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Books remain standby in Christmas gifts

Two books from Atlantic Canadian writers.
Two books from Atlantic Canadian writers.

No need to look beyond Atlantic Canada if you are giving books as gifts this Christmas.

From mysteries to novels to short stories and cookbooks, Atlantic Canadian writers have works to match your gift lists.

From mysteries to novels to short stories and cookbooks, Atlantic Canadian writers have works to match your gift lists.

A Measure of Light (Vintage Canada, $19.95) by Beth Powning is another lovely book from the American-born New Brunswick writer. Praised for wonderful books such as The Hatbox Letters and the Sea Captain’s Wife, Powning brings the same curiosity and sensitivity of Mary Dyer who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and became one of America’s first Quakers. It is a fictional account of a woman who changed the course of American history and, like so many women, was almost forgotten. If you are familiar with Powning’s writing, you’ll want her to tell the rest of the story. (If you insist the story be set in Atlantic Canada, opt for the Sea Captain’s Wife.)

The Fortunate Brother (Viking, $24.95) by Newfoundland writer Donna Morrissey, who now lives in Halifax, picks up where an earlier book, What They Wanted, left off. What They Wanted was, in itself, a sort of sequel to one of her best books, Sylvanus Now. If you are already a Morrissey fan you have probably been waiting for this one but, if not, it can certainly be read out of sequence but you will get more context if you start with Sylvanus Now. The Fortunate Brother is about a family’s struggle to accept and move forward after a son has been killed on an Alberta oil rig. It is a family that had already been uprooted from its outport when the cod fishery failed and each member is struggling anew even before a murder rocks the community.

The Witches of New York (Knopf Canada, $34.95 hardcover) by Ami McKay of Annapolis Valley, NS, is set in New York, a mere 200 years after the Salem witch trials. As in earlier books, The Birth House and The Virgin Cure, McKay is a master at setting the scene and exposing society’s complexities and quirks. In this book, Adelaide Thom, who appears as Moth in The Virgin Cure, opens a tea shop with a partner, a former medical student, who describes herself as a witch. They cater to upper class society women but things turn upside down when they employ a young woman who seems to be telepathic until she vanishes. Plot aside, it is an interesting look at women in a time when image was everything.

What Kills Good Men (Vagrant Press, $21.95) by David Hood is a mystery set in Halifax that takes you along the waterfront and in and out of alleys and lesser known places in 1899. It all centres on the death of a well-known city councillor and the investigation that ensures. This is late-Victorian Halifax in geography and demeanour. The interplay between the seasoned detective, his superiors, his cronies and contacts, and the smart young rookie who works with him adds to the story which attempts to negotiate a manageable line between justice and morality.

The Finest Tree and other Christmas Stories from Atlantic Canada (Nimbus, $16.95) has been around for a couple of years now with 21 stories from well-known and barely known authors, all reflecting some aspect of the season.

If your shopping list includes some younger readers there is also an Atlantic sampling. Touch of Gold (Nimbus, $12.95) by Vivien Gorham of Dartmouth is a shoe-in for horse-lovers and gets a nod from Shelley Peterson who wrote a series of horse novels for y/a readers. It starts with a lonely teenager who has just moved to rural Nova Scotia and must find ways of fitting in with new friends in a new place.

Girl on the Run (Nimbus, $17.95) by B.R. Myers of Halifax is about a young track athlete whose plans explode when her father dies suddenly. She leaves home to work at a summer camp to try to escape her own sense of blame and, in the process, struggles to find a new direction with inspiration from unlikely sources.

Jacob’s Landing (Nimbus, $12.95) by Daphne Greer of Newport Landing, NS, also begins with the death of a father making you wonder if all y/a novels have to be grim these days. Circumstance lands 12-year-old Jacob in amongst a peculiar family in Newport Landing and he soon finds there is a mystery that needs solving.

Cookbook recommendation: Rock Recipes Christmas (Breakwater Books, $22.95.) Written by Barry C. Parsons, it is filled with beautiful photographs, cozy anecdotes and great recipes that are sure to boost your Christmas spirit and make you very hungry.  

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