Tag Archives: adventure

Last Hummingbird West of Chile by Nicholas Ruddock

What do you do when you accidentally murder the wrong man? As in: you intended to murder your lecherous, abusive master, the Earl of Amberley, and instead murder the visiting Friar? Ooops! Clovis, a young chambermaid, and Miss Albertson, the housekeeper, resolve to murder the Earl upon seeing his despicable behaviour toward the birth of his children: prizing and glorifying his stillborn firstborn son, and ignoring his two living children, Catherine and Andrew. However, they accidentally stab the wrong man to death – and manage to hide the evidence. But nineteen years later, they bear witness to the problems their accidental murder of the wrong man: Catherine is set to be married to a conniving, manipulative man who doesn’t love her, and Andrew dramatically rejects his inheritance and runs away.

“Without a doubt, Last Hummingbird West of Chile was one of the best books I’ve read this year.”

And thus begins Last Hummingbird West of Chile by Nicholas Ruddock. A round-the-world adventure, following Andrew after his departure from the family manor, and Catherine, after her unhappy marriage, Ruddock takes a step back from his main characters and tells their stories through the viewpoints of everyone around them: Clovis, Miss Albertson; Gerald Egerton, Catherine’s husband; Jaimia, Andrew’s eventual wife; Razak the Navigator, who crosses paths with Andrew, and the world around them: the story is also told from the viewpoint of a white oak who was cut down and used to build the ship Andrew runs away on; the island he ends up shipwrecked on; Zephyrax, a hummingbird whose flock decides to try a new flight path to new lands and ends up travelling with Andrew; and many more.

A #ReadAtlantic book!

The viewpoints change throughout the story, introducing new characters and lands, as well as letting some viewpoints come to their end when they no longer serve the narrative anymore. I loved this method of storytelling. The framing of the narrative this way provides a richer story, and the structure of it becomes the narrative itself.

This is also a nod to the epic adventure novel, with a glorious if arduous journey across the world, and a ragtag team of adventurers. However, Ruddock enriches the story with discussions of colonialism, race, slavery and indentured work, and gender roles. There’s a lot happening in this novel, but it never feels overwhelming: Ruddock skillfully rotates the cast of viewpoints, never overwhelming us with characters all at once, and moving settings with ease and equal colour to each part of the journey. I was spellbound throughout the novel, eager to know what was going to happen not only to Andrew and Catherine, but the white oak, Zephyrax, the pigs on Jaimia’s island, Alma McWhirter, Andrew’s boss’ wife in Singapore, and even the donkey they take up for a short period in Egypt. Each viewpoint, no matter how major the character was or how long they lasted in the novel, had a strong, unique voice, and added another layer to the story.

Without a doubt, Last Hummingbird West of Chile was one of the best books I’ve read this year. It was absolutely delightful, and I was gripped to the very last line (which came too soon).

A Miramichi Reader “Best Fiction of 2021” choice!


About the Author

Nicholas Ruddock is a Canadian physician and writer. He has won numerous international prizes and was shortlisted for the Moth International Poetry Award (Ireland) in 2020. His first novel, The Parabolist (2010), was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award and the Arthur Ellis Award. His second novel, Night Ambulance (2016), was a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist. Nicholas has been published in numerous international publications in Canada, England, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Breakwater Books (June 15 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 312 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1550818848
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1550818840

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Park Bagger by Marlis Butcher

The year was 2008; BC’s sesquicentennial. A noteworthy year. You may recall we were in the midst of a global financial crisis. Hedge funds were losing money, investment bankers were forced to buy suits off the rack, and financiers were throwing themselves in front of subway trains (devastated, no doubt, by their ill-fitting suits).

It was a dismal and terrifying time. Of course, I was too young to remember most of this, being barely forty at the time, but I read of it in the news. Meanwhile, as our savings plummeted along with the rest of the world, we chose to make the most of it, turn out frowns upside down and see our rose-coloured drinking glasses as full-on half-full.

In conjunction with our provincial anniversary celebration, we embraced fiscally responsible staycations, and decided to more thoroughly explore our beautiful province. No Mayan Riviera for us; no sir! Let’s explore our provincial back yard, we said, or something similar to that, and having loaded our compact SUV with gear, we took to the open road.

Once more we fell in love with our province, exploring pristine parks on Vancouver Island, the mainland coast, and across the southern interior. We spent half the year camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and reading local authors as we “discovered” BC’s scenic nooks and crannies, many new to us, each one a gem.

So, it was with a blend of enthusiasm and whiff of nostalgia that I dove into an advance reader copy* of Marlis Butcher’s Park Bagger (RMB April 2021), her first-hand account of “bagging”—exploring and experiencing—all of Canada’s national parks, a remarkable feat for any outdoor enthusiast. As you may be aware, we live in an awfully large country, with a vast and inspiring collection of national parks.

“This book not only serves as a motivating planning tool but quite simply [as] an armchair escape…”

From Park Bagger’s preface: “Falling down mountainsides, being pinned to cliff faces by driving sleet, paddling kayaks through giant whitewater, ricocheting a canoe through deep canyons, and being clotheslined off a mountain bike in a dense forest are some of the consequences of exploring the farthest reaches of Canada’s wilderness. But there are also much larger rewards to be experienced, such as the pleasures of strolling through dreamy woodlands, contemplating life while paddling on calm waters, and meditating in the Arctic under the midnight sun. Then there are adventures that can be both daunting and awe-inspiring, like encounters with bears, bison, and butterflies. The promise of these experiences is what pushes me to explore Canada’s national parks and discover my country.”

I found this book both timeless and remarkably timely, as we travellers will begin once more to emerge like springtime groundhogs, planning excursions domestically for the foreseeable future. This book not only serves as a motivating planning tool but quite simply an armchair escape, for the land-locked, locked-down peripatetic in all of us—a wonderful way to fuel dreams of getting outdoors and exploring this wonderful, flawed country I’m perennially proud of. And if we can enjoy even part of it with a judiciously managed footprint, well, even better. If you’d like to experience the Canadian outdoors in a unique way, Marlis Butcher’s Park Bagger can help facilitate that, transporting readers through this country’s beauty, with this engaging memoir and reference book for nature lovers and travellers alike.

