Library of 2019 Features
STEEL ANIMALS by  S K Dyment 
About the book:
Hilarity and queer magic realism twist the throttle when Jackie, a loner with a secret bank-robbing persona, meets Vespa: sexy, sculpture-welding artist and collector of vintage motorbikes. Still planning elaborate revenge on a New York ex-lover, Jackie tests both her new relationship and the loyalties of her friends, a rag-tag gang of post-punk eccentrics, realizing how love changes hatred only after her scheme runs out of control. An innocent misstep and an encrypted mystery swings the romance into the dangerous orbit of a construction mogul intent on subverting corporate money at any cost. (Inanna Publications)


My Review

Ursula Pflug (author of The Alphabet Stones, Motion Sickness and Mountain) has flagged this book to become a cult classic and I fully second that! I’m not sure it’s possible to adequately describe the joy of reading Steel Animals! The poetic brilliance of the writing, along with razor-sharp insights into art, love, sex, nature, relationships, consumerism, the perception of the self, the philosophy of art, our connections to one other and the things that surround us, is a real treat.


The writing sparks every sense to vivid life, cracking like Absolut cherry pop-rocks exploding on your tongue, delighting you at every turn.


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AN EXILE'S PERFECT LETTER by Larry Mathews
About the book:

Sixty-two-year-old English professor Hugh Norman is getting ready to retire and just going through the motions. He's detached, irreverent, and quite pleased with himself. But then he learns of a long-lost friend's sudden death, and shockingly discovers a body while walking through a city park. Suddenly, over just a few days, Hugh is compelled to deal with a large cast of eccentric characters and a police detective who has taken a sudden interest in his life. With a perfect sense of comedic timing, An Exile's Perfect Letter is a portrait of a man forced to come of age all over again. It's a send-up, a love story, an elegy for lost youth, and a celebration of friendships that stand the test of time. (Breakwater Books)


My review:
The funny thing is, I thought I had posted about this book at the end of last year but I didn’t actually do it! I wrote the review in my head and I guess I imagined the rest! I met Larry Mathews at the FogLit Festival and immediately purchased his book. His reading was great and the book was a delight to read! It reminded me of my university days (which made me happy) and I loved Hugh Norman with his self-deprecating insights into aging, love, writing, poetry and life in St. John’s Newfoundland. I was sorry when the novel came to an end, I wanted to keep hanging out with Hugh! I loved the observations on writing and it made me stop (and worry!) that I had committed the sins that Hugh points out with such scathing clarity! A highly-enjoyable read with a lot of excellent humour about art, the politics of tenure, fame, crime and the meaning of life.


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THE KNOCKOFF ECLIPSE by Melissa Bull
About the book:

Melissa Bull’s debut short story collection The Knockoff Eclipse hums with the immediacy of distant and future worlds. Firmly rooted in the streets and landmarks of Montreal and its many neighbourhoods and subcultures, Bull’s characters shine with the dirt of digging just deep enough.

Dark like Duras, flippant comme Sagan, with elements of the surreal running through, these Montreal stories are modern feminist fables for the reader who is decidedly uninterested in upholding the moral of the story as it’s been traditionally told. (Anvil Press)


My review:
The short stories in this are so powerful I had to pace reading them. They don’t hold back any punches and this book offers some of the most vivid ‘in another’s body’ experience I’ve read. You smell the sunburn, the lake water, the dirt, taste the tears, feel the cold and hear the voices as clearly as if the characters were standing in the same room. Gritty, tough, with lives on the edge of falling apart and yet, they just don’t… just. The stories are vignettes of the beautiful intimacy that can be found in quiet and precious moments and the very real sense that sometimes, just being is enough.


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NIGHTS ON PROSE MOUNTAIN by bpNichol (Coach House).
 
ABOUT THE BOOK: Nights on Prose Mountain gathers all of beloved writer bpNichol's published fiction. Originally appearing between 1968 and 1983, and representing almost the entire arc of Nichol's writing career, Nights on Prose Mountain is by turns heartbreaking, playful, and evocative. While Nichol's poetry is widely studied, researched and taught, his novels have remained out of print and are overdue for a new edition. Nichol's curiosity and craft, his exploration and exuberance, his lyricism and adventurousness are all on exhibit here. From the Governor General's Award-winning "The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid" through more obscure treasures like Extreme Positions, and including Still, For Jesus Lunatick, and Andy, Nights on Prose Mountain traces Nichol's life in fiction.
 
