Monday 25 April 2016

Indian Horse

Indian Horse
Indian Horse
By Richard Wagamese

Lately I have been fascinated by Canadian First Nations writers, and the writing of Richard Wagamese shimmers.  Indian Horse is the story of Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway from northern Ontario.  His life is marred by the horrors of the residential schools, which systematically separated children from families and tore the heart out of generations of First Nations people.

After Saul’s siblings are forced into one such school, his family retreats into the bush.  Gods Lake is a place where the spirit world and physical world meet, and there Saul discovers that he is capable of visions and communion with his ancestors.  His revelations begin an emotional journey to discover his own identity.

Eventually forced to retreat from the bush as winter approaches, Saul finds himself, tragically, in the very place his family was trying to avoid – the residential school.  There Saul witnesses abuse of every kind, as well as the suicides of a number of children.  He goes into survival mode, caring only for himself. 

Yet hope arrives unexpectedly, as the new priest, Father Leboutillier, introduces the students to hockey which quickly becomes the focus of the novel.  Using his ability to “see beyond”, Saul becomes an incredible player.  In scenes of striking beauty, he abandons himself to the game and lifts himself, if only momentarily, into the spiritual realm.

Soon he is taken in by a family on a reserve and joins the local hockey team.  As his hockey prowess grows, Saul begins to identify less as a victim, or a child torn from his family, and more as an athlete.  But identity is constructed of self-perception as well as the perceptions of others.  In the hockey world he experiences the reality of being an Indian in a white world, subject to the bigotry and hatred of the ruling class.  He becomes progressively angry, drinking to quash the pain of racism and the legacy of the residential school that still haunts him.

From the grace and freedom brought on by the game of hockey to the sadness and despair of the residential school, Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse vividly presents the emotional highs and lows of growing up Native in 1960s Canada.

Friday 8 April 2016

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

City of the Lost
City of the Lost
by Kelley Armstrong

Murders, cannibals, and the gorgeous Canadian wilderness, Kelley Armstrong really knows the way to my heart.  I always get a little giddy when Armstrong releases a new book because I know that more often than not, I would like if not love whatever she writes. I really liked City of the Lost. It’s a great mystery with enough twists that had me guessing until the last page and the right amount of suspense that kept me reading well into the early hours of the morning.  
City of the Lost is the first of a new series and follows the story of Casey Duncan, a talented and relentless police detective with a dark secret. 
She once killed a man and got away with it.  
Casey knows that one day her mistake will come back to haunt her, so the only things she allows herself to care about are her job and her best friend Diana. Then there is Kurt. And what starts as a non-string attached relationship suddenly has the potential to become much more. Then on the same night, Diana is attacked by her abusive ex-husband and the past finally catches with Casey in the form of a bullet with her name on it.  
Both women need to run away and fast. Diana knows just the place: Rockton. A mythical town built way up north where people that don't want to be found can hide and be safe. At first, Casey doesn't believe the town really exists, but it turns out that it does and the town council will take them in.  
There is one catch, though.  
Recently, the town has been terrorized by a series of brutal murders. Could it be that victims' past finally caught up to them or is it something more nefarious going on? Could it be one of their own preying on the town habitants or some of the strange wild things that lurk in the forest and mountains that surround them? Gruff and surly, Dalton, the town sheriff is naturally suspicious of newcomers and more so of Casey. However, as much as he resents her help, he needs it or Rockton would be truly lost. 
I recommend this book for people that enjoy suspenseful mysteries and stories set in remote locations in nature.  Fans of Mo Hayder and Robert Galbraith will not be disappointed.   

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Murder in the Mystery Suite
Murder in the mystery suite
By Ellery Adams

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend. She told me that I would love the setting of this mystery novel. Well she was more than right! Set in the countryside near a quaint town is the hotel of every library employees dreams. The resort hotel of Storyton Hall is filled with a variety of libraries. A getaway for lovers of the written word; Storyton Hall offers quiet reading nooks and exquisite tea services to its guests. The opening chapter describes the manager of the hotel, Jane Steward, climbing the rolling ladder of my dreams to run her hands over old copies of leather and linen bound books. With the whimsical descriptions by author Ellery Adams I could almost smell the ink and bindings.

Jane Steward needs to boost business in order to make some much needed repairs on her beloved hotel. She is inspired by a first edition Agatha Christie to host a "Murder and Mayhem" week of activities at the hotel. This murder mystery inspired week brings in many guests and the hotel gets their much needed bookings. All is going well until one of the guests, a unique character by the name of Felix Hampden, shows up dead in the Mystery Suite after winning a copy of a prized rare book.

The story unfolds with Jane doing her best to maintain composure in front of the other guests. Will the mystery be solved before more people pop up dead in her hotel? Let's hope so because I could love to book a stay at this dreamy sounding hotel. Pick up a copy of Murder in the Mystery Suite today in our Mystery Paperback section at your nearest branch or check it out in streaming audio through Hoopla.

Friday 1 April 2016

Thing Explainer Randall Munroe

Sometimes we find things in the world that are hard to understand, especially things that are very hard to build or that are made of lots of little parts.  This book by Randall Munroe called Thing Explainer helps make these hard things easier to get.  What makes this book (and this group of words that you are reading now) special is that it only uses the 1000 most used words.  Sometimes this make for a strange reading time: when the thing he is explaining is computers, human bodies, or things that people use to fly in the sky, the writer has to find new ways to explain exactly what he is trying to say. It can be very hard to do.

Why does Munroe do this? It forces him to come up with the most simple way to explain things in the easiest words he can find that almost everybody would know.  To show what I mean, I have to break his simple-writing law for a minute*: There is a part about human organs.  He must talk about the liver and kidneys so he calls them "blood cleaners".  The heart's job is made easier to understand by calling it the blood pusher. Everybody knows what a stomach is, but how can it be explained?  Using the normal words you would say "digestion" and "bacteria".  Here he has to call the stomach parts "food hallway" and what helps break down your food "the living things inside you".

This book is made up mostly of his simple explainers and the drawings that go with them.  Randall Munroe's main job is drawing funny pictures about the world on computers. 

Is it any good?  The truth is that it does get a bit tiring: sometimes the simple words are too simple. I had trouble sometimes trying to figure out what he means about some ideas.  Still, the idea is interesting enough. You don't have to read it from front to back. Just look at what interest you and you'll have a good time. One note: it looks like a kids’ book, but it's not.  It's really meant for anybody people interested in the how world works.

*Words I used that are not in the top 1000: Randall, Munroe, organs, liver, kidneys, digestion & bacteria.