Category Archives: Humour

Sick in Bed Across Two Chairs, with My Feet out Through the Window by Laurie Blackwood Pike

Sick in Bed Across Two Chairs, with My Feet out Through the Window– WHAT???

Grandpa Pike has done it again. The title of this book certainly caught my eye so I just had to read it. The book is full of interesting short stories depicting his many life experiences. I was very curious to know why the book has such a weird and wonderful title. You should too!

I was excited to see that Grandpa Pike had released another book. You’ll read in this book about his life and all the experiences while on his journeys. Some of my favourite topics that I read from the book include: How his family survived the Good Old Days, Religion, different people in his life he has met and the lovely stories to accompany the relationships between them.

In the book, he shares many heartwarming experiences while travelling on the road for his sales jobs. Grandpa Pike is a proud husband and father, this is evident in the many times he so proudly mentions them as you read along.

I would surely recommend this book and I truly loved reading his short stories. The short stories are a wonderful light read for any person young or old to enjoy. This book could make a lovely Christmas gift and would surely please the reader in your life.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laurie Blackwood Pike, a.k.a. Grandpa Pike, was born in Stanhope, Newfoundland and Labrador. He is retired from his position as business development manager with a national chain of hardware and building supply stores. In 2017, he received the Estwing Gold Hammer Award?the industry’s recognition for his contributions. In 1986, he bought a rural general store, developed a logo, and branded the business “Grandpa Pike’s.” His unique store was profiled in the hardware industry’s Hardware Merchandising magazine. In recent years, Grandpa Pike has used his nickname for charity work. In 2007, he partnered with the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Newfoundland & Labrador Chapter, to release a music CD. In 2009, he partnered with them again to produce a gospel Christmas CD. He is married to Kathleen Pike and has one daughter, Laurie Shannon.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boulder Books (June 30 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 200 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989417361
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989417362

An Embarrassment Of Critch’s: Immature Stories from My Grown-Up Life by Mark Critch

Mark Critch is known for being a son, brother, townie, actor, comedian, writer, father, husband, television star, ex-husband, husband again, author and most proudly a Newfoundlander and Labradorian first. His talent can be seen weekly on the CBC starting in the award-winning show This Hour has 22 Minutes. This is Crutch’s follow-up memoir to “Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir”.

Travel along to small-town Trinity, Newfoundland then all the way to Kandahar and almost everywhere in between. The stories are both informative and laugh-out-loud funny as Critch makes his mark of filling his childhood dream of being an entertainer.

To be honest I didn’t know much about Mark Critch until I saw him one evening on the local news. He wasn’t on my local News doing an interview or a sketch bit. He was there as a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian calling out PETA VP Sam Simon and actress Pamela Anderson as they tried to hand off a million-dollar cheque to buy out the sealing licenses from the NL Fishermen and women. Once you read what Critch does next, I promise you’ll be a fan of his for life.

The most touching chapter I read was “The Road” in which Critch shares about his personal life. His 22 minutes castmates and changing of different actors and actresses but all in all the main thing with this chapter I think it shows that how he embraces the ups and downs in life.  Showing that Critch is a real person just like the rest of us even though his career is in the spotlight.

Even though Critch has made a career of making fun of a lot of politicians and famous people he’s able to do this with the warmest regard. Not everyone could handle this kind of career because not everybody can go on TV and make fools of themselves for our viewing pleasure.

It’s amazing how Critch always stays true to his Canadian roots and he’s especially a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian with his rise in fame over the years. It’s very apparent that Critch’s talent is on a global scale. I highly recommend this memoir for anyone who wants to unwind and have a few laughs. Two thumbs up!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MARK CRITCH is one of the most recognizable faces in Canadian comedy and has won multiple awards for both writing and performance. For fourteen years, he has starred on CBC’s flagship show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes. As an anchor and “roving reporter,” he has brought celebrities and politicians to Canadian living rooms across the nation. He is the host of CBC’s Halifax Comedy Festival and has written for and appeared in CBC’s world-renowned Just for Laughs series.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Viking (Oct. 5 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735235090
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735235090

Buffoon by Anosh Irani

Reading a dramatic work, even when it’s only a one-act play, presents a different kind of challenge to readers than any other genre. Besides just following a plot, we have to imagine the various characters and create at least some semblance of those voices while we read. And yes, readers of fiction must do this to some extent, but they get much more description and exposition to aid them as they go along.

Anosh Irani’s Buffoon takes the challenge of reading drama further, as his play unfolds with a cast of one.

But that’s not to mistake this as an extended monologue. Buffoon is peopled with a range of supporting characters, but each of them must come to life via the actor who’s portraying the main character, Felix.

As the play opens, all we know of Felix is that he is in prison, though we know not what his crime may have been. The set is minimal – the only item on the stage with him is a chair. He is in chalk-face, like a clown who’s just begun applying his make-up.

It isn’t long before other characters appear – all thanks to the interpretations of them given to us by way of Felix.

It helps that nearly all of them have some identifying pattern of speech – a Russian accent, a British one, a Scots brogue. Nonetheless, the role of Felix and his task of presenting these many characters – men, women, children – young and old – is staggering.

I’ll admit that trying to envision a production of this work (and yes, it has been performed) requires a stretch of imagination. Yet reading it was satisfying, providing a different kind of experience than the last time I read Irani’s work (his novel The Parcel).

