For the past two years, we have published a holiday gift guide of books by authors and publishers from the National Capital Region. This year we continue our tradition of highlighting all of the authors that we have reviewed in the past year.
Below you will find more than 60 books and comics, the vast majority of which have been written by authors from the Ottawa-Gatineau area. The remainder have been released by a publisher in our region or cover a topic that impacts Canada’s capital city. If you add together the three gift guides from 2013-2015, you can choose from over 170 works.
The 2015 gift guide can be split into four parts. First, we list which books are our personal favourites. Second, we offer some literary-related gift suggestions for those who want to purchase something besides a book. Third, we highlight all the other authors that we reviewed this past year. Finally, we conclude the post with a list of independent stores where you can purchase books and comics.
All titles highlighted below have been reviewed by Apartment613, with the exception of those listed under “upcoming reviews” that we will write about in 2016.
We don’t pretend to have the final word on what is the best book or comic of 2015. With so many great authors in our region it would be a fool’s errand to come up with a definitive “best of” list. That being said, a few books particularly appealed to Apartment613 contributors, and we want to take this opportunity to tip our hat to this group of excellent authors.
Obi Simic’s debut novel Getting Over Yonder is a great start to a promising literary career. The story tells the tale of Olivia Ugochinyere, the daughter of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father who faces discrimination in a small Quebec town, before leaving the province where she begins a long and painful journey of self-discovery.
The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout is a beautifully written debut novel that explores the tangled relationship of two sisters growing up in Ottawa.
University of Ottawa Prof. Joel Westheimer’s captivating book What Kind of Citizen? Educating Our Children for the Common Good is a fascinating read. This very thoughtful book takes the Canadian and U.S. education systems to task for failing to teach children how to be good citizens.
A poetry work that made us take notice was Five, a chapbook anthology that brings together five Ottawa poets.
Speaking of local wordsmiths, William Hawkins, one of Ottawa’s most elusive artists, released his Collected Poems earlier this year in a collection that showcases his avant-garde style.
Give the gift of a writers festival / charitable donation
One of the wonderful things about our region is the number of great literary events that take place here each year. At the top of the list is the Ottawa International Writers Festival. If you really want to spoil the special bookworm in your life, why not consider getting them a ticket to a Writers Festival event or even a festival membership?
If you want another idea, you can promise a love one that you will give them a ticket or even a festival pass to VERSeFest, Ottawa’s poetry festival that is scheduled to take place in March 2016.
As an alternative, you can tell a family member or friend that you will take them to the Wakefield Writers Festival that is schedule for this coming May. You can even make it a full-blown date by offering to treat them to one of Wakefield’s lovely restaurants and/or pubs.
If you want to give a charitable gift, why not consider making a donation on behalf of someone to The Friends of the Ottawa Public Library Association.
Finally, you can always purchase a copy (or copies) of Pot-Pourri, the annual anthology of young writers from the National Capital Region that are the winners of the Awesome Authors Youth Writing Contest. This great event, which Apartment613 has previously covered, encourages Ottawa residents between the ages of 9 and 17 to submit poems and/or stories in both English and French.
Fiction (including mystery)
Hungry Ghosts, the third installment in Peggy Blair’s highly enjoyable Insp. Ramirez detective series, lets readers interact once again with some of the best characters to have ever been invented by an author from Ottawa-Gatineau.
Mike Martin also released earlier this year A Twist of Fortune, the latest book in his Sgt. Windflower mystery series that is based in Newfoundland.
If you enjoy short stories, Ottawa native Andrew Simpson has produced an anthology of very original tales in Heaven’s Gone to Hell.
Christopher Massardo released The Funny, Horrible and (Possibly) True Stories of #Setlife, a collection of 13 short stories that revolve around the fashion industry.
For his part, Ottawa-native Andrew Forbes released What You Need, his debut collection of short stories that contains many transient characters. While he currently lives in Peterborough, he had a book launch this past spring at Raw Sugar Cafe.
Also this past spring, book lovers were able to hear Sean Michaels present his critically acclaimed novel Us Conductors. Michaels, who grew up in Ottawa but has lived in Montreal since 2000, won the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for this work.
Chilean-born but now Ottawa-based writer Camila Reimers published De conventos, cárceles y castillos (“On Convents, Castles and Prisons”), a Spanish-language novel about Sister Theresa of Avila, one of the most influential thinkers of the Catholic Church who lived during the 16th century.
In The Flood, Chelsea, QC-based author David Sachs presents an epic tale about survival in which a ship filled with frightened and exhausted passengers cope with catastrophic circumstances and a perilous future.
