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Fall 2017

Helen's Picks

HELEN WILDING COOK - Children's Collection Development Coordinator

(Juvenile Fiction, YA novels and the odd exceptional Adult title--for a break from kids’ books)

July 2017

"Strange the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor

Featuring a brilliant plot and beautiful writing, Strange the Dreamer illustrates Laini Taylor’s excellent originality in magical world building as it follows the adventures of an orphan named Lazlo Strange. On top of this Taylor's characterization of at least twenty main players is outstanding in this symphony of a novel. Together with The Diabolic it is among the most exciting books I’ve read in years. Recommend it to everyone! Particularly recommend this book as an adult cross-over, and to Philp Pullman, Kristin Cashore and Veronica Roth fans. I started this book in print but finished with the audio. This gorgeous, almost musical writing deserves to be heard aloud.


Hardcover LBN 1200964

Audiobook LBN 1199767

"I Have No Secrets" by Penny Joelson

Jemma has severe cerebral palsy and is unable to communicate. Despite this she has a keen intellect and takes in everything that happens around her. When her care-giver, Sarah, goes missing, Jemma knows who’s responsible. He knows she can’t talk and so he taunts her and sends the police in the wrong direction. Then Jemma’s family hears of a new technology that might help her speak. Suddenly, Jemma’s in a race to locate Sarah and tell the police, before her kidnapper learns Jemma is able to implicate him. Woven into the mystery is lots of content that shows what Jemma’s life is like. Never didactic, it will nevertheless help readers relate to young women like Jemma.

This YA mystery is suitable for bright kids reading above their age or for younger YA readers. Romance is not a key plotline and nothing violent is directly described.

DIVERSE YA FICTION Paperback LBN 1262187

June 2017

"The Diabolic" by S. J. Kincaid

Patrons who are Kristin Cashore fans and long for another Katsa novel, take heart! You will find some solace in this book’s ferocious, ruthless, yet irresistible heroine.

Nemesis lives on a remote planet with Sidonia, a senator’s daughter, and Sidona’s parents. Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid servant altered, enhanced and trained since birth to be the lethal, devoted protector of Sidonia. Nemesis has not, however, been trained in courtly manners, as a diplomat or spy. Too bad as when Sidonia is called to court – essentially as a hostage, to thwart her father’s rebellious ideas – Sidonia’s father decides to send Nemesis in her place. Their planet is so isolated that no one has seen Sidonia since she was a child, nor is anyone aware of Nemesis’ existence. Once ensconced at court, Nemesis forms alliances, makes enemies, and in the process reveals her own integrity and honor. She makes a friend whose ideas appeal to her but differ from Sidonia’s. Also Nemesis attracts the dangerous affections of the emperor’s son and she is baffled to realize that Sidonia sincerely returns her devotion. In all these aspects, Nemesis learns - and teaches the reader - about humanity.

This is one of two favourite outstanding books I’ve read recently (I’ll review the second next month). I went back and started reading Kincaid’s previous Insignia series (Insignia LBN: 820788Vortex LBN: 909515 - haven’t made it to book three yet, Catalyst, LBN: 996260. That series is also fantastic) Nemesis’ story continues in October. Can’t wait! (The Empress, LBN: 1273536).


Hardcover LBN 1203005

Audio Book LBN 1205648

May 2017

"Matylda, Bright & Tender" by Holly M. McGhee

In this juvenile debut novel, Sussy and Guy – best friends – convince their parents that nine year-olds can look after a leopard gecko. At “Total Pets” they find Matylda and set her up in Sussy’s room.  But when Sussy and Guy go back to “Total Pets” Guy is hit by a car and Sussy’s grief is crushing. The first person narrative is brutally effective in conveying the suddenness of Guy’s death, as well as Sussy’s perspective and feelings. Her initially patchy perception of time is immediate. Her scattered reasoning and jumbled thoughts reflect how devastated she is as she comes to believe that she owes it to Guy to love Matylda for both of them. Matylda becomes an excellent, subtle metaphor for Sussy’s love and then grief for Guy.

I am lucky enough never to have experienced what Sussy did. I do vividly remember times in my childhood when I felt things but didn’t have the words or composure to express them. The author conveys very well what Sussy is thinking and feeling juxtaposed with what she is able to communicate.

