The Year in Books: 2019
Our annual review of new books by local authors & illustrators.
Make room in the bookcase. It has been another banner year for writers in these hills!
Outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted by a trio of new trail guides. N. Glenn Perrett encourages a soothing session of forest bathing in any one of southern Ontario’s six national parks. Nicola Ross provides more ways to enjoy the outdoors with a new volume in her Loops & Lattes series. And The Caledon Trailway is part trail guide, part local history and entirely a worthy addition to coffee tables everywhere.
Love to get lost in good storytelling? Sally Cooper, Oakland Ross, A.G. Pasquella and Jess Taylor have all published new novels. How about historical fiction based on true events? Wendy Appleton’s account of growing up in England during the Blitz and Marina Reed’s trials in “paradise” might just fill the bill.
If inspirational memoirs are your thing, Catherine Gildiner’s Good Morning, Monster and Roland Kirouac’s Message from a Fool are excellent recommendations. What’s more, there’s poetry and paranormal, business advice and a Sean Cassidy classic, Hanna Bear’s Christmas, newly released in paperback, just in time for Christmas.
So many books! So little time! A wonderful predicament, indeed.
Good Morning, Monster
Five Heroic Journeys to Recovery
by Catherine Gildiner
When retired clinical psychotherapist Catherine Gildiner identifies as heroes the five clients she profiles in Good Morning, Monster, you better believe she means what she writes in every sense of the word. From the woman who took on horrific mistreatment to save her younger sister from the same fate to the Cree man unable to experience even the most basic emotions after his time at residential school, Gildiner tells the story of people who battled to break the cycle of abuse and emerged as role models for and mentors to others. Inspirational.
Catherine Gildiner is the best-selling author of the memoir Too Close to the Falls and its two sequels. She divides her time between homes in Toronto and Creemore. (Viking, $26.95)
Swimming with Horses
by Oakland Ross
Small-town Ontario, 1963. The arrival of teen bombshell Hilary Anson collides with 15-year-old Sam Mitchell’s life like a live hand grenade. Hilary rides horses like an Amazon and shocks him with anecdotes from her previous life in apartheid-era South Africa. Her eventual disappearance, coinciding with a murder, leaves Sam asking questions that will haunt him into adulthood.
A former feature writer and foreign correspondent, freelance writer Oakland Ross is a novelist and memoirist who spent his childhood on horseback in Caledon. He now lives in Toronto. (Dundurn, $20.99)
With My Back to the World
by Sally Cooper
Forging a new direction in life has very real costs. For some, it means the end of habitual comforts, a turning away from certain belief systems, a restructuring of family and friends, even the death of some relationships. For three women – Rudie, a young woman hoping to adopt a Haitian child in 2010; Ellen, a black woman presented with the dead body of her husband in the wilds of central Ontario in the 1870s; and Agnes, an artist trying to recover from a breakdown in the 1970s – overcoming the obstacles in the path to a better life tests everything they think they know about themselves.
Sally Cooper skilfully weaves these seemingly disparate stories into a fully satisfying whole.
Hamilton resident Sally Cooper grew up in Inglewood. Her previous novels include Tell Everything and Smells Like Heaven. (James Street North Books, $22)
The Caledon Trailway
Building the Dream
by Diane Allengame
The Caledon Trailway: Building the Dream is as beautiful as the trail itself. Lovely colour photography by Rosemary Hasner, Nathan Hiller and Pete Paterson, along with archival images and maps, trace the trail’s history from an abandoned 19th-century railway bed through to its physical construction and beyond. Readers meet the municipal, provincial and federal workers who got the project off the ground, as well as the many volunteers who gave (and still give) countless hours of labour. Additional chapters focus on the trail’s links to other nearby trails – the Bruce and Oak Ridges – and its connection to the Great Trail, which spans the country. As a bonus, readers are treated to a trail diary by author and environmental activist Nicola Ross. (Caledon Trailway Book Committee, $40)
Southern Ontario’s National Parks
by N. Glenn Perrett
How lucky are we to live in the hills of Headwaters with not one, but six (count ’em, six!) national parks all within a day’s drive? Bruce Peninsula National Park, Fathom Five National Marine Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Point Pelee National Park, Rouge National Urban Park and Thousand Islands National Park all await hikers, campers and paddlers looking forward to experiencing nature at its best. N. Glenn Perrett’s helpful guide, packed with information on the flora and fauna, as well as geological and historical facts, maps and photography, ensures visitors will get the most out of their experience. So put down your device and take a plunge into nature. It’s good for your health!
