Dickensian fantasy

“The historical fantasy, ‘Ordinary Monsters,’ due out in June is inspired by Victorian England & written by J.M. Miro, a pseudonym for a lauded BC author who lives in the Pacific North West.FULL STORY



Who’s Who

Amber Cowie

A is for Amber
Squamish-based Amber Cowie’s Last One Alive (Simon & Schuster $24.99) follows a team of researchers exploring the myth of a ‘stone witch’ at a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. They investigate a story about the original owner, who met a violent death, and his wife, who disappeared. Shortly after, a young couple renovating the cabin to be run as an eco-lodge also disappear. The investigators, led by a debut novelist looking for inspiration for her next thriller novel, are also beset by strange happenings such as freak storms, satellite phones that stop working and delayed boats that don’t appear for days. Then some of the investigators disappear and bodies turn up. The team must make a decision to run for it or stay behind and solve the mystery of the stone witch. Amber Cowie’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Globe and Mail, Crime Reads and Scary Mommy. She is a graduate of the University of Victoria. 9781982183042

Michelle Poirier Brown. Photo Helene Cyr.

B is for Brown
Michelle Poirier Brown was 38 when she discovered she had a hidden indigenous identity. Coming to terms with her new found Métis heritage was compounded by having to deal with childhood trauma from an incestuous rape as well as nearly dying from an incidence of exposure to extreme cold. She reveals her journey of pain, belonging, hope and resilience in her debut collection of poems You Might Be Sorry You Read This (Univ. of Alberta Press $19.99). Publicity about the book states: “The confessional poems are polished yet unpretentious, often edgy but humorous; they explore trauma yet prioritize the poet’s story. Honouring the complexities of Indigenous identity and the raw experiences of womanhood, mental illness, and queer selfhood, these narratives carry weight.” Brown concludes in one of her poems that “You need / only be the simple / expression of the divine / intent / that is your life.” 9781772126037

Lincoln Clarkes

C is for Clarkes
Lincoln Clarkes had made his name as a fashion and celebrity photographer before he began a photo project between 1996-2002 about drug-addicted women working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). He published some of the images in his book, Heroines: Photographs (Anvil, 2002), held an exhibition at a DTES art gallery and had an award-winning documentary about the book produced in 2002. A furor ensued about Clarkes’ ethics for focusing on drug addicts. Heroines Revisited (Anvil $48) is a follow-up volume featuring another 200 portraits, many not shown before, along with three new critical essays about the photo project and the controversial body of work, as well as an interview with the artist. The arguments against Clarkes’ photos says Melora Koepke, one of the essay contributors “in some way negated the subjects’ agency and contributed to an ongoing cultural tug-of-war over women’s bodies and the choices they make about them… By its very existence, Heroines asks whether those who are scandalized by what the photographs show should instead save their indignation for the conditions of life in the DTES.” 978-1-77214-071-2

D is for Deverell
In another installment of William Deverell’s Arthur Beauchamp legal thriller series, Stung (ECW Press $32.95 hc) Beauchamp defends seven environmentalists accused of sabotaging an Ontario plant that pumps out a pesticide linked to the mass death of honeybees. The story zigzags between Toronto, where the trial takes place, and Arthur’s West Coast island home, where he finds himself arrested for fighting his own environmental cause: the threatened destruction of a popular park. The Toronto trial concludes with a hang-by-the-fingernails jury verdict. 9781770415959

Ann Eriksson. Photo by Gary Geddes.

E is for Eriksson
In her third non-fiction title for younger readers ages 12 and older, Urgent Message from a Hot Planet: Navigating the Climate Crisis (Orca $24.95), Ann Eriksson looks at the science behind global warming and its impact on the environment as well as sharing easy actions we can all take to ameliorate the damaging effects. “Do something NOW!” is her clear message. With many photographs and illustrations by Vancouver-based Belle Wuthrich, this colourful book also highlights young people who are “climate heroes,” adult activists who are making a difference, and other role models from around the world working to fix the problems of climate change. “I encourage any interested youth – and their parents – to read this book,” says Elizabeth May, MP and former leader of the Green Party of Canada. “It is an amazing achievement – comprehensive and informative, stretching from climate science to the intersecting issues of inequality and racism. Ultimately, it is a toolbox for hope.” Ann Eriksson is a director of the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy and works for the SeaChange Marine Conservation Society restoring nearshore marine ecosystems. 978-1459826328