Not since Missing May or The Bridge to Terabithia, have I read such an excellent book about a grieving child. I’m delighted to see an audio book is publishing in May.

Juvenile Issues FICTION - Hardcover LBN 1233169

April 2017

"When Dimple Met Rishi" by Sandhya Menon

In this YA diverse romance, Dimple’s geeky glasses, refusal to wear make-up, wild hair and Stanford plans exasperate her mother, who wants her to find an I.I.H. (Ideal Indian Husband). So Dimple is surprised but delighted when her parents agree to let her enroll in a summer program in web development at SFSU called Insomnia Con. It’s a competition to develop an app. The winning team receives financing to complete and launch their app. Dimple has an idea she’s been working on and plans to win. When her parents support her enrolment, she thinks that they finally appreciate her goals and her mind. In fact, they have lined up an I.I.H. also enrolled in Insomnia Con. When Dimple meets Rishi, and realizes what her parents have done, she feels so hurt and betrayed that she dumps ice coffee all over him. Despite this chilly beginning, they team up for the competition and Dimple can’t deny she feels an easy connection to him immediately. Hindi words, like idhar aaiye (come here) are sprinkled through the narrative, where context explains their meaning. Dimple and Rishi also discuss their Hindi traditions and beliefs as their relationship grows, which gives context to their lives but is never didactic. The fast pace of each step of the competition drives the suspenseful narrative. Dimple’s fierce, singlemindedness engages the reader immediately; but, like Dimple, readers warm up to Rishi’s open heart more slowly.

YA Diverse FICTION - Hardcover LBN 1261842

"The Bad Guys" by Aaron Blabey

In this First Chapter Book, illustrations on each page and sparse text will engage fledgling readers immediately. A wolf, a shark, a snake and a Parana fish, team up and try to improve their reputations with good deeds. Rescuing a kitten from a tree traumatizes everyone. Rescuing every dog at the pound doesn’t make them any friends either. Still, the “Good Guys” resolve to continue their good deeds. Slap-stick comedy in the illustrations and fart jokes really are pretty funny and keep the narrative easy and fun for learning readers. Books two and three are also available and available soon, respectively.

To view Scholastic's Promotional Video click here

First Chapter Books FICTION - Paperback LBN 1227244

The Bad Guys in Mission Unpluckable - LBN 1227245

The Bad Guys: The Furball Strikes Back - LBN 1259598

March 2017

"The Dark Days Pact" by Alison Goodman

This is the second Lady Helen Novel, a young adult paranormal, regency, fantasy series, by one of my favourite authors. Please refer to my May 2016 review of book one for more context.

Lady Helen has joined The Dark Days Club. It is a secret service affiliated with world governments, tasked with keeping humanity safe from an insidious foe. Thousands of demon creatures inhabit the world in human guise, feeding on human passion, greed, hatred, etc. Unlike 99% of people in the world, Members of The Dark Days Club possess the ability to see these demons and the uncanny strength needed to fight them. Lord Carlson is Lady Helen’s mentor. As he teaches her to martial her unusual strength and abilities, her selfhood also matures from a sheltered lady of privilege into a fierce, passionate, fighter. The close relationship that builds between them grows into emotional intimacy and physical attraction just as both characters and their relationship enthralls the reader. Young Adult series sometimes involve unconvincing steamy romances impeded by unlikely or feeble obstacles. In this novel we have the opposite. The forces keeping these honourable characters apart fundamentally define their selfhood. To be together, they would have to stop being themselves. Aside from these exquisite characters and their romantic plot and tension, the author has built a fascinating world with an intriguing conflict and political structure, unique paranormal elements, and peopled with supporting characters as engaging as these two central ones. I adore Lord Carlson and Lady Helen and can’t wait to see what happens to them in book three.

