Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Open Book Recommends: The Valentine Edition

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Happy Valentine's Day from Open Book! Forget roses — the best lovers give books! Looking for suggestions? Open Book has selected twenty long-stem winter books to set your sweetie's heart aflutter.

Contest! If you like what you see (and we know you will), you can enter to win one of four prize packs from Open Book and the publishers of these fine titles. To enter, send an email to enter@openbooktoronto.com and tell us the title of your favourite Canadian love story. Please click here for contest rules. The contest closes on February 29th.

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Time is a shape-shifter, for poets in particular. Accomplished poet George Amabile's latest collection, Dancing, with Mirrors (The Porcupine's Quill), is the product of over twenty years' work. Made up of eleven cantos, this book refracts and reflects a personal history that merges into the universal. With wisdom and raw honesty, Amabile's poems probe "the unearthly darkness packed like grease / around a bearing."

Beverley Brenna's Falling for Henry (Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside) combines the best of the YA time-slip genre with the undeniable mystique of the Tudors. Kate Allen is a fifteen-year-old girl who has recently lost her father. When she slips back in time to the Tudor court, she allows everyone she meets to believe she is Katherine of Aragon, destined to become the first wife of the future Henry VIII. After all, dallying with this charismatic young prince is better than facing the challenges she's been experiencing in her own life…isn't it?

"Monkey Ranch is like the best sort of letter from a friend — full of gossip, lively observation and serious wit," writes Sharon Thesen. Julie Bruck's third poetry collection with Brick Books tangles together joy, fury, pathos and sadness, demanding to know: what will suffice? You'll come away from this book feeling like you've been driving through Julie's adopted home of San Francisco — in a convertible with the top down.

Connie Brummel Crook brings Canadian heroine Laura Secord to life in her dramatic new novel Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 (Pajama Press). Spanning from Laura’s early years to her courtship with James Secord and the threat of American invasion, Acts of Courage offers “insights into the character of a young woman whose acts of courage have captured the imagination of generations of young Canadians.”

Rising with a Distant Dawn (Bookland Press), the powerful and moving new poetry collection by David Groulx, “brings the reader closer than ever before to the heart of urban Aboriginal life.” His poems transcend the boundaries of race, language and religion, striking at human emotion with insight and compassion.

Hydrologos (Pedlar Press), Warren Heiti's first book of poetry, is another title on our list that was well worth the wait. Every lover knows that love is so often accompanied by sorrow, and Heiti's long poem explores this particular passion with disarming intelligence and affecting lyricism. Though there is a "speaker" in any poem, Hydrologos enacts the role of a listener with just as great an effect.

Take a trip to the island of St. Lucia with Seattle-based artist Katlyn Monroe as she builds a new life for herself in Kate James’s first novel, Silver Linings (General Store Publishing House). It’s a story of love, loss, greed and one woman’s strength to do it all over again after losing her fiancé in a fatal car accident. Get ready to plant your feet in the sand and keep a box of tissue at arms reach for those tear-jerker moments.

Deborah Kerbel’s Under the Moon (Dancing Cat Books/Cormorant Books) navigates the nocturnal life of Lily MacArthur, a woman who has gone without a wink of sleep since her aunt’s death. Out on a restless midnight walk Lily meets Ben, an employee at the local drive-thru with a muddied past who has the key to saving her life. Deborah’s storytelling will keep you on tenterhooks from start to finish.

Foreign Body (Guernica Editions), translated by Nora Alleyn, gives a new voice to the voiceless women of Catherine Lalonde's prix Emile-Nelligan–winning Corps Étranger (Québec Amérique). This poetry collection is both timely and timeless, filling “up the spaces of women’s ancestral silence.”

Daniel MacIvor’s comedy Bingo! (Playwrights Canada) brings to life those classic high school stereotypes prevalent in movies from the 1980s. The geek, the bully, the reticent, the misfit and the class snob come together for their 30th high school reunion. As they take you through the timeline of their lives they footnote historical events and resurrect popular slang. “You understand these familiar characters, and join in on the emotional roller coaster as an empathetic bystander cheering them on to win at the game of life,” writes Wanda Earhart. Bingo! is a barrel of laughs and stings with nostalgia.

