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Reading in the Rockies reviews ... A Great Reckoning!See more
Welcome to another guest book review, from local book reviewer, Reading in the Rockies! We'll be posting her reviews on our Book Reviews page, to help you and your staff learn more about the books we're carrying.

In this edition, she's reviewing A Great Reckoning, the twelfth novel in beloved Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series.

R E V I E W

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5
 
Note:  This review does NOT contain spoiler alerts or plot summaries.

The question I am asked the most often about Louise Penny’s books is whether I would recommend reading them in order.  I struggle with this question because I often read an author’s books in the order in which she wrote them, even stand-alone novels. Louise Penny’s books all form the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series; thus, I insist even moreso on reading them in order. 

Following this response, I often suggest that readers enjoy the first three books in the series before making a judgement on whether they’ll continue the series. I found that books one through three were a wonderful introduction to Three Pines, and after this point, most will wish it were a real place, as their own home would be packed up with a For Sale sign in front if it were.

But before you rush out and devour the series, my final ask is that the books be savoured. That they be read carefully. And deliberately.

I have taken a full year to reach this point in the series and must practice self-control to not immediately pick up the next book when I complete one and, I am content with my pacing. There are some who have read the series much slower; beginning with Still Life in 2005, these patient individuals must wait an entire year for the next book to be published.  However, I am the most saddened by anyone reading the series more quickly than one book per month. Don’t be that person. 
 
Now that you know how to read the series, I will share only a small tidbit as to what you can expect.

Louise Penny’s writing evokes every emotion. I have laughed. I have felt saddened; I have been shocked. I felt hopeful, I felt despair. There is no other author who can tackle humanity, conscience, and motive the way Louise Penny does. Her ability and thoughtfulness in developing both character and plot is brilliant. (An emphasis on, and repetition of, the word brilliant would not be undue.) Her books unravel, with details coming into view, but not quite making their purpose noticed – until exactly the right point. Each book is better than the last.

You may find reference to Emily Dickinson, C. S. Lewis, Jean Vanier, Jonathan Swift, Marcus Aurelius.  You may find your bookshelf expanding to include not only every edition of each of her books, but any other author or book she has referenced in passing; this is the wonderful side effect of finding an author who may well be in a category of her own.

My friends, as you enjoy the journey, I leave you with this:
“We are all of us marred and scarred and imperfect. We make mistakes. We do things we deeply regret. We are tempted and sometimes we give in to that temptation. Not because we're bad or weak, but because we're human. We are a crowd of faults. But know this.

“There is always a road back. If we have the courage to look for it, and take it. I'm sorry. I was wrong. I don't know. I need help. Those are the signposts. The cardinal directions.”

Reading in the Rockies is a book reviewer, outdoor enthusiast, and animal lover. Her reviews can be found at www.instagram.com/readingintherockies and www.goodreads.com/readingintherockies

Image courtesy of Reading in the Rockies.


 

Reading in the Rockies reviews ... the Canadian Rockies Annual!See more
Welcome to another guest book review, from local book reviewer, Reading in the Rockies! We'll be posting her reviews on our Book Reviews page, to help you and your staff learn more about the books we're carrying.

In this edition, she's reviewing the new Canadian Rockies Annual, Volume 4, the local mountain culture magazine produced by Banff publisher Crowfoot Media. And, for the first time, she and her partner are approaching this review with a fun He said / She said format.

REVIEW

He says:
The Canadian Rockies Annual depicts Banff to a T.

Locals will appreciate the proximity of the featured locations, all within the Canadian Rockies, from Selkirk Lodge in Vol. 02, the recently completed High Rockies Trail in Vol. 03, to Lake O’Hara in Vol. 04. 

Tourists to Banff will treasure the annual as a keepsake for many years after their visit. The photographs, articles, and layout will transport them back to their trip and bring about fond memories of their time spent in the area.

The writing contest entries new to Vol. 04 added a fun element to the magazine and appropriately titled "Trouble in the Backcountry", may serve as a lesson for others of what not to do.

Other articles address topics that are common in mountain towns. "The Professional Ski Bum" and "The Freedom to Roam" both describe van life and alternatives to the 40-hour work week. "Finding Home" discusses the affordability crisis threatening mountain towns though fails to illustrate how the sharing economy (Airbnb) and gig economy (seasonal and casual employment) both impact cities such as Calgary and Vancouver just as much as the tourist mountain towns – indeed, it could be argued the entire country is facing a housing affordability crisis.
 
She says:
The heavyweight, soft touch cover, and quality binding give the annual a coffee table book feel, while the articles, layout, and advertising provide the reading experience of a magazine. 

While I echo the niceties of my partner, he tends to observe the “big picture,” while I remain detail-oriented to a fault. In reviewing the past three annuals, it must be said that the curators do well promoting their own. In other words, it would be refreshing to see the work from a variety of local talent.