Roger Farr

F is for Farr
Considered one of France’s best-known poets of the 15th century, François Villon’s work reflected his criminal behaviour and time spent in prisons. Often bawdy, Villon’s poems, written in medieval French, used slang words from the criminal underworld and aren’t easily translated into contemporary English. Not deterred by such difficulties, Vancouver’s Roger Farr has delved into Villon’s oeuvre with unique translations and queer re-workings in After Villon (New Star $16). Farr substitutes present day slang from diverse places like prisons, theatres, culinary and military milieux, and carnivals. Farr also subverts sex and gender designations by changing gender, pronouns and names in recognition of the problems with translating Villon. 9781554201877

Gurpreet Singh

G is for Gurpreet
Vancouver-based author, radio host and journalist, Gurpreet Singh has written a book about a Bollywood star and activist, which simultaneously delves into dangerous social trends developing under the growing power of authoritarian governments such as that of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi: From Nazneen to Naina: 20 years of Kareena Kapoor Khan in Bollywood and what that means for India and the rest of the world (Chetna Parkashan, 2022). Born into a famous Bollywood Hindu family, Kareena Kapoor Khan later married a Muslim man, for which she was hounded by social media trolls. “There is a pattern behind the vilifying campaign against her, which has polarized the Indian entertainment industry,” writes Singh. “The political environment of the country under a right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) regime has also contributed to this.” Singh is a broadcaster with Spice Radio in Burnaby and writes for the Georgia Straight. He is also the director of Radical Desi, an online magazine that covers alternative politics. Singh has published four previous books, including the 2012 title, Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of Air India victims’ families. 978939153043

Mark Hume

H is for Hume
Avid fly-fisher, Mark Hume has logged thousands of hours over the last five decades standing in BC’s rivers, casting his line, reeling in fish (often releasing them) and soaking up the majesty of nature. He’s penned several books about conservation, rivers and fly fishing including his last title, a tribute to his mentor and co-author Mo Bradley, Trout School: Lessons from a Fly-Fishing Master (Greystone Books, 2019). As his daughters grew up, Hume introduced them to the meditative sport, how to read the water and the deep allure of the natural world. He shares this endearing father-daughter story in Reading the Water: Fly Fishing, Fatherhood, and Finding Strength in Nature (Greystone Books $34.95). 9781771645690

I is for Innes
In his 5th title, the novella Elderville (World Castle $9.99) Roy Innes’ latest crime story is about a road-trip-turned-nightmare. David Radcliffe, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Kathy, returning from a medical convention in San Francisco bypass a highway accident by turning off onto a country road which winds through farm country near Eugene, Oregon. Totally lost when their car’s GPS fails from what appears to be a cyber black out, they come upon Elderville, a town nowhere noted on their highway map and with a population they soon discover is made up entirely of old people. What begins as relief turns to terror as the couple are entrapped by a bizarre scheme to prevent them from leaving. 978-1956788303

Carrie Jenkins

J is for Jenkins
Backed by some pretty serious academic credentials (Canada Research Chair in Philosophy at UBC, PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC), Carrie Jenkins’ has released her debut novel Victoria Sees It (Strange Light/Penguin $24.95), which is a mix of queer psychological thriller and gothic mystery. Raised by an aunt and uncle, Victoria is able to leave her English working-class background by getting into Cambridge. Amidst all the rich toffs, Victoria is an outsider. Then, her one friend on campus, wealthy Deb, goes missing. In Victoria’s search to find her friend, she is helped by a police officer named Julie with whom Victoria has an affair. They travel the English countryside investigating various crime sites but Deb is not found. Victoria graduates, moves to various places to achieve academic success, eventually ending up in Seattle. Here she starts to suffer mental health issues and migraines. Victoria is only one of the novel’s narrators; her catatonic mother, who suffered a mental melt-down after bearing Victoria, is the other. 9780771049279

