Last year we published the Apartment613 holiday gift list for 2013, which contained a list of more than 60 writers from the National Capital Region. Given the popularity of that post, we are now publishing the 2014 edition of books and comics by local writers, which you can use to purchase special holiday gifts for the literary people in your life.
The list below contains more than 50 writers from our region. All the summarised works have been reviewed by Apartment613, with the exception of those named under “upcoming reviews,” which lists books/comics that we plan to review later this month or in 2015. At the bottom of the post is a list of independent stores where you can purchase books and comics, as well as the names of some of the publishers in our region.
If you asked 100 readers what their favourite book is you would likely get 100 responses. With so many wonderful novels, poems and comics being published each year it is difficult – nay, impossible – to declare a set of works as definitely the best. That being said, during the past year, the following authors particularly caught the attention of Apartment613.
Stacey Atkinson is a joy to read. Her novel Stuck is an excellent literary debut that tells the story of Odette Leblanc, a young 23-year-old woman in a small New Brunswick town who feels trapped in a dead end, before meeting a mysterious doryman.
Christian McPherson is another great author who has penned My Life in Pictures, a beautiful autobiography told through poetry.
Garden by Monty Reid is a remarkable and deceptively simple cycle of short ruminations inspired by his real garden in east-end Ottawa.
Part travelogue, part love story and part autobiography, Laurie Fraser’s novel The Word Not Spoken poignantly explores the on-going struggle of being human.
Finally, Kevin Johns’ young adult novel The Page Turners recounts the enjoyable story of a group of friends who discover an ancient book of magic spells in the school library.
Fiction: Short Stories
Over the past year, we have reviewed short story collections, such as Castles in the Air by Mary Hagey. Drawing from her rich and interesting life, Hagey’s debut book offers a wide range of interesting characters.
Another book worth picking up is the The old man’s last sauna by Carl Dow. This collection of stories contains a wide variety of fascinating tales, from the man who tries to commit a metaphysical murder, to the boy who has a tendency to lie – and how his parents encourage his active imagination.
Then there is the The Calumnist Malefesto: And Other Improbable Yarns by Gatineau-based writer Benoit Chartier. This collection of 12 imaginative stories includes the story of a man who speaks with Death, a girl in Afghanistan who finds a pet from outer space; and the adventures of an alien who struggles to survive on the streets of Bogota, Colombia.
If you prefer to read novels, there are the writings of Ottawa-based author Qais Ghanem. This past spring we reviewed two of his books, Forbidden Love in the Land of Sheba and Two Boys from Aden College.
In Palawan Story, meanwhile, Caroline Vu tells the fascinating story of Kim Nguyen’s traumatic escape from 1970’s Communist Vietnam to a refugee camp in the Philippines and then, eventually, to the United States.
For some light reading Yours Truly Miss Creation by Catherine Boivin is a playful novel of the teen romance genre, starring the clever but confused Vera Hampton, and is set against a brilliantly captured landscape of downtown Ottawa.
Upcoming Reviews: Town and Train by James K Moran; The Sixth String by John Owens.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
One of the joys of publishing the Write On Ottawa series is the chance to profile our region’s diverse group of sci-fi and fantasy writers. For instance, there is Caroline Fréchette, who released Brothers In Arms, the sequel in her action-packed world of young superheroes, mobsters and a dark corporation.
For her part, Wendy MacIntyre is the author behind Lucia’s Masks, a novel set in a dystopian future about a young woman named Lucia who lives in The City, a dehumanizing place that is controlled by a brutal dictatorship.
If you like your adventures to be filled with warriors, magicians and other fantasy creatures, then you can pick up Summons by Johnny Eaton. This debut novel is part one of the fantasy series The Panachrest.
Finally, there is Light, the highly entertaining novel by Nathan Burgoine that takes place during Pride Week in Ottawa, and revolves around the gay superhero-cum-masseuse Kieran Quinn who lives in the ByWard Market.
Upcoming Reviews: Kindred Spirits by Caroline Frechette.
The National Capital region is filled with mystery writers. Among them is Ottawa-based author Mike Young, whose debut novel Kirk’s Landing follows the adventures of undercover RCMP Corp. Dave Browne who is blessed with cloaking abilities.
Mike Martin released earlier this year the third volume in his very enjoyable Sgt. Windflower detective series that is set in Newfoundland.
For those who like sleuthing with some romance, The Admirer by Gatineau author Aurelia Osborne may be of interest. Set in Britain during the Victorian era, this book tells the tale of an orphaned young woman who is invited to London for the summer ball season. What started out as a perfect invitation, however, soon turns into an adventure filled with danger.
Upcoming Reviews: Hungry Ghosts by Peggy Blair.
Children’s Books and YA Novels
Ottawa-based author Ruth Latta has published works in a wide range of genres for more than three decades. Some of her more recent work, however, has focused on teen readers, such as her novel The Songcatcher and Me.
We also spoke to authors of children’s books. Natasha Ferrill, the creator of The Lemonman picture book series, spoke to Apartment613 about the magical town of Applenook.
Acclaimed children’s writer Rachna Gilmore talked about the re-release of her illustrated book My Mother is Weird that was published in 1988.
Then there was the wonderful story of Tammie Winsor, whose charitable work led her to publish Jack and the Fairy Dogmother, a lovely story aimed at children from pre-school to grade two.