YA Paranormal FICTION - Hardcover LBN 1226441

February 2017

"Kings of the Court" by Alison Hughes

Sameer and Vijay are basketball fans - nerds, really - at their elementary school. Sameer as a commentator, and Vijay as the mascot. They record reams of stats on their team’s players and watch helplessly as the belligerent coach bullies his players game after game. Finally a parent complains and the coach is replaced by the new drama teacher, who has never played basketball. His attempts at coaching are truly hilarious, before he has the sense to promote Sameer and Vijay to assistant coach and manager, respectively. In these roles, the boys’ understanding of each player gradually improves the team’s performance. In a climactic scene, the team must play a game with no spares. At a time-out, when the team is exhausted, Vijay – who also has the lead in the school play Henry the Fifth - rallies the boys by performing the Saint Crispen's Day Speech in part, if you recall; “The fewer men, the greater share the honour… I pray thee, wish not one more man…” This is a really funny, funny book with diverse and LGBTQ characters and helpful, empowering messages about bullying, theatre and embracing differences, challenges and change. And, later, when kids study King Henry the Fifth, they will remember Vijay and what that speech actually means.

Canadian Juvenile FICTION - Hardcover LBN 1221052

January 2017

"Girl Mans Up" by M-E Girard

Pen looks like a guy. Her friends are guys. They hang out and play video games, mostly, but sometimes they go to the mall and Pen helps one of them – Colby – break the ice with girls he likes. When he asks Pen to help him to meet Blake, she hesitates. Blake goes to Pen’s school and lately Pen has been thinking about her. Blake plays Pen’s favourite video games, is gorgeous, wears black make-up and boots, and generally kicks-ass. Pen eventually agrees to talk to her for Colby, but at the video store – where Blake works – Blake isn’t interested in Colby, but she is interested in Pen. The romantic tension between these two characters is beautifully stoked and sustained, throughout. Their friendship and then relationship finally gives Pen the courage to man up and be herself.

LGBTQ YA FICTION - Hardcover LBN 1205326

December 2016

"Everyday Hero" by Kathleen Cherry

In this juvenile diverse novel Alice has Asperger’s. Noisy places, crowds and strange smells scare her but rules and quiet calm her. Alice moves to a new school and meets people who don’t know she has Asperger’s including the administration. (Her parents argue about this decision throughout the narrative.) Alice frequently gets detentions where she keeps crossing paths with Megan. Megan is fearless, doesn’t smell and loves the quiet of Alice’s house. Alice learns new rules and loves being a friend. When Megan makes what Alice feels is a dangerous decision, Alice confronts noisy, crowded, smelly places, finds Megan and helps her to make a better decision. Many of you have ordered this book. I urge you to read it so that you can recommend it for all the things it offers. It does a good job of getting the reader inside the skin of someone like Alice. It also shows that arguing parents don’t always mean divorce. Kids don’t have to be popular, one friend is enough. It shows that outsiders might be really interesting, courageous people.


November 2016

"Canada's First Nations and Cultural Genocide" by Robert Z. Cohen

The historical context around why residential schools developed is presented in an unbiased fashion, together with excerpts from primary sources. Survivors describe their journeys to the schools, day to day life there, food, chores, conditions, etc. Most children were forcefully removed from traditional life-styles – surrounded by family and familiar languages, fresh air and food and wearing traditional clothing - and placed in huge poorly heated buildings, among English speakers, and fed low quality food. They were punished for not speaking English, when they had never been taught how to speak it. I learned many staggering facts reading this book most notably that 1 in 5 children enrolled in a residential school died there, before graduation. That is the identical survival rate of Canadian soldiers engaged in First World War combat. This book is positioned perfectly to support grade 5 and 6 curriculum and provides a wealth of support for projects in a book short enough to read in one sitting. It’s a book every Canadian, young and old, should read.


September 2016

"The Swan Riders: A Prisoners of Peace Novel" by Erin Bow

This YA Science Fiction novel (sequel to The Scorpion Rules) is one of the titles I was most looking forward to reading in 2016 and it is beyond anything I could have hoped for. An aspect of this series that makes it so exceptional is that it is impossible to accurately describe. Its unique plot, setting, characters, themes, etc. are unlike any series or book I’ve ever read. Featuring edge-of-your-seat twists and turns the author delivers hilarious characters and dialogue, interesting environmental ideas, fabulous world building, intriguing ideas about advanced technology, and THE BEST final line in a book I can ever remember reading. It was both a conclusion that brought tears to my eyes, and a cliff hanger like no other. Bravo! Fantastic! BRING ON BOOK THREE!!!