While I also enjoyed the addition of the writing contest to Vol. 04, I had noticed the addition of a gear highlight to Vol. 03 and 04. It would be neat to have these features taken even a step further. To take a page from Ski Canada magazine, or even Costco magazine, a book feature page could make an excellent addition to the magazine. Perhaps a new book by a local author, or within a local setting, might be featured alongside a Canadian non-fiction or trail guide.

Being somewhat critical, though hopefully constructively, the cover depicts that the content should focus on both wilderness and environment, among a handful of other topics. For me, wilderness equates to backcountry adventure, and environment equates to conservation and sustainability.  Aside from an annual wildlife feature – wolverines, caribou, and grizzly bears – relevant articles were scarce. Certainly, with the increasing traffic to our parks and backcountry, a conversation about etiquette and Leave No Trace is never overdone. Likewise, the discussion of climate change and human impact is more relevant than ever, though conversations around these topics are limited
.

Praises and critiques aside, the Canadian Rockies Annual will become a coffee table feature, if not keepsake, for local residents and tourists alike as inside there’s something to be found for just about everyone.

Reading in the Rockies is a book reviewer, outdoor enthusiast, and animal lover. Her reviews can be found at www.instagram.com/readingintherockies and www.goodreads.com/readingintherockies

Image courtesy of Crowfoot Media.


 

Reading in the Rockies reviews ... The Golden Spruce!See more
Welcome to another guest book review, from local book reviewer, Reading in the Rockies! We'll be posting her reviews here, and on our new Book Reviews page, to help you and your staff learn more about the books we're carrying.

In this edition, she's reviewing The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant.

REVIEW

⭐⭐⭐ 3.5/5

“During one autumn around 1700, on the west bank of the Yakoun River, a random Sitka spruce cone opened and let a seed like no other drift to earth.”

The Golden Spruce is a fascinating and detailed account of the rare tree after which the book is titled, the story of how it came to be and its unique ecosystem in the coastal wilderness; the story of the man who felled it, and the nearly 300 years of context in between. Vaillant describes the exploration and discovery of British Columbia, the history of the Haida’s contacts with European traders and settlers; he discusses human impact and climate change, the industrial revolution and deforestation, the history of the logging and wood products industry, and how these all relate.

This is a work of non-fiction and has won many (deserved) awards within its category; the cover depicts “A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed.”  While the writing is captivating and well-researched, The Golden Spruce will serve as a reminder to use critical thinking whilst reading any genre, including non-fiction.  Allow me to elaborate.

My own hometown, which is in actuality a city, was described as being the nearest “town,” 130 kilometres inland from Prince Rupert, BC. While a seemingly insignificant detail, it begged the question, which other aspects of the story were small inaccuracies? It could also be argued that the non-chronological writing style is in itself sensationalized – why should a non-fiction story be written in non-chronological order? Simply put, because describing a city as a town, and laying out the timeframes as Vaillant did, sounded better.
One other inaccuracy I had trouble putting to rest was that a photo is captioned, “Grant Hadwin embarking from Prince Rupert by kayak, February 12, 1997,”  however; within the next few pages, Hadwin launches his kayak on the afternoon of February 11, returning sometime around midnight, and at dawn on the 13th, set off again – he does not actually embark on February 12.

At times it was difficult to differentiate between whether the author was paraphrasing someone else’s comments or stating his own opinion (and I may be alone in this, but prefer non-fiction to be fact-based and not opinion driven).

When Hadwin went missing in 1997, it was not the first time.  In 1993, amongst his belongings at his abandoned campsite, Coast Guard search-and-rescue retrieved a fifteen-page document Hadwin had written and entitled, “The Judgement.” Vaillant writes, “The appended document is entitled “THE JUDGEMENT”; it is fifteen pages long and impeccably typed.  Considering it was written by a high school dropout who had felt compelled to leave first his country and finally his campsite because he believed he was under surveillance by the CIA, the contents are surprisingly cogent and considered.”  While the author may not have intended this comment to be condescending, it is not in the slightest bit surprising that Hadwin would produce such an articulate and considered manifesto. In addition to being incredibly skilled in the trades and wilderness survival, he was clearly intelligent.

It may also be unfair that the subjective descriptions others had of Hadwin – mad, radical – are presented as fact.  Was this the author’s intention? Even fellow reviewers of The Golden Spruce are given the impression Hadwin was crazy or had mental health issues.

Following the felling of the Golden Spruce, Hadwin sent a final blast fax which was received by Greenpeace, Prince Rupert’s Daily News, the Vancouver Sun, members of the Haida Nation, and friend, Cora Gray. The fax was not received by MacMillan Bloedel, yet Vaillant presumes they were the intended recipient. Hadwin explicitly states, “…you apparently need a message and wake-up call…I meant no disrespect, to most of The Haida People, by my actions or to the natural environment, of Haida Gwaii.”  He also told a reporter for the Queen Charlotte Islands Observer that “We tend to focus on the individual trees like the Golden Spruce while the rest of the forests are slaughtered … Right now, people are focusing all their anger on me when they should focus it on the destruction going on around them.”