*Park Bagger will be released on April 27, 2021.


Marlis Butcher grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, but discovered a love for the outdoors early in life. Whether camping with the Girl Guides or volunteering to shovel snow, she strived to get outside. Her head for maths, however, led her into a career in Toronto’s major financial institutions. During those 30 years, Marlis used her vacations to follow her heart. She travelled the world, exploring the wild places of Canada and the curiosities on every continent. Along the way, she took outdoor skills and wilderness survival courses. As friends and colleagues asked her to share her unusual stories, she started writing, and embarked on a new career. Her detailed travel journals and photography became the basis for several published magazine articles, and caught the attention of The ExplorersClub and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in both of which she’s been honoured with membership. Marlis lives in Burlington, Ontario.

  • Title: Park Bagger: Adventures in the Canadian National Parks
  • Author: Marlis Butcher
  • Publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books (Heritage Group of Publishers)
  • ISBN: 9781771604789
  • Pages: 448

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Tunnels of Time – Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #1 by Mary Harelkin Bishop

This classic Canadian young reader’s book has been updated (it was originally published in 2000) with illustrations, new dialogue, shorter chapters and new resources, such as Historical Notes, Ask the Author and Questions for Discussion. Tunnels of Time combines adventure and history to create a fascinating read, even for this mature reader!

The story is that of Andrea Talbot, a thirteen-year-old girl who reluctantly accompanies her family to her cousin’s wedding rehearsal party in the basement banquet room of the Four Star Cafe in downtown Moose Jaw. It is there that she and the other guests are told the story of the famous tunnels under Moose Jaw that were used by gangsters in the days of Prohibition in the U.S to run illegal liquor south of the border. Andrea, in a moment of excitement, runs into the tunnel opening and runs right into a mirror, knocking herself out cold. When she “wakes up” she finds herself transported back in time to the 1920s. She meets a boy named Vance who mistakes Andrea for a boy (because of her 21st-century short hairstyle) and recruits her to run the tunnels for various Moose Jaw undesirables.

Along the way, she encounters characters such as Big Al (Scarface), his girl Rosie, Vance’s little sister Beanie and others. She learns some life lessons in the few short hours she is in the tunnels, too. Trust, friendship and respect for those who love you and doing right by them as well.

Andrea felt as if she was being torn in two. She owed Ol’ Scarface her loyalty and help, didn’t she? After all, he had been a friend to her, no matter what Vance thought. Big Al hadn’t gotten angry, even when she’d screamed so loudly in his ear. And yet he was a criminal and he had hurt both her and Vance. On top of everything else, he was willing to throw Vance over, making Andrea his new best tunnel boy. Her mind teetered back and forth, thoughts racing. 

Oh, what to do! Nothing was clear anymore. Doing right and wrong seemed all mixed up in her mind. Should she wait for Vance or run and let Big Al know that there was about to be a raid and he was the number one target? Or should she just pretend that she had never overheard that particular conversation and let him get captured? These thoughts and many more bombarded her brain, giving her a sudden and intense headache.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a fun and fast-paced read for me. It was interesting to learn more about Moose Jaw and the tunnels that are there to this day. The characters are well-written and the scattered illustrations by Wendi Nordell add to the story. Recommended for young middle-grade readers and their parents, too!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mary Harelkin Bishop has been a writer since she was nine years old. She cannot imagine her life without writing. She is an award-winning author of several best-selling books, including this updated and revised version of her first published book, Tunnels of Time. Her other books in addition to this Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure series are Skye Bird and the Eagle FeatherMistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing StoneSeeds of Hope: A Prairie StoryGina’s Wheels; and Moving Forward: The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje. Mary has been a teacher, a teacher-librarian, and an educational/ instructional consultant with Saskatoon Public Schools and has spent more than half her career working in core neighbourhood schools. Mary considers herself a Prairie person and loves writing about the Canadian Prairies and its strong, resilient people with their exciting and unique stories. She loves working with young people on their own writing and offers many workshops and writing experiences. Her favourite thing, though, is playing with her grandchildren.


  • Publisher : DriverWorks Ink (September 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B08L74BKBS
  • Perfect Paperback : 224 pages

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Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson By Mark Bourrie

Mark Bourrie has written a classic Canadian historical biography. The best-selling author, and award-winning journalist, lays bare the mottled myths of colonial settlement. He weaves a compelling, sometimes lurid, but always enlightening narrative of the legendary adventurer, scoundrel, Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Bush Runner chronicles Radisson’s adventures from exploiting the expanding fur trade to finagling European imperial military ambitions to his own advantage in the 17th century Americas.

Bush Runner is a national best-seller, made the Globe & Mail’s 100 Books that shaped the 2019 list, and last month gleaned $30,000 with the prestigious RBC Taylor Prize for excellence in literary non-fiction. But that’s not the only reason to read the book– read it because Radisson is, as Bourrie says in the introduction, “the Forrest Gump of his time. He’s everywhere. And because he could read and write, he managed to tell us about it.”

“Radisson was no hero. He was, at best, an eager hustler with no known scruples.”

Mark Bourrie
Pierre-Esprit Radisson is a fearless opportunist who strives to breach the bonds of class while exploiting every opening for personal gain and glory. If reincarnated today, I suspect he would insinuate himself into Silicon Valley or Wall Street. At the same time, he would likely sell, barter, and steal his way to fortune, fame, and public approbation.