I see the work as being in the tradition of Absurdism, yet this may seem like a dismissal, though that is not my intent. Bearing similarities to the auto-fictions of Robert LePage, a deep thread of tenderness runs the length of it; a winsome Romanticism, somewhat akin to that in Cyrano de Bergerac, is inherent. Throughout this work Irani riffs on an apparently apocryphal quote that’s long been mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain: “…that the two most important days in your life are when you were born and when you find out why.” Birth, death, the impermanence of things; sometimes it takes a clown to reveal the most important truths.

Books by this highly original author have been widely honoured; he has twice been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. Third time may well be the charm.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ANOSH IRANI has published four critically acclaimed novels: The Cripple and His Talismans (2004), a national bestseller; The Song of Kahunsha (2006), which was an international bestseller and shortlisted for Canada Reads and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize; Dahanu Road (2010), which was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize; and The Parcel (2016), which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His play Bombay Black (2006) won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, and his anthology The Bombay Plays: The Matka King & Bombay Black (2006) and his play Men in White were both shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. Buffoon, his latest work of drama, was critically acclaimed and won two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role. He lives in Vancouver.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ House of Anansi Press (Sept. 7 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 88 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1487009836
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1487009830

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Heidi Greco
Some Rights Reserved  

Unfiltered: An Irreverent History of Beer in Nova Scotia by Steven Laffoley

Folks, it’s right there in plain sight, in his last name. Laff. I mean, laugh. If you want to build your expertise on all things beer, from the making of to cultural artifacts and references along the way, AND you want to be entertained while doing so, this is one to add to your collection. Laffoly weaves technical process from the mash tun to filter types in between anecdotes, folklore and fun facts about local Nova Scotian history of beer with all the poise of an expert tittering tour guide worthy of high praise and monetary tips at the end. 

“What makes Unfiltered unique is the collection of facts and stories recounted while the author drinks his ale, served by some technologically distracted servers at local taverns.”

Unfiltered’s timeline is also delivered in chronological order for ease of association with process order. In the beginning, mead-chugging Vikings who invaded farmland near the Evangeline Trail may have introduced their wares to the Mi’Kmaq. Perhaps some harm, some foul, but they eventually left in search of other places and grapes worth conquering. A few centuries passed and the French settlers arrived with supper clubs and more imbibing opportunities. If you can make sense of the Shakespeare – Harvard University – Nova Scotia connection, I’m sure you’ll win a prize at a pub trivia night, so yet another reason to read this book. 

A #ReadAtlantic book!

As any book about alcohol consumption in Nova Scotia should, a brief history of distilleries and the popularity of rum is touched upon. And as this is a tribute to Nova Scotian heritage, you’ll learn more about the rise of Alexander Keith, and the comedically tragic fall of one of his lesser great-nephews.

What makes Unfiltered unique is the collection of facts and stories recounted while the author drinks his ale, served by some technologically distracted servers at local taverns. The entire book is a literal thirst trap, so I’d recommend investing in one of your local favourite craft beers while you enjoy a fun and funny course that includes forays into temperance, the reasons why different types of beer are served in different shaped glasses, and the cast of notorious and not-so-infamous characters who collectively seeded Halifax as the pub capital of Canada. It’s definitely worth an idea to have this one produced as a multi-episode podcast to reduce incidents of drunk retelling of tales, although apparently, as cited in this book, beer makes you smart and there are studies to prove such. Don’t believe me? It’s in here, it’s true, and the cenosillicaphobia is also real.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Laffoley is a writer, educator, and traveller. For almost two decades now, his numerous fiction and nonfiction books – including the award-winning Shadowboxing: the rise and fall of George Dixon, The Blue Tattoo, and Halifax Nocturne – explore the compelling people, unique character and uncommon stories of Nova Scotia. He lives in Halifax.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pottersfield Press (July 12 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 180 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989725597
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989725597

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Liquor Vicar by Vince R. Ditrich

Brace yourself for two things. First, the next book in this series, scheduled for a 2022 release, is called The Vicar’s Knickers. This is important because if you enjoy this book, you’ll want to read the whole series of misadventures. Second, The Liquor Vicar may take a bit longer to read even though it’s slightly over 230 pages. That’s because you will pause over several quips, double over in laughter, re-read them, share them, laugh again, and wonder where Vince Ditrich has been all your life. Well, for most of his life, he’s been a busy working musician with the band Spirit of the West. He also has a calling for comedy writing and one can easily see this book play out as a film or sitcom.

Told to us in an at times deliciously ribald manner reminiscent of Carry-On-gang Brit humour, we accompany Tony Vicar as he fumbles his way through his despairing turn as an Elvis impersonating DJ to working with another tongue-tripping comedic foil named Ross “I’d be able to make a few altercations to my lifestyle” Poutine. Upon witnessing an accident and unseemly back from the dead event, Tony is hailed and sought after as a miracle worker. This isn’t the celebrity fame he was seeking, especially in the form of an obsessed and troubled woman named Serena. Her plans for Vicar include removing her number one competition, Vicar’s new girlfriend Jacquie.

The action moves at a quick pace with a play on words, saucy descriptions, a bit of bloodshed, and several pop culture references. In between the zippy banter, some soft-hearted drama, but not for long as the laughs keeps coming. Will Tony Vicar make his way towards the happiness that eludes him at every turn? Does Serena evoke any empathy in her journey? These are a couple of issues to ponder as quickly as one turns the pages.