Upcoming Reviews: Caveman Jack by Tammie Winsor; Above All Else by Jeff Ross; Mosaic by Deborah Jackson; Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins; Set You Free by Jeff Ross; At Ease by Jeff Ross; Dunces Rock by Kate Jaimet.
A standalone comic about schizophrenia, Son of God by Cedric Lui delivers a surprising twist as it couples beautiful drawings with simple story telling, pulling readers deep into the Son of God’s illusions of grandeur.
We also profiled the great work of Mirror Comics in May 2014.
Bringing shock and sex to Ottawa, Sylvie Hill has crowdfunded Russell Square Station. In capturing this story of women musing men, artwork from Juan Carlos Noria, aka Dixon, is paired with Sylvie’s poems for a striking collection.
Upcoming Reviews: Big Box Apocalypse by Kristopher Waddell and Tom Szyc; Hold My Hand by Bernard A. Poulin and Dominic Bercier; Bring Me To Life by Rodrigo Moreira Pinto and Deivs Mello; Treadwell by Dominic Bercier
Prior to the 2014 Ontario election, we spoke to Brad Lavigne, the longtime NDP official who wrote Building the Orange Wave, which chronicles how the late Jack Layton led the NDP to official opposition status in the 2011 federal election. With a federal election slated to take place later this year, this book is still as relevant as ever.
Noble Illusions by Stephen Dale is a carefully researched historical/political work about the recent glorification of one of history’s darkest episodes – World War One.
Ottawa-Gatineau is filled with wonderful wordsmiths. For instance, Henry Beissel’s dazzling collection of densely reasoned and tightly structured poems, Fugitive Horizons, had him shortlisted for an Ottawa Book Award.
Another great author is Kanina Dawson, whose poetry collection Masham Means Evening we reviewed in late-December 2013. This excellent work is based on Dawson’s experiences as a master corporal with the Canadian military in Afghanistan.
For her part, Rona Shaffran’s poetic novel Ignite is an excellent work that that be read as a poetry collection, short novel or even play.
Then there are the good folks at Bywords, who publish the work of the winner of the annual John Newlove Poetry Award.
Upcoming Reviews: Light-carved Passages by Frances Boyle; Kiki by Amanda Earl; Brood by Rob Thomas; Singular Plurals by Roland Prevost; House Dreams by Deanna Young; Five (poetry anthology published by Apt. 9 Press); If suppose we are a fragment by rob mclennan; Broom Broom by Brecken Hancock.
Food and Drink
Well known local food bloggers Jennifer Lim and Don Chow recently published Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital. The book takes a look at our region’s culinary landscape, as well as the transformation in Ottawa’s evolving foodie scene.
This past summer we spoke to Ottawa-based chef and health pioneer Natasha Kyssa about her cookbook The SimplyRaw Kitchen, which contains mostly raw, whole-food recipes. Among other topics, the interview touched on how easy it is today to be vegan, vegetarian or raw.
For a history of the iconic Easy-Bake Oven, there is Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven by Ottawa-based toy historian and author Todd Coopee. With bright colours and an eye-friendly layout, this easy-to-read work will appeal to adults and children alike.
Photography and Non-Fiction
If you are a lover of science and/or art, then you should definitely pick up Vanishing Stars: Unravelling the appropriation of art by science by Ottawa-based photographer Sanjeev Sivarulrasa. This fascinating works offers a wonderful new way to observe the cosmos, while also affirming the value of humanity.
Love photography? We discussed an initiative by local photographer Christophe Ledent who launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish two photo-books, which have since come out. The first book draws on his photo-blog Ottawa Seen 365 Ways in 365 Days, while the second focused on his 2013 Ottawa Christmas light photos.
Ever wanted to write a book about your family and/or friends? Well, local author Matthew Stella has written a biography of his friend Thom Gulino, which may inspire you to pursue your own literary dream.
Then there is The Novel Writer’s Blueprint: Five Steps to Creating and Completing Your First Book by Kevin Johns, which offers practical advice on becoming a writer.
Upcoming Reviews: Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild by Jennifer Kingsley; Notes and Dispatches: Essays edited by rob mclennan.
Independent Book Stores
Above we have mentioned some local writers. Now it’s time to highlight local businesses were you can buy bookish gifts for the holiday season.
After Stonewall (370 Bank): A combination LGBT book store and art gallery, with a focus on local artists and functional art.
All Books (327 Rideau): Used bookstore next to the Bytowne Cinema that is known to contain hidden gems among its stacks of books.
Black Squirrel Books (508 Bank and 1073 Bank): This used book store recently opened a second location on Bank.
Books on Beechwood (35 Beechwood): A great independent bookstore that makes local readers proud.
Brittons (846 Bank): Carries books by local authors, including many mystery writers, as well as newspapers and magazines.
Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books (1018 Bank): The store to go to for children’s books and YA novels.
Octopus Books (116 Third Ave. and 251 Bank): A wide selection of books, including numerous titles by progressive authors.
Perfect Books (258A Elgin): An excellent bookstore in the Golden Triangle/Centretown area that carries a wide variety of authors.
Reads Book Shop (135 Bridge St., Carleton Place): Sells local books and hosts events for Ottawa-area authors.
Where to buy local comics
The Comic Book Shoppe (228 Bank and 1400 Clyde Ave.)
Myths Legends & Heroes (240 Montreal Rd.)