Book Review – Corridor Nine: A Novel

“Corridor Nine: A Novel”
by Sophie Stocking
Published by Thistledown Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
ISBN: 9781771871815

“Corridor Nine: A Novel”, written by Sophie Stocking and published by Thistledown Press is an exceptional novel that expertly encapsulates the extremes of soul-crushing emotions and outlandish behaviour in a way that is very accurate to the human experience. Even though this novel could be read within a weekend, it packs wallop. At under 200 pages this novel makes no room for literary fluff, every word is a thread that weaves into a beautiful and fantastical yet tender and tragic story of life and loss.

The story follows Bernadette Macomber, who thought that she had all but completely cut ties with her troubled father, Fabian, to begin again and start a family of her own. In the wake of Fabian’s sudden suicide, Bernadette finds herself returning home. All is not over for Fabian, however, as he finds himself in a completely foreign afterlife named Corridor Nine and in the company of an angel/griffin-figure named Bune. As Fabian transverses life-after-life, Bernadette or “Bernie”, is left in the mundane to seek the source of her father’s recent insanity. As the twin narratives consecutively play out, they also intertwine to result in the closure that both Bernie and Fabian so desperately seek.

As mentioned, this novel is a relatively short read but a truly delightfully one. Those with an inkling towards supernatural series will have a seriously good time tearing through this novel while also enjoying more mature tones, narratives, and characters than something like the Harry Potter or Twilight series would have to offer. That is not to say that young readers could not enjoy this novel, either. There is a certain exuberance to this novel that exudes from all its aspects, from the mystery of Corridor Nine and this universes’ afterlife, the fantastical qualities and characteristics of Bune, to the bizarre remnants of Fabian that he left behind. There were very few parts of the novel that it was not apparent that this story was truly a passion project of Stocking’s and it was story that she had been burning to tell. In fact, the cover painting of the novel, also rich and vibrant, is a work of Stocking’s as well. While it is not the most unusual thing in the world to see authors create their own covers, it is rarely executed so well and is honestly a breath of fresh air.

In conclusion, this is a delightfully read for nearly all ages. It perfectly blends the relatable themes of loss, guilt, and conflicting feelings about loved ones with the imagination of the supernatural. This far exceeds the quality that one would expect from a debut novel and I am excited to see how Stocking’s career flourishes as a great Canadian author.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Au Revoir à Rien

Sometimes I wonder what’s in the dark.

Sometimes I wonder what lurks behind closed eyes.

Does the world end with a nap?
Or does the soul emerge from the mortal cocoon,
shedding the drudgery, the prejudice, the shackles of our pathetic past?

What was I supposed to do here?
I’ve been told that I need to find my Dad.
I called out for him, he went out for a jug of milk.
So I shrug and I sulk.
What’s the purpose of finding a purpose? I’d be dead lyin’ if I didn’t say that my deadline happening at any moment makes me feel alive.
Bless my poor little heart and the stress that I put it through
Earth returns to earth.
My hot blood spurts a scorching statement, it spits in the face of chance.

Fuck you and your comfort.
I’d rather be full of piss and vinegar
than full of regret.
Fuck me and my polite reserves
this is my life, it belongs to me.
I’d rather ruffle some feathers
than be a bird in a cage.

Stay on guard
Stay pissed off.
Smile in the face of anxiety
We chose half-truths and easy answers
over hard decisions
over rethinking our biases.

We chose of life of being
Docile, infertile.
Medicated, sedated.
tame, lame.
simple, limp.
Formulaic, archaic.

 

Choose life.

 

The Oxen

The days pass him by with
the heat on his back.
The dirt in his face.
Sweat on his brow. 

He plows on
and on, and on.

With the sun’s faithful glow
and the rain’s nurturing gifts
The Oxen begins to watch his fields grow,
his labor yields a great bounty
as the seasons start to shift.
Much to The Oxen’s dismay,
the farmer takes him away.
To the corral, he goes,
just as he knows.
While the field is harvested and razed.

The grain is now stored in bins as tall as the sky,
The farmers are now fat and happy on bread, beer and rye.
While The Oxen shivers in his frozen stall
he begins to wonder if this is worth it at all.
The Oxen rests on his haystack prize.

The sun has returned, all is now well.
The soil and grass lift his spirit with their uplifting smell.
The Oxen prepares himself to return to work
when reality gives him a conspicuous jerk.
The farmer has sold him to dig trenches and wells.

The Oxen has given all that he can give.
Can one fear death when one hasn’t lived?
Hooven pads collapse in the mud.
Bladed whips lash into his blood.
The Oxen rises. Now a frail, crimson sieve.

The days pass him by
with the heat on his back.
The dirt in his face.
Sweat on his brow. 

He plows on
and on, and on.

The Worst Thing Ever: LoveBookOnline

As I have been contributing to this little writing project of mine for the past year and a half I have also been thinking about the name, Soapbox Stories. Admittedly I had named this project as such as I thought it had a nice ring to it and never thought much about the implications. Soapbox Stories implies an outcry, a message that must be heard with a hint of self-righteousness. While my poetry has plenty of that, I feel that it would be fun to increase my writing output (and self-righteousness) with an occasional opinion piece.