If you need further convincing, here’s a quoted passage that has me fully betrothed to all future Vicar books: “The word chillax triggered a full-on rage in Vicar…it indicated a willful embrace of cultural retardation, of linguistic vandalism that was bringing society down to unsustainable Kardashian levels.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vince R. Ditrich is a lifelong musician and member of the band Spirit of the West. He has circled the world, earned more than a dozen gold and platinum albums, and been enshrined in several Halls of Fame. Vince lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dundurn Press (Aug. 17 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1459747259
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1459747258
This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Mala Rai
Some Rights Reserved  

Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Fight Night, penned by acclaimed Canadian author Miriam Toews, provides the perspectives of three generations of women in the same family in a bitingly funny story about love, courage, and acceptance. Conveyed mainly through the viewpoint of Swiv, a nine-year-old girl who has been expelled from school for fighting, the story is told through a blend of present moment and flashbacks. The latter provides a deeper understanding of the characters and their complex relationships.

The bulk of the story is set in Toronto, Ontario, where Swiv resides with her family. Swiv and Elvira also embark on a journey to Fresno, California to visit Elvira’s nephews.

Toews provides us with colourful and unconventional characters. Swiv’s pregnant mother is an actress who seems to be constantly in battle with her stage manager. Though many of her friends and acquaintances have already passed away, Swiv’s grandmother Elvira is unafraid of dying and embraces life, refusing to remain shut in the house despite the difficulty of venturing out. Despite her many health issues, Elvira remains good-natured.

Swiv’s mother and grandmother are haphazardly home-schooling Swiv during the period of her expulsion, though not by any curriculum the Board of Education might approve. While not working on “assignments” she’s been given, or marking assignments she’s given other family members, Swiv assists with household tasks, including assisting Elvira with her needs.

Swiv and her grandmother, being at opposite ends of the age spectrum, are a study in contrasts. While Swiv is youthfully innocent and squeamish about topics like sex, nudity, and bodily functions, her grandmother has no such qualms. Yet they also have a lot in common. They are in league against Swiv’s mother, whose volatile temper sets her off on tirades at times. Swiv and Elvira also enjoy watching baseball and basketball on TV, and are enthusiastic fans of the Toronto Raptors NBA franchise.

Elvira’s occasional usage of basketball metaphors and her enthusiasm for watching the sport on television made her a refreshingly contemporary grandmother figure. She is an interesting woman, with one foot in the past (having lived most of her life in a town of “escaped Russians” under the tyranny of a man named Willit Braun), and one foot firmly in the modern world.

Swiv herself is a blend of innocence and cynicism. She wonders why her father hasn’t chosen to be part of their life and worries that her mother’s eccentricities might be contagious. Despite her sometimes cutting observations, Swiv is a likeable and empathetic character. Her willingness to help her grandmother with her daily tasks is a redeeming quality.

“The prose is powerful and well-crafted, which should come as no surprise.”

Parts of the book are written as though addressed to Swiv’s absent father, while other sections provide advice to the unborn baby who is being carried by Swiv’s mother in a geriatric pregnancy. Though the gender of the baby is unknown as yet, the main characters refer to him/her as “Gord.”

Though the majority of the story is related from Swiv’s perspective, Toews also provides glimpses into Swiv’s mother’s, and Elvira’s, viewpoints through letters, dialogue recorded by Swiv, and other methods.

There is hilarity throughout the book in both the situations and the dialogue. Some of the humour is perpetuated by Swiv’s naivete, and by the way her youth and innocence cause her to misinterpret or colour some of what is going on. Elvira’s devil-may-care attitude and Swiv’s mother’s sometimes-jaded views, caused in part by her perpetual weariness as a result of her pregnancy, add to the humour.

But the book isn’t all “fun and games” as Elvira might say. Toews weaves in some philosophical observations about life, and the need to fight for what you want. Elvira discusses the way powerful men, particularly those affiliated with the church, had a stifling and negative influence on the members of the community she grew up in, replacing the joy of life with guilt. The stories she shares with Swiv underscore the importance of having the courage to be your own person.

The prose is powerful and well-crafted, which should come as no surprise. Toews received Canada’s Governor General’s Award in 2004 for A Complicated Kindness, and has penned several other novels, including All My Puny Sorrows and Women Talking.

Readers who favour a bang-bang plot may find that Fight Night moves too slowly for their liking. But those who enjoy appreciating cutting, witty, and sometimes dark humour with a dash of philosophical thought mixed in will find much to like here.

A Miramichi Reader “Best of 2021” Fiction choice!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miriam Toews is the author of seven bestselling novels: Women TalkingAll My Puny SorrowsSummer of My Amazing LuckA Boy of Good BreedingA Complicated KindnessThe Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of non-fiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is a winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers Trust Marian Engel/Timothy Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf Canada (Aug. 24 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 264 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735282390
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735282391
This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Don’t Be Talkin’: Recitations and Other Foolishness From Newfoundland and Labrador by Harry Ingram

My first encounter with a recitation was in a high school English class.  The teacher stood before the teenaged audience, and with a booming voice and exaggerated actions, engaged us with a spirited delivery of The Cremation Of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service.  As the rhythmic pattern of the poem bounced along, the story of old Sam unfolded, leaving us completely spellbound and entranced.  And when the last line was spoken we leapt to our feet in thunderous applause.  When I received my review copy of Don’t Be Talkin’ by Harry Ingram, I reflected back on this wonderful memory and immediately opened the book to have a read.  I was not disappointed.

