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Tour de blogosphere: Ottawa Review of Books

By Livia Belcea on October 5, 2016


Ottawans love to read good books, including books written by local and Canadian writers, but every now and then, even the most avid reader needs a bit of a push finding their next coup-de-coeur.

The Ottawa Review of Books (ORB) is a blog on which book reviews are published every month from September to June, in the form of a newsletter. They typically include five books each month, and they are wonderfully and thoughtfully written by passionate readers and also by some published writers. What’s great about having writers and published authors write book reviews is the extra attention and literary knowledge they bring to their reviews. This is evident not only in the quality of the language used by the reviewers but also in the content of the review, which typically starts with a brief synopsis followed by a constructive and often creative analysis of the book’s structure, and ending with the reviewer’s honest opinion about the book.

Don’t be surprised if most the of reviews are positive. This is deliberate. Ian Shaw, ORB’s editor-in-chief (and a published writer himself!) explains that ORB is a platform on which Canadian authors, particularly self-published Canadian authors, can get a bit of exposure and promote their books. An author’s book review can give a boost to their career, encourage readers to read their book and discover the author, and can also serve as a literary portfolio, which the author can include when submitting a suggestion to purchase order at libraries and bookstores. ORB aims at highlighting the best that Canadian literature has to offer, and strives to paint Canadian literature in a positive light.

ORB chooses to focus primarily, if not exclusively, on Canadian authors not just to raise the profile of Canadian authors and to support homegrown talent, but also because Canadian literature is distinctive on its own and the stories told are truly Canadian and familiar. The Canadian sceneries and settings are distinguished, and the themes and issues portrayed are unique: from Aboriginal and First Nations stories to winter settings, Canadian literature unifies the Canadian experience and culture through words and stories.

The books that are reviewed and featured on the blog are selected by ORB’s reviewers, and are usually new releases or released within the last 2 years. Occasionally an older diamond in the rough is discovered and reviewed, or an author asks ORB to review their book. The genres selected are typically general fiction, crime, fantasy, sci-fi and short stories, and once upon a time ORB had a children’s books reviewer. If you happen to be an avid children’s literature reader and would like join ORB’s 6 core reviewers, drop ORB a line; they’ll be happy to entertain a children’s literature reviewer again.

The 6 core reviewers are whose reviews you will usually read on a month to month basis. Most are local, with 2 residing in Toronto. ORB also publishes book reviews by their 10 reviewers, who are based across Canada. It is truly a national effort to bring you a curated newsletter of literary goodies every month.

If you’re reading this and you’re an author, a book reviewer or avid reader and you’d like to either submit a book review or find out how you can contribute on the blog, get in touch with ORB though their website, Facebook or Twitter.

Make sure to check out ORB’s newly released October newsletter which is fresh off the pumpkin patch.

Happy reading!