YA SCIENCE FICTION - Hardcover LBN 1206112

August 2016

"Dreamers Often Lie" by Jacqueline West

This is a perfectly executed unreliable narrator novel. Jaye – our protagonist – wakes up from a skiing accident, in the snow, and Romeo is standing over her... But hallucinations are a symptom that everyone is worried about, so if Jaye is having hallucinations, it means she can’t go home from the hospital, or back to school, or return to her starring role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So she lies! She doesn’t mention that she’s seeing Romeo, or Shakespeare, or Hamlet, or Ophelia… She especially doesn’t mention that she continues to see them once she gets home.

What’s really clever about how the author tells Jaye’s story is that everyone around her is unreliable too. There are several fantastic mysteries that keep the pages flying. I have never read a book that made me empathize with an actor or value her dedication and passion more. Any teen who IS an actor, will love reading about Jaye and her struggle to keep her part. The many, many Shakespearean references will delight theatre lovers as well.


July 2016

"The Winner's Kiss" by Marie Rutkoski

This YA fantasy concludes one of my favourite series in recent years – The Winner’s Trilogy. Fantasy protagonists described as strong, kick-ass heroines are most often physically strong, or are exceptional fighters. Kestrel, the protagonist in this series, is actually a lousy hand-to-hand fighter, but a brilliant tactician. How refreshing! A kindred spirit to Katsa in Graceling andBitterblue, Kestrel’s cleverness is what makes her a strong adversary and throughout this series she matures from a coddled, ignorant, over-confident daughter to a sophisticated, decisive, and passionate leader. In this final book, the romantic complication between Kestrel and her true love begins to feel plausible and the tension builds brilliantly.  In addition to a fast-paced plot and wonderfully full, noble and funny characters, this series is beautifully written. I found myself constantly wanting to stop reading and note the author’s gorgeous use of language and I am seriously considering listening to the audio version next!


Hardcover LBN 1087552

Audiobook LBN 1133621

"The Raven King" by Maggie Stiefvater

This YA paranormal novel concludes another one of my favourite series in recent years – The Raven Cycle. Rather than not having the time to review both of these books, I will say that I loved this series, and book for almost the same reasons that I loved The Winner’s Kiss. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is exquisite, her heroine and characters are clever and fans of this series will be thrilled with this brilliant, perfect, gripping conclusion. I think it’s the author’s finest.


Hardcover LBN 1089004

Audiobook LBN 1096089

June 2016

"Julia Vanishes" by Catherine Egan

Like Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, this is a very, very exciting YA fantasy debut, that’s made more exciting by its Canadian author. The first in a new series, this book introduces Julia, a thief whose talents are enhanced by her ability to be unseen. It’s a talent she keeps hidden as she lives in a city - reminiscent of Victorian London - where magic is banned and her own mother was killed for being a witch.  In order to survive, Julia and her brother align themselves with a gang of talented and reasonably honorable criminals who become a sort of family.

But Julia’s most recent job has an unspecified target and she finds herself a spy in a household of mysterious figures, who seem to respect and protect witches. As Julia’s heart starts to warm to them, she learns her target is a child, her favourite person in the house. But in the face of ruthless threats against her family, as well as hundreds of children, Julia capitulates and kidnaps the child. Julia’s character development subtly progresses from here, as she regrets what she’s done and then resolves to sacrifice everything to win the child back.

A well-rounded, interesting and flawed character, Julia is surrounded by equally compelling people and creatures, some of whom might be gods, in this cleverly crafted wholly original world. A series that is perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Rachel Hartman, I’m eager for book two!

YA FANTASY FICTION Hardcover LBN 1167591

May 2016

"The Dark Days Club: A Lady Helen Novel" by Alison Goodman

For fans of the author’s outstanding genre bending books, Eon and it's sequel Eona, this young adult paranormal, regency, fantasy novel (book one of a trilogy) fulfills their high expectations – even their wildest anticipation – in every way. It really does!