“Harry Ingram is a storyteller whose recitations speak to a childhood growing up in Arnold’s Cove and the funny side of everyday life.”

Newfoundland and Labrador have been blessed with a distinct storytelling tradition. Such literary performances are woven into the cultural fibre of our province and have existed ever since the first European settlers came to our shores in the fifteenth century.  In fact, it has been said that the unofficial history of Newfoundland lives in the songs, stories and recitations that can be heard in the kitchens of outport communities and upon the stages of organized events like the St. John’s Storytelling Festival.  Though many of the old-timers recite poems that shed light on days gone by, Harry Ingram is a storyteller whose recitations speak to a childhood growing up in Arnold’s Cove and the funny side of everyday life.  While growing up in this Placentia Bay community, Ingram listened to recitations on radio and record and was inspired by his Uncle Mose who would write and perform his own recitations.  In this debut publication, Ingram has done a superb job in writing and presenting a compilation of light-hearted, humorous poems recounting everything from Great-Uncle John’s Christmas to the troubles with remote controls. With a few more serious, short stories thrown into the mix, Don’t Be Talkin’ is a fun and entertaining book for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and for those who just want a good laugh. 

Everyone knows one, / And that there’s no doubt, / Someone all negative, / Yes, down in the mouth. //  I know one quite well, / He’s my Great-Uncle John, / But it’s not of his wit, / Or his charm I’m so fond. // But crooked as sin, / That’s a way to describe ‘im, / Opinions he got, / And don’t care if you like ’em. // Yes, he’s that friggin’ crooked, / I’ll tell you right now, / If he died tomorrow,  He’d be screwed in the ground. //

Ingram’s topics run the gamut! From humorous recitations on parenting such as “Good Night Little One” and, my personal favourite, “Don’t Ask” to the rum-running adventures of a Skipper from Placentia Bay in “Just Inside The Gate”. Who wouldn’t be entertained by a most unfortunate labour dispute at the North Pole by some very tired reindeer in the recitation entitled “Havoc At The North Pole” and in “The Square Root of Pie” readers will delight in reading about the stolen pies by a clever baker from Marg’s Bakery.  Ingram really decides to “ham it up” when he tells us about the three-legged pig known as Sir Frances Bacon in the poem “The One About The Pig”  and readers will be left impressed by the enterprising group of ladies who barter with tea buns in “Trouble With Tea Buns”.  Skipper Bill’s tale of a big bull moose named Jerome in the poem “Jerome” is hilarious and of course, in this year of 2021 no book of recitations could be complete without a pandemic poem called “The Other End of This”. On a more serious note, Ingram also includes some heartfelt stories and tributes to people, like his Dad and sister, who have influenced his life.  

You know, being a parent, / Sometimes you don’t know, / If you’re doing it right, / So you go with the flow. // Like a little while back, / About a month or two, / I was fixing the mower, / Or at least trying to. //  When a voice behind me, / Made me quite perplexed, / As my eight-year-old daughter asked, / Daddy, what’s sex? //

Don’t Be Talkin’ ~ Recitations and Other Foolishness From Newfoundland and Labrador is a fantastic read!!  This is an all-ages show contained between the covers of 180 pages; an open ticket that will leave you busting a gut and pulling off the shelf over and over again.


*The Miramichi Reader encourages you to shop independent! However, shopping at a bookstore is not always possible, so we are supplying an Amazon.ca link. Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3xB7G0g Thanks! 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Flanker Press (May 12 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 181 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774570289
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774570289

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Stephanie Collins
Some Rights Reserved  

Supermarket Baby by Susan Flanagan

Who would have thought that a single dose of “cold and sinus” medication and a quick trip to the supermarket would unleash a series of unfortunate events for newly retired, Henry Puddester. The movie-star handsome civil servant just wanted to ride off into the sunset on his 1970 Triumph motorcycle, but instead, the freshly minted house husband finds himself in the thick of things when a baby mysteriously turns up in his shopping cart. With a pending charge for child abduction, things could not possibly get any worse for Henry. Enter the eccentric stranger and gun-toting gal named Delores and her 1983 Ford LTD named Daisy. And so it begins, two weeks of unintentionally hilarious and ill-fated circumstances that leave Henry scratching his head and wondering if he will ever survive all this misfortune.

A #ReadAtlantic book!

Winner of the 2019 Percy Janes First Novel Award, Supermarket Baby, is quite frankly the comic relief that our Covid world needs! Award-winning author Susan Flanagan does a superb job at crafting a storyline of comedic elements that draws the reading audience into the show. Newfoundland readers near and far will recognize many of the plot details like Chase The Ace in the Goulds, headless parking meters in downtown St. John’s, and hiking the East Coast Trail to a place called The Spout. Equally intriguing are the quirky characters that Flanagan expertly pens. From Henry’s 10-year-old, Fortnite-addicted son Dash to his crackerjack lawyer wife Millie, each character is portrayed as loveable but slightly flawed.

Supermarket Baby is a light-hearted and fun read. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse in the world, they do!!!!!