N. Glenn Perrett of Mulmur is a nature writer and environmental activist. (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $34.95)
by Jess Taylor
The short stories in Just Pervs delve into the complex domain of female sexuality. Fresh, honest and at times alarming, Jess Taylor’s young women pinball from partner to partner as some yearn for simple, physical touch while others flail helplessly through doomed relationships. In a culture of short attention spans and instant gratification, in which everything is disposable and everyone is self-medicating, what the characters really crave – true human connection – hovers frustratingly out of reach.
Pauls, Jess Taylor’s first story collection, drew national praise. Taylor grew up in Palgrave and now lives in Toronto. (Book*hug Press, $20)
It’s Lonely in Paradise
by Marina L. Reed
Hoping for a fresh start after an unhappy marriage, Heather takes a teaching contract on a Caribbean island. But from the moment the plane lands, she and her 12-year-old son discover they are far from paradise. Just securing the basics of food and water involves a steep learning curve, and the streets are rife with drugs and violence. Instead of feeling gratitude, the islanders openly despise their “white saviours” – and Heather must decide which is more important: sticking with her romanticized notion of helping the less fortunate or keeping herself and her son safe.
Based on a true story, It’s Lonely in Paradise is Orangeville resident Marina Reed’s second novel. Her first, Primrose Street, was published in 2018. (MLR, $19.95)
An Ecological Thriller
by David Kendall
For Inama Meena, Toronto street cleaner and immigrant from India, life in his new city is not all that different from his experiences as an “untouchable” in his home country. That is, until he finds a severed finger in a trash-strewn gutter. Next thing he knows he’s uncovering an illegal shark-fin ring and forging a new friendship with a young journalist.
Belfountain resident David Kendall is an environmental activist and retired journalist whose award-winning first novel, Lázaro, was made into the feature film Where the River Runs Black. All proceeds from the sale of Slag will be donated to the ecological preservation of the Niagara Escarpment. (David Kendall, $15.95)
Anxious to Serve
The Story of a Young Man’s Determination to Serve His Family and Country in Peacetime and War
by Mervyn “Merv” Parker
Based on true events as told to him by his father, Merv Parker’s lightly fictionalized account of his father’s childhood on the family farm, his selfless acts of humanism, the loves of his life and his service in both 20th-century world wars provide entertaining and inspirational insights into bygone times.
Merv Parker of Shelburne served more than 30 years in the Canadian government as a decorated police officer, security specialist and volunteer adviser on international security projects. (MP, $18.75)
Waterloo, Wellington & Guelph Hikes
Loops & Lattes
by Nicola Ross with Amy Darrell
Trains, tubing and peak après-hiking.
Caledon author and environmentalist Nicola Ross – in collaboration with Albion’s Amy Darrell – is back with the fifth book in her Loops & Lattes series. This time Ross and Darrell head into Mennonite country with 35 new trails to explore. A couple of teasers: Two of the loops involve hitching a ride on the Waterloo Central Railway. Another invites hikers to ditch their boots and experience the Elora Gorge from an inner tube. Each hike in the book is described in detail, including level of difficulty, highlights to look for, the flora and fauna of the area and, of course, the best places to find a hot cuppa and something decadent to eat when the day is done.