MY REVIEW:

I have read small excerpts of bpNichol’s writing before and of this book, I have only one thing to say – I need to a buy a copy! I borrowed this copy from the library but I will need much more time than afforded to me by a loan, to read and enjoy this book. Prologue (from Craft Dinner) had me mesmerized and Still was incredibly powerful. Yes, this will need several reads and rereads!
 
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THE JOURNEY PRIZE,
is a collection of short stories selected by Kevin Hardcastle, Grace O’Connell and Ayelet Tsabari (McClelland & Stewart). I loved the stories in this collection. They carry a visceral sadness that will stay with you – but in a good way! I wanted to follow the lives of the characters in these stories, particularly, Reading Week by Sharon Bala, They Come Crying by Sarah Kabamba and A Girl and a Dog on a Friday Night by Kelly Ward.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Like The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and the Best American Short Stories series, The Journey Prize Stories is one of the most celebrated annual literary anthologies in North America. For almost 30 years, the anthology has consistently introduced readers to the next generation of great Canadian authors, a tradition that proudly continues with this latest edition. With settings ranging from wartime China to an island off the coast of British Columbia, the ten stories in this collection represent the year's best short fiction by some of our most exciting emerging voices.     
        A young boy who believes he is being stalked by an unstoppable, malevolent entity discovers that he may not be the only one. In a sweeping story set against the fall of Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a pregnant woman waits anxiously for her doctor husband to leave the city before it's too late. A river that runs through a First Nations community is the source of sustenance, escape, and tragedy for a girl and her family. The haunting footage of the politically motivated self-immolation has unexpected reverberations for a Tibetan-Canadian woman dealing with multiple conflicts in her own life. A man who works a back-breaking job at an industrial mat cleaning service is pushed to his limit. When her mother has to return to Kinshasa to bury a family member, a girl gradually learns of the intricacy and depth of grief, in an evocative piece that illuminates the cultural gaps common within immigrant families, and the power of food and stories to bridge them.     

 
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I picked up a copy of YOUNG VOICES published by the Toronto Public Library and was very moved by the selection of writing and the artwork.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Toronto Public Library's magazine of creative writing and visual art, created and selected by Toronto teens, published annually for over fifty years. 
 
MY REVIEW:
This collection offers courageous and compelling insights into the lives of young people struggling with the complexities of school, love, becoming adults, watching their parents.  Very worth the read. One wants to gather all these ducklings and make the world a safe place for them but, as they are already all-too-aware, it’s too late for that, but one can move forward with brave hearts and a drive to create.
 
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CLOCKWORK CANADA, The Exile Book of Anthology Series, Number Twelve, edited by Dominik Parisien.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Welcome to an alternate Canada, where steam technology and the wonders and horrors of the mechanical age have reshaped the past into something both wholly familiar yet compellingly different. These fifteen supercharged all-new tales reimagine Canadian historical events, explore other Canadas, and gather inspiration from the northern landscape to make us wonder: what if history had gone a different way? 

Experience steam-powered buffalo women roaming the plains; visit brutal gas-lit working class streets; join extraordinary men and women striking out on their own or striving to build communities; marvel as giant rampaging spirits are thwarted by miniscule timepieces, at a great clock that when it chimes the Seven O’Clock Man appears to terrorize a small village in Quebec, or when a Maritime scientist develops a deadly new weapon that could change the course of the American civil war.
 
MY REVIEW:
While this book was published in 2016, I reread it very recently. The introduction by Parisien reads: “What started as Victorian retro-futurist fantasy has gone global and now spans across multiple historical periods. … Some of the stories contain steam, others don’t; clockwork frequently appears, as do automata, airships, trains, copper, brass, goggles, mechanical limbs; the works of Jules Verne inspire a character or two; the magical and the mechanical sometimes coexist; alternate history is often at the forefront; and great and fantastical inventions abound.” And this is very true! If you’re looking for a different kind of anthology, I recommend Clockwork Canada!

