Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Introducing Maud and Me by Marianne Jones

Imagine gardening and having your favourite author not only rise from the dead but chat with you over a cup of tea.

That is exactly what happened to protagonist Nicole LeClair in the thought-provoking novel Maud and Me by Canadian author Marianne Jones

Maud and Me by Marianne Jones; Crossfield Publishing 2021; ISBN 13: 978-1-9991-779-73; 280 pages  

In her narrative, the main character divulged, “Maud first appeared last spring….I was puzzled by her old-fashioned attire and the sense of déjà-vu that enveloped me.” (p. 3)

As a reader, I loved the mystic and spiritual concept of this book. As the back cover stated, “Nicole and Maud are separated by decades and death, but find companionship through their similar circumstances – as minister’s wives, as artists, as feminists constrained by propriety and expectation.”

To better appreciate these parallel lives, I wanted to pause and dig deeper into the life of this spiritual Lucy Maud Montgomery and yet I had to remind myself that this was Nicole’s and not Maud’s story. I could read Montgomery another day!

Besides, there was more to this 280-page novel than just the surreal banter between the main character and her literary apparition.

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Tree-Themed Books – Reviewed

“You speak to me whispering/tree-secrets in the language/of lush and leafy greens” – Kate Marshall Flaherty*

Looking for an escape during these recent pandemic lockdowns? Over the years, I’ve read numerous books about trees.  So far, these are my seven favourites reviewed on Goodreads. Each of the authors has inspired me!

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li (Penquin Life 2018) 320 pages

I first noticed the Japanese term Shinrin-Yoku on a Facebook post. After losing four large ash trees in my backyard due to the invasive emerald ash borer, I couldn’t believe how the loss permeated my existence. I felt compelled to learn more about the ash trees and in doing so the surviving trees taught me so much about the world around me.

Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li and Heartwood edited by Lesley Strutt

What can trees teach us about the world? Pick up a book and discover what some researchers and poets have discovered?  Here are two books to get you started.

It didn’t surprise me that for Mother’s Day my family gifted me this book on forest bathing by Dr. Qing Li, chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine. However, what surprised me was that about a third of the way into the book, the author even discussed a study about the relationship between trees and human health as the result of the emerald ash borer’s destructive path through America. In bold letters, he wrote on page 113 “When trees die, people die.”

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Watch the Tears – Phyllis Humby’s New Novel Old Broad Road

Phyllis L Humby’s gritty new novel Old Broad Road (Crossfield Publishing 2020) rattled more than a few old windows in a thunderstorm. It made me cry like a sudden outburst of rain, earning a five-star rating on Goodreads for its ability to move me so unexpectedly.

How did she do it?

By slowing the pace and quietly introducing the reader to Newfoundland’s warm hospitality before unrolling the yellow caution tape and hammering the reader not once but several times towards the end of the book.

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Humby’s debut novel Old Broad Road was released by Crossfield Publishing in 2020.

The novel opened innocently enough with Torontonian protagonist Sylvia Kramer seeking a fresh start in Newfoundland after divorcing her husband of several decades. The reasons for the divorce are not clear at the beginning but it was obvious Sylvia was traumatized enough to want to leave her adult children and young grandchildren behind.

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Introducing Norma West Linder’s 16th Poetry Collection

“Lake Huron laps a neverending story/Of ships and shells and past and present glory.” -Norma West Linder*

Call it a poet’s memory box of many things! Using the catchy but familiar title Cabbages and Kings, Canadian writer Norma West Linder giftwraps 50 of her best poems written between 2012 and 2019 and presents them in a beautifully written book recently released by Aeolus House. This is her 16th poetry collection and the first one since Adder’s-tongues, her 1969-2011 selected works, was published by the same publisher in 2012.  It’s quite an achievement considering Linder is now in her nineties with no sign of retiring anytime soon.