P. K. Page was one of Canada's best loved poets. With her literary memoir Brazilian Journal (The Porcupine's Quill), devoted fans of her poetry will gain a greater understanding of the landscape and culture that so inspired her. Brazilian Journal, which includes several of Page's own illustrations, is the second volume in the ongoing hypermedia project, The Collected Works of P.K. Page.

Marianne Paul sweeps the reader off on a voyage through joy and grief in her first collection of poetry, Above and Below the Waterline (Bookland Press). Through her water poetry, Paul tells the universal story of life — “the flow of time, the undercurrents of family, the rough waters and calm waters” and the steadiness of love.

Whenever you hear the warning "the first rule of the game is never talk about the game," you know you're in for trouble. Erebos, the intelligent computer game that's so compelling it takes over the lives of its players, is just such a game. In this YA thriller, a runaway German bestseller by Ursula Poznanski, now published in English by Annick Press, sixteen-year-old Nick finds himself immersed in Erebos's virtual world…but when he refuses his first deadly assignment, he realizes that saying no to the game is not without consequences.

Of course there is darkness in a book that dabbles with omens, curses and the reading of entrails — but Steven Price's Omens in the Year of the Ox (Brick Books) sounds its cries with chimes of haunting beauty. Even while interrogating humanity's moral failings, Price's poems find “grace and the idea of grace everywhere, in spite of what we do.” This collection follows the award-winning Anatomy of Keys (Brick Books, 2006).

Come from Afar (Cormorant Books ) is Gayla Reid’s fourth book. Set in 1939, this historical novel details the political and personal struggles of Clancy, an Australian nurse patiently waiting for her lover, Douglas Ross, to return from the Spanish Civil War. Gayla Reid illuminates Clancy’s life story by bringing you into the room where she tells the story of Australia, her former marriage and her relationship with her lover to her infant daughter. It’s a classic transcontinental love story wrapped in Reid’s signature writing style.

Critically acclaimed poet Sandra Ridley has recently published her second collection, Post-Apothecary (Pedlar Press). A finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, Ridley never fails to mesmerize and surprise her reader. Says the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter: "Each poem pays heed to the senses… Lines are built and broken, based on rhythm, image, sound. Ridley gives us mood, tone and exquisite detail enough to allow us to be compelled by her characters, but she hasn’t gone overboard. She’s given us spaces to fill in for ourselves."

It's February…what better time to imagine running into the warm ocean — completely naked! The headstrong hero of Olive Senior's whimsical new children's book, Birthday Suit (Annick Press) would agree. Johnny has no use at all for clothes, though his parents do everything they can to convince him otherwise. Johnny's joyful adventures in his birthday suit are illustrated with captivating drawings by award-winning author and illustrator Eugenie Fernandes.

Part self-help book, part fiction, Barbara Sibbald explores the idiosyncrasies of romance in The Book of Love (General Store Publishing House). Three women and seven men stumble upon a book dispensing advice to help navigate them through the minefield of romantic love. A frank and compelling read that “revisits that age-old subject in new and intriguing ways,” writes Mark Furtkin.

Tuyet has never known anything but the Saigon orphanage where she lives and helps care for the other children. Will she ever have a real family who loves her? Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War (Pajama Press) by award-winning children’s author Marsha Skrypuch tells the story of an orphan named Tuyet who is airlifted to Canada along with 56 other children in order to avoid the invading Viet Cong forces. Based on personal interviews and enhanced with archive photos, Tuyet’s story is an emotional and suspenseful journey.

Many couples who experience infertility are unwilling or unable to undergo expensive medical procedures to help them conceive. Sex and Fertility: Natural Solutions (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) is the new resource book for couples by Linda Woolven and Ted Snider. Drawing on the authors' experience with herbalism and naturopathy, this book addresses some of the underlying causes of infertility and offers natural solutions that will improve a couple's sex life and their chances of conceiving a healthy child.

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Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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