    
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THE MOTHER SUITE by Ruth Zuchter (AngelHousePress)
I’ve long admired the work published by AngelHousePress. I was first introduced to them with Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards by Heather Babcock which was listed on The Minerva Reader when I first started the site. Heather has a book scheduled with Inanna in 2020, Filthy Sugar and I was delighted to read an early copy of the book – readers are in for a treat with Filthy Sugar!
 
And, most recently from AngelHousePress, and part of today’s features, is The Mother Suite by Ruth Zuchter.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Through letters, diary entries, snippets of remembered conversations and post cards,
Ruth Zuchter collages together a portrait of a complicated mother-daughter relationship in The Mother Suite.
 
MY REVIEW:
Maternal relationships are seldom straightforward. In Ruth’s words: “Through letters, diary entries, snippets of remembered conversations & post cards, The Mother Suite collages together a portrait of the complexities of a mother-daughter/daughter as mother & caregiver relationship.”
 
And, what a powerful, compelling read it is. I feel like this collection speaks not only to the relationships between mothers and daughters but also to the complexities of the relationships we have with ourselves, our internal dialogues, observations and self-flaggellations. Being human is such a complex, wonderful, terrible mess and this collection speaks to all of that and does it so very beautifully. This is the kind of work that you could pick up on any given day and find a few sentences that sums it up exactly – you think, yes! That’s exactly how I’m feeling now and then you go about your day, cheered.
 
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THE WAR BENEATH by Timothy S. Johnston (ChiZine)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Living and working underwater can be a dangerous thing. First the bulkheads sweat, then there’s a trickle of water, and then in an instant you’re gone. The only thing left is a bloody pulp in the dark water and crushed bone fragments on the seafloor.
And you can’t bolt to the surface in an emergency . . . The Bends will get you. But that’s not the worst. When you’re living underwater and also working as a spy for your city, that’s when things get really dangerous.

Truman McClusky has been out of the intelligence business for years, working the kelp farms and helping his city Trieste flourish on the shallow continental shelf just off the coast of Florida. Until his former partner shows up, that is, steals a piece of valuable new technology and makes a mad dash into the Atlantic. Before he knows it, Mac ends up back in the game, chasing the spy to not only recapture the tech, but to kill his former friend.
 
But when he learns the grim truth behind the theft, it sends his stable life into turmoil and plunges him into an even deadlier mission: evade the submarines of hostile foreign powers, escape assassins, and forge through the world’s oceans at breakneck pace on a daring quest to survive, with more lethal secrets than he thought possible in his pocket.
The future of the city depends on McClusky . . . if he can make it back home.
 
MY REVIEW:
I was immediately drawn in by the cover, with artwork by Erik Mohr (Made by Emblem) and the cover design by Jared Shapiro. Beautiful work!
 
And I loved the story – such a great concept of cities under the seas and the writing was so cinematic that I felt like I was there, in the seacar. It felt a little hard to breathe at times, which was the writer’s intention and it was very well done! Fast-paced, good old-fashioned Cold War espionage set underwater in 2099, this book offers a great escape! Shortlisted for the 2018 Global Thriller Award and Semi-Finalist for the 2018 CLUE Award.
 ​
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SKYJACK by K.J. Howe (Headline)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The electrifying sequel to The Freedom Broker, featuring Thea Paris, a kidnap and ransom specialist. For Thea, kidnap is always personal - her brother's life was nearly ruined when he was taken as a child. Lisa Gardner says The Freedom Broker is 'clever and gritty' and Peter James calls it 'spellbinding'. If you like David Baldacci's King and Maxwell series, you will love this.

When Thea Paris's flight is hijacked over the Libyan Desert, her first priority is the two former child soldiers she is escorting to a new life in London.

As an international kidnap specialist, Thea Paris negotiates for hostage release as part of her job. She knows one wrong move could lead to deadly consequences.

After she is forcibly separated from the boys and the other passengers, Thea and her tactical team quickly regroup. And in their desperate search for the hostages that follows, unearth a conspiracy involving the CIA, the Vatican and the Sicilian Mafia, and a plot far more sinister than Thea could ever have imagined.
 
