Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Bradsky

Life in the arctic is harsh no matter the time period. This story is set approximately 1000 AD.  The main characters are the second or third  generation of Inuk that have migrated eastward from the west coastal areas.  Their physical survival is dependent on building shelter and catching animals, both land and sea, for food and fur.  Their spiritual health is overseen by the angakkug (shaman).  This might sound a bit like a National Geographic book, but far from it.

Omat is a newborn at the beginning of the story and we follow them through the next 2 decades.  While physically born a girl, she is named for her deceased father and is raised as a boy.  This  is an accepted practise at that time.  Their grandfather, Ataata is the angakkug.  He seeks knowledge and guidance from their gods.  Within their community they also have a complex set of rules that dictates what is allowed and what isn't.  For example, women aren't allowed to hunt, but since Omat is viewed as a boy, they learn to hunt.

Up to this point, the story is a bit slow as there is much to learn about the families and their way of life. As Omat gets older and becomes apprentice to the angakkug, some in the community begin to object.  This is where the story really got going for me.  I was finding it harder to put the book down.

Omat is a boy and wishes to keep living that way.  They may be smaller than some of the other hunters, but they have great skills and keep the family fed. They struggle as they mature physically and that helps to push the plot through to the end.

I would have thought that by living and growing in a very small community, that all would have accepted Omat as they were, having seen their skills and commitment to the community.  But there is always at least one person who has to stir things up and cause trouble.  Have we as humans not learned anything in the last thousand years.

The author did an excellent job of researching and conveying details of the inuk daily life.  From the building of the igloo, hunting the seals and other animals and then preparing the meats and skins.  This was all worked seamlessly into the story that I didn't realized how much I was learning as I read.

I don't want to give away any plot points, so I will just say that this family group does not stay isolated for long.  That brings in a whole new bunch of benefits and challenges.

I loved this book.  I felt as though I had been drawn into Omat's extended family.  I began to care about the success of their hunts and what they would learn on their 'spirit quest'.  As much as I didn't want this book to end, I could wait to find out how Omat would deal with the issues facing them.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Redhook and from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 5 April 2019

The Birds that Stay by Ann Lambert

This is a wonderful mystery.  The plot is complex and very well crafted.  It had me veering along the wrong thought path more than a few times.

Reclusive Madame Newman was found dead outside her home in a small rural community north of Montreal.  It was such a bucolic area, that even the responding police officers did not imagine it being a case of murder.  Chief inspector Romeo Leduc did not see it that way at all.  Neighbour Marie Russell passed by the scene.  She was shocked that such violence could occur so close by.  She dismissed it until her elderly mother identified that same neighbour.  This perked her attention.

The cast of character in the story is superb.  From the imperfect Chief Inspector Leduc, to his old school chum Ti-Coune, who seemed to have spent much of his life on the other side of the law. Marie Russell is a professor at a local college and was writing a children's nature book.  Good thing that she never grew out of her enquiring mind.  As this is the start of a series, I suspect these are three of the characters that will appear again.  they are the three that I enjoyed the most.

I want to tell you more about this engaging story, but then that would be telling you secrets and plot lines and I don't want to spoil any of your reading fun.

If you have enjoyed novels by Giles Blunt and Louise Penny, you are sure to enjoy The Birds That Stay.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Second Story Press and from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 25 March 2019

She Dared Malala Yousafzai by Jenni L Walsh

Excellent telling of the story of Malala Yousafzai.

When her education became threatened by the Taliban, eleven year old Malala began speaking out in favour of education for girls and boys.  It was their best weapon against poverty and ignorance.  A few years later, the Taliban attempted to kill her.  She survived.  Though he recovery was difficult she did manage to continue her education  Most importantly, she continued to speak out in support of education  for all children.

I was quite surprised by how much I learned from this book. I knew nothing of Malala's life before she was shot. At that time she was already and impressive young women

This book was written with middle school readers in mind, though parents will also learn much about this young woman as well.  It is written in language suitable for young readers and the situations are explained in as simple terms as possible.  I hope that Scholastic continues with further titles in this series.

I received and advance reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 1 February 2019

Girls Who Bind by Rory James

A poetic look at the emotions/feelings/concerns of a teen who binds their chest.  While they realize that they are genderqueer, their family and friends think that they are female, just as they always have.

Jamie is having a hard time deciding how to tell their parents and friends.  They told their best friend Levi about being genderqueer, but wasn't ready to tell about the binding.

I really like this book.  I found the poetic presentation stripped the story down to its basics, making the issues clear.  This book could be a great aid to those considering similar questions.  Parents would also benefit in learning more about some of the many issues under consideration by their children and their friends.

I received an advance reader copy of this book from West44Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Stealing the Sword: Time Jumpers 1 by Wendy Mass, Oriol Vidal

Time Jumpers #1: Stealing the Sword

Siblings Chase and Ava travel to  different locations and times  in this new book series.  They are given a mysterious suit case that contains a number of unusual item.  They'll have to work together if they are going to figure out what to do with the case and its contents.

This is an enjoyable story for young readers.  It is full of adventure and at the same time readers will learn about bit about history with enough clues to encourage independent research,

The series continues with The Escape from Egypt

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

 I was totally caught up in this unique magical story.

Set in Paris, France, Anouk has never ventured out into the world she watches from the windows.  She is much too young and in-experienced.  Even though she looks seventeen, Mada Vittora created her just over a year ago. Mada is part of the magic world that lives parallel to, though unknown to the Pretties, the everyday common world.

Anouk has become caught up in a power struggle between the magic royals, the witches and the goblins.  She just doesn't know how much influence she could hold over the outcome.

Along with her created friends, and some unlikely alliances, she ventures out into the Pretty world and realizes there is far more to it than strolls down the boulevard and other such frivolities.

I loved this story.  The story line was unique and Anouk was such a refreshing character.  She was so innocent of the ways of people/witches and she managed to maintain much of that throughout the many trials she endured.  Her trust and reliance on her friends made me feel safe along with her.  I found myself cheering for her and encouraging her to venture out of her safe little world of housekeeping.  #TeamAnouk

The is much more of her story to be told and I eagerly await author Megan Shepherd's future writings.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Well worth the read.

I'd read about 10% of the book when I decided that it just wasn't working for me. I was going to stop, but then considered, what would a tell a teen who asked me about it at work one day.  I'd better read a little more, give it a fair chance at least.

I tried to put myself in a more 'teen' frame of mind and plunged back in.

I already liked Norris. He was kind of cool, but feeling out of place with the move to Austin from Montreal.  I had moved overseas at the same age and found myself a visible minority at my new school.  I couldn't fault his mom for moving the two of them, university positions aren't easy to come by and this job was a perfect fit for her knowledge base.

Back to the high school.  Sure, it was larger than Norris's previous one, but essentially the same just with a larger assortment of students.  He'd soon find a way to fit in.  The cheerleaders, jocks, geeks, loners and more were all there. Which was he. It was a new school, a new start, he could have his pick.

Writing in the journal that was given to him the first day of school became his coping method and sounding board.  He wrote down first impressions and observations at first.  It quickly became his 'thing'.  The novel itself is written as though a field guide. At the start of each chapter is heading such as: observable characteristics, attire, habitat, preening habits etc.  At first, I only glanced at these not realizing that I was missing out on a valuable part of the book's approach.  When I started reading them more closely, the concept of field guide became clear.

I'm glad I stuck with this book as I found myself really enjoying it.  The family dynamics between Norris and his parents seemed so real, both the good and the bad.  The inviting atmosphere at his part time job should have been a signal to Norris and I was waiting for him to get it.  Now when I'm at work and a teen asks me about this book, I'll be prepared and will gladly recommend it.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

I was totally blown away by this book.  I picked it because I thought it had a cool premise, but as I started reading, each chapter drew me deeper in.  I had one guess at where Ozzie was coming from, but it didn't really fit and turns out I was way off base.

Ozzie and Tommy had been in a relationship after knowing each other for most of their lives.  One morning, Ozzie wakes up and Tommy has disappeared, not just from his life, but from the world. No body knows nor remembers him, not even his mother.  As he continues to tell his story, we soon learn that something is very wrong, not with anyone in particular, but with the world it's self.

I loved the assortment of teen characters in this book.  They seemed so real.  They had love issues and stresses.  School was still the pain it was in when I attended and college acceptance letters were still pending.  Ozzie has no trouble with being gay, while Lua is exploring her identity, swinging daily between her male and female persona's.

I fully recommend this book for teen readers as well as their parents.  I am looking to reading more by author Shaun David Hutchinson.

I read and online version of this book available from Rivited which is hosted by Simon Pulse.