Naomi reviews Son of a Trickster

October 30, 2017 by

My reading seems to be way ahead of my reviewing. But the books I’ve reviewed so far are different than the ones Kim has reviewed, so that worked out well.

I loved Son of a Trickster. Some readers might find it too dark or disturbing, but I thought it was a wonderful read. Great for this time of year, too.

All the characters were vivid, but Jared stole my heart.

Jared’s had a rough go of it; his maternal grandmother thinks he’s the Trickster and doesn’t like him (“Get, you dirty dog’s arse.”); his mother has a volatile personality (and colourful language); his father left them for another woman and, unbeknownst to his mother, Jared’s been helping him out with his bills using his “cookie” money; he’s been abused by one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends; his mother and her new boyfriend go off for days at a time leaving Jared home alone; he recently lost his beloved pitbull, Baby Killer. And those things don’t even touch what goes on at school and with his peers.

He wanted to believe his mom was sorry, but his dad was always sorry and he still kept doing crap he had to say sorry for. He didn’t want to be a sucker, but he didn’t want to be alone. Everything ached and all the choices felt wrong.

And the supernatural element added unpredictability to the story, which I thought was a lot of fun.

Just when life probably couldn’t get much worse for Jared, he finds himself noticing strange things like talking birds, wandering cavemen, and people with monsters shimmering behind their faces. He thinks he’s losing it and needs to lay off the drugs and booze for a while. But things just keep getting worse.

The bites had healed. He didn’t feel his missing toe anymore. he should be over it by now, he thought, but as he treaded water, he wanted to get drunk, immediately. He wanted to not feel terrified or dumped or used anymore. He wanted to get out of his head and never, ever crawl back in.


To read my review in full, please visit my blog, Consumed by Ink.

What are your thoughts on Son of a Trickster? Do you think it has a chance of winning the Giller?


Kim reviews Bellevue Square

October 25, 2017 by

Kim’s second Giller short-listed book turned out to be a “zinger”.

It’s a totally compelling read, one that makes you question the narrator’s sanity (and perhaps even your own) as the storyline becomes increasingly more twisty and bent in on itself the further you get into the book. It’s fast-paced too, which can occasionally leave you feeling slightly disoriented, as if you’ve got lost in the market and can’t find an exit out.

Kim also found it hard to pigeon-hole…

Bellevue Square is one of those novels that starts off as one thing before it morphs into another. The opening chapters have all the hallmarks of a mystery thriller, but mid-way through it takes a dramatic turn and becomes a wonderful examination of mental illness, consciousness, identity and the blurring of lines between truth, reality and imagination.

But what is it about?

When the book opens we meet first person narrator Jean Mason, who is married with two children and runs a bookstore in downtown Toronto. One day one of her regular customers, Mr Ronan, questions her ability to change clothing and hairstyles in a matter of minutes. Jean, confused, wants to know what he’s talking about.

“You were in the market. Fifteen minutes ago. I saw you.”
“No. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t in any market.”
“Huh,” he said. He had a disagreeable expression on his face, a look halfway between fear and anger. He smiled with his teeth. “You were wearing grey slacks and a black top with little gold lines on it. I said hello. You said hello. Your hair was up to here!” He chopped at the base of his skull. “So, you have a twin, then.”
“I have a sister, but she’s older than me and we look nothing alike. […] And I’ve been here all morning.”

Jean’s continued denials make Mr Ronan angry and he becomes violent towards her. Later, he’s found dead in his apartment having hanged himself.

To read Kim’s review in full, please visit her blog, Reading Matters.

Kimbofo reviews I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters

October 18, 2017 by

Our first reviewed book from the shortlist is described by Kim as being “a quirky and unconventional tale about a married couple, living in rural Acadia, whose 20-year marriage falls apart in unusual circumstances.

More from her review…

“I am a Truck revolves around the marriage between Agathe and Réjean Lapointe, who are about to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. The couple are devoted to one another and have cut themselves off from society at large, choosing to live in a small secluded cottage, where they shun the English language in favour of French. Their motto is “ll n’y a que nous”, which means “it’s just us”.

However, a week before their big celebration, Réjean gets in his Silverado pick-up to go on a fishing trip with work colleagues and is never seen again.

The Silverado was reported sitting next to the highway with the driver-side door open just eight hours after Agathe had kissed Réjean on the front step of their cottage and sent him off fishing in the rain with a Thermos full of coffee, four sandwiches au bologne, and a dozen date squares.