MY REVIEW:
Wow, K.J. Howe rocks! Talk about action-packed! Reading a Thea Paris book is like watching a Mission Impossible movie only we’ve got a sizzling hot female protagonist who thinks fast and acts even faster! I really enjoyed the characters in this book and I’m loving the Thea Paris series. It’s so great when you get to meet a heroine you really like and you look forward to the next book. I loved the way K.J. Howe writes – reminds me of Michael Connolly and his Bosch series – no padded fat, action all the way. And the plot keeps you on your toes with a lots of authentic details about the mechanics of flying.
 
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SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC: A MARKETVILLE MYSTERY by Judy Penz Sheluk
(Barking Rain Press)

 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
 
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
 
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
 
MY REVIEW:
I really enjoyed this fun read! I’m not generally much of a cozy reader but this felt  more like a Kinsey Millhone novel to me (Sue Grafton’s series), than a cozy. I really enjoyed the characters and the sense of small town intrigue, coupled with the secrets from yesteryear. Most families have skeletons in their attics and it was a fun adventure to find out the truth inside the coffin of this one! I look forward to reading more of Judy Penz Sheluk’s work!
 
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CLAUDINE by Barbara Palmer (Penguin Canada)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Maria Lantos is a post grad Yale student researching illicit 18th-century literature. She’s become exceptionally well-versed in the narratives of classic erotic fantasy.

She’s also Claudine, an in-demand escort specializing in sexual role play for an elite clientele. Anonymous. Satisfying. And discreet.

Until the tenuous separation between her worlds starts to crack. It begins with the murder of a stranger. Where it leads is to two men who will test Maria's limits of control and awaken her own sexual desires.

As her private nights bleed into day, Maria will discover the dangerous places that extend beyond the imagination, and secrets no longer consigned to the dark.
 
MY REVIEW:
Not a book I would ordinarily head for, I came via Claudine when chatting with an author friend about trying to find a home for my rather risqué novel, Boomerang Beach. This bestselling author revealed a secret – she had written a sexy novel herself! So of course, I nabbed copy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This author’s writing is, without fail, so polished and smooth and Claudine is no exception. The attention to detail is sensual, provocative and painterly. Claudine herself was a work of art and I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes prepping for a night out with high-class clientele. There were moments when I felt as if Claudine was a Harlequin romance on Viagra or steroids, particularly when it came to the romantic side of things, but this didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the read – in fact, to the contrary!
Note to readers, the book contains explicit eroticism.
 
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A SEASON AMONG PSYCHICS By Elizabeth Green (Inanna Publications)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Judith, at fifty, feels that her life is irremediably stalled, and she is depressed. Although she has a secure job teaching English Literature at a university, she is the single mother of a son on the autistic spectrum who has been lurching through the school system, year by year. Buried under the surface of her life, is her longing to write, and her deep feelings for Brian, a man who taught her in a creative writing program, and with whom she has telepathic connection. When Judtih meets Rosetta Kempffer at a psychic fair, she doesn't imagine that anything could change a life that seems so hopelessly stuck. Rosetta suggests Judith take a course from her in psychic healing, and although Judith is skeptical, she signs up, not expecting it to make a bit of difference. Yet, during the course, Judith learns not only techniques and awareness of healing, but also the truth of "things not seen with the bodily vision," and the profound connection between teaching and healing. (
 
MY REVIEW:
A fascinating, funny and thorough journey into the mystical realms of life in a human body and beyond. Whether you’re a believer in alternative healing or not, this book will refresh your soul and lift your spirits. Try something different and spend A Season Among Psychics!

    

this is why we're made in the dark by Justin Lauzon (Quattro)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
this is why we are made in the dark wrestles with the idea of transformation. The poems alternate between lyrical and narrative; they explore the way changes in the physical world and language mirror each other through an extravagance of subjects: colour, the city, maps, bodily transformation, astronomy, weather, and celestial objects.

MY REVIEW:
If I hadn’t met the author and was asked to describe him, I’d say he’s a kindly European gentleman, Spanish perhaps, thin, in his eighties, a fine-looking man, serene but strong. A great-grandfather and lover of life, a sensual man, loving to his children, stern at times, judicious and mathematical. A man careful with his words, a thinker, an observer, a man who sees the worlds behind the closed curtains of our lives.