The other titles in the Loops & Lattes series cover Caledon, Dufferin, Halton and the Hamilton area. (Woodrising Consulting, $27.95)
A Walk in Her Shoes
by Travis Greenley
In A Walk in Her Shoes, Travis Greenley describes the unique perspective he has gained as the only man to work full-time for Orangeville’s Family Transition Place. Working closely with the women on staff and through his job as a youth educator, he has developed a deeper understanding of the everyday struggle of women’s lives, the systemic culture of violence against women, and the very real harm both men and women suffer from toxic masculinity. Bonus points to Travis for literally walking the walk – by nearly crippling himself to finish a race in a pair of hot pink, size 10 stilettos. (Travis Greenley, $20.99)
The Chronicles of Xannia: Part Four
by MJ Moores
An alien artifact and bitter betrayal challenge Taya to face her changing identity and her role in the future of her world. Forgotten Fallacy is the fourth book in MJ Moores’ science fiction series Chronicles of Xannia. (Infinite Pathways Press, $24.95)
by MJ Moores
In Final Year, Beth believes that, in Jeremy, she has found the perfect subject for her sociology thesis. He’s ridiculously handsome and charming, a stereotypical love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy. What he wasn’t supposed to be was complex. And kind. When a bomber threatens the campus, Beth must re-evaluate her own prejudices and help Jeremy clear his name. A former teacher, MJ Moores lives in Caledon. (DAOwen, $12)
Hanna Bear’s Christmas
by Monica Devine
illustrated by Sean Cassidy
Hanna Bear’s forest friends promise to wake her for Christmas, but a hibernating Hanna proves difficult to rouse! Children of all ages will love this magical Christmas story, now available in paperback.
Award-winning author and illustrator Sean Cassidy lives in Orangeville. His previous titles include Good to Be Small, Gummytoes, Wake Up, Henry Rooster! and Kazaak! (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $12.95)
It’s Going to Be a Really Good Day
by Emma Pink
Orangeville’s Emma Pink was 18 when she started showing signs of bipolar disorder. Her newly released book, It’s Going to Be a Really Good Day, is part memoir, part workbook for anyone who lives with, or loves, someone who is living with mental illness. Some days are going to be hard, Pink writes, and some downright crappy, but through hard work and knowing when to reach out for help, joy awaits all who seek it. (Discovering Diversity, $25)
Million Dollar Agent
by Tav Schembri
In this memoir Caledon real estate whiz Tav Schembri zooms through his backstory: born in Toronto in 1959, a year after his parents emigrated from Sicily; early work gigs in construction and hairdressing; and two lost fingers in a woodworking accident. But he lingers on teachable moments for novice realtors, gleaned from his climb to the top of his profession in just six years in business. And, yes, in keeping with his cover portrait, he notes keeping your ride shipshape doesn’t hurt. (iUniverse, $22.99)
The Pridden Saga: Book Two
by J.M. Tibbott
On vacation in the British Virgin Islands, video game designer Kat falls through a vortex and finds herself in Pridden, a land very much like the fantasy role-playing games she creates. In The Healers, the second book in the Pridden Saga series, Kat continues her quest through the six lands, blundering through bizarre local customs, and gaining new allies and enemies as she attempts to help Pridden avert an all-out war.
Formerly a resident of Orangeville, J.M. Tibbott now lives in Erin. (Sun Dragon Press, $20.99)
The Secrets of Mudge Bay
by Ron McCormack
Based on the true story of Daniel Dodge, heir to the Dodge Motor Company fortune, Ron McCormack’s fictionalized account of the mysterious events leading to Dodge’s tragic death in 1938 takes place on picturesque Georgian Bay. Involved are a young millionaire, a scandalous love affair with a working-class Manitoulin Island woman and a speedboat that never should have crashed.
Ron McCormack’s first novel was the golf-based mystery The Big Play. He lives in Bolton. (Ron McCormack, $15.95)
by John P. Drudge
Red rooftops overlooking the Mediterranean. A Roman tower in Nice, France. Splashes of joy and ruminations on the passage of time. John Drudge’s collection of poems roams like a traveller’s dream.