K is for Kalla
Following on the heels of his most recent bestseller, Lost Immunity (Simon & Schuster, 2021), which CBC Books named one of the Best Canadian Fiction Books of 2021, Daniel Kalla has written The Darkness in the Light (Simon & Schuster $24.99). In this thriller, a psychiatrist worries about his patients suiciding and flies to the remote Arctic community Utqiagvik, Alaska to check on one of them, Amka Obed only to find she has disappeared. Regional police believe Amka will return but the doctor as well as the town’s social worker aren’t so sure. Is it a missing person inquiry, a pharmaceutical cover-up or the local underground drug trade acting up? The answer will horrify this isolated community. Daniel Kalla works as an emergency physician in Vancouver when not writing novels. 9781982191399

Grant Lawrence. Photo courtesy CBC.

L is for Lawrence
It’s been over a decade since CBC personality and indie rock musician, Grant Lawrence launched his writing career with Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nudist Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound (Harbour, 2010) that went on to win the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. He writes about more eccentric characters from Desolation Sound in his follow-up Return to Solitude (Harbour $26.95) that recounts the life and times of the Cougar Lady, tracks a phantom-like squatter known as the Spaghetti Bandit and details the bizarre exit and even more bizarre death of Bernard the German. Lawrence also includes many of the personalities from the first book, like hippie recluse Russell the Hermit, plus the continued voyages of Big Buck$, the decrepit family boat and the incredible return of large ocean mammals to Desolation Sound. His publicist writes: “From a hilarious, heartfelt and slightly wiser voice comes a momentous story of time, family and place whirling around one increasingly ramshackle cabin on a beautiful and not-at-all-desolate coast.” 978-1550179712

R. Bruce Macdonald

M is for Macdonald
Sailor, artist and author R. Bruce Macdonald worked on a tall ship when he was a young man. It was a good introduction to the power of superstitions over sailors. The tall ship ran into bad weather with waves “the size of houses.” Things only got worse when the ship’s figurehead was torn off by the storm. The captain vowed to find the problem and began searching the ship. With an “Aha, I’ve got you now,” he pulled out an umbrella, broke it over his knee and threw it overboard. “A few hours later the wind shifted, the seas calmed and we began to make progress,” writes Macdonald in his nautical reference book, Never say P*g: The Book of Sailor’s Superstitions (Harbour $22.95). According to sailor lore, “umbrellas are for use in foul weather ashore, as they are impractical on a ship; bringing one on board is thought to tempt fate and to bring on a storm.” Recommended for all sailors. 9781550179798

Darcy Nybo

N is for Nybo
Darcy Nybo’s novel, Reluctant Angel (Artistic Warrior Publishing $19.95) is about Ana Murphy, a 28-year-old living in Vancouver in 1986. Ana was supposed to die on her 28th birthday, but she doesn’t. Instead she wakes up from a serious brain injury to discover that ten years previously, she’d signed a contract that makes her a real-live guardian angel. Life takes on new meaning as Ana follows the instructions of her guides and becomes a reluctant angel in human form. From a walk around the block to flying halfway around the world, Ana fulfills her duties. Things get complicated when she discovers she’s pregnant with a child she isn’t sure she wants and she meets characters including a drug addict, a self-centered reporter, a rescued cat and a meditation instructor. There are plenty of twists and turns as Ana and her quirky guardian angels maneuver the space between this world and theirs. Darcy Nybo is a writer and children’s author and teaches creative writing through the University of Victoria and Okanagan College’s continuing studies programs. She lives in Kelowna.

Priscilla Omulo

O is for Omulo
Businesses are increasingly confronted by Canada’s complicated relationship with Indigenous peoples. Where some see challenges, others see opportunity and Priscilla Omulo of Tsartlip First Nation shows how to take positive action in her guide: Amplifying Indigenous Voices in Business: Indigenization, Reconciliation, And Entrepreneurship (Self-Counsel Press $26.95). Omulo explains how any organization can make plans to improve the way they do business by creating a more sustainable and inclusive place for all. Her steps include doing the right research, consulting the right people, and formulating a productive Indigenization strategy. Omulo has amassed more than a decade of experience advocating for, and working with Indigenous youth and families. She sits on a variety of anti-racism boards and task forces. In 2019, she was awarded the Indigenous Leadership Award by the Women’s Collaborative Hub. 9781770403406