Ottawa author Rhonda Douglas’s released Welcome to the Circus, a collection of 10 unforgettable short stories that contain strange and dazzling characters. Douglas’s masterful ability to weave humour with tragedy will make you laugh and think.
Upcoming Reviews: Christian McPherson is one of Ottawa’s strongest writers. We are therefore looking forward to reviewing his new novel Saving Her; Stewart Dudley’s The Cutting Room; Journey of a Thousand Steps by Madona Skaff-Koren; The Vanishing Wife by Barry Finlay.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Ottawa-based journalist and author Alex Binkley ponders what would happen if aliens made contact with the human race in the not-so-distant future in his fun sci-fi novel Humanity’s Saving Grace.
If you are looking for a YA novel, then Dr. Jekyll’s Foxes by Neven Humphrey tells the story of Zoya, a young fox who discovers that she has special powers.
Then there is Chameleon by Edain Duguay that combines human-eating monsters with teenage love.
Ottawa writer Martin Bueno blurs the lines between reality and fantasy in his debut novel The Rainbow Alchemist.
For his part, local writer James K. Moran offers up his debut horror novel in Town & Train, which is set in a sleepy Ontario town that is filled secrets and villains.
If you want to purchase a book by one of our region’s most famous science fiction writers, then consider purchasing a novel by the highly renowned Charles de Lint who we profiled this past spring.
Junkyard Leopard by Carp-raised Oliver Brackenbury’s is a warning fable in the form of a horror story. It follows a dissociated young woman who goes into homicidal auto-pilot when she straps on a leopard print Lycra bodysuit, white fur coat, and creative murder weapons that she uses on wealthy investment bankers and other villains of contemporary society.
Benoit Chartier’s debut novel, Red Nexus, is set in a futuristic Japan that is struggling to escape a mysterious environmental disaster. While sparking towers adorn the skyline, at ground level garbage mountains spit fire.
Caroline Fréchette released Kindred Spirits, the third-volume in her Family by Choice series that follows Alex Winters, a brooding young man who creates fire with his mind.
Ottawa: Gateway to Carp (Comedy in the Nation’s Capital) by John Mazerolle is an oral history of comedy in the National Capital Region.
A book that will appeal to adults and children alike is A Little Walk in our Neighbourhood by JP Melville. This lovely work, which is less than 40 pages long, chronicles a single day in the lives of Melville’s children as they walk around their neighbourhood in Bamako, the capital of Mali, where they were living.
For those who enjoy travelling, Travel Dreams and Nightmare: Four Women Explore the World follows the adventures of four Ottawa-based, whose different voyages describe a wide range of experiences.
Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild by Ottawa-based author Jennifer Kingsley describes her 54-day, 6-person expedition via canoe along the Back River in Canada’s far north.
Then there is Lucy’s Road Trip, a travel story that recounts how local writer Louise Szabo travelled throughout Canada with her husband Charlie in a used RV.
Shelagh Needham offers tales of courage in All in the Same Boat, where she recounts the life stories of her fellow members in Busting Out, an Ottawa-based dragon boat team that is comprised of survivors of breast cancer.
For those who want to surprise a history/politics buff, then you should consider Andrew Cohen’s excellent book, Two Days In June: John F. Kennedy And The 48 Hours That Made History, which chronicles two key speeches that President Kennedy made in 1963. This important work was recently put on the longlist for this year’s RBC Taylor Prize.
Upcoming Review: Unblocked by Caroline Frechette.
Well known local wordsmith Pearl Pirie’s third full collection of poetry, the pet radish, shrunken, is a playful, and funny collection of unforgettable poems. Reading these pieces will make you scratch your head, laugh and be happy.
Ottawa-poet N.W. Lea released his collection Understander this past summer, a work that contains poems with raw imagery, spectacularly spare language and an interesting voice.
If you are interested in war poems, then the chapbook White Flowers and Landmines by Matt Jones may interest you. Jones has an interesting background having traveled to such places as Afghanistan, Nunavut and Greenland.
In mid-December 2014 we reviewed Brood, a chapbook by local poet Rob Thomas that defamiliarizes the ordinary by making us pay attention to the seemingly mundane. This work will make you think and likely inspire you to re-read it.
House Dreams by local poet Deanna Young uses storytelling, plain language and meticulous detail to bend the reader’s thinking inwards.
Finally, Ottawa native Josh Massey released The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree which combines prose poetry and satire.
Upcoming Review: The collections Little city and Killing wage by Nicholas Gagnier.
YA/Children’s books and Comics
Tonia’s Spider by Kim Esdaile Gordon is a lovely children’s book about a young girl who decides to face her fears of spiders.
Sophie the Pumpkin Patch Fairy by Suzanne Stoltz is a cute children’s story about a special trip that a gentle fairy makes to a pumpkin patch.