In preparation for her debut, being presented to the Queen, Lady Helen Wrexhall's aunt has coached her to tastefully repudiate her deceased, disgraced mother. This contradicts Helen's memories of her beloved mother, but her treason was apparently irrefutable. Into this confusion, a disreputable distant relation - Lord Carlson - approaches Helen and offers insight into her mother's death. He gradually reveals facts about her mother while simultaneously proving to Helen she herself possesses inexplicable talents that her mother also had. A series of short tests reveals Helen can predict outcomes and foil them - almost bending time with inhuman speed. He shows Helen her ability to read peoples' intentions and natures and is just beginning to answer her questions and explain her destiny, when Helen learns that this very man betrayed her mother.

Unlike some of the pacey, plot driven, bestseller YA books available, this narrative has a slow, subtle build with a simple A to B, timeline. The author is methodical with her world building, while establishing character and stoking suspense. The specter of danger threatening our heroine is also slow to build but immensely effective. Essentially, Helen's life spirals away from privilege, safety, security, and predictable respectability into an untethered, impoverished unknown.

Stay tuned for Book Two!



April 2016

"That Uh-Oh Feeling" by Kathryn Cole

Second Story Press is a Canadian publisher we should all feel proud of. They tenaciously publish books that children need and the picture book, That Uh-oh Feelingis a fine example. In it Claire, a young soccer player, is approached by her coach. He offers her encouragement and help, but also says things that don’t make sense to her, tickles her for no reason, and asks her not to tell anyone. His attention makes her feel uneasy and she’s not sure how or why, but he’s not behaving the way she feels adults normally do and it upsets her. The text conveys nothing that will scare children, but instead focuses on empowering them to listen to their feelings and act on them. In the story Claire talks to her friends and older sister about what her coach did and said, which makes her feel less worried and helps her to decide to tell her mother, who then takes action. The reader only learns that Claire’s mom is going to be the coach from now on, which shows that readers don't have to learn exactly what the danger is to avoid it. Brilliant! It is also nice to see that Claire’s friends are a diverse group.

PICTURE FICTION Hardcover LBN 1170753


"OCDaniel" by Wesley King

Canadian Wesley King’s OCDaniel is a diverse book. One of the central images used by advocates for diverse books is mirrors and windows, because books with diverse characters allow readers to see themselves and/or understand other perspectives of the human experience. This book has the potential to do both. I say it has the potential because I don’t have OCD myself. I can’t speak for people who do. The author, however, does. He grew up lonely and confused by feelings he could not understand or control and hid from everyone he knew. His narrative helped me to understand what that felt like. He also describes very well the kinds of things he felt compelled to do. For children who, like the protagonist, feel these compulsions but don’t understand them, this book could change their lives. For someone like me, it certainly changed my understanding of OCD. Beyond this one aspect of the narrative, this book also – as the title suggests – is very funny. It also helped me to relate to sports obsessed boys, and I whole heartedly commiserated with non-competitive Daniel, who wished with all his might, not for the team to depend on him, but for the other kicker to miraculously recover. The book also offers an excellent mystery and has one of the best treatments I’ve read on how kids learn about popularity, relationships and people in grade seven and eight as they start to become adults.



March 2016

"Deceptions" Kelley Armstrong

This adult fiction urban fantasy – third in the Cainsville series - will please Kelley Armstrong fans. It is a fine example of Armstrong’s ability to maintain suspense, and keep readers turning pages, hours after they intended! Though the publisher claims this is the last in the series, the narrative leaves room for more story to unfold. Among many other excellent, intense subplots, the characterization of Olivia, Ricky and Gabriel continues in this book. With blood connections between ancient factions and these three characters and a portentous legend they seem to be entangled in, these subtle changes could affect power structures in supernatural worlds. Even the belief that this is true endangers Olivia, Ricky and Gabriel. It would seem there’s more story to tell… and like many fans, I hope Armstrong agrees, and continues this series!



February 2016

"If I was Your Girl" by Meredith Russo

This YA LGBTQ debut novel has a warm, hilarious and endearing protagonist, Amanda. She moves to a new school and over the course of the novel learns to trust and to let down her guard – at least a little bit - makes new friends, falls in love and learns to believe that she deserves to be loved as well, even though it’s complicated. Relationships are complicated for Amanda because she’s a trans-teenager. In this lovely, steamy, hopeful romance, the reader also learns about Amanda’s courage and quiet determination to be herself.

