Great Reads | Grapevine Magazine

Great Reads

Reviews by Kingston Writersfest

Take advantage of the chill in the air to cozy up with our selection of Fall books. Whether you’re in the mood for history or mystery, you’re sure to find something to warm up to. A special thanks to Ben McNally, of Ben McNally books, for his selection of one-line teaser reviews.

Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD
by Roméo Dallaire

In this piercing memoir, Roméo Dallaire, retired general and former senator, the author of the bestsellers Shake Hands with the Devil andThey Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, and one of the world's leading humanitarians, delves deep into his life since the Rwandan genocide.

Roméo Dallaire, traumatized by witnessing genocide on an imponderable scale in Rwanda, reflects in these pages on the nature of PTSD and the impact of that deep wound on his life since 1994, and on how he motivates himself and others to humanitarian work despite his constant struggle. Dallaire is not know for holding his punches, and this memoir is no exception. Early reviews have praised his honesty and the attention he draws to the harsh realities of PTSD and its impact on members of the military. Stephen Lewis comments that he “was left reeling by this book, overcome by shock, dismay, amazement. I’ve never read anything about post-traumatic stress quite so stark, honest and graphic. Roméo Dallaire bares his soul to the world . . . it’s an act of stunning courage and a literary tour de force.”

The Spawning Grounds
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

On one side of the river is a ranch once owned by Eugene Robertson, who came in the gold rush around 1860, and stayed on as a homesteader. On the other side is a Shuswap community that has its own tangled history with the river - and the whites. The long-awaited new novel by the two-time Giller-shortlisted author is full of the qualities Gail Anderson-Dargatz's fans love: it's an intimate family saga rooted in the Thompson-Shuswap region of British Columbia, and saturated with the history of the place. 

This is a stunning, electric read full of mystery, drama, history, magic, conflict and redemption. The land here is both beautiful and menacing, truly a character in its own right. Told with artistry and sensitivity, Gail manages to balance moments of considerable tension (clashes of culture, family, belief) with touches of humour and light, drawing the reader on a profound journey they won’t soon forget.

Don’t I Know You?
by Marni Jackson

In a world obsessed with celebrity culture, it can be easy to feel like we know the famous faces we see on the screen and in the tabloids every day. But for Rose McEwan, encounters with the likes of Bob Dylan, Meryl Streep, Gwenyth Paltrow and dozens of other big names from the worlds of music, film, and television are run-of-the-mill. Following her life from age 17, when she takes a summer writing course led by a young John Updike, through her first heartbreak (witnessed by Joni Mitchell) on the island of Crete, through her marriage, divorce, and a canoe trip with Taylor Swift, Leonard Cohen and Karl Ove Knausgaard, Jackson weaves together an engrossing novel-within-stories that manages to be honest and hilarious, audacious and touching, shocking and heart-warming all in turn. A fun and thought-provoking read.

The Hidden Keys
by André Alexis

André Alexis follows up on his Giller prize win with another exploration of classic literature and lore – this time bringing us a modern retelling of the classic novel Treasure Island. While the premise - the quest for buried treasure may seem old-fashioned, Alexis manages to imbue his cast of characters with honour, subtlety and humanity. His care and attention to detail is evident even the sub-plots and side-adventures– nothing, and no-one is here just for show, and he deftly avoids stereotypes and genre tropes to create a witty, gritty crime thriller with a mysterious puzzle at its centre that you’ll be anxious to solve. For fans of historical fiction and Elmore Leonard.

One sentence reviews by Ben McNally of Ben McNally Books *


Hillbilly Elegy
by J.D.Vance

An unsentimental look at American dissatisfaction.

Pigeon Tunnel
by John LeCarre

Tidbits from the clandestine life of a writer.

Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren

A most impressive and unusual memoir.


by David Bergen

A taut tale of dislocation and separation in Central America.

by Ann Patchett

 Four parents, six children, five decades.

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew
by Susan Fletcher          

A fictional look at Vincent Van Gogh in an asylum, 1889.

Mothering Sunday
by Graham Swift

A beautiful, unforgettable little novel.

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