Ottawa-based author Tammie Winsor has released her second book courtesy of Caveman Jack, the second installment in her series that is aimed at children from pre-school to grade two.
Cocopuff – A Happy Tale is a charming story by Monica Dumont about a dog from D.D. Doggie World that travels to the human world in search of happiness.
Tudor Robinson published Appaloosa Summer, a YA novel that describes how a character named Meg must deal with the loss of her beloved horse Major. Teenage readers will enjoy this story about love and loss, healing and recovery.
Another book for YA readers is Sam and the Sea Monsters by Julie Sutton and Daniel Tigner. This enjoyable book follows the adventures of 12-year-old Samantha Dubinsky who has decided to play on a water polo team.
Deborah Jackson’s latest YA novel Mosaic offers something for all readers, with a suspenseful tale that includes pirates, hockey, young lovers, murder and ghosts.
If you are looking for a fun gift for a child in middle school, then consider the two YA novels Dunces Rock and Dunces Anonymous by Kate Jaimet. These two novels will not only appeal to students in grades four to six, but also by parents and other adults who appreciate a fun story.
Turning to comics, True Patriot volumes one and two contain numerous superhero adventures. There are over 20 contributors, including Jack Briglio and Tom Fowler from Ottawa.
While boogers may not be a subject that one brings up in polite company, they can be inspiration for a fun comic, as witnessed by Thomas Jardine’s The Boogerball.
Spirituality and Positive Thinking
This past summer we reviewed three books by Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agrasso. Walking for Peace, an Inner Journey recounts a remarkable 5,000-kilometer sojourn from Rome to Jerusalem between two strangers over the course of 13 month-long adventure.
The Call: Whispers from Within is a collection of 27 acrylic on canvas paintings, accompanied by an insightful message aimed to facilitate meditation and self-reflection.
Finally, I Am Happy is a children’s book inspired by the author’s daughter, and which tells the story of “Angela, a little girl who sees the world through the eyes of Love.”
Speaking of inspiring young minds, Why Am I Perfect? by Aylmer-based writer Nathalie Beaupré offers a fun way for parents and their children to interact with workbook-like exercises that help build curiosity and self-esteem in kids.
Ian Prattis, a retired Carleton University professor, peace activist and ordained guru, reflects on his varied life experiences (both past and present) in Trailing Sky Six Feathers.
Revelations, the debut novel of Ottawa-based author Jennifer Carole Lewis, offers a romance/fantasy story that grabs the reader’s attention.
For those who enjoy a good love story, you can may also want to consider picking up The Hungry Heart by Brenda Gayle, which is a page-turning contemporary drama.
Lovers of live theatre can read the works of Ottawa-author Ingrid McCarthy, who writes adult fiction under the pen name Rose D. Franklyn. Her books include the novel Spring Fever and Black Chocolate, the 70-page novella The Heart Asks No Questions – Sylvia’s Story, and Summer Passion and Forbidden Fruit.
Thrills on Ice by Aurelia Osborne is a quintessential Canadian romance about a professional figure skater and hockey player.
Then there is Orleans author K.D. Beckett’s novel End of Time, the seventh volume in her In Time saga. This contemporary romantic story involves time travel and an operatic family saga.
Deux Voiliers Publishing
There are many great publishers in the National Capital Region (see list further below). For this year’s gift guide, however, we would like to showcase Aylmer-based Deux Voiliers Publishing which has released several good book by both local and out-of-town authors.
Among their numerous titles, Wall of Dust by Timothy Niedermann is certainly among their best. This wonderfully written novel by the Montreal-based writer focuses on the human cost of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If you enjoy detective stories, then Stage Business by Canadian author Gerry Fostaty may be of interest. Combining the world of live theatre with a good old private eye mystery this book is a fun read.
Then there is Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol that is set in the near future. This novel describes how Janie, a lawyer from New York City, flees to Quebec with her family to escape an increasingly authoritarian government in the United States.
Montreal-based writer Caroline Vu recalls her family’s greatest hardships in Vietnam during the war in That Summer in Provincetown, as well as their collective struggles at building new lives in North America.
Twisted Reasons by Geza Tatrallyay, book one of a trilogy, offers up a spy thriller that contains incredible amounts of detail and research.
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 (1073 Bank): A great used book store.
Book Bazaar (417 Bank): Another used book store.
Books on Beechwood (35 Beechwood): A great independent bookstore that makes local readers proud.
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.
Troubadour Books & Records: A book and music store.
Where to buy comics
The Comic Book Shoppe 1 (1400 Clyde Ave.)
The Comic Book Shoppe 2 (228 Bank)
Myths Legends & Heroes (240 Montreal Rd.)