The author of If I was Your Girl is a trans-woman, as one might expect, but what adds to the authenticity of this book is that Amanda is represented on the cover by a gorgeous trans-model, and the first person narrative is read on the audio CD by a trans-woman narrator.

This wonderful book is included in our 2016 Spring Bestseller List.

YA LGBTQ FICTION Hardcover LBN 1152971

Audiobook LBN 1152879


January 2016

"Pax" by Sara Pennypacker

From the very first sentence of this book, it is clear that Sara Pennypacker has thoroughly researched her subjects, including: foxes, boys and war. This book begins with Pennypacker describing Pax the fox’s perspective while on a car ride, from feeling the road vibrations along his spine, smelling forest scents through the car’s windows, and realizing his boy, Peter, is crying.  When the car stops, Peter takes Pax into the forest and abandons him there because they are moving away. Immediately though, Peter regrets his actions and runs away to find Pax, but he faces a daunting trip and is very unprepared.

This extremely simple plot, told from the alternating perspectives of Peter and Pax, builds tension and suspense quickly, as both boy and fox encounter unpredictable dangers, forge new relationships, and unwittingly move toward a war’s frontline, the reason Peter moved in the first place.

In every subplot of Pax, the author shows the random, destructive, senseless nature of war without moving beyond a child’s or a fox’s perspective. Fantastic! The publisher compared this juvenile novel to Charlotte’s Web and predicted it will be an instant classic. This is indeed an extraordinary book and is brilliantly illustrated by Canadian Jon Klassen.

JUVENILE FICTION Hardcover LBN 1141865


December 2015

"I Don't Live Here Anymore" by Gabi Kreslehner

When Charlotte’s parents separate, she has to leave behind the house she’s lived in all her life, including her loved room and the view she had of a tree in her backyard. Charlotte’s first person narrative describes the loss of her home and the many losses divorce causes in children’s lives. The simplicity and intimacy of living with both parents is replaced with the complexity of two homes - phone calls, scheduling holidays, weekends, and dinners. Old patterns are shattered as Charlotte’s mother haplessly tries to put her life back together and her father becomes largely absent. Charlotte – more than either of her parents – tries to help her younger siblings cope with torn loyalties to either parent while struggling with her own anger and sadness. Into this turmoil Charlotte meets a boy, but even her fledgling romantic feelings are tainted by the confusion she feels from her parents failed marriage. This is a short but excellent book for teenagers going through their parents' divorce.

YA FICTION Hardcover LBN 1094087


November 2015

"The Unquiet Past" by Kelley Armstrong

This book is one of seven in the Orca Book Publishing's latest YA series, Secrets. These books can be read in any order, and each focuses on a character from an orphanage that burns down.  Armstrong's protagonist, Tess, has always had visions, but hides this secret.  Maybe she's crazy.  Maybe her mother was crazy and that's why Tess was left at an orphanage.  When her orphanage burns down, Tess is given a few clues to her mother's identity.  While pursuing them she meets a boy.  It isn't until Tess trusts this boy with her secrets that she learns what the visions are.  He explains that she is seeing events in the past and that her talent is called precognition.  For the first time Tess is curious rather than afraid and uses her visions to solve parts of her mother's mystery.  Sharing her secret empowers Tess, which is a healthy theme Armstrong often employs.  Armstrong also weaves historical content into this suspensful mystery, including: Metis culture, mental health treatment and research, and the Quebec education System.

YA Fiction Paperback LBN 1105131


October 2015

"Shadow Scale" by Rachel Hartman

This Canadian YA Fantasy is one of my favourite books of the year; in fact, it stands among my favourites in the past ten. It is the sequel to Seraphina and as a sequel that builds on its predecessors’ architecture. Hartman is a fine world builder. Her ideas are complex and fascinating, exploring unusual themes for YA literature such as: the nature of primary sources and recorded history, war and war craft, musical talent and improvisation, belief and theology. Her many characters are unique