Blue Summer by Jim Nichols

Maine’s Jim Nichols is one of those authors who write of their locale (in Mr. Nichols’ case, the fictional Baxter, Maine) in a way similar to that of Miramichi’s Wayne Curtis: it transcends the small-town environs with a larger than life writing style. In other words, you don’t have to live here (or there) to “get it”.

It has been five years since Islandport Press released Mr.…

Blaze Island by Catherine Bush

Blaze Island opens with a Category Five hurricane off one of Newfoundland’s most northern Islands, a ferry ride from Gander. Rain and wind batter the Island and the home of Milan Wells and his daughter. A disturbance from the front door finds a young man, soaked and unconscious.

Catherine Bush tells us a story of the climate changes that threaten the world as we know it.…

A Diary in the Age of Water by Nina Munteanu

Categorized as “cli-fi,” or climate fiction, A Diary in the Age of Water depicts an interesting story about four generations of women, and a cautionary tale about what might happen if we fail to respect the importance of water. The prologue of the book takes us to the “dying forest of the north. The last boreal forest in the world,” (p.…

Operation Wormwood: The Reckoning by Helen C. Escott

The long-awaited sequel to Operation Wormwood (2018, Flanker Press), The Reckoning concludes the story of a disease that appears to only target pedophiles and is accredited to God by those of the Roman Catholic Church.

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that Helen C. Escott is Newfoundland’s premier crime-thriller author. Her novels such as Operation Vanished (2019, Flanker Press) and now the two Operation Wormwood books will cement her career as such.…

Throw Down Your Shadows by Deborah Hemmings

What does it mean, to do the wrong thing for the right reasons? 16-year-old Winnie, the self-reliant narrator of Deborah Hemming’s taut novel Throw Down Your Shadows, is about to learn that painful lesson. 

It’s summer, 2005. Winnie lives with her artist mother, Ruth, in Gaspereau, a small rural community next door to Wolfville, in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, wine and apple country.…

The Talking Drum by Lisa Braxton

Lisa Braxton’s debut novel, The Talking Drum, explores various power structures at work in urban America in the 1970s. The novel follows three intertwined sets of characters: Sydney and Malachi Stallworth, Della Tolliver and her boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and Omar and Natalie Bassari. In different ways, the overarching impacts of racism and gentrification weigh on each character, and the changes occurring in their respective communities of Liberty Hill and Petite Africa form the backdrop for a study of class issues, racial tensions, sexism, and community resilience.  

Place is central to the novel.…

Melt by Heidi Wicks

We meet Jess and Cait, best friends and cusp-millennials, in 2016 during a funeral reception for Jess’s mother. Cait comforts Jess while assessing her own complicated relationship with her husband, Jake.

As Jess notes, “Cait and Jake have been at each other for years. Pick-pick-picking like crows jabbing their beaks into other people’s garbage.” Cait, a CBC host and the more daring of the two, is about to make a significant life decision.…

The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe

Reading a novel by Lesley Cynthia Crewe is like covering yourself in an old quilt. You know you can settle in and get cozy, wrap yourself in the words and let the characters and their memories keep you company as you read.

Emmeline Darling, the book’s main character, revisits her past as she reads aloud from her memoir at a writing class she takes in her retirement years.…

Journey to the Hopewell Star by Hannah D. State

“Twelve-year-old Girl from New Brunswick Saves Earth”

So the headline would read if newspapers still exist in some format in the near-to-middle future where Journey to the Hopewell Star takes place. Interplanetary space travel exists, as well as the realization that there are other inhabitants of the universe, such as the Krygians, who have been monitoring Earth for some time but are becoming increasingly concerned about environmental injustices that continue to eradicate species at an alarming rate.…

Speechless by Anne Simpson

In Anne Simpson’s gripping third novel, Speechless, A’isha Nasir, a Nigerian teenager, has been convicted of adultery and, in keeping with Sharia, or Islamic Law, been sentenced to death by stoning.  

But A’isha’s situation is neither simple nor straightforward. Raped by a man in her village, the fact that she has had a child out of wedlock is the only tangible evidence against her.…

People Like Frank: and other stories from the edge of normal by Jenn Ashton

Jenn Ashton’s short stories are peopled with humble and forward-leaning characters, the collection aptly called People Like Frank.
Like many avid readers, I enjoy a good and satisfying dive into dark waters. I regularly embrace contradictions, twists and moral ambiguity. So it was completely unexpected for me to find myself quite simply relieved by the optimism in this collection. People Like Frank felt like a balm, particularly coming as it did during violent social unrest and a pandemic.…

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a By Katłıà

Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a is the debut novel from Dene author Katłįà. Set in Canada’s far northwest, this layered composite novel traverses space and time, from a community being stalked by a dark presence, a group of teenagers out for a dangerous joyride, to an archeological site on a mysterious island that holds a powerful secret.

In a recent edition of Atlantic Books Today, Chris Benjamin stated regarding IndigiLit: “Stories written by people from cultures that have been tied to this land far, far longer than my own show me things settler writers cannot.”…

A Forest for Calum by Frank MacDonald

A Forest for Calum takes place in the 1950s and 60s rural Cape Breton. Many of the men and fathers around are war veterans; Roddie’s father was a casualty. His mother followed soon after. Which is how he came to be raised by his grandfather Calum.

With just the two of us, a 70-year-old man and a 6-year-old kid, conversations were pretty scarce, most of the time over the following years filled with patterns and habits.…

2020 “The Very Best!” Book Awards: Best Fiction!

Fiction is undoubtedly the largest genre that gets reviewed here, so it was extremely difficult to narrow down the longlist to the shortlist, then to just three. Here are the three winners in the Fiction category!