Susan Flanagan has worked as a freelance journalist in St. John’s for more than thirty years. She graduated from King’s College in Nova Scotia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 1991, and her written works have appeared in Canadian Geographic, National Geographic (maps), Canadian Running, Newfoundland Quarterly, Hockey News, Doctors’ Review, Atlantic Progress, Atlantic Business, Saltscapes, and many others. Susan lives with her husband and two of their five children in St. John’s.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Flanker Press Ltd. (Feb. 3 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 281 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774570106
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774570104

*The Miramichi Reader encourages you to shop independent! However, shopping at a bookstore is not always possible, so we are supplying an Amazon.ca link. Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3gAFIvq Thanks! 


This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Fishnets & Fantasies by Jane Doucet

Well, well, well.  Jane Doucet, you have done it again.  Just like your first novel, The Pregnant Pause, you have given your reader delightful, multi-faceted characters and laugh out loud passages that made this reader blush.   The title of this book could not be more appropriate for what a reader will encounter within its 267 pages.

Hilarious scenes involving backs being “thrown out” and adult children catching their “aged” parents “in the act” are tastefully written.  There is no need for a reader to fear any graphic details.  The author is clearly making the correlation between sex, the consequences of the act and the deeper feelings that are often overlooked when discussing sex.  The author has taken the “taboo” out of talk about sex among the geriatric set. 

A #ReadAtlantic Book!

As Wendy Hebb and her “silent partner husband” Paul, prepare to open an “adult emporium” in a small town, they face varying reactions from all sectors of the town.  Prudish high rollers, uptight locals and even the silent partner husband    Wendy gets lots of support, however, from some she never, and this reader would never, have expected to give that support.  I grew up in small-town Nova Scotia and could easily imagine the reactions of people I knew there would be similar to the reactions of the people in Fishnets & Fantasies*. 

Fishnets & Fantasies could not be a more fun name for the shop or the book. The cast of characters here includes an irreverent, female Reverend, a geriatric mayor and a chain-smoking seamstress with a secret past.  Characters who live in small towns everywhere.  Characters who never get suspected of leading lascivious lives behind closed doors! 

“The last time I checked, Thou shalt not impersonate a member of the clergy for carnal pleasure wasn’t one of the Ten Commandments.  And anyway, it’s not like I’m holding tarts-and-vicars workshops in the church basement after Sunday Service.”

Jane Doucet has a flare for writing the inner dialogue of characters as they struggle through their triumphs and challenges.  The character’s inner dialogue establishes the unspoken thoughts and feelings that ensure the reader can follow along with why they react the way they do.  Each character’s backstory here leads the book through to what this reader felt was a satisfying and believable conclusion.

Well-paced, funny and full of slap-stick comedy this book makes perfect reading in the privacy of your own home, but I encourage you to read it at the beach or while waiting at the doctor’s office.  I would love to be a “fly on the wall” when you give your answer to the inevitable question – “what’s that book about?” 

*This review was based on an advanced reading copy supplied by the publisher. You can read an interview with Jane here: The Jane Doucet Interview – The Miramichi Reader


Jane Doucet is a Halifax-based journalist whose articles have appeared in myriad magazines and newspapers, including ChatelaineCanadian LivingHalifax Magazine and The Globe and Mail. In 2017 she self-published her debut novel, The Pregnant Pause, which was shortlisted for a 2018 Whistler Independent Book Award. Jane’s humour-filled novels explore relatable relationship struggles that are touched by love, longing, and loss. She calls her second novel a “love letter” to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, one of her favourite places. Jane lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband.

  • Publisher : Vagrant Press (July 13 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771089586

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link:  https://amzn.to/3d9H1jH Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell by Valerie Sherrard

Ah, the high-school years. Especially the Junior grades when you are still finding your way around a new academic setting, while at the same time discovering your own way in life. When the opposite sex gets thrown into the mix, and it can be a very confusing time for a young thirteen-year-old lad like Derek Cowell. Valerie Sherrard’s latest Young Adult (YA) title takes a humorous look at an otherwise average self-described “see-through” teen as he becomes quite popular after unintentionally photo-bombing a group selfie of his sister and her friends. Here’s a sample of the humour you can expect in Derek Cowell:

For the most part I didn’t mind being overlooked. Now and then, usually when I did something moronic, it could even be a plus. Either way, I was used to it. After all, it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. (Or I should I say, it was that way until a freak occurrence changed everything. I’ll get to that in a minute.) At home, a big factor was the amount of attention that’s left to dribble down when a guy lives in a house full of girls.
I have three sisters. If that doesn’t horrify you then you don’t have three sisters.

How will Derek keep the interest of his female classmates piqued once fame at the high school level is achieved? His good friend Steve has an idea. That’s where the trouble really begins.

Light-Hearted Style

Derek Cowell is written in the light-hearted style of Ms. Sherrard’s well-received 2015 novel, Random Acts. I liked Random Acts as it had more going on in the story than Derek Cowell does. It’s difficult to rate a humorous teen read, especially since my teen years were 40-some years ago. I prefer Ms. Sherrard’s more serious YA reads, like Driftwood or Rain Shadow. However, DK does get serious near the end, which was most welcome. Themes of friendship, loyalty and understanding are all explored in DK, but in subtle ways, as befits a read that is primarily humorous. Written in the voice of a young teen boy, there are plenty of bracketed ‘asides’ which get tiresome after a while, but overall, a fun read with some good clean fun and lessons learned along the way.