Cabbages and Kings front cover

Cabbages and Kings – Poems 2012 – 2019 (Aeolus House 2020) by Norma West Linder, 82 pages, ISBN 978-1-987872-262 (softcover)

Fans of her work will be delighted with her familiar narrative and accessible verse written in the people’s poet tradition. Over the years, Linder has published novels, a biography, a one-act play, a memoir, and work for children so it is common to see some storytelling techniques incorporated in her poetry.

For example, the attractive softcover book opens like a fairy tale with the Lewis Carroll quote “The time has come,” the Walrus said/“To talk of many things:/-Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax—/Of cabbages – and Kings…”

Linder does indeed speak “of many things” from fame and royalty to farming and down-to-earth living. Like a time capsule opened to reveal stories and significant images of the past, the 82-page book is organized into five sections reminiscent of neatly-bound and themed albums.

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A Strong Collection – Sharon Berg’s Naming the Shadows – Stories

 “Don’t shake your head, shadow, I’m serious.” -Sharon Berg*

Canadian author/publisher/poet Sharon Berg* prefaces her short story collection Naming the Shadows (Porcupine’s Quill 2019) with a quote by C. G. Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Not everyone yearns to peer or dig deep into the darkness but for those readers who appreciate great literature and take the time to analyze the content in more detail, they shall be rewarded.

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Naming the Shadows: Stories (Porcupine’s Quill 2019) by Sharon Berg ISBN 9780889844292 (softcover) was officially launched September 29, 2019 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Berg never flinches from tough subjects nor sugar-coats her work. She pushes boundaries and draws attention to such inequalities and injustices as betrayal and infidelity, bullying, manipulation, torture and assault, rape and sexual deviance, the exploitation of Midgets in a freak show, street living and abuse, theft and consequences, love lost and grief, adoption and single parenting, ageism, plus the heaviness of dark secrets and confessions. These are the shadows that Berg clearly names and wants to bring to light.

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A Flair for Entertaining – Hazards of the Trade by Phyllis L Humby

 “In the early 80s my persona was larger than life with a too loud laugh and too-wide smile. I dressed in outlandish styles, bright colours, and oversized jewellery.” -Phyllis L Humby*

Humour is often difficult to write but Phyllis L Humby weaves her wit seamlessly in her memoir and debut trade book Hazards of the Trade, virtually launched by Crossfield Publishing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bravo, I say, and not because I know and have followed the journey of this seasoned writer for a long time (which I fully disclose here), but because she has a special gift.

Gregarious with a natural flair for creating entertaining stories, this Canadian writer and columnist often lights up a room with her infectious laughter. This unique ability to razzle-dazzle and woo her customers (and readers) is evident throughout her book.

Aptly subtitled: An Intimate Reveal of the 80s and 90s Lingerie Boom, her memoir shares the inner workings of a boutique she owned and operated in a small but prosperous southwestern Ontario community.

Hazards-Front-Only-1

Hazards of the Trade: An Intimate Reveal of the 80s and 90s Lingerie Boom (Crossfield Publishing 2020) by Phyllis L Humby ISBN 13:9781999177928.

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Behold the “Unblocked” Spirit of Writing

“Your morning pages are your boat. They will both lead you forward and give you a place to recuperate from your forward motion.”– Julia Cameron*

Artist's Way Photo 6

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by national bestselling author Julia Cameron could change your life! It certainly changed mine!

It taps you on the shoulder when you least expect it! That effervescence of literary ‘magic’ that tingles down your back, spreads throughout your body, and squirts out your pen or onto the keyboard. Some call it the muse. Some call it “God” with a capital “G”. Some call it the “spirit” of nature with a more subtle lower case “s”.

If you’re a writer, or a creator from any of the artistic or creative disciplines, you’ve probably felt it. I know I have, and I’ve seen it in the eyes of other writers creating at their peak performance. It’s the force that keeps the creativity flowing and it’s as real and nourishing as an Empire apple picked straight from a tree.