Leanne Prain

P is for Prain
Early in 2011, sales of Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti (Arsenal Pulp, 2009), co-authored by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain were boosted by an article on the front page of the New York Times’ Style section, followed by stories in the Associated Press, the Today Show’s blog, Forbes magazine, and Time magazine. A third printing was necessary by the summer of 2011. Now Prain, a writer, speaker and certified design professional has followed up with The Creative Instigator’s Handbook: A DIY Guide to Making Social Change Through Art (Arsenal Pulp $27.95). Whether an artist or crafter paints, sews, sings, builds, welds or rhymes, Prain’s new book shows how to make that ‘big project’ actually happen. Combines the stories of 23 creative instigators with colourful photographs and artwork. 9781551528755

Q is for Quintana
Christine Quintana has written Selfie (Playwrights Canada $17.95) about how sexual assault against minors can happen in any community. “The question I want to pose,” says Quintana, “is how can we talk about consent in a way that prevents this from happening in the first place?” Selfie had a German language premiere in Berlin in January, 2022. Quintana is a Siminovitch Prize Protege winner for playwriting and a founding member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition. Born in Los Angeles to a Mexican American father and a Dutch British Canadian mother, Quintana holds a BFA in Acting from U.B.C. and is currently playwright-in-residence at Vancouver’s Tarragon Theatre. 9780369101259

Mari-Lou Rowley

R is for Rowley
Mari-Lou Rowley’s 9th poetry collection Catastrophe Theories (Anvil $18) reflects her interdisciplinary approach in its mash-up of science and dream imagery, notions of the human condition and nature appreciation. Whether exploring numbers, dark desires or chaos, Rowley seamlessly combines the lives of mathematical geniuses with the small wonders of life: “out of the hexagon, sweet honey flows,” she writes. Rowley completed her M.A. thesis on technology and the ‘self’ at SFU’s graduate liberal studies program and a PH.D. at the University of Saskatchewan in new media, plasticity and empathy. She is currently the editor of Grain magazine. 978-1-77214-191-7

Teoni Spathelfer

S is for Spathelfer
Heiltsuk hereditary member Teoni Spathelfer’s first book, Little Wolf (Heritage House, 2021) is about a young Indigenous girl who moves to the big city and learns to find connections to her culture and the land wherever she goes, despite encountering bullies and feelings of isolation along the way. Now released is the second title in the series, White Raven (Heritage House $19.95), the name of Little Wolf’s mother who was one of the 150,000 Indigenous children from across Canada forced to go to residential school. Eventually, White Raven shares her story with her grandchildren and begins to heal. It brings her family closer in this story of survival, healing and family unity. The third book in the series, Abalone Woman (Heritage House $19.95) is due out in May and will continue with Spathelfer’s themes of racism, trauma, and family unity through relatable, age-appropriate narratives. Illustrations in all three books are by Natassia Davies. 9781772033779

Russell Thornton

T is for Thornton
D.H. Lawrence posed the question “Oh what in you can answer to this blueness?” and North Vancouver poet Russell Thornton replies with his recent collection of poems, Answer to Blue (Harbour $18.95). Thornton meanders through the past with family histories, memories of lost lovers, mythologies and biblical references, even questioning perception itself: “You, me, you, me, you, me, you me. / Whatever either of us sees is a lie.” But his elegies to past family members are poignant, like those to his “welfare witch mom” who let her children buy cheap junk food dinners while their friends had roast beef meals, yet Thornton remembers he and his brothers still “dined together like princes on Smitty’s burgers.” 9781550179675

U is for Umingmak
Umingmak is the Inuit word for muskox and a symbol of strength, authority and protectiveness. It was also the nickname the Inuit gave Stuart Hodgson, the first resident commissioner of the Northwest Territories who arrived in 1967. Commissioners and their council were appointed then and Ottawa gave Hodgson the mandate to establish a modern, self-elected government in NWT with Yellowknife as its capital. Hodgson succeeded and did so, as Indigenous leader, James Wah-Shee, chair of the Tlicho National assembly says, through recognizing the importance of governing by consensus, which is “the Aboriginal way – and this is part of his legacy.” The story is told by Jake Ootes in, Umingmak: Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic (Tidewater $29.95), due out in May. The book also tells how Hodgson co-founded the Arctic Winter Games, organized three royal visits to the NWT, and united the entire population of about 26,000 people in fifty isolated communities spread over 3,400,000 square kilometers.  9781777010102