“Radisson was no hero. He was, at best, an eager hustler with no known scruples,” notes Bourrie. A beguiling anti-hero, imagine a cross between Kevin Costner’s Lt. Dunbar in Dances with Wolves and Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pierre-Esprit arrives in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1651, as a fifteen-year-old, only to be kidnapped and adopted by a powerful Mohawk family in upstate New York. He escapes, is recaptured, and forced to run the gauntlet as punishment. He flees a second time, and with the help of an Algonquin prisoner, murders his hunting companions. He captured again within sight of his home fort in Trois Rivieres. This time he not only endures a brutal gauntlet but is ritually tortured by the slow removal of fingernails, a scorched thumb, and pierced foot. Despite Pierre-Esprit’s repeated betrayal, his adopted Mohawk family protects, ransoms, and even forgives him. He re-assimilates to the community. Bourrie’s empathy and intercultural competence manifest in his depiction of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee). He is empathetic for First Nations cultural mores, ceremonies, and warfare. Especially when compared to European atrocities, like the fate of Braveheart, William Wallace. The author offers an unbiased perspective on Indigenous peoples when compared to popular histories written by terrified soldiers and Jesuits or from colonial settler perspectives.

His third escape, abetted by Dutch colonists and aided by Jesuit networks, succeeds. He returns to France, yet unbowed returns to New France on the first available ship. Radisson endures and thrives in the company of coureur-des-bois at fur-trading outposts, conniving priests in Jesuit missions, and the royal courts of Paris and London. He double-crosses almost everyone he deals with from the French, English, and Dutch to his generous and forgiving adoptive Mohawk clan.

Yet, Radisson, the 17th-century French fur trader, adventurer, and raconteur, had nothing to do with founding the eponymous international hotel chain. After a couple of chapters, it becomes clear that he was never temperamentally suited to the duties of a hotelier. No chocolates on the pillowcase, but cold-blooded murder, gun-running, and cannibalism are on the menu. He would, along with his brother-in-law, Médard Chouart des Groseilliers, press forth against all the odds to found the Hudson’s Bay Company, the oldest corporation in the English-speaking world. Imperial credit, denied in their lifetimes, would come later as written records surfaced, and social-class barriers receded.

He goes on to bear witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire, at a time when French Catholics and foreigners were easy scapegoats for angry and long-suffering local mobs. Radisson, marooned by Dutch pirates on the coast of Spain, survives only to shipwreck on the rocky reefs of Venezuela. His treasure chest and life-saving were not as fortunate.

Radisson ends up in England, eking out his final years on a lowly Hudson’s Bay pension. He lived for about seventy-four years. “A ripe old age at the time.”

As Bourrie notes in the introduction: “Lies, murder and plunders aside…Radisson [was] a brave man who must have been a tremendous dinner companion, as long as you weren’t on the menu.”


Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson  By Mark Bourrie
Biblioasis Books

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Like Rum-Drunk Angels by Tyler Enfield

New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions has been branching out to include fiction titles from authors living outside the Atlantic provinces, it seems. The most recent one that I reviewed was Daughters of Silence by Toronto author Rebeccah Fesseha. Like Rum-Drunk Angels, is a novel by a Californian now living in Edmonton, Tyler Enfield. This is his second novel the first being the award-winning Madder Carmine. LRDA is one of those books I find difficult to review, for it is not easily pigeon-holed into any specific category, or genre even. Yes, it is a Western-style novel, taking place in the mid-1880s in Arizona and California. The west is still wild in places, but more settled too and Mr. Enfield shows us both sides as the Blackstone Temple Gang travel from Nowhere, Arizona to Chesterville, California to rob the bank there. But it is more complex than that, with a dash of Homeric Odyssey as Francis makes the year-long round-trip home, questioning what fates await him there.

No Horse Opera

LRDA is also more complex than a simple western outlaw gang horse opera. The prime antagonists, Bob Temple, the older, wiser outlaw and Francis Blackstone, a fourteen-year-old idealistic young man (“He is a boy after all, which makes him something of a god, for he can still make anything in the world happen in his head.”) have their deeper side which gets explored throughout their one-year expedition to the west coast, robbing trains along the way, staying ahead of the law and a rival gang headed up by a vengeful woman (the widow of the former leader). There are time-outs for existential musings, dreams, mystical encounters, an enchanted lamp, lots of dynamite, an orphaned child, and primarily, Francis’ love for the daughter of the Governor for whom he needs money in order to even ask for her hand in marriage. Francis doesn’t even know her name, but it doesn’t matter to him. He knows, just knows, that she is the one for him.

There is plenty of humour and the whole year-long escapade takes on a dream-like aspect as in the anything-can-happen, even the impossible —which does.

The book’s title is a little misleading, for the gang is rarely ever drunk (there was a mushroom incident, once), but when it comes to robbing trains, the public considers them angelic for their good manners and politeness. There is just something about Francis that causes people to like him and be nice to him, willingly handing over all their money and jewels. Their robberies even take on mythical proportions as folks are expectant of seeing the gang at some point in their travels. There is plenty of humour and the whole year-long escapade takes on a dream-like aspect as in the anything-can-happen, even the impossible — which does. (“They were exuberant and naive. They were visionary.”) The reader becomes immersed in the tale, as Alice did in her Wonderland, meeting all sorts of characters, many offering Francis deep psychological advice, such as the owner of an armoury where Francis is looking to exchange his father’s heavy Schofield revolver for something lighter, in this case, a Cooper Pocket Double Action Revolver:

One Such Moment

“I believe you will be happy with this purchase,” says the proprietor.

“I believe I will,” says Francis.

“Shall I box it up, or will the empty holster suffice?”

“I think the holster is begging for it.”

Francis slips the Cooper home and it’s a perfect fit; every joint, every bone in his body, all of it now in proper arrangement.

“If I may be so bold,” says the proprietor.

“You may,” says Francis, retrieving the Cooper from its holster and gazing at it in unabashed admiration. That tickling breeze goes all through his body like never before.

“Then I will speak my mind,” says the proprietor, “the contents of which arise first from my heart. You are a young man. You are daring. You are looking to make your mark and your fortune.”