This is how I would imagine the author of this is why we’re made in the dark. And if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Justin, you’d know he is a young man, with his whole life before him.

It's just that the poems are so layered and so intense that it’s a wonder they’ve been written by one so young.
Luciano Iacobelli spotted Justin Lauzon at an open mic reading and urged him to work on his collection and it’s easy to see why. This is a collection I will return to often.


FISHING FOR BIRDS by Linda Quennec (Inanna Publications)
My Review: As beautiful as the mirrored reflection on a still lake, this novel of love, loss and loneliness will pull you in from the very start. A tour de force of elequent prose that is equal parts tranquil and gentle, powerful and compelling. As stories within stories unfold, layers of perfectly imperfect lives are revealed. Fishing For Birds is a sensual exploration of the human need for storytelling as we try make sense of being alive and then, how we continue onwards, when nothing is straightforward. 


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THE BOY ON THE BICYCLE: A FORGOTTEN CASE OF WRONGFUL CONVICTION IN TORONTO by Nate Hendley (Five Rivers Publishing)
My Review: Intriguing, immediately engaging, often disturbing and filled with fascinating facts, The Boy on the Bicycle transports you to a different era of Toronto. Life in the 1950's in "Toronto the Good" wasn't kind to everyone, not by a long shot. The Boy on the Bicycle is written with such vivid attention to detail that this story of injustice and human cruelty will live in your mind long after you’ve read it. And it makes you wonder, how many other innocents suffered the same harsh fate and subsequent fallout that irrevocably damaged their lives? This is true crime at its finest.


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DROP DEAD: A HORRIBLE HISTORY OF HANGING IN CANADA by Lorna Poplak (Dundurn)
About the book: Take a journey through notable cases in Canada’s criminal justice history, featuring well-known and some less-well-known figures from the past. You’ll meet Arthur Ellis, Canada’s most famous hangman, whose work outfit was a frock coat and striped trousers, often with a flower pinned to his lapel. And you will also encounter other memorable characters, including the man who was hanged twice and the gun-toting bootlegger who was the only woman every executed in Alberta. Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada illustrates how trial, sentencing, and punishment operated in Canada’s first century, and examines the relevance of capital punishment today. Along the way, learn about the mathematics and physics behind hangings, as well as disturbing facts about bungled executions and wrongful convictions.
My Review: A somewhat grisly read, this book is fascinating. It paints a vivid portrait of the time and the charactes involved and is well worth the read. 


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10-33 ASSIST PC BY DESMOND RYAN 
About the book: In the first of the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, 10-33 Assist PC brings us into the dirty world of human trafficking through the eyes of the cops who put their lives on the line every day to shut it down. When his partner dies in his arms, the world as Mike knew it ends and he must decide how to move forward without forgetting the past. Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.
My Review: Desmond Ryan promises to bring real crime, fiction, from a real detective. And he delivers on that promise. A gritty and compelling read with personable, relatable characters. I look forward to Mike O'Shea's next adventures. 


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THE BEST LAID PLANS ANTHOLOGY - PREORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!
The Best Laid Plans is an exciting new anthology and today we have a special guest, Editor, Publisher and Author, Judy Penz Sheluk, author of Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery #2, talking to us about the book but also about the state of publishing in general. Self-publishing versus traditional publishing, what it takes to be a successful author and publisher in today's jam-packed arena of writers and books. Thank you, Judy, for joining The Minerva Reader today!
And, in full disclosure, I am delighted to have a story in The Best Laid Plans - Fire Drill - a story I wrote specifically for the anthology. 


ABOUT THE BEST LAID PLANS:
 Whether it’s at a subway station in Norway, a ski resort in Vermont, a McMansion in the suburbs, or a trendy art gallery in Toronto, the twenty-one authors represented in this superb collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “the best laid plans” in their own inimitable style. And like many best laid plans, they come with no guarantees.   