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell by Valerie Sherrard
DCB, an imprint of Cormorant Books.

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This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

I Am Herod by Richard Kemick (Guest Review by Chris Benjamin)

This memoir had a lot of LOL moments, and considerable depth too. I have never been that much of a spiritual searcher myself. I think I am comfortable enough with my own pseudo-scientific-magical interpretation of the universe, which seems to accommodate any and all new information, that I have never shared Richard Kemick’s need to put faith in any stories that sound to me like ancient fiction.

I was confounded by this sense of searching for much of the book, until near the end, when Kemick talked about mental illness. This to me was an undersold (on the book cover and publisher’s website) aspect of the book. I do not know that understatement was Kemick’s intent, but it made me wonder if a lot of the bizarre things he observed (all with sympathetic eyes, I should say, and written honestly and with an open mind) at Canada’s largest passion play had deeper roots in people’s struggles with mental illness. I am not saying they all suffer mental illness, but that our collective need for faith is perhaps a method of grounding ourselves when rationally observed reality often feels like it slides around and changes with each news cycle.

“I Am Herod is an intriguing and pleasurable read, with plenty of fun wordplay.”

The “crazier” the world gets, the more I think we’re all a little cracked, and hungry for some kind of great consistency. This hunger is perhaps a pull toward fundamentalism, or at least obsession with ancient faith texts like the Bible, and finding new ways to make them relevant and mainstream. (Kemick does venture into this territory with one character who suffers from addictions, and wonders if whatever as-yet-unknown addiction, whatever replaces the addiction–religion–that replaced the substance addictions, might be worse.)

I Am Herod is an intriguing and pleasurable read, with plenty of fun wordplay. It features several meandering threads that come together delightfully and in unexpected ways.

About the Author: Richard Kelly Kemick is the recipient of numerous awards, including two National Magazine Awards, an Alberta Literary Award, and the Norma Epstein Award. His debut poetry collection, Caribou Run, was published to critical acclaim in 2016. His writing has appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, including the Walrus, the New Quarterly, This Magazine, the Fiddlehead, Numéro Cinq, and Taddle Creek. He divides his time between Calgary, AB, and Rossland, BC. I Am Herod is his first book-length work of non-fiction.

About the Reviewer: Chris Benjamin is an author, editor and freelance journalist specializing in environment, social justice, and arts & culture. He is the author of Indian School Road and Drive-by Saviours as well as numerous short stories.

I Am Herod by Richard Kemick
Goose Lane Editions

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Bill Arnott’s Beat: World Poetry

“On-Air”!

I was making my way across town. Town being Vancouver, BC. We have to say that as there’s another one, a perfectly pleasant American one, its pleasantness being its proximity to Vancouver, BC. I was to be the guest on World Poetry Café, an unassuming FM radio program with a shockingly large listenership – one-hundred-thirty-three countries, at last count. When I arrived at the station, Victor, the venerable sound man, said in a Barry White basso profundo, “We just got Sweden. And another one of the Yugoslav countries.” Making me realize I’d stumbled into a life-size game of Risk. Peaceful, radio Risk. Somewhere overhead an unseen entity was sliding game-pieces across countries and continents as we settled into squeaky chairs, popped headsets on, and silently set notes under swivel-arm mics.

This is a co-op radio program that two-thirds of the nations on the planet tune into. The skeptic in me – not the glass half-full/half-empty guy, but the one knowing full well the glass is too damn big, questioned the record keepers. I suppose if we had a listener in each country that would, in fact, be accurate. My Austrian friend Evelyn once said at a UK Lit Fest, “I’ve told you a million times, don’t exaggerate!” So I kept doubts close to my chest and made a note to let Evelyn know I’d be quoting her. And if we didn’t end up connecting, the quote would become my own. Obviously.

I visited with co-host Doctor Diego, liking him immediately. Not only because his name could be that of an Omar Sharif persona, and not because he’s fluent in every romance language (the relevant ones) but mostly because he’s a kind individual who made me feel welcome and asked questions, something I often find lacking. I wonder why that is, but I can’t be bothered to ask.

National Poetry Month is just around the corner and we were on the cusp of World Poetry Day – bridging nations and shrinking the world in what may be our purest language.

We chatted about travel, poetry, prose, and all the stuff you’d love to talk about at a cocktail party if you didn’t have the courteous obligation of asking some idiot about themselves. Regardless. We got on well. Host Ariadne did her thing and the show proceeded smoothly, as all long-lived shows do. I had fun, sharing space with skilled people. I snapped photos for social media that I could lie about afterward. In other words, it was an excellent afternoon for an entrepreneurial artist saying yes to every next thing.

What I liked most about this was its timeliness. National Poetry Month is just around the corner and we were on the cusp of World Poetry Day – bridging nations and shrinking the world in what may be our purest language. With callers that day from Africa, Asia, and North America, and listeners on every continent, I had the extreme privilege of experiencing it firsthand. Each of us in the sound booth agreed while music played, and mics were off. Forget delineating languages of arbitrarily drawn borders. What we were sharing was rich, articulate pidgin – a global populace finding commonality. Communicating. We do it with music. We do it with food. With dance and laughter and love. But perhaps more than anything, we do it collectively, with poetry.