“Make a girl, actually. But my fortune’s a key step along  the way.”

“Well then, many a gentleman has made his fortune on a Cooper. You are now well positioned, shall we say?”

“All right. Your point?”

“It is this. Being young, it may be some years before you realize the windows of fortune do not open or close upon a man’s life according to his desires but something larger.”

“All right.”

“Only in ignorance does man draw this conclusion or that, reducing what’s larger to the designs of personal fancy. Which is to say everything happens for a reason, yes. but only a fool supposes the cause.”

“I’ve learned that one.”

“Then you’re further along than I surmised, I’ll add only this. All moments are not equal. Some are cut from different cloth altogether and have the strength to define a gentleman and his fortune and I believe, young sir, this before us is one such moment.”

“I believe you are right.”

“I feel it in my spine.”

“l do as well.”

“I’ll ask you to remember this shop. My name is Von Stedt. When they ask you later you tell them it was here. It was Von Stedt who sold you the Cooper.”

Francis says he will.

Conclusion

Flipping back through my earmarked pages of LRDA, I realize how many startingly good reading moments such as the above are contained in the 440 pages of this novel. It combines all the best of any adventure story, there’s action, there’s story twists, certainly heaps of clever dialogue and many amiable characters. And of course, a love story. There are a few f-bombs, but otherwise, a reasonable read for a mature teen. Simply put, Like Rum-Drunk Angels is one of the best novels I’ve read so far in 2019/2020. It is added to “The Very Best!” Book Awards‘ 2020 longlist for Best Fiction. 5 stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

About the author: Tyler Enfield is a writer, photographer, and film director from Edmonton, AB. He is the author of Madder Carmine and three young adult novels, the winner of the High Plains Book Award and a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Award. His film Invisible World, produced by the NFB and co-written with Madeleine Thien, is the winner of three Alberta Screen awards, including best director.

  • ISBN-10 : 1773101307
  • Paperback : 440 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1773101309
  • Publisher : Goose Lane Editions (March 3 2020)

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This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

On the Edge by Lesley Strutt

A MacGregor boat at anchor. (From https://macgregorsailboats.com/)

Ontario author Lesley Strutt’s novel On the Edge is part of Inanna Publication’s Young Feminist Series, and is an adventurous read for all ages, especially for those who like sailing stories. Fourteen-year-old Emma (short for Emerald) is living an overly-restrictive life on her Aunt and Uncle’s farm near Kingston, Ontario. For mysterious reasons. her mother handed over care of her to them when Emma was only a little girl. Her only reprieve from her confines is when she gets to have a little time with an older woman named Jess, who owns The Edge, a 25-foot MacGregor sailboat. Emma appears to be a natural sailor as they cruise Lake Ontario. One day, the elderly Jess passes away, and Emma finds out to her disbelief that The Edge is now hers, along with a substantial amount of money in a trust fund. Her Aunt Petra is not pleased with this news and is determined to sell the boat, although legally she cannot. This doesn’t stop her from listing it as “for sale” and when Emma discovers the advertisement, she escapes the farmhouse and makes tracks for The Edge. She has heard that her mother may be in the Bahamas and is determined to sail there on her own to find her. Along her journey though, she feels that she is being watched. She gets strange notes and even has her anchor cut at one point. Other times, she is alerted to a disaster before she crashes on the rocks. There are a few mysteries to be solved as she sails The Edge single-handed from one map point to another.

On the Edge is a novel of a young person determined to take matters into their own hands to find out the truth, solve some family mysteries and to discover her birth parents. Set on a sailboat, Emma’s journey of discovery does not take place by land-based research and combing through birth records but begins on crossing Lake Ontario, entering a foreign country (illegally) navigating the interconnecting canal system and locks in upstate New York as well as open sailing off the east coast of the U.S. and then around the Bahamas. In this regard, the book is a bit of a travelogue, and educational as well about the historic lock system and of sailing in general (the MacGregor boats are equipped with a motor for navigating the locks and rivers). While Inanna Publications considers this a feminist novel, Emma still has to prove her worth to men and has to disguise herself as a boy for parts of her journey to lessen any suspicion of a young girl sailing on her own. A reflector of the real world, one supposes, where a woman’s worth needs to be constantly proved (or is questioned), while that of a man’s worth (in many cases) is taken for granted. At any rate, I quite enjoyed reading On the Edge and I recommend it for all young adult readers and sailing aficionados.

On the Edge by Lesly Strutt
Inanna Publications

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The Great Divide by Conor McCarthy

Remember the great fascination with Bigfoot/Sasquatch back in the 1970s and 80s? It seemed to die down pretty quickly, and we’ve all but forgotten about the mythical reclusive beasts living in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the northeastern U.S.

Ottawa-based author Conor McCarthy’s self-published debut novel cleverly resurrects the Sasquatch (or in their language, Mm’tor) idea and puts them (yes, there are more than one) squarely in a story about survival, wilderness exploitation, property development and environmental issues, so that there’s more to this adventure-thriller than meets the eye.

Barry Bloburne is a high-stakes property developer that wants a ski resort built in a pristine section of the Canadian Rockies. And what Barry wants he gets, and not always legally. GreenBand, an environmental group is out to make sure that the wilderness and the wildlife are respected. Barry has no time for them. His specious argument is that wilderness this beautiful should be accessible so that others can enjoy it. Nevermind the fact that only those with large incomes will be able to afford to stay at the resort once it is built. “I know what I’m doing. I’m taking harsh, indifferent Nature, putting a bridle on her and providing kickass ski vacation opportunities for those who can afford it” Barry tells his old girlfriend Kelly.