No one knows where Réjean has gone and the police don’t seem that keen to find him. There’s no sign that anything untoward has happened to him, and Agathe suspects she’s simply been abandoned. Initially distraught, she realises she now has to fend for herself, so she gets herself a job and starts her life afresh.”

Read the rest of Kimbofo’s review to find out whether or not she thinks I Am a Truck is Giller-worthy.

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think? Will it win the Giller?

Three From the Longlist

October 11, 2017 by

Sometimes we on the shadow jury like to get a jump start on the Giller books as soon as the longlist comes out. Sometimes these books end up making it to the shortlist, but often do not. That, however, doesn’t make them any less worth reading and writing about.

Very early on, Kim had a review up of Next Year For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. Here’s a taste of what she says about it.


From the start I thought the premise of Next Year, For Sure sounded dubious, the sort of book I wouldn’t like, but I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and enjoyable it turned out to be. I ate it up in just a handful of sittings and even though I didn’t much like the characters — too needy, too self-centred, too feckless — Peterson does such a brilliant job of putting us in their heads, explaining their motivations, their concerns, their fears, that it was hard not to become totally immersed in their story.

To read Kim’s review in full, please visit her blog.


Several months ago, before the Giller lists had come out, I had read and reviewed Boundary by Andrée A. Michaud on my blog. Although I’m not a big mystery reader, I found that the heart of the story was about the community; how neighbours react and cope when a terrible crime hits so close to home.


At times I found the story thrilling, at other times more of a study of time and place, but either way I found it compulsive reading. I was just as invested in the reactions of the characters as I was in solving the crime. One thing that I think made it particularly effective was the periodic narration of a 12-year-old girl vacationing in Boundary with her family. Seeing it all unfold from the eyes of one of the children – whose parents attempt to shield her from it – involved but not involved – trying to figure out the adults’ secrets – not quite knowing for sure – but sometimes seeing things the adults don’t see.

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.


More recently, I read We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night by Joel Thomas Hynes. A bold choice for the Giller list. But once I got into it, I realized how deserving it is.


…once I got into this book I was engrossed by the character’s struggle with himself and with everyone else he comes across, and I was in awe of the author’s skill at creating such an unpleasant, angry, abrasive character who I felt nothing but sympathy for. I wanted him to be saved. I wanted to save him.

There’s blood, drugs, uncomfortable situations, fire ants, sunburns, an accident with a moose, a run-in with his biological father, a fight with some teenage girls, and a lot of walking. During this time, our Johnny has a lot of time to think and to spout off at the world, and to try to figure out where he’s going in life. Will he be able to pull himself together to overcome all the stuff life has thrown at him, or will he just become another unknown, troublesome, invisible guy?

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.

2017 Giller Prize shortlist announced

October 2, 2017 by

Earlier today the shortlist for the 2017 Giller Prize was announced.

The books on the shortlist are:

The Shadow Giller jury will now swing into full reading and reviewing mode as we try to determine who we think should be the winner. We will announce our chosen title a few days before the official winner is named on Monday 20 November.

In the meantime, if you are on Twitter do follow us @ShadowGiller. Please use the hashtag #ShadowGiller

2017 Giller Prize longlist — and the long-awaited return of the Shadow Jury!

September 18, 2017 by

Hello friends, it’s that time of year again: the longlist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize has been unveiled. And the Shadow Jury is going to be following along as per usual. Hooray!

Before naming the 12 titles on the list, let me explain a bit about how the Shadow Jury works in case you’ve not followed along before.

There are three of us on the jury: Toronto-based Alison Gzowski, who is an editor at The Globe and Mail; Novia Scotia-based Naomi MacKinnon, who blogs at Consumed by Ink; and myself, Kim Forrester, who blogs at Reading Matters and lives in London, UK.

Our late chairman Kevin began chairing a “shadow jury” in 1995 when he was publisher of the Calgary Herald  — you can find the story of its history here. When he died last year, we decided to honour his memory by continuing to run the Shadow Giller jury and now, with the blessing of Kevin’s widow, Sheila, we continue to use Kevin’s blog to promote and champion the Canadian literature he loved so much every Giller Prize season.

Over the next couple of months we will post excerpts of reviews by Naomi and myself (with links back to our own blogs). Alison also promises to contribute a few guest posts and be actively involved in the comments, too.

