Rescue in the Rockies
Coteau Books / 17 July 2019

Rescue in the Rockiesby Rita FeutlPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$12.95 ISBN 9-781550-509489 I’m both surprised and saddened that until reading A Rescue in the Rockies, I was unfamiliar with Edmonton writer Rita Feutl’s titles for children and young adults. Surprised, because this is a writer at the top of her game, and saddened, because had I known how good she is, I would’ve been recommending her books long before now. Her latest book – a fast-paced Banff-set novel which sees its 14-year-old heroine through several historical time travel adventures with Stoney Nakoda characters (and detainees in a WW2 internment camp ) – was gripping, credible, well-researched, political (espousing Canadian First Nations’ history and human trafficking in Europe), and fun, and that’s just the plot – the writing itself was topnotch. Feutl uses a familiar situation to get the ball rolling: the protagonist, Janey, is forced to be somewhere she doesn’t want to be (though as places go, The Banff Springs Hotel’s not too shabby) with people she’d rather not be with: her grandma; grandma’s boyfriend, who’s been hired by the hotel to play Santa; and the boyfriend’s 16-year-old Austrian grandson, Max, who just happens to have “the…

Trial by Winter
Coteau Books / 20 June 2019

Trial by Winterby Anne PattonPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Michelle Shaw$10.95 ISBN 9781550509786 I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a sod house in Saskatchewan during a winter blizzard. Now, thanks to Anne Patton, I have an inkling. Trial by Winter is the third and final story in Anne Patton’s Barr Colony Adventure Series. It’s 1903 and the Bolton family have built a sod house on their land in the North-West Territories. Running desperately short of money Dorothy’s father decides to travel to Edmonton to work for the winter, leaving ten-year-old Dorothy, her sixteen-year-old sister, Lydia and their mother to face their first harsh prairie winter essentially alone. Patton has the ability to transport the reader to another place and time in vivid detail, geographically, socially and climatically. She has clearly done an immense amount of meticulous research, but the research is always atmospheric and enhances the plot rather than crowding it. She vividly describes the everyday practicalities that are needed to survive during the brutal winter such as bringing wood inside to thaw before cutting it and scooping snow from the drifts outside the front door during a blizzard to melt for water. Then there…

See Me
H.R. Hobbs / 10 January 2019

See Me (Breaking the Rules Series) by H.R. Hobbs Published by H.R. Hobbs Review by Shelley A. Leedahl ISBN 9-780995-344808 $10.00 Retired teacher Heather Hobbs has turned her lifelong passion for books into a new profession. In 2015 she picked up the pen and started writing realistic, contemporary page-turners for middle years’ students, and rather than wait years for a publisher to consider, potentially accept her manuscript, and release her books, Assiniboia-based Hobbs took matters into her own hands and published her own work under the pen name H.R. Hobbs. With almost thirty years of classroom experience to her credit, the teacher-turned writer’s depiction of middle grades’ school culture results in an interesting and credible story. See Me, the first in her Breaking the Rules Series, looks just like a trade published book. The cover features a close-up of an eye, and the interior type is easy to read. The story’s narrator is 13-year-old Hannah, an only child who was traumatized on her very first day of kindergarten after a classmate, Brady, noticed the “ugly” burn scars on her legs and called her “Scar-legs”. The ostracizing and bullying that began that day has followed her all the way into Grade…

Spoon Asylum, The
Thistledown Press / 19 October 2018

The Spoon Asylum by Caroline Misner Published by Thistledown Press Reviewed by Ben Charles $15.95 ISBN 9781771871556 The Spoon Asylum, written by Caroline Misner and published by Thistledown Press is a fun and thoughtful piece of historical fiction that lets the reader laugh, while also reflecting on the ugly parts of Canada’s past that modern Canadians do not like to think about. Set in the 1930s at the peak of the Great Depression in the small Ontario town of Davisville, The Spoon Asylum follows the story of young Haven Cattrell, a precocious seventeen year old boy who is struggling find his identity and is hungry to prove his worth as a man to his family and to the world. While working as a farmhand on his grandmother’s farm, Haven comes across a vagrant who is looking for work in exchange for some food and shelter. Although the man is met with downright hostility by his grandmother, Haven cannot help but be enthralled by the man, and even more so by his harmonica and the sweet music that he plays through it. This exchange with the mysterious vagrant inspires Haven to go into town in search of work, himself. Perhaps this…

Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing

Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing By Angie Counios and David Gane Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $19.95 9781988783130 Regina’s death toll is once again on the rise as Angie Counios and David Gane launch their third Shepherd and Wolfe mystery, Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing. Tony and Charlie are now in Grade 12 and still recovering emotionally and physically after the dramatic events of the summer (see Shepherd’s Watch). But a serial killer is roaming the Queen City murdering and dismembering his victims; and even though Tony’s parents warn the boys not to get involved in any more mysteries, they can’t resist investigating. Detective Gekas, herself still recovering from the previous summer’s adventures, is put in charge of the serial killer murders. As the boys investigate, the killings come heartbreakingly close to home, and Tony is guilt-stricken to think that their actions may be responsible for the killer’s latest choice of victim. Although the story is satisfyingly wrapped up, the final chapter of the book ends on a cliffhanger. Which means that once again I will be waiting very impatiently for the next book in the series! This book is thicker and slightly darker in tone than…

Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather
DriverWorks Ink / 2 February 2018

Skye Bird and Eagle Feather by Mary Harelkin Bishop Published by Emmbee Ink and DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $13.95 ISBN 978-192757039-5 Every time I read one of Mary Harelkin Bishop’s books I learn something new. As a relative newcomer to Canada and Saskatchewan, I’ve heard the words, “We recognize that we are standing on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis…” many times without really knowing what that meant. Now, thanks to Bishop’s latest book, Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, I have a vivid picture in my mind. Bishop’s new book introduces us to Skye Bird, a Grade 6 student starting the new school year in a “big, shiny, new school across town”. Her old school, a local school which has recently closed, was “warm and inviting”. Although it was small, it was a vibrant community where different cultures were celebrated and shared. But Skye’s new school seems nothing like that and she feels very lost and out of place. Her little sister Cheyenne can’t find her special books in the school library and when Skye asks the librarian where to find books about Cree people or the Métis, she’s told that they don’t have…

Shepherd’s Watch

Shepherd’s Watch by Counios & Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 9781927756959 Shepherd’s Watch is the second book in the Shepherd and Wolfe mystery series by Regina authors Angie Counios and David Gane. I’m always a bit wary of being introduced to a new author or series but this book exceeded all my expectations. I loved it so much, in fact, that I went out and bought the first book in the series so that I wouldn’t miss out! The books revolve around the lives (and adventures) of two high school students, Tony Shepherd (well-adjusted, athletic and bright) and “wise-ass troublemaker”, Charlie Wolfe. In the first book, Along Comes a Wolfe, Tony’s girlfriend goes missing and it’s suspected that a serial killer is at work. The boys investigate and barely escape with their lives. Shepherd’s Watch is set a few months later at the lake where Tony and his family are spending the summer. Charlie arrives at the cabin unannounced and soon the boys are investigating the disappearance of a local man who has inexplicably gone missing. From the start of the book, I had an idea of where the plot was going….

Mistasiniy
DriverWorks Ink / 22 March 2017

Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone by Mary Harelkin Bishop Illustrated by Heaven Starr Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-32-6 If you loved Mary Harelkin Bishop’s Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story you’ve no doubt been waiting for it’s companion book with eager anticipation. Bishop has a way of painting characters that are memorable and her style of writing easily draws the reader into the story. You’re on chapter two before you know it! This is a story that stayed with me. It snuck into my brain and left me pondering for days. The basic plot involves two young boys who are assigned a Canadian heritage project by their Grade 6 teacher. Danny discovers his great great grandmother’s diary of arriving in Canada and the struggles the family endured as they established their farm. Zach though is First Nations. While the rest of the class has family that arrived in Canada at some point, his family has always been a part of the land. What about his family’s heritage? Doesn’t it count? Zach becomes very angry and confused. To complicate the story even further, the boys have a long history of antagonism. They’ve tried, on the whole,…

Along Comes a Wolfe
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 28 February 2017

Along Comes a Wolfe by Angie Counios and David Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Mazin Saffou $19.95 ISBN 9781927756782 When high school student Sheri Beckman mysteriously disappears, her boyfriend, Tony Shepherd, finds himself in a dubious partnership with the streetwise smart aleck, Charles Wolfe, in order to find out what happened to her and to stop a vicious spree killer. Subtle influences of noir and Hardy Boys mysteries influence Counios and Gane’s compelling young adult murder mystery in Saskatchewan’s queen city. Along Comes a Wolfe takes the reader on a journey through the quintessential world of coming of age teenagers from the safe, yet banal suburbs, bustling high school hallways, busy shopping malls, and parties out of town, but also into the macabre domain of the killer in hollow, abandoned industrial buildings and construction sites on the edge of the city – taking Tony further away from his safe and ordinary life. Tony Shepherd is driven to find out what happened to Sheri and yet at the heart of the story is Tony’s conflicted relationship with the enigma that is Charlie Wolfe. In contrast to the levelheaded Tony, Charlie is a troubled and mischievous youth from…

Convictions
Coteau Books / 19 October 2016

Convictions by Judith Silverthorne Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $16.95 ISBN 9-781550-506525 I’ve now read enough of Judith Silverthorne’s numerous books to know that anything she writes will be a worthy read, and my belief was confirmed again with her latest, the historical novel Convictions. This time the multi-award-winning Regina writer (and Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild) has penned an action-packed, fact-based tale about 14-year-old Jennie, a British lass sentenced to serve seven years in a penal colony in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania, Australia) after she was ungenerously convicted of theft. First however, Jennie must survive the four or five months of sailing on a convict ship with 234 other women and children, and a crew that includes more than a few letches. It’s cramped, filthy, and there’s precious little food or medical aid. Before long Jennie finds herself stitching up a fellow convict, Lizzie, a “doxie” who’s been flogged almost to death by the evil guard Red Bull. I’m in awe of how Silverthorne pulls it all together: the historical and sailing details, the adventures (including fistfights, a hurricane, and a shipwreck of Titanic proportions), and even the first sparks of a romance…