One day, Barry is out for a drive in his Lexus SUV when he gets out to admire the scenery on from a little-used road. After getting out he automatically locks the doors, then loses his keys in the deep snow. As night sets in, he has to break his car’s window to get into the backseat to try and keep warm until someone comes along. Next thing he knows, he has awoken in a den or cave by a fire with other humans. He is told by Marta that Mm’tor (or Motorman as he is known to them) has rescued Barry from freezing to death. The others have been similarly saved. Motorman keeps them captive by blocking the mouth of the den with boulders. For two months, Barry is Motorman’s guest, but as spring begins to thaw the snow, he is able to effect an escape by digging out, along with Marta and two others. Barry returns to civilization but keeps his story secret to avoid any questions of his sanity amongst his team of engineers and staff. The resort construction goes ahead as planned, but somehow Barry’s encounter with a Sasquatch gets leaked out and comes to the attention of Spencer Lam a wealthy Asian who wants to capture one of the beasts and put it in a Zoo. Barry finds himself a victim of blackmail and must lead Mr. Lam to the Motorman’s lair.

When I was halfway through this book, I still wasn’t sure what direction The Great Divide was going to go in, and I sure didn’t expect the climactic ending deep in the Rockies. I was particularly fascinated by the day-to-day operations of the resort’s construction and the encounters with the environmentalists, whom Barry loathes.

Aside from being a great read, The Great Divide is a commentary on who gets to enjoy nature. Should we necessarily have an “all-access” pass to every part of it? Are environmentalists (particularly activist ones) always in the right? This is an extremely well-written novel, and apart from heaps of f-bombs and adult <ahem> situations, I truly enjoyed reading this book. A Miramichi Reader “Pick”! (Picks are awarded to exceptional self-published and/or internationally published books by authors outside Canada.)

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This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Sea Change: A Man, A Boat, A Journey Home by Maxwell Taylor Kennedy

I am a landlubber, but I love all things maritime whether it is naval ships, submarines, or the days of wood and sail. It started with Joseph Conrad’s sea stories and carried on through those of James Fenimore Cooper and C.S. Forster. Then there were the classic true-life sailing experiences of Richard Dana Jr. in Two Years Before the Mast and Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World through which I lived a vicarious life on the sea. While I have been on a small sailing craft (on Lake Ontario), I have never actually been on any type of craft on the ocean. I’m really an armchair adventurer, so I’m often on the lookout for books that take me to different places and put me in situations that I’ll likely never encounter.

Schooner Valkyrien in better days.

Sea Change (2018, Islandport Press) is such a book. Maxwell Taylor Kennedy is, amongst a host of other things, an accomplished sailor, particularly on the waters around Cape Cod. He is on the board of the Pearl Coalition, a Washington DC non-profit group dedicated to memorializing the schooner Pearl, on which 77 African-American men, women, and children were trying to escape slavery in 1848. Mr. Kennedy wanted to find an existing schooner similar to the Pearl, to bring to Washington as a museum ship. He found a similar schooner in a very dilapidated, but salvageable condition in California, the Valkyrien. It was his dream to sail her from California to Washington DC via the Panama Canal.

“I loved everything about her. and the historic beauty of her hull and hardware blinded me to the rot that had settled in. Pieces of the cabin top came loose in my hand, the wood disintegrating into broken particles and a fine dust. I noted, but dismissed her flaws. She seemed seaworthy enough to make the voyage, and most of the defects could be taken care of along the way. […] Just then, I looked up and saw two black crows sitting on Valkyrien’s spreaders, cawing. another warning sign. It’s an old sailor’s superstition that a crow on a boat in port is a bad sign. I thought to myself, turn around right now. Leave this boat.”

How many times throughout the voyage south from San Francisco to the Panama Canal did Mr. Kennedy wish he had never set sights on the Valkyrien? Almost every nautical mile it appeared, for there was always something that went wrong with the vessel. There were other warning signs too: hired local men would refuse to set foot upon the boat; they sensed something ominous about her. There were several times when the author came close to losing his life, and once, the life of his teen son Maxey that joined him for part of the cruise. In writing about that time, he reflects:

“Now, though, sometimes at night, just before I fall asleep, I think of Maxey struggling on the end of the bowsprit to save a decrepit boat, and my body shudders. I fear the side of me that forced him.”

There are many such ‘do or die’ moments aboard the Valkyrien. There is stinking, fetid bilge water to get rid of, irate Costa Rican Coast Guard sailors with guns, storms, rocky coastlines, failing engines and even pirates to deal with. Thousands of repairs. The allocated funds begin to fly away at alarming speeds. Still, Mr. Kennedy is maniacally driven to get to Panama where decent shipyards are available to get the needed repairs done for the second leg of the journey north to Washington DC. He later tells us:

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy

“. . . this book is not so much about the attempted salvage of a decrepit schooner as it is one man’s attempt to come to terms with personal demons through the challenges of an ocean voyage.”

I’m not so sure about personal demons, for Mr. Kennedy is a fairly well-grounded person (he is the ninth child of the late Robert F. Kennedy) with a loving, supportive family. I believe the demons were already waiting aboard the Valkyrie (recall the crows) and would have been visited upon anyone trying to sail her out of that lonely berth in California. The voyage, however, brought out the best – and sometimes the worst – in Mr. Kennedy, but as he mentions in the book, he prefers to face danger head-on rather than dwell on any imagined fear that might grieve him.

[related-post id=”12327″]

Sea Change is a riveting sailing story, deeply thoughtful and startlingly honest in the telling. Here is a man that can take control of any situation at sea, and the outcome, while not always pretty, was one that at the very least spared your life. Whether you read this book for pure escapism or to satisfy a nautical interest, as a sailor or a landlubber, Sea Change will richly reward the attention of any reader of true adventure.

“This is a daring story of perseverance, desperation, self-enlightenment and humility. A man, a boat, a dream of the sea. This is the story of a mariner and love.”
––Captain Keith Colburn, F/V Wizard, as seen on Deadliest Catch

Sea Change: A Man, A Boat, A Journey Home by Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
Islandport Press

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2LfdqbR Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Islandport Press

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Arrow’s Flight by Joel Scott

In Joseph Conrad’s autobiographical short story Youth, we are introduced to Marlowe, who upon initially sighting the ship he is to join in his first commision wistfully states:

“There was a touch of romance in it, something that made me love the old thing – something that appealed to my youth!”