World Poetry Day is March 21, 2020 and April is National Poetry Month. #NPM2020

***

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Dromomania, Allan’s Wishes, and Wonderful Magical Words. His Indie Folk CD is Studio 6. Bill’s work is published in literary journals, magazines and anthologies around the globe. He’s received songwriting and poetry prizes and is a Whistler Independent Book Awards 2019 Finalist with Gone Viking: A Travel Saga. Visit Bill @billarnott_aps and https://www.amazon.com/author/billarnott_aps

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Bill Arnott’s Beat: Independents’ Day

Independent bookstores shouldn’t exist. Brick-and-mortar bibliophile havens are retail models waiting to be business school case studies, “Why These Can’t Work.” TV narcissi could bleat indefinitely as to why they’d never invest in such ventures. But they do exist. And despite every reason why they shouldn’t, they thrive.

I was in one of these doomed locales, its interior walls a swathe of indigenous authors, poetry, and every stripe of an LGBTQ2S writers’ rainbow – a showcase of all that’s good in the world of books. I like spending money in places like this, places of dusty optimism. I wonder how much of the cash finds its way to the till, not really caring, and parcel it off in my conscious with passing coins to anonymous symbols of a failed system at streetlights and traffic-jammed offramps.

This particular bastion of futility is in downtown Vancouver. It fits the neighbourhood. The pungent scent of fried spice melds with organic coffee and hipster beard.

This particular bastion of futility is in downtown Vancouver. It fits the neighbourhood. The pungent scent of fried spice melds with organic coffee and hipster beard. There’s grass nearby and shifting pockets of urban tents. Inside the high-shelved sanctum a rolling library ladder hangs at an inviting, oblique angle, making me want to pretend I’m a firefighter or cast in a musical. The stacks themselves move to create event space. There’s a secret room, or at least there was until now. Upstairs, gallery space features rotating art displays with sitting space and a mix of new and old books.

I was part of a poetry reading group that met there. The series kicked off a new year showcasing emerging indigenous authors – five powerhouse writers reading a combination of published and unpublished work: Jules Koostachin, Larry Nicholson, Gunargie O’Sullivan, Wil George, and Tawahum Justin Peter Bige. I first met some of these skilled wordsmiths at Vancouver’s Verses Festival (formerly Vancouver International Poetry Festival) and the Talking Stick / Full Circle Festival.

Bige’s work danced between contemporary verse and spoken word. George read with succinct insight and the raw truth of his peers. O’Sullivan’s reading was as much informative conversation as evocative, from-the-heart writing. Nicholson’s whimsical work was a passenger seat on an engaging fair ride, and Vancouver Public Library resident storyteller Koostachin read from her book Unearthing Secrets: Gathering Truths, sharing spiritual dreams, her warm presence as powerful as her film work.

Nearby, two outlets of long time independent bookseller Book Warehouse prosper. Over the years the business has grown and shrunk yet keeps its niche amongst the chains where I have to hunt to find a book amongst the giftware. A short distance away are three outlets of Pulpfiction, a successful independent for nearly twenty years.

At the reading event I made my way to the stacks of poetry. Getting through the crowd took time – hugs, smiles, stories, welcoming clumps of humanity. It felt good. If some PR rep were looking for a photo op, it was here. Truth, caring, and healing, with books. Tangibility of people and paper I find nowhere else.

***

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Allan’s Wishes, and Wonderful Magical Words. His Indie Folk CD is Studio 6. Bill’s work is published around the globe. Find Bill on social media @billarnott_aps, Amazon, Goodreads, bookstores, libraries and lit fests everywhere. https://www.amazon.com/author/billarnott_aps

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Transaction by Guglielmo D’Izzia

It cannot be easy to write humorous fiction, although it does seem to come naturally to some. In the television world, they have writing teams, but in the sequestered world of the writer, it’s all on them to produce a work that is not only funny but interesting as well, that tells a story. The Transaction is such a story and from all appearances, Mr. D’Izzia appears to have the delicate mix of humour and earnest literature in fine control in this, his debut novel from Guernica Editions.

The Transaction is centred around a man, a Mr. De Angelis (we never get to know his first name), who is travelling on a train to conclude a deal for a piece of property in rural Sicily. At some point, the train comes to a stop and everybody is ordered off. The excuse is that the engine has failed and they have to walk to the next whistle stop. All of this takes place in the middle of a scorching Sicilian summer. Later on a bus to Figallia (his destination), De Angelis is informed that the bus will not be able to stop there due to a police investigation, but will stop at the closest terminus. From this point on, nothing appears to go his way: he gets bitten by a feral dog, picked up by the police, stared at by the townsfolk (who seem to know all about him), drinks too much, passes out and wakes up with a bruised and bloodied face, gets death threats and so on. It’s a case of De Angelis not being in on the joke, although it’s no joke that two men have been shot dead, one of which was to be his local contact for the transaction. Through it all, De Angelis maintains a polite and mild demeanour while the situation regarding the transaction goes down the tubes.

What really makes The Transaction an engrossing read is the descriptions (by De Angelis, who narrates) of the locals, all of whom are very strange looking and strange-acting. In the following excerpt, De Angelis and his landlady are exiting the funeral for Tommasini, the local contact who was shot:

Outside the basilica, we parade through a never-ending human corridor. At the end of it, I spot the hearse, as well as a brass band at the ready beyond it, and two village idiots standing by the back door holding poles with purple banners, one of the two simpletons is short and filthy and with a face reminiscent of a banana: long, concave, and shockingly jaundiced; the other one, the right opposite: tall, husky, dark-skinned, and mouth protruding like that of an ape.