This is why I am proud to present “The Worst Thing Ever”, in which I will finally get on my soapbox and rant about the things in life that irk me, annoy me, and that I generally see asininity or pointlessness in. Be advised that these are my personal opinions and that I will NOT be covering anything on politics and religion. Facebook is basically all people who have no idea what they’re talking about getting mad about politics and religion, I suggest that you go there if you want to see that.

That being said, it should come as no surprise that the first source of my documented contempt comes from that soulless website of normies and relatives that you are the only kind of lukewarm about. As I was scrolling through the wasteland one day, I stumbled across this ad. Usually, I can shrug off personalized ads well enough but this one insulted my intelligence and basic human dignity with such a vengeance that it has permanently burnt into my psyche. Naturally, I must pass this assault of decency, courtesy of LoveBookOnline, on to you:

asininebook
Romance is real, ladies.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, imaginary person who I think is actually reading this. You’re thinking, “This doesn’t seem that bad. What’s the big deal?” Let’s begin with the major sticking point in this atrocity, look at the writing on the book to the left. “P.S. Can you please read this book if we ever get it in a fight? That way, you will remember exactly how I feel about you and hopefully, forgive me more quickly :-).” Am I the only person who can see what a sneaky and manipulative move that this is? It’s not even like it’s a sneaky move that takes a lot of effort such siphoning her funds through small increments. That is sleazy, sure, but at least that takes much more effort and intelligence than this shit. This tripe that LoveBookOnline actually sells for real, human money is about as romantic and likely to end in sex as pulling out a Diva Cup. The laziness on both the creator and buyer’s part of this is on par with the loveless, 50-second missionary sex that will ensue while she’s thinking about what flavor of yogurt she’ll be bringing to lunch the next day.

To reiterate, if I get into my fight with my fiancée here are my options:

a)  Try to understand why she is upset and apologize. Then grow as a person and act less selfishly to change the ways that I act that upset her.

b) Go out to get a jug of milk and a pack of cigarettes.

c) Buy a personalized book with a transparent cop-out so I don’t have to do any of the work mentioned in a).

Let’s push aside the stupidity and obvious toxicity of that quote alone for a moment and concentrate on the concept itself, again. When I was six or seven years old my aunt and uncle bought me a personalized book about a boy that had to team up with a bunch of farm animals to find a rooster. While I appreciated the gift, even at that age I could tell that it was cheesy. Could you imagine gifting an adult person that you pay bills together with something on that same level? A person who seriously believes that this is an appropriate gift for someone who’s presumably seen their genitals has to be the kind of person that throws dishes away because they don’t want to clean them. Like who is the target audience?

Look, there’s nothing wrong with treating your significant other with gifts and gestures that are corny. There is nothing wrong with writing them a cheesy poem every now and then, getting them a dumb stuffed animal because you were thinking about them or even doing the chore you know that they hate (for the love of God though, don’t make them an IOU coupon book). If you love your partner, then why pay some asshole to tell your story for you? If you were dead-set on making you partner a little personal book to remind them of why you care for them so much, wouldn’t it be a lot more intimate and special if it was something that you made completely from the heart? It won’t matter if you can draw well or not, as if the cheap drawings would be hard to top, something that you wrote by yourself would be far more meaningful than this shit. This pandering, lazy and phony faux-romantic gesture is both an insult to corny romance writing and to romance itself. At least you can write your own message in a Hallmark card. An evening of watching your boyfriend scratch his balls and sniff them after every time while he plays Call of Duty would be more romantic than this. R. Kelly’s cell is more romantic than this. I have a higher standard for my love life than something that you can cut-and-paste, and I hope that you do, too. This is why this is the Worst Thing Ever.

Baggage – A Book Review

“Baggage”
by Wendy Phillips
Published by Coteau Books
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$14.95 9781550509700

“Baggage”, written by Wendy Phillips and published by Coteau Books is a fantastic teen read that covers dark themes with the seriousness that fits the subject matter and a narrative device that is relevant to young readers.

The story begins at the Vancouver airport and is set in British Columbia as a young, unidentified foreign boy is found near International Arrivals by a Canadian high school teacher named Ms. Nelson and one of her students Brittany. The boy has no family or friends in sight, no identification and appears to be malnourished. To make matters worse, he does not speak any languages that anyone in the airport understands. Understandably concerned, the teacher takes the boy to the customs office only to find that their only solution is to deport the boy as he is unidentified and claim that he may not even be protected by child protection laws. They take the boy, Thabo, into their homes to protest the deportation and to protect him at all costs. It is now up to Ms. Nelson, Brittany, her sister Leah, and their friend Kevin to inspire their school and their community to keep Thabo in Canada.

The novel is written in such a unique manner that is appropriate for young readers and undeniably poetic. Rather than following a traditional novel structure, the story instead progresses with short perspectives from each main character, including Thabo. At first, Thabo is a complete mystery, only short memories and actions that other characters notice provide a window into his young but troubled life. As Leah, the sister of the politically involved Brittany begins to learn Thabo’s native tongue the reader begins to get a glimpse into Thabo’s life. After Thabo takes sanctuary with a frustrated minister in the local church, disaster strikes and Thabo is taken by those that had abandoned him at the airport. The teenage characters Leah, Kevin, and Brittany showcase their true bravery as they go to rescue their new friend Thabo. The reader also learns that the community’s fears are real, that Thabo is a victim of human trafficking.