Similarly, when Arrow’s Flight protagonist Jared Kane sights the wooden ketch Arrow for the first time:

“She was laying into the sunset and seemed to float in a coppery sea of light, her tall amber masts suspended above her. Sometimes that first impression colours everything that follows and so it was with me and Arrow.”

A ketch, similar to Arrow.

Arrow’s Flight (2018, ECW Press) by Joel Scott is an adventure story worthy of the master himself. I also wondered if the Conrad connection even went as far as the boat’s name Arrow (from Conrad’s novel Arrow of Gold, about – among other things – arms smuggling by boat). There is yet another Conrad similarity, this time regarding the author, Joel Scott. Like Conrad, he came from a landlocked area (the Canadian Prairies) and became familiar with sailing. His bio says he worked as a fisherman, and as a yacht broker. No doubt this enabled him to put various touches of authenticity into the story, like the numerous fishing pursuits available on the West Coast, the myriad details of the Arrow and other pleasure craft that appear throughout the book.

Jared’s Story

Jared Kane was tragically orphaned at a young age and raised by loveless and strict Christian grandparents until he was old enough to leave their farm. Since then, he spent time in the fishing industry, crewed on a yacht and spent 2 years in jail on a trumped-up assault charge. As the book begins, Jared is back in the city after another fishing season has ended. He finds in his mail a letter from a lawyer informing him that he is being bequeathed the Arrow by his old friend Bill Calder who has just passed away from cancer. His widow, Meg hopes that the Arrow will “be the catalyst” that will help Jared break free of his personal history and “move beyond it.” Jared lovingly restores the parts of Arrow that time has taken its toll on and he lives aboard her.

“I lay on the bed a long time [….] thinking about the past and how it all wove into the present: it had all started on a sailboat and now a sailboat was giving me a chance to make a fresh beginning, to wipe away the old mistakes and bitterness and move on, and I swore I would not foul up this time no matter what. I should have known better.”

His immediate plan is for him and his friend Danny to take a trip down the coast to Mexico. Danny is reluctant for his fishing season was not so financially productive. Jared tells him not to worry, for he had a good season and he and Danny can pick up odd jobs as they cruise southward. Danny agrees and a departure date is set. Jared reflects:

“I congratulated myself on how quickly it was all coming together. It all fell apart even more quickly.”

The last sentences of both quotes above (“I should have known better” and “It all fell apart even more quickly”) foreshadow that for Jared, his old way of life hovers over him and hampers any positive changes he wishes to make. Danny, wanting to get quick money to pay his end of expenses for the Mexico trip, uncharacteristically gets involved in a smash and grab that lands him in the hospital, being left for dead by his two accomplices. Jared, feeling that he is partially responsible for Danny’s impetuous action, tries to get Danny a lighter sentence by helping the police arrest the ones who left Danny for dead, the drug dealing Lebel brothers, from Quebec. This is the jumping off point of the novel, and it occurs less than 90 pages in.

The Crew

Aside from Jared, the other characters in Jared’s circle are quite likeable as well: Annie, a Haida who is like a mother to Jared, and her youngest son Danny MacLean, who is part Haida, part Scot; large, strong and a good worker. Annie’s father Joseph is a Haida Elder and shaman is quite old (“somewhere close to ninety”) and only speaks in old Haida dialects, soft, low and with a “murmur of sibilance.” He appears to understand English when spoken to, however. A unique character, he is still youthful at heart, coming and going when he wants, and wherever he wishes. He appears to be a type of talisman, a touchstone for an earlier age of wisdom and sagacity. He is also Raven clan (Raven was a trickster), which is advantageous for Jared and Danny at times. Joseph additionally provides subtle comic relief throughout the book. While Jared and Danny are most agreeable to the reader despite their rough past, Joseph is, by far, the most likable, and it is refreshing to see a strong Indigenous character given such a central role.

The adventures really start when Jared and the others “kidnap” Danny from an ambulance and get him aboard the Arrow where Jared feels he will be safer from those out to finish him off. It appears that when Danny got involved with the Lebel brothers, he heard or saw something (which Danny can’t recall for the life of him) and now someone wants him dead, as well as Jared and Joseph since they are all together now. The three of them decide to hightail it to Mexico, but not until they load up with plenty of guns and supplies.

Conclusion

Arrow’s Flight is a riveting story which propagates even more nail-biting as the boys sail further south and escape attempts on their lives by whomever it is that is able to trace their every move. Nevertheless, there are periods, or interludes when the three actually get to enjoy themselves on their trip, meet love interests and make new friends. It serves to ease the tension (of both the characters and the reader) until the next clash with danger. Also, when alone, Danny gets to reflect on where his life has taken him.

“My life was not my own, and never had been. Not when I was a child, not when I left the prison, and never since. It seemed there was a special vengeance reserved for me and those I loved. My family taken as a child, and everything since a cruel irony. A second chance with Annie and Joseph and the family, and then the gift of Arrow, which should have changed my life but instead had led to tragedy and death for those around me.”

I can’t say enough good things about Arrow’s Flight; it’s not merely a good guys/bad guys action/adventure set on the water, but also a lesson in the fact that every action has consequences, and responsibility must be taken for the choices one has made. Another takeaway is to trust in those who love you and don’t be afraid to confide in them, for you never know when you’ll need them in a tight situation.

Consider putting Arrow’s Flight on your Summer reading list (I’m adding it to my “Summer Reads” category) and I’m also adding it to my long list for a 2018 “The Very Best!” Book Award for Fiction. 5 stars!

(Note: this review was based on an Advance Reading Copy supplied by ECW Press.)