Because of the short timing between the longlist and shortlist announcement on 2 October, it’s unlikely we’ll be reviewing the entire longlist, but we will endeavour to read every title on the shortlist and take it from there…

In the long-established tradition of the Shadow Giller Jury, we will announce our winner a few days in advance of the official Giller Prize announcement on November 20.

Shadow Giller logo

In the meantime, here’s the longlist, which was announced earlier today:

  • David Chariandy for his novel Brother, published by McClelland & Stewart
  • Rachel Cusk for her novel Transit, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • David Demchuk for his novel The Bone Mother, published by ChiZine Publications
  • Joel Thomas Hynes for his novel We’ll All Be Burned in Our Beds Some Night, published by HarperPerennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • Andrée A. Michaud for her novel Boundary, published by Biblioasis International Translation Series, translated by Donald Winkler
  • Josip Novakovich for his story collection Tumbleweed, published by Esplanade Books/Véhicule Press
  • Ed O’Loughlin for his novel Minds of Winter, published by House of Anansi Press
  • Zoey Leigh Peterson for her novel Next Year, For Sure, published by Doubleday Canada
  • Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square, published by Doubleday Canada
  • Eden Robinson for her novel Son of a Trickster, published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada
  • Deborah Willis for her story collection The Dark and Other Love Stories, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada
  • Michelle Winters for her novel I Am a Truck, published by Invisible Publishing

Please do add comments and chime in with your own thoughts on the titles as we review them. Taking part in the Shadow Giller is always a highlight of my reading year, but it’s made all the better when booklovers from across the world jump in and take part, too. We’ll be delighted and honoured to have you along…

The 2016 Giller Prize winner

November 8, 2016 by


Congratulations to Madeleine Thien whose novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing was named the winner of the 2016 Giller Prize last night.

You will recall from our Shadow Giller announcement on Saturday that we thought very highly of Thien’s novel — we have reviewed it here and here — but after much discussion we chose  Catherine Leroux’s The Party Wall as our winner. Both titles, we would argue, are brilliant books deserving of your attention.

Do Not say we have nothing British edition

To see Thien’s (rather touching) winning speech, please visit the CBC Books website.


Sadly, that’s the end of the Giller Prize season for another year. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our Shadow Giller proceedings, reviews and tweets over the past two months. We’ve had a brilliant time doing it and read some wonderful books in the process. Thanks so much for your support.

The 2016 Shadow Giller winner

November 5, 2016 by

Well, it took a bit of deliberating, across time zones, provinces and continents, but we are delighted to reveal the winner of the Shadow Giller:

Read the rest of this entry »

Links to all the 2016 Shadow Giller reviews

November 4, 2016 by

Shadow Giller logoThis weekend we plan on announcing the winner of the Shadow Giller. It’s hard to believe that eight weeks ago we were trying to make up our mind as to whether to continue this venture without Kevin, our chairman, at the helm. I’m so glad we did. This year’s books have proved to be sometimes challenging, often daring and always intriguing reads.

While we three jury members — Alison, Naomi and myself — busy ourselves trying to choose which book should win, here are the links to all our reviews, both on this site and our own blogs.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux (trs. Lazer Lederhendler)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Which book would you like to see win the prize?

Kimbofo reviews Yiddish for Pirates

November 2, 2016 by

yiddish-for-piratesHmm, what an interesting book this one proved to be!

This is from my review:

I’ve never read a book so jam-packed with word play and creative use of language as this one. I would describe it as a kind of literary vaudeville; a mesmirising act of vocabulary, idioms, metaphors, puns and similes. And, if that’s not enough, it’s narrated by a 500-year-old parrot with a penchant for jokes and scathing one-liners. Yes, really.

The story is essentially a boy’s own adventure set during the Spanish Inquisition involving the aforementioned parrot — an African Grey called Aaron — and a Jewish man called Moishe, whose shoulder he perches on.

Fleeing persecution, this “odd couple” is helped in part by an underground network of Jewish sympathisers as  they endeavour to save a rare library of important Jewish texts. Along the way they fall in with Christopher Columbus and set sail for the New World. Their journey is ripe with adventure, piracy, danger, violence and revenge.

Unfortunately, I had some issues with this book. Too clever, too knowing, just too much creativity going on, basically.

To read my review in full, please visit my blog, Reading Matters.

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