Tell us a bit about Superior Shores Press – how did it come about and what are your goals? 
Superior Shores Press is a publishing imprint I started in February 2018. In the beginning it was meant to strictly publish my own books – I’d been traditionally published by two different small press publishers, and the reality is small presses just don’t have much money to support their authors. I found that I was doing 99% of the marketing and promo and splitting my royalties. And since I come from a business background, I decided to self-publish my titles as my rights reverted back to me, and to include my newest book.

Of course, there is financial outlay. I hired an editor (I’m an editor but you cannot effectively edit your own work), proofreader, and graphic artist for the cover art, something the small presses did do. But I found that I enjoyed managing every step of the process. I'm a complete control freak and so self-publishing works for me.
At some point in the summer of 2018, I thought it would be “fun” to produce a multi-author anthology like The Whole She-Bang series put out by Sisters in Crime Toronto. I worked out the finances (basically how much I was willing to invest and lose if it didn’t sell) and after a few big swallows and some sleepless nights, I sent out a call for submissions in Oct. 2018 with a deadline of Jan. 2019.
Goals? I’d love to produce at least 3 anthologies. I have an idea for a second theme. But I have to at least break even with the first one re capital outlay (I'm not even considering the hundreds of hours invested in the project).
 
How did you come about the idea for The Best Laid Plans? 
I love theme-based anthologies, and I wanted to include my short story, PLAN D. That fit the theme, meaning everyone else had to do that too. There are perks to being the publisher!
 
How did you select the stories for the anthology? You received over 70 submissions and 20 made it - how did you choose?

Cutting down from 72 to 35 wasn’t that difficult. Some didn’t fit the theme or the assigned word count. Some had really graphic violence or an excess of bad language and some had no bite. I wanted the book to be “PG” without being wimpy. But the rest…I loved all 35 stories. Cutting 15 stories, that was tough. I created an Excel spreadsheet, entered in the word counts and basic premise, and went to work. I knew I wanted about 75,000 words and 21 stories in all, which meant 21 stories at 1,500 words or 21 stories at 5,000 words wouldn’t work. Additionally, a good anthology has a mix of quick reads (1,500 words), longer reads (5,000 words), and everything in between. If I could only select four “long stories” and there were six, I had to cut two. There were a couple of stories that I really went back and forth on a few times. The other consideration is topic. I remember reading an anthology a while back that had twelve stories and two had werewolves. That, to my mind, was one too many werewolves, and it ruined the entire collection for me. Finally, theme. There is nothing worse than reading a theme-based collection and coming upon a story that just-doesn’t fit. No matter how good the story, if it didn’t fit the theme, it couldn’t be included. But still, it wasn’t easy to come down to 20.
 
The cover is great - can you tell us a bit about the design and the illustrator? 
From the beginning I had an idea for a creepy hourglass. I found one I loved online but it was copyrighted and I couldn’t track down the illustrator, even though I tried for days. I finally hired an illustrator, S.A. Hadi hasan, gave him the image I’d found and loved, and he went to work. I love what he came up with. Then I sent that illustration to my cover artist, Hunter Martin, who does all my Superior Shores Press covers and gets “the branding” of my name, etc. right. So many details!
 
There's been much said about the state of the publishing industry right now - the trend away from traditional publishing. Can you comment on this? 
I think if you are super organized, willing to take financial risks, understand that publishing is a business, are willing to do tons of promo, and spend multiple hours creating accounts with all the major retailers, formatting files and uploading them in different formats specific to each format, etc. etc. etc., then self-publishing could be a fit for you. But it drives me nuts when people think they don’t need to hire professionals for editing, proofreading, and cover art. You absolutely must. If, on the other hand, all that sounds daunting (or too expensive), and you’d rather just write and let someone else take care of it, then traditional is the way to go.
One size doesn’t fit all. And it always makes me laugh when someone says, “I don’t want to split my royalties.” If you aren’t willing to put in the work or financial investment a traditional publisher does and hire the experts you need to, then chances are your book won’t sell because it simply won’t measure up. 100% of nothing is still nothing.
 
You enjoy great success online with Amazon and Kindle and you're a great networker, both in person and online. How do you find the time to do everything you do and write? 