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Joel Scott, ECW Press

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Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac by S. Douglas S. Huyghue

Set in 1755 at the fall of Fort Beausejour to the British, Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac first appeared in print in serialized form in The Amaranth (a New Brunswick literary journal) in 1842. It was very popular since “historical fiction was enjoying wide international popularity” at the time, according to Gwendolyn Davies informative Afterword. Sir Walter Scott’s novels were quite popular at the time and publishers were looking for similar writings to publish for their reader’s entertainment.

“Argimou not only reflected the social conscience and citizen engagement of its author but also reminds us of the role played by our national literature in heightening our cultural awareness of nineteenth-century Canada.”

Gwendolyn Davies
S.D.S. Huyghue was born in PEI in 1816 and lived in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at different times in his life. Argimou is notable, not only for its story set at the time of the fall of French rule in Acadia but for its sympathetic attitude towards the Mi’kmaw nation and how admirable their uncomplicated way of life was:

“…he [Edward, an English soldier] thought how little, after all, the luxury, the advantages of a civilized state of society, were capable of ameliorating the moral or physical condition of man. What benefit had art and intellectual culture, after the lapse of thousands of years, conferred upon his nation that these simple children of Nature did not receive from their mother’s hand, unsolicited?”

The story of Argimou is fairly straightforward: after the fall of Fort Beausejour, Maliseet warriors kidnap Clarence Forbes, the betrothed of Edward Molesworth, the aforementioned English soldier. Argimou, a Mi’kmaq warrior who was captured by the British at the Fort, offers to help Edward find Clarence in return for his freedom. The Maliseet also have Argimou’s love interest Waswetchcul captive. So both men work together along with Argimou’s father Pansaway to retrieve the women. What transpires is a trip from Nova Scotia through present-day southern New Brunswick to the Bay of Fundy where the story reaches its climax.

As I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of James Fenimore Cooper, a contemporary of Mr. Huyghue’s and his extremely popular Last of the Mohicans which was published in 1826, less than two decades prior to Argimou. Both stories are examples of “captivity narratives” which were popular at the time.

Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac holds a unique place in early Canadian literature, for it is certainly descriptive of a historical time, filled with historical places and was published at a time when there was a scarce availability of literature of the “homegrown” variety. It may be a simple story, but it retains a certain timelessness about it as it surfaces again (thanks to Wilfred Laurier University Press) in a time of promised healing and reconciliation toward Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Argimou: A Legend of the Micmacs by S. Douglass S. Huyghue
Wilfred Laurier University Press

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Acknowledgements: WLU Press

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Wall of War (A Drake Alexander Adventure) by Allan Hudson

Wall of War is New Brunswick author Allan Hudson’s follow-up to Dark Side of a Promise and is the second book in the Drake Alexander Series. I read Dark Side of a Promise, a copy of which was kindly provided by Mr. Hudson approximately one year ago, in December 2016.

While action-adventure novels are not typically my genre of choice, I nevertheless found it a ‘good read’ stating (at Goodreads):

“If you like action, adventure in various locales and don’t mind f-bombs, violence, sexual abuse and other disquieting themes then Dark Side of a Promise will appeal to you.”

I’m happy to say none of the above is applicable to Wall of War (aside from having action and adventure in different locales). The onus in Wall of War is more on intrigue and action than it is on the evil that men do.

This review is based on the Kindle eBook which I purchased from Amazon.ca.

With Wall of War, you have an excellent story that doesn’t get bogged down at any point and keeps the reader turning page after page. 

A Good Start

The introductory chapter of Wall of War, “1953” had me so captivated from the beginning that I don’t think I exhaled until the last full stop. Mr. Hudson has done an admirable job of tightening up the script, omitting a lot of needless details about various types of boats, planes, communication systems and weapons that the casual reader might find bothersome. (However, if you are a globetrotting mercenary or imagine being one, then you’ll appreciate the details he does provide!)

The Basics

Drake Alexander’s world is the stuff of Hollywood movies: personally wealthy, wealthy friends, beautiful women (who know how to kill, too), cars, planes and boats and a supportive cast of fellow mercenaries (they unite to bring global criminals to justice). Drake divides his time between Massachusetts (where he was born), New Brunswick, and his friend’s huge yacht belonging to lawyer, communications expert and high school chum Williston Payne. Living at Drakes’ palatial Cocagne, New Brunswick home is the Pisconte family: Luis, who is mechanically inclined and his wife Jemina, the house manager who is like a mother to Drake, although she is only eight years older than he is. They are a family that Drake’s father rescued from a life of poverty in Peru in return for an act of kindness that Luis performed for the senior Drake many years ago. Their son Miguel has become a priest and is currently officiating at a small parish in Peru. The Piscontes are like family to Drake; he has grown up with them and loves them unreservedly.

The Plot

Miguel, while doing some renovation work of the church finds some parchments and a gold Incan dagger concealed in the ceiling. They were put there in 1953 by Father Suetonius Graft who discovered a huge Incan carving in a rock cave while scaling a mountainside in the Andes:

He brings the beam back to the wall in front of him. When he moves it up, he steps back, eyes wide in shock at what he sees. Even through the dust of ages, through the fine patina that masks the surface, he can detect, carved ornately into the facade of the flat wall, a huge warrior with battle axe raised above his head. Fine detail riddles the helmet fitted on his head. The figure stands with a fractured shield, armour dressing his lower limbs. One leg is raised, with a sandaled foot resting on a fallen foe. The body of the fighter’s enemy lies at his feet, the severed head close by. Father Graft wheezes into the gloom, “It’s a wall of war.”

However, Father Graft died in a car accident before anybody knew about the treasure. Fast forward now to the year 2004. Miguel tells Teodoro Delapaz, a novice priest with a sketchy past and an avaricious nature about the find. Eager to please his like-minded mother, he tells her, although sworn to secrecy by Miguel. Teodoro’s mother needs the money to pay off a large debt she owes to an elegant, well-attired but shady character by the name of Turi Salcedo. Turmoil and intrigue ensue and Miguel is on the run, for he has possession of the parchments which tell the general location of the find. He manages to call Drake who quickly organizes a manhunt before Turi and his henchmen can find Miguel.