In conclusion, “Baggage” is a great read for a young reader to explore different writing styles and an enlightening adventure for adults that can be read within a day. Even though almost every page is from the perspective of a different character, the narrative works splendidly within this style. Phillips treats the reader to both a cohesive story and to truly breathtaking character development that stays with the reader long after the final page has closed.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Soapbox Stories Presents: Life Lessons From A Red Serge – A Book Review

“Life Lessons from a Red Serge”
by Barb Porter and Linda Garvey
Published by McKenzie Carver & Associates
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$15.95 ISBN: 9781775353607

“Life Lessons from a Red Serge”, written by sisters Barb Porter and Linda Garvey is an uplifting slice of Canadiana that warms the heart and strengthens the spirit. This collection of life lessons, take-aways, and advice compiled by the sororal duo is dedicated to the authors’ brother, Staff Sergeant Peter Garvey, who unfortunately passed away in 2017 at the age of 54 years old. This book acts a touching tribute both to the Saskatchewan born-and-raised officer and to the service of others in need that he strived for. In addition to serving his communities as an RCMP officer, Peter was also actively involved in the Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers (SARSAV) as a Search and Rescue member. In fact, profits from the sale of this book will be donated to SARSAV in his honour.

The contents of this book contain a series of life-lessons inspired by Peter. The authors had written them into a checklist format with the intention of providing daily reminders to the Sergeant’s grandchildren of how to live as the best people that they can be. The list is categorized into such themes as honesty, listening to others, living with a sense of humour, humility, gratitude, the importance of family, and many others. Each theme is divided as chapters containing a few pages of meaningful insights that a reader of any age and any walk of life can appreciate. The chapters also end with a simple yet powerful summary of the lesson. Personally, I enjoyed the segment of “Honesty, Sincerity, & Integrity” as it provided me with the reminder that it is important to listen to every person that you meet and to take their words seriously. You may never know what a person may teach you from listening to them.

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be “wholesome”. The daily reminders found within this delightful read do not push an agenda but simply act as a guide that anyone can follow and implement into their daily lives at any time. The writers also did a fantastic job at showcasing the Sergeant’s love of dogs and their importance to life and family, and really, who doesn’t agree with that?

I highly recommend this book as a gift for the people in your lives who are passionate about the service of others. This checklist of counting blessings and remembering what’s important in life does not take long at all to read. It could easily become a daily routine for policemen, firemen, nurses, teachers, paramedics, and to anyone in your life that you turn to when you need help. Not only did the authors draw their inspiration for helping others through their brother but also through their own passion for helping others that they have demonstrated through their accomplished nursing careers. By picking up a copy of this book, you too can help people by providing a plethora of insight and contributing to the Search and Rescue efforts of Saskatchewan.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

 

 

Soapbox Stories Presents: Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment – A Book Review

“Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment”
by Gaylene Guillemin
Published by Gaylene Guillemin
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$16.99 ISBN: 9781775220404

“Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment”, written and published by Gaylene Guillemin can be best described as a powerful and tender guide through the inescapable sorrows of the human condition that are grief and loss. Guillemin has a wide variety of expertise in the field of loss as a motivational speaker, an angel card reader and from formal education with a certificate in Death and Grief Studies. However, it is not from her studies or her energy work that Guillemin draws from to speak on her experiences with loss but from the tragic loss of her late husband in 2014, Mervin Guillemin, whom she affectionately refers to as “Merv”.

The book begins as Gaylene discusses her relationship with Merv. She had been married to him for twenty-two years and from her descriptions of their family and life together the reader can easily see the deep level of love that she still has for him. Gaylene goes on to discuss Merv’s declining health, and the challenges that losing mobility, being in and out of hospitals constantly, and the potential of organ transplantation bring to a family. Through Guillemin’s beautiful, poetic, and vivid writing the reader is truly brought to her world to see the good times and the bad. The reader gets to experience what an honourable, loving, caring and kind man that Merv was and how much he meant to those around him. After the passing of Merv, Guillemin describes her experiences with themes such as accepting loss, allowing grief, finding identity, and facing new days with optimism and hope.

The subject matter of this book is certainly a heavy one and I would recommend that a reader eases into it with an open mind and the discretion to read at their own pace. The start of the book will resonate with anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one or is currently experiencing a loved one’s declining health. That being said, I truly believe that there is a plethora of wisdom and insightfulness that will help a person through these issues, even if they are hesitant to experience the emotional weight of it at first.

Death is not an easy thing to even think about, let alone talk about and write about. I applaud Guillemin for her bravery and her transparent selflessness that is this book. When life brings tragedy, it is far too easy to become embittered by it, blaming the world for your sorrow. Guillemin instead chooses the altruistic option of helping people that are going through similar tragedy that she has gone through. It seemed fitting to me that I began this book in tears and closed it with a smile.            

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM