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.