Twist of the Blade
Coteau Books / 11 December 2014

Twist of the Blade Published by Coteau Books Review by Courtney Bates-Hardy $14.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-599-3 Twist of the Blade is the second book in Edward Willett’s Shards of Excalibur series, a clever and modern adaptation of the legends of King Arthur. Ariane Forsythe has inherited the magical power of the Lady of the Lake, along with a quest: she must find the five broken pieces of the sword of Excalibur before the evil reincarnation of Merlin, Rex Major, gets his hands on it. If Rex Major gains control of Excalibur, he’ll have the power to wage war on Earth and the world of Faerie. With the help of her friend, Wally, Ariane has retrieved one piece of the sword, but now she must find the second piece quickly. She thinks it’s somewhere in France but she’ll have to find a way to get herself and Wally across the ocean first. Things get complicated as Wally begins to suspect that Ariane’s power is changing her. Ariane isn’t sure if she needs Wally anymore and begins pushing him away. Rex Major has a plan to get to the second shard and his power over technology is only helping him act upon it….

Song of the Sword
Coteau Books / 11 December 2014

Song of the Sword by Edward Willett Published by Coteau Books Review by Alison Slowski $14.95 ISBN 9781550505801 Song of the Sword: Shards of Excalibur Book One opens a door for readers to a new teen fantasy. Fifteen-year-old Ariane Forsythe is tired of being shunted back and forth through foster care after being abandoned by her mother two years previously. She is frustrated by being bounced from school to school because of her recent history of getting in fights with bullies. Things start to look up for her, however, when she comes under the protective wing of her Aunt Phyllis, who had been battling cancer in the hospital during Ariane’s stays in various foster homes. But things get complicated, when, in between worrying about being bullied and harassed by girls at her new school, Ariane inherits a brand new power. A power that was first bequeathed to her mother, but her mother rejected and was declared mentally insane. This is the power of the Lady of the Lake from Arthurian legend. Ariane learns to control her new power as she embraces her inheritance of being the Lady of the Lake. Only Wally, her new friend, can mitigate the potential disasters…

Taking the Reins
Coteau Books / 24 January 2014

Taking the Reins by Dayle Campbell Gaetz Published by Coteau Books Review by Alison Slowski $8.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-552-8 In Dayle Campbelle Gaetz’s Taking the Reins, we are introduced to Katherine, a capable, independent British girl whose family has settled on a struggling farm in the colony of British Columbia, circa 1862. She has a gift for handling horses and skilfully uses this knowledge to help her family throughout this fast-paced Young Adult novel. Emma, another fourteen-year-old recently arrived from Britain, meets Katherine when her father buys her a horse and expects her to learn how to ride it. Emma’s largest obstacle is her fear of horses. As she overcomes this fear, she also overcomes her shyness and reluctance to befriend people, as her tumultuous voyage to Canada taught her to be wary and mistrustful of strangers. Meanwhile, Katherine’s reluctance to adhere to her parents’ wishes and her drive to act on her own when adults refuse to listen to her are refreshing in so young a heroine. These two stories together create relatable themes and an enjoyable story for young adult readers. Unravelling the mystery behind Emma’s past and her stubborn desire to learn to ride a horse on her…

Thistledown Press / 5 June 2013

Voiceless by Caroline Wissing Published by Thistledown Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978-1-897235-98-0 $15.95 What is it like not to have a voice? To be unable to share one’s thoughts and feelings with the people one cares about? What is it like to be alone “Out There” and voiceless? Caroline Wissing’s stunning young adult novel, Voiceless, is narrated by Annabel, who was placed in foster care at Noble Spirit Farm. As the witness of a traumatic event, she has lost the ability to speak and must convey her thoughts and feelings with signs and emotional expression. The first half of the novel takes place at Noble Spirit Farm, where Annabel and her foster siblings live in a world once-removed from the violence, alcoholism, and drug-abuse that have had an effect in shaping them. Annabel recalls in shimmering detail what makes a teenager’s life on the farm so special, so formative. She lovingly describes her relationships with her companions, both animal and human, whose idiosyncrasies will seem poignant and familiar to readers of all tastes. Due to an unexpected event, Annabel must leave Noble Spirit Farm with Graydon, her first lover. The second half of the novel is set in…

Coteau Books / 12 April 2013

Breakaway By Maureen Ulrich Published by Coteau Books Review by Karen Lawson $12.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-512-2 She shoots! She Scores! Maureen Ulrich has scored a hat trick with her latest young adult fiction book called Breakaway. This is the last book in the “Jessie Mac Series.” We first met the heroine, Jessie, in the novel Power Plays. We got to know her better in the second book in the series, Face Off. It is like being reacquainted with an old friend as we once again connect with Jessie and follow her as she matures into a young woman. Breakaway continues Jessie’s journey from a young teen to her final year in high school. She is now playing AAA hockey, which is not only highly competitive, but also the most advanced level of minor girls’ hockey. In addition to her contribution as a team player, she is also the Captain, which creates more responsibility and stress. Jessie’s athletic goals often compete with her personal life, especially her love life. She finds it difficult to stay focused on hockey when she is torn between her first love, Mark and two other romantic interests, Liam and Evan. Jessie is on the cusp between adolescence…