Phillip, Autumn and April Vannini

V is for Vannini
After five years, 400 interviews and 250 ferry rides Phillip Vannini released Ferry Tales: Mobility, Place, and Time on Canada’s West Coast (Routledge, 2012) about ferry-dependence on island and coastal communities of the west coast. His upcoming release is co-authored with April and Autumn Vannini, In the Name of Wild: One Family, Five Years, Ten Countries, and a New Vision of Wildness (UBC On Point Press $24.95), due out in October. The Vanninis set out to find what the terms ‘wildness’ and ‘wilderness’ mean to people around the world. Hint: it’s not pristine, untouched nature. Together, the family visited twenty Natural World Heritage sites, including the Galápagos Islands, and discovered that the wilderness is a busy place as many people visit these areas for lots of different reasons. Phillip Vannini and April Vannini are ethnographers and filmmakers who also co-wrote Wilderness (Routledge, 2016) and Inhabited: Wildness and the Vitality of the Land (McGill-Queen’s, 2021) and the film directors of In the Name of Wild and Inhabited. 9780774890403

Katie Welch

W is for Welch
Melissa Makepeace struggles to run the family farm in Mad Honey (Wolsak & Wynn $22), the debut novel of Kamloops-based Katie Welch. At the age of eleven, Melissa’s father had suddenly left the family and then a dozen years later Melissa’s lover, and the man she hired as her beekeeper, disappears too. To get over her grief, Melissa turns her troubled mind to the farm and lists of chores such as: “harvest pears and tomatoes, clear out bean rows, check on the chickens, feed the goats and the donkey, get an oil change on the truck, clean up the outdoor canning kitchen, go over the farm financials, and on, and on.” But her lover returns, suffering from a kind of amnesia and no idea what day it is. Melissa begins to unravel the mystery, which might also reveal what happened to her father. Katie Welch holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Toronto and her short stories have been published in EVENT, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, The Temz Review, The Quarantine Review and elsewhere. 978-1-989496-52-7

Xiran Jay Zhao

X is for Xiran
They’ve got over 250,000 YouTube subscribers, 65,000 Twitter followers, 25,000 Instagram followers and a website that averages 5,000 unique visitors per month. Now, non-binary Xiran Jay Zhao of Vancouver is publishing their first sci-fi/fantasy novel Iron Widow (Penguin $21.99) for ages 14 and up. Using a blend of Chinese history and futuristic mecha (humanoid mobile robots) science fiction, the book features a heroine inspired by China’s only legitimate female sovereign, Wu Zetian (who is credited with reducing corruption and revitalizing the country’s culture and economy). Xiran is a first-generation Chinese immigrant who lives and works in Vancouver where they are training to become a biochemist. 9780735269934

Terence Young

Y if for Young
Having retired from teaching English and creative writing at St. Michael’s University School, Terence Young has published a spellbinding collection of poems, Smithereens (Nightwood $18.95) in which he finds the extraordinary in everyday things – the last raspberries of summer, a ferry trip that is detoured, watching TV shows from the past, a family car that lasted twenty years, a child’s picture lost in a fire, a bear at the cottage. All are bits of life that Young turns into “shining artifacts of memory,” a phrase he quotes from Leonard Cohen in one of his verses. 9781550179439

Z is for Zazie
Social psychologist and certified dog trainer, Zazie Todd has followed up on her book Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy (Greystone, 2020) with the cat companion advice book Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy (Greystone $32.95) due out in May. Todd covers the science behind cats’ petting preferences; the multiple meanings of purrs, chirrups, and meows; how to best satisfy the scratching and stalking desires for indoor cats; and even how to keep both cats and wildlife safe if felines spend time outside. Todd writes a regular column for Psychology Today magazine and won the Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology (University of Nottingham) and an MFA Creative Writing (UBC).‎ 9781771648141


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