But there’s more to The Transaction than humorous characters. There’s a fair bit of darkness, a sense of something not-quite-right that the whole town (or a certain element within it) is complicit in, and this stranger from the north is not to be trusted and requires watching at all times. The book’s climax as well as it’s ending is particularly noteworthy.

Award-winning author Catherine Graham (Quarry) is quoted as saying regarding The Transaction:

“Mysterious, stark and cinematic, Guglielmo D’lzzia’s debut novel The Transaction takes the reader on an array of escalating and disturbing encounters…Eerily detailed and atmospheric, this tightly controlled narrative brims with tension.”

That’s a pretty accurate summation of this novel, a book that I’m certainly glad I picked up to read sooner than later. If your recent reading material needs a change of pace, I recommend The Transaction. I’m adding it to the 2020 longlist in the Best First Book (Fiction) category for “The Very Best!” Book Awards.

The Transaction by Guglielmo D’Izzia
Guernica Editions

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The Sign on My Father’s House by Tom Moore

As you can see from the cover picture above, the sign on top of the house reads “GOD DAM SMALLWOOD.” Incorrect spelling notwithstanding, this sign that Felix Ryan’s father has erected on top of their house in the small outport of Curlew, Newfoundland is a bold statement.  Premier Joey Smallwood is revered as a near-deity amongst a large percentage of the Newfoundland population back in the 1960s when the story begins.

The Sign on My Father’s House is a timeless, delightful novel for all ages.


For the benefit of those not familiar with the Smallwood era, Mr. Moore presents us with an Introduction:

This is the story of a young man finding his way through life. It is set in Newfoundland at the end of the Smallwood era, when we looked about for our identity as a people. We were now Canadians. What did that mean? It is a story about a father and a son and their constant love through conflicts and troubled times.

Tom’s father, Walter is a mainlander from Alberta. He sees Smallwood as transforming Newfoundland into a province like all the others, and in the process destroying a unique culture, particularly by the resettlement of many of the destitute outports (not Curlew, though). Naturally, all the Smallwood supporters see the blatant sign as an extended middle finger. Felix’ stepmother Shirley knows what the repercussions will be: a loss of jobs for Walter, no teaching contracts for her and ridicule for Felix at school. Of course, she’s right, but Walter is steadfast. How long will the sign stay up?

Felix tells us later in the book while in conversation with Shirley:

“Yes, it bothers me when we have to do without things because of your father’s sign.”

The door opened, and Father came in from tending his sign with a bucket and cloth.

“Eggs?” I asked.

“No, tar this time,” he said, and reached under the sink for the bottle of kerosene.

“Are you going back at it, now?” I asked.

“Yes.”

So Father and I went out into the yard. I held the ladder as he climbed up to the sign and began cleaning it. Two years older now, and starting to grow, I held the ladder firmly, knowing that no one else would help him. Sun, wind, snow, rain, as well as Liberals, had all assailed his sign. Cleaning it had become a daily ritual, like brushing his teeth.

“She wants it down, doesn’t she,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Soon, I think, soon,” he said.

In the two years the sign had been up, his jaw had been broken twice in community altercations. I still have memories of him at the table, drinking soup through a straw, with his jaw wired up.

I held the ladder as he wiped off the black globs with a cloth and some kerosene. He looked smaller than I remembered him as he dabbed and pushed at the black tar defacing his sign. But his jaw was firmly set, as if the wires were still in place.

The above passage serves to demonstrate the subtle humour Mr. Moore effectively utilizes in his storytelling. This creates an enjoyable, lighter-than-normal read, which is refreshing for someone like myself who reads so many works of fiction dealing with the weighty issues of the day. I particularly like his varied characters, especially Felix’ school friends like Monk, who knows all and sees all, and is intuitive on top of it all. A bit of an Oracle, Monk is the one Felix will go to for information and advice. Then there are his university roommates like Gib Martin and John Malacat, the gambler and dope dealer.

Of course, there is a love interest and her name is Ellen Monteau. After his first encounter with her, Feliz seeks out Monk for more information.

“Who is Ellen Monteau?”

“Well-developed blonde, room II-A. Straight-A student. Lives with her mother in Petley. My kind of girl!” he concluded with a smile. His big head was already lowering back to his book.

“Sure is pretty,” I said.

“Somewhat of a checkered past, though.”

“What do you mean?”

Information was Monk’s currency. With it he bought what little interaction he had with other human beings. “Something about her mother.”

“What?”

Monk looked at me, then around the room. He pulled his chair closer to mine. “Okay, I’ll tell you. The mother went to St. John’s as a secretary years ago and came home pregnant. That was Ellen. They lived with the grandmother until the old lady died a few years ago. She must have left them the trailer. The mother drinks a lot, and there are men.”

Undeterred, Felix is obsessed with Ellen and she moves in an out of his life as they finish high school, university and beyond.

A timeless, delightful novel for all ages (teens on up), The Sign on My Father’s House is a fine mix of humour combined with the blossoming and evolution of youth including the requisite mature decisions demanded of adulthood.

The Sign on My Father’s House by Tom Moore
Flanker Press

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