Conclusion

That’s all I can tell you without getting into “spoilers”! What I can tell you that with Wall of War, you have an excellent story that doesn’t get bogged down at any point and keeps the reader turning page after page. The action takes place almost exclusively in Peru, so there’s no continent-jumping and forgetting who is where and so on. Wall of War is a taut, intriguing, action-filled adventure novel perfect for long winter nights (or summer beach reading). Mr. Hudson has set the bar high for himself if a third installment in the Drake Alexander series is planned. Four stars at Goodreads.

Wall of War by Allan Hudson
South Branch Scribbler (Publisher)

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James Fisher

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Harbinger: Book 1 of Northern Fire by Ian H. McKinley

New Brunswick’s resident writer of fantastic realism, Ian H. McKinley, has just released Harbinger, Book 1 of his Northern Fire series. It is firmly rooted in Nordic myth and legend, a time of swords, spears, axes, bow and arrow and fearless sea raiders that pillage enemy villages along the coasts and fjords of the Northlands.

“Mr McKinley’s writing style is solid and detailed, yet pleasurable to read. He has concocted a mythopoeic story of the first rank in Harbinger.” 

Four Children of Destiny

Four children are born in the village on Darknight (the winter solstice) marking them as special and destined for greatness, according to the villagers and seers among them. Harbinger (which is the name given to an unusual sword found by one of the children) traces the lives of the four (Lars, Thay, Cairn and Lora) as they grow, learning the ways of the village and the wills of the various gods they worship. Alll learn to handle the various weapons of the day for the village being on the coast could be at the mercy of the Sea Wolves without warning. The Sea Wolves are a little bit pirate, a little bit coast guard in that while they may give protection to a village that provides them with supplies and young men to train, they raid enemy villages and cart off spoil and men to serve as slaves at the oars.

When the four become of age they are given to the Sea Wolves by their parents (some of whom are former Sea Wolves themselves) to train and to become better Fjordlanders. While the Sea Wolves are off on a raiding expedition, the four are left behind to guard the three boats. The raid goes terribly awry and a lone survivor makes it back to the four instructing them to set fire to the boats and escape for their lives:

Lars clenched his teeth, heaved in a deep breath, nodded and hissed, “Aye, I’ll light a northern fire.” An odd look crossed Lora’s face and she said, “It’ll set the world ablaze.”

The four escape in the remaining boat and this is the true start of the adventures to follow as the sea takes them far from home and brings them ashore in a place they had only ever heard of, trying to survive as strangers in a strange land with varying customs, language and a healthy fear of the “Thorn People” as Fjordlanders are known as in these parts. Their fortunes improve somewhat when they come across the outcast Elkor, a bitter and disfigured man falsely labelled by the ignorant populace as a necromancer.

Conclusion

I truly enjoyed reading this book, and while I am not a fan of the wizards and warriors type of fantasy, Harbinger is closer to reality, aside from the place names which are realistic enough in their own right. Mr McKinley’s writing style is solid and detailed, yet pleasurable to read. He has concocted a mythopoeic story of the first rank and one that will have you highly anticipating Book 2 of Northern Fire: The Winter Wars, due in November 2017.

You can purchase copies of Ian’s books directly from his website, which also has coloured maps of the imaginary countries of Harbinger: http://northernfire.net/

Here is the official trailer for Harbinger:

Ian is a career diplomat with Global Affairs Canada who has served abroad in Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and at the Canadian Mission to the U.N. in New York. He speaks English, French, and Spanish, and can say hello in Shona and Swahili. Ian is a proud member of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick (wfnb.ca) and the Sunburst Award Society that promotes Canadian literature of the fantastic (sunburstaward.org). Ian was named a Prélude “Emerging Writer” at Frye Festival 2016. His previous book is The Gallows Gem of Prallyn.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Full Speed Ahead: Errol’s Bell Island Adventure by Sheilah Lukins

This is the story of a young mouse named Errol who takes a ride on a ferry and visits the mines of Bell Island. Errol’s best friend, Old Rat, has told him wonderful stories about how the mice and rats first came to Newfoundland as stowaways on the big sailing ships. Errol longs to have his own adventure but his parents are unhappy when he strays too far from their garbage box home. Errol, however, is a mouse on a mission and early one summer morning, he decides to follow his dream. A tale of narrow escapes and dogged determination, it’s Full Speed Ahead for our intrepid rodent.

“Errol is certainly no ordinary mouse, and his surrender to the lure of adventure makes for an exciting, effervescent tale that will charm readers of all ages”. — Ed Kavanagh,author of the Amanda Greenleaf series

Errol’s Bell Island Adventure is a first chapter book for ages 7 and up.


Sheilah (Roberts) Lukins lives with her husband in Portugal Cove-St.Philips. She has published two non-fiction books, Rain, Drizzle and Fog (Boulder Publications) and For Maids Who Brew and Bake (Flanker Press), nominated in the special interest category of Cuisine Canada’s National Culinary Book Awards. Full Speed Ahead is Sheilah’s first children’s book.

Laurel Keating is an award-winning artist whose illustrations are familiar to Newfoundlanders.With an eye for detail and a sympathy for all living things, Laurel brings her characters to life with warmth and humour. Children have delighted in her rich and colourful illustrations in Find Scruncheon and Touton (1 and 2) and Yaffle’s Journey. She lives in scenic Portugal Cove, which she has called home all her life.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Creative Book Publishers

Some Rights Reserved  

Original content here is published under these license terms:
License Type:  Non-commercial, Attribution
Abstract:  You may copy this content, create derivative work from it, and re-publish it for non-commercial purposes, provided you include an overt attribution to the author(s).
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