But what happens when the rivers of creativity dry up? Has it happened to you like it happened to me? You wake up in a sweat and overnight the words are blurred or even worse, they’ve disappeared, and your rowboat is gone? You try crawling (without your oars) down a different path but flounder some more.

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On and Off the Air with Winnipeg Writer Carmelo Militano

“I wanted your world to unfold/reveal itself its inner workings/as if all that was required was opening/the back of a watch and the whirl and click of you would be visible.” – Carmelo Militano*

He treats his guests like poetic movie stars. Using his deep and throaty radio voice, Carmelo Militano welcomes each writer into the university studio where they will celebrate their literary lives and reveal the inner workings of their writing world.

Since the Fall 2014, this poet, writer, editor, teacher and radio broadcaster hosted and produced a weekly poetry show at CKUW FM 95.9 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Called the P. I. New Poetry Show, the program featured over 120 poets and writers from across the country which meant Militano needed to read some 120 books to prepare for the various interviews.

Carmelo Militano - host of P. I. Poetry

Winnipeg writer Carmelo Militano recently took a hiatus from being the host and producer for the P.I. New Poetry show broadcast from the University of Winnipeg.

In early 2019, he began his hiatus from the radio show to work on a new book about the life of the Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani. Edits for Catching Desire (Ekstasis Editions 2019) were finished this month with a release date expected in the spring 2020 or later this fall 2019.

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‘Travelling The Lost Highway’ with Sarnia Writers Deahl & Linder

We awaken to distant thunder,/the sound of rain in the black walnut – James Deahl*

Three cheers and a thunderous applause for Sarnia’s literary couple James Deahl and Norma West Linder who continue to travel and entertain readers and audiences with their prolific work.

James Deahl and Norma West Linder are prolific award-winning Canadian writers who call Sarnia, Ontario, Canada their home. Both launched new work on September 9, 2019.

Last month, their double book launch officially introduced Travelling The Lost Highway, Deahl’s 164-page poetry collection inspired by some of the secluded Canadian and American roads Deahl and Linder travelled as a couple plus Perk’s First Love– A 1984 Drum Corps Summer, Linder’s fictional novel aimed at the youth or young adult market.

Featured books at Double Launch September 9, 2019 in Sarnia

 The double book launch featured more than just two books.

Both shared their work at the literary celebration which also included readings by four contributors to Tamaracks and Lummox anthologies. Guest readers were Joseph A. Farina, Ryan Gibbs, David Haskins, and Rhonda Melanson.

Featured readers at double launch September 9, 2019 in Sarnia

The launch included readings by Joseph A. Farina, Norma West Linder, David Haskins, James Deahl, Ryan Gibbs, and Rhonda Melanson.

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Resources to Help Sell Your Poetry Book

You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not a PR professional. Isn’t my publisher supposed to do this?” – Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing*

Relying on a publisher to promote a book isn’t enough!

Several years ago, when I signed my contract for my first trade book Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014), I knew marketing a poetry book would be a challenge. I was a PR professional, college-trained (back in the days when there were no public relations courses taught at the university level in Canada). I had mastered the basics and honed more advanced skills while handling marketing and communication assignments in the visual arts and university/college sectors. I worked with the media and knew how to pitch a news story, plan an advertising campaign, and prepare a marketing strategy.

What resources will you use - OkunHill

The ABC’s of promoting a poetry book isn’t always black and white! Photo by OkunHill

I also knew that wasn’t enough. I needed more research, more inside information about the book industry especially how to attract a poetry-loving-buying audience. I had heard enough stories to know that small press publishers relied on their writers, especially first time authors to help promote their work. The truth was that most publishers wanted their authors to succeed but the reality was that publishers had limited staff and financial resources to help everyone.

As one experienced writer once warned me, “if you think it’s challenging to find a publisher for your first book, think about how difficult it would be to get another publisher when your first book flops.

Yikes! That would scare any new writer into action.

But where does a poet look for help?

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