Nevertheless, the immediate reaction from the Council of the Haida Nation was that the loss of the Golden Spruce was a “deliberate violation of our cultural history.” The reaction of the community was that Hadwin should fear for his life and would have a hard time surviving in jail, should he make it there alive.

The community reaction to Hadwin’s actions, and the impressions left on book reviewers, not only proves Hadwin’s point – we tend to focus on small details while ignoring the bigger picture – but sadly indicates they’ve also missed his point entirely.

While I may find myself alone in this, it is my hope that Grant Hadwin is alive and has found peace; perhaps he is homesteading on a remote island or has found himself a small and sympathetic community in which to live.

Despite only 3.5 stars, I would recommend this read, but would advise to read with caution and without bias. While The Golden Spruce would make for an excellent book club read as it promotes lengthy discussion, this book potentially raises more questions than it provides answers.

Reading in the Rockies is a book reviewer, outdoor enthusiast, and animal lover. Her reviews can be found at www.instagram.com/readingintherockies and www.goodreads.com/readingintherockies

Image courtesy of Reading in the Rockies.

 

Reading in the Rockies reviews ... Minds of Winter!See more
Welcome to another guest book review, from local book reviewer, Reading in the Rockies! We'll be posting her reviews here, and on our new Book Reviews page, to help you and your staff learn more about the books we're carrying.

In this edition, she's reviewing Minds of Winter, by Ed O'Loughlin.

REVIEW

One to read and then read again.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5/5
 
“If you really didn’t believe in coincidence, you’d have to believe in conspiracy instead.”

Minds of Winter has been described as clunky, ambitious, and confusing, and while I can appreciate that it is not universally fascinating, it checked off several boxes for me – historical fiction, mystery, Canadian author. I tend to romanticize the subjects within this book – Winter, Canadian history and exploration – and will jump at the opportunity to read any book based in northern Canada. Minds of Winter is the type of book which either works for you, or it doesn’t, but it certainly worked for me.

This is a story about time, navigation and polar exploration, and unsolved mysteries. It is Ed O’Loughlin’s esoteric and enchanting theory, or retelling if you will, of the mystery of the Sir John Franklin chronometer, Arnold 294. The novel spans 173 years – from 1841, shortly before Erebus and Terror set out on a voyage of exploration to the Northwest Passage, through 2014, when Parks Canada found the wreckage of Erebus. It is set in roughly eight countries, with more than a dozen storylines over nine sections, and adopts a variety of narrative devices, ranging from a real newspaper report in 2009 when Arnold 294 appeared in Britain disguised as a carriage clock, to letters and third-person narration.

The language is poetic; the writing is well-researched and rich in mirages and folklore. It is not an easy read, but it is an enjoyable read and the struggles subside once you take each story for what it is, without trying to make connections to other narratives. Some stories transition seamlessly into the next, while others leave the reader with questions that are never answered. 

Minds of Winter is a novel I plan to re-read, and will resonate with readers of historical fiction and with those who believe some mysteries were never meant to be solved.


Reading in the Rockies is a book reviewer, outdoor enthusiast, and animal lover. Her reviews can be found atwww.instagram.com/readingintherockies and www.goodreads.com/readingintherockies

Image courtesy of Reading in the Rockies.

 

Reading in the Rockies reviews ... Full CurlSee more
Welcome to our first guest book review, from local book reviewer, Reading in the Rockies! We'll be posting her reviews here, and on our new Book Reviews page, to help you and your staff learn more about the books we're carrying.

In this edition, she's reviewing Full Curl: A Jenny Willson Mystery, by Dave Butler.

REVIEW


I cannot recommend this book enough.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5

Full Curl follows Parks Canada warden Jenny Willson as she investigates a poaching case in Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay National Parks (inspired by a real-life poaching case Dave worked on as a former Parks Canada warden). 

Animal protection and environmental conservation are extremely important to me, and I spend a significant amount of time in the backcountry of these parks, thus this story is very near to my heart. It doesn’t just hit close to home; it is about my home – and the home of all who love our national parks, enjoy being outdoors, experience the backcountry, and want to preserve this incredible environment.

The pace of the story was excellent; it takes place over a year which is what you would reasonably expect in this type of investigation, but it also meant every point in the story was relevant and there was no fluff or lulls, keeping me engaged and turning pages. The geographical location is detailed and accurate.

Multiple points of view are offered, and the reader is given the point of view of both the protagonist and the antagonist. Jenny is very relatable; I could have been reading about myself, I see so much of her in me (and vice versa).  I loved the political commentary concerning the government organizations and bureaucracies as I found them to be relevant.

Overall, the story is heavily about animal protection and it went exactly where I wanted it to, an exceptional story of justice.

Reading in the Rockies is a book reviewer, outdoor enthusiast, and animal lover.  Her reviews can be found at www.instagram.com/readingintherockies and www.goodreads.com/readingintherockies.

Image courtesy of Reading in the Rockies.