giller Prize to come…

Tell me about your summer – what did you do? What was your best book of the summer?