Caledon’s John P. Drudge, a clinical social worker, is the president of a national disability management company. (cyberwit.net, $19.95)
All That Sparkles
by Diane Bator
Still recuperating from a horrible Hollywood marriage and a round of chemotherapy, Laken Miller enjoys the slow pace of helping her sister run her vintage clothing shop. But when the shop receives a trunk full of expensive gowns and newspaper articles about a decades-old diamond robbery, Laken finds herself thrown into the hunt for a killer.
Orangeville’s Diane Bator is the author of the Wild Blue Mysteries and the Gilda Wright Mysteries. (BWL, $12.95)
Message from a Fool
The Memoirs of Roland Kirouac
by Roland Kirouac
The childhood Roland Kirouac describes in his memoir is horrifying – squatting in a roach-infested hovel in Quebec City and living in constant fear of his violent, alcoholic father. But the life he forges, from his start as a 16-year-old instructor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio to his career as a sought-after choreographer in Toronto and Los Angeles – he even choreographed the opening ceremonies of the Calgary Winter Olympics! – is pure inspiration.
Roland Kirouac, the man in the dapper hat, lives in Orangeville. (Roland Kirouac, $17.95)
Paint the Horse Blue
by Mark Grice
Kella Major has worked her butt off to keep her father’s horse farm afloat. Which isn’t easy, what with a hockey-mad daughter to raise and Kella’s growing attraction to the new farrier, a man with a less than reputable past. With her back against the wall and the future of the farm at stake, Kella must take a stand for what she believes in and protect what’s hers.
Mark Grice of Caledon is a professional horse trainer, part-time actor and award-winning artist. Paint the Horse Blue is his debut novel. (Archway, $24)
Carve the Heart
by A.G. Pasquella
This second book in the Jack Palace series finds Jack grinding through his days, leaning heavily on the booze and spending off-hours with his stripper girlfriend. But life gets complicated when Jack’s professional poker-playing ex turns up, on the run from a gangster with vengeance on his mind. Between this and a misunderstanding with some moody bikers about four kilos of missing cocaine, Jack better figure things out quickly or he might end up dead.
A.G. Pasquella is a writer and musician who grew up in Mulmur and now lives in Toronto. Yard Dog is the first book in the Jack Palace series. (Dundurn, $19.99)
A Little Girl’s War
by Wendy Appleton
In 1944 Bexleyheath, England, fleeing school for a bomb shelter or waking up to find the neighbour’s house demolished by a German bomb was commonplace. For five-year-old Wendy, this kind of everyday life was all she had ever known. Imagine her confusion when her parents send her away (for her safety) to live with strangers in Lancashire.
Wendy Appleton, who now lives in Melancthon, paints a vivid picture of wartime Britain. A Little Girl’s War is also a lovely tribute to the two older women who took in Wendy and her sister, cared for them and kept them safe. For readers aged 10 and older. (Amberley, $20)
Wicked Night + Unusual Night
by Evi Rhodes
In Wicked Night, the first book in Evi Rhodes’ Warrior’s Promise series, lonely Gwendillyn Williamson is unable to shake a bout of ill health and reaches out to her estranged mother, only to be told that she is going through “the change” to become a vampire. Wicked, heir to the vampire king’s throne, doesn’t want guardianship of an entitled heiress, no matter how stunning and smart she is. Together, Gwen and Wicked must fight their attraction to ensure Gwen survives her fate.
Unusual Night, the second novel in the series, sees Gwen continue to struggle with her unusual talents, Wicked’s past and a new enemy – a wolfishly sexy male to whom Gwen feels dangerously drawn.