I’m also with B&N, Apple Books, Kobo and Google Play. On the days that I’m “Marketing Judy” I’m not “Author Judy.” I come from a freelance writer/editor background (2003-2018) and before that, years in financial managerial positions, so I’m good with deadlines and goal setting. I love being “Author Judy.” The dream is to get to the point where I can hire a “Marketing Judy” even if only part-time. But right now, I’m a multi-tasker. When I start writing a book, I try to write a chapter a day and I’ll work for however long that takes. Sometimes it’s an hour. Sometimes it’s 10 hours. It takes as long as it takes. This is a job like any other. It’s not glamorous. But, to me, it never feels like work.
 
Any tips for aspiring authors out there? It seems like such a vast ocean of work is being published so how can authors carve out a space for themselves? 
I always answer this question with a quote from Agatha Christie: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”
 
And, most importantly, where can readers find a copy of The Best Laid Plans? 
The Best Laid Plans will be available on Kindle and in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, B&N and Chapters.Indigo. You can pre-order your copy at the link below. 

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PROOF I WAS HERE by Becky Blake, Wolsak and Wynn 

ABOUT THE BOOK: 
What’s the point of trying to leave a mark when everything disappears? This question is at the heart of Proof I Was Here, a novel that tells the picaresque coming-of-age story of a young thief and aspiring artist who attempts to reboot her life on the streets of Barcelona after an unexpected breakup. Hailing from Toronto, where she has an assault charge waiting, Niki is outside of Canada for the first time. The pickpockets, squatters and graffiti artists she meets challenge her to reassess her ideas about luck and art. With the help of a passionate Catalan separatist who dreams of building a new country from the ground up, Niki realizes that starting her life over from scratch could be an opportunity – if she can just find a way to clear her name.

MY REVIEW:
I immediately gravitated towards this book because of the title! Then, admittedly, it had all my favourite elements; Barcelona, young thieves, hustlers, buskers and graffiti artists. Broken hearts, complicated friendships, freeganism (fascinating idea), and dysfunctional familial relationships. This book was my perfect kind of escape read. Nikki aka Jane, kleptomaniac when stressed kept me following her adventures, holding my breath and wishing her all the best.

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ALBATROSS by Terry Fallis, Penguin Random House Canada


ABOUT THE BOOK: 
Adam Coryell is your average high-school student--well, except for that obsession with fountain pens--when his life changes forever. Based on a study by a quirky Swedish professor that claims that every human being, regardless of athletic inclination, has a body that is suited to excel in at least one sport, it turns out that Adam is good--very good, in fact--at golf. Even though he'd never even picked up a golf club.

Almost instantly, and with his coach, hard-nosed Bobbie Davenport by his side, Adam and his new-found talent skyrocket to a prodigy-level stardom that includes tournament titles, sponsorship deals, throngs of fans following his every move, and fodder for tabloids.

But here's the catch: Adam doesn't really like golf. And as the life he once knew slips away--including the love of his life, the dream of being a writer, and everyday normalcy--he can't help but wonder if all this success and fame is worth it . . . or if it's enough for him. 

Heartwarming and funny, sweeping and entertaining, Terry Fallis's new book takes readers on a journey of self-discovery.

MY REVIEW: 
Yes, Terry Fallis’ books are funny. But they’re more than a simply comedic read, they really do, as the acknowledgment says, talk about life. What happens when you’re happy to make do with the lemons life has given you and you’re content to set about making lemonade but then out of nowhere, you win the DNA lottery and you’re pretty much force-fed champagne lemon gelato? Ad if you’re not sure what I’m getting at, you’ll have to read the book! The albatross of good fortune is an interesting concept, as is that of God given talents vs that which one works so hard to achieve. As always, the road is hilly, life is messy and the results are bittersweet. A reaffirming read, I enjoyed Albatross  and there are interesting insights into writing, publishing and fountains pens!

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LIVING ON A BLANK PAGE by Gili Haimovich, Bue Angel Press


ABOUT THE BOOK:
New Edition for Gili’s poetry collection Living on a Blank Page (Blue Angel Press 2008).
The new edition is the first one to include Gili’s photography as well as two new additional poems. Single Sock, one of the poems in the book, also featured in LRC- The Literary Review of Canada. The poem Date from the book was recently published in Writing in the Margins ezine.

MY REVIEW:
I met Gili Haimovich years ago when this volume of poetry came out and we recently reconnected on Facebook. I always remembered the beauty and power of her launch reading and the powerful poignancy of her words. I’m very happy to see Gili’s continued success as a poet and it’s a lovely treat to revisit her words.
Here's an excerpt from Living on a Blank Page:
one last poem
like one last chance
to be
vague and beautiful


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FROM THE ASHES: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle, Simon Schuster

MY REVIEW: This is one of the best books I've read this year. I was fortunate to get an Advance Reader Copy because in my day job, (I'm a magazine designer), sadly more books come in than can be reviewed. But I'd buy this book and I highly recommend it. 

From the moment I started it, I couldn't put it down. I read it every moment I could, on the subway and at lunchtime. That's the mark of a good book.

It's unflinching self-reportage of the darkest moments imaginable to a person. And to a child. 

It was, at times, hard to read but the writing is exquisite and Thistle never shies away from absolute self-honesty.

I felt as if I were with Jesse Thistle every step of the way, such was the vivid strength of the writing. There wasn't a moment when I didn't want to reach out to him and help him but he ultimately rescues himself, which is the most important lesson of all. Yes, he had help and support and love but one got the definite sense that Jesse never wanted the life of an addict – he fought it and his demons as fiercely as they battled to keep him in the prison of addiction. 

If there is any redemption to the human condition it is that we can, indeed, rise from the ashes. Thank you, Jesse Thistle for this book. You're a wonderful writer and I look forward to reading more of your work because my feeling is that there are more stories to come. And kudos too, to your courage and determination.


-.-


THE SCENT OF MOGRA by Aparna Kaji Shah, Inanna Publications.
ABOUT THE BOOK: The Scent of Mogra and Other Stories is a collection of four short stories about strong female characters dealing with difficult life-changing situations. The turmoil that they face is, often, the result of a social structure that discriminates against women. Through these powerful women characters, the stories reflect attitudes and ways of life in a village in India, and in modern day Mumbai; they highlight the values of an older generation, and the dreams of a new one. Beneath all their differences, The Scent of Mogra and Other Stories illuminate the quality of women's lives, exposing the pain, the injustices, as well as the triumphs that make up their existence. 

MY REVIEW: What a beautiful read, one that appeals to all senses. You truly get the sense of being inside each protagonist and vividly experiencing their lives. This collection has one of the saddest, most beautiful stories I’ve read in a very long time – I won’t say which one because I urge you to read the collection!  Each story gripped and I couldn’t put the book down while in the middle of a story. Once I finished one, I took a break to savour what I had just read, to mull over the character’s situation and the stories resolution. They’re the kind of stories one needs to ponder, almost have an internal dialogue with the character to ask them for more, to continue being a part of their lives. I love how each voice had such a strong sense of indivuality.


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As you know, The Minerva Reader is all about the unsung hero, a treasure you might have missed. I recently read Someone We Know by Shari Lapena, picking up the ARC from the book table at work. I love a good escapist read! Shari Lapena crafts finely-tuned, tightly written works and I really enjoyed this one. But Shari Lapena is not an unsung hero so while I wanted to mention the book here, I also wanted to say that if you enjoy books like like Lapena’s, then I highly recommend the Pat Tierney trilogy by Rosemary McCracken (and I am hoping there will be more in the series.) Jack Batten, the Toronto Star‘s crime fiction reviewer, calls Pat Tierney “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.”

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IN THE KEY OF THIRTEEN, The Mesdames of Mayhem's New Upcoming Anthology
And, for the final highlight in this issue of The Minerva Reader, here’s the fabulous cover for In The Key of Thirteen, a new anthology coming out in Fall, by the Mesdames of Mayhem (of which I am one!) There are 19 stories in the collection, all on the theme of music. 

Many thanks to the very talented Sara Carrick for our dramatic and elegant cover, which captures our theme of music and murder.

Our official launch of the In the Key of 13 anthology takes place in Toronto on Saturday, October 26, 2 to 4 pm at Sleuth of Baker Street, 907 Millwood Rd. Watch for more details as we near publication.