Outcasts of River Falls
Coteau Books / 11 January 2013

Outcasts of River Falls by Jacqueline Guest Published by Coteau Books for Kids Review by Sandy Bonny $ 9.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-480-4 In her third novel for young adult readers, sequel to the award-winning Belle of Batoche, Alberta-based Métis writer, historian, and literacy advocate Jacqueline Guest combines her passions, rewarding readers with a fast-paced coming-of-age adventure. Her spirited teenaged protagonist, Kathryn, has grown up in the care of a father who ‘passed’, hiding his Métis heritage in order to integrate with English society in Ontario. Suddenly orphaned and barred by financial circumstances from the boarding school where she has spent her happiest years, Kathryn is horrified to discover that the aunt into who’s care she has been entrusted is not, as her father’s stories had lead her to expect, a wealthy ranch heiress, but rather a half-breed spinster marooned in Alberta without title to so much as the land beneath her ‘shack.’ Landless and excluded from both the Constitution and Indian Act, the Métis community built in the ‘ditches’ adjacent to River Falls has been forced into self-sufficiency. They supply their own medical care with expertise that is sought after by local settlers, school their children at home, and draw much…

Terror on Turtle Creek
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 19 December 2012

Terror on Turtle Creek by Jean Freeman illustrated by RoseMarie Condon Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $14.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-77-4 As a longtime admirer of Jean Freeman’s work, I knew I was in for a good read when I saw she was the author of Terror on Turtle Creek. The story follows the exploits of Barry Richards, a youngster prone to anger and negative thoughts, who works hard to avoid work. He volunteers to help fill sandbags when Turtle Creek floods over, but slinks away to relax in an unmoored boat. When it slips into the raging river and starts to sink, Barry struggles to steer himself to a flooded house. There he meets the stranded occupants, Sara McKeever and her three younger siblings, ranging in age from eight to three – Sam, Josh, and Emily—and Emily’s doll, Angelina Poot. Each chapter title is actually a time stamp that allows the reader to follow the story in real time. Teeming with challenges, each chapter ends in suspense. Just as the children are coping with one crisis, another comes crashing down on them. I immediately felt compelled to read the next chapter to see how, or if,…

The Sailor and the Christmas Trees
DriverWorks Ink / 18 December 2012

The Sailor and the Christmas Trees: A True Story by Deana Driver Illustrated by Catherine Folnovic Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $14.95 ISBN 978-192757002-9 Although a prolific writer with five books and more than 2,000 articles in Canadian newspapers and magazines to her credit, this is Deana Driver’s first children’s book. It is a true story, told in simple language a child can easily understand. The story revolves around John Hanlon, a wireless operator in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. His ship, HMCS (His Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Royalmount, was protecting convoys bringing supplies to Britain. Knowing that on the return trip he would be at sea on Christmas Day, Hanlon and three other sailors cut down a few evergreen trees to decorate their frigate. When they found out that another ship was carrying children to safety in Canada, they got close enough to shoot a line across it. One of the trees was then pulled over. “Those children’s eyes were so big as they watched that tree bobbing along the line from our ship to theirs,” Hanlon recalled. “Those children started cheering.” Fifty years later, at a reunion in Calgary, Hanlon met a woman…

Redcoats and Renegades
Thistledown Press / 18 December 2012

Redcoats and Renegades By Barry McDivitt Published by Thistledown Press Review by Hannah Muhajarine ISBN 978-1-897235-97-3 Barry McDivitt’s young adult novel Redcoats and Renegades is a tale of thrilling adventure, made all the more interesting because it is based on true events. It follows the story of Hamlet Hamlin, who claims to be the first person the Mounties ever arrested. As a young pickpocket, Hamlet falls under the ‘renegades’ side of the title, but ends up joining the Mounties, semi-voluntarily, on their march West. At the time of this story-the early 1870s-the North West Mounted Police was still young. It was created after the purchase of the Northwest Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Mounties were charged with protecting the First Nations people from American whiskey and fur traders, and at the same time establishing a stronger Canadian presence in the newly-acquired land. The Mounties faced opposition not just from the Americans, but from Sioux and Blackfoot as well. Many characters, Hamlet included, express their doubt in the ability of the Mounties to bring order to the lawless West, expecting them to be massacred instead. Hamlet’s perspective is fresh and entertaining. He sees the ridiculousness of some of the…

The Piper of Shadonia
Coteau Books / 17 October 2012

The Piper of Shadonia by Linda Smith Published by Coteau Books Review by Tavish Bell $14.95 ISBN 9781550505160 The Piper of Shadonia by Linda Smith is an excellent book for teenage readers who like adventure and fiction. When I first got this book, I was dubious. “I’m supposed to read a book about songs and music?” I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, since I prefer books laden with adventure. I was wrong. The Piper of Shadonia is about a boy who gets a pipe with magical powers. It starts out amazing and ends with tons of fun. Linda Smith’s story is good all the way through and hooks you on the very first page. You will never get bored of this book. In fact, you won’t want to put it down. Ever. The Piper of Shadonia has a wonderful storyline and Linda Smith has a great, engaging writing style. The characters are very interesting; each one is unique. The book presents an interesting way of looking at things. I found that when I read it for the first time, the message seemed to be “you don’t have to be a big, buff, tough, warrior to be powerful.” That message…