Evi Rhodes lives in Amaranth. (Tellwell Talent, $26 each)
The Successful Healer
A Practical Guide for Holistic Health Practitioners
by Debra Jones
Many holistic health practitioners are so focused on their clients and businesses that they have little energy left for themselves. For healers just starting out, as well as those feeling burnout, Debra Jones offers strategies to ensure a more balanced practice and life.
Debra Jones runs the Debra Jones Healing Centre in Melancthon. She is a Reiki master, writer, teacher and mentor. (Debra Jones, $24.95)
A Dream Fulfilled
From a Private Pilot to an A340 Captain
by Ed Ens
1962 British Columbia. A young Ed Ens earns a private pilot’s licence and accepts a job offer from a company in Newfoundland, a place he knows nearly nothing about. A Dream Fulfilled takes readers on an engaging and sometimes bumpy ride through Ens’ early years as a bush pilot in Canada’s youngest province to his dream job of becoming an A340 captain.
Ed Ens is now retired and divides his time between Hockley Valley, Parry Sound and Florida. (Edward Ens, $12.95)
Opening to the Mystery
Intimate Spiritual Experiences with My Daughter That Cause Me to Wonder
by Jake McArthur
Opening to the Mystery is a poignant love letter from Jake McArthur to his daughter, Erica, who lost her life in a tragic car accident when she was 23. Collected in the book’s pages are poems, song lyrics, remembrances and musings about the many inexplicable experiences he’s had since her death.
Poet, playwright and actor Jake McArthur has worked as a life coach and head of a number of retail chains. Formerly a resident of Caledon, he now lives in Collingwood. (Kinetics Design, $20)
The Space Between
by Lallie Napier
Finally free of an abusive relationship, Sandy is immediately swept into the world of the Family. She knows she has a supernatural Talent, and the Family want to teach her how to use it. But does she really want to face yet more battles?
Lallie Napier grew up in Hockley Valley and now lives in Midland. (Anna Lord Fine Arts, $19.95)
by Lynne Golding
In this second book in the Beneath the Alders series, young Jessie continues to unravel a secret involving her grandfather and the Presbyterian Church he helped build. Meanwhile, everything is about to change. The Great War is coming, and it will take a toll on everyone.
Lynne Golding of Brampton fictionalizes her family’s history in the city she calls home and, in the process, takes her characters to the Forks of the Credit and Cataract. The Innocent is the first book in the series. (Blue Moon, $19.99)
The Memoirs of Alexander Brodie
edited and annotated by John Steckley
Edited by his great-great-great-nephew John Steckley, Alexander Brodie’s diaries provide a glimpse of the early days of Ontario settlement – from the journey of Alexander and his family to Upper Canada from Scotland in the 1830s to the Rebellion of 1837 and encounters with the area’s Indigenous people.
A longtime instructor at Humber College, John Steckley is the author of many books focusing on anthropology, sociology and the language and history of Indigenous peoples. He lives in Bolton. (Rock’s Mills Press, $24.95)
by David Courtney
Philosopher and cultural critic David Courtney turns to wordplay in this collection of poems and song lyrics. Burnt Offering is a Leonard Cohen-infused look at love, desire and the endless purgatory of contemporary life.
Belwood’s David Courtney is also the author of Theory of Mind, The Art of Sanity and Neurogenesis. (David Courtney, $16.95)
Colouring and Activity Book
by Jason Scorcia and Christopher Tampin
illustrated by Wendle Beaton
Special Olympian Jason Scorcia, aka Scorch, teamed up with friend Chris Tampin and illustrator Wendle Beaton to create this all-ages colouring book packed with fun pictures and inspirational quotations. The goal of the book is to promote understanding of mental health challenges, and net proceeds go to the Special Olympic and Motionball charities.
Bolton’s Jason Scorcia and Chris Tampin co-founded Jason’s Quest, an organization dedicated to helping families offset the costs of involvement in Special Olympic programs. (Jason’s Quest, $20)
Editor’s note: The print version of this article incorrectly identified where author Ron McCormack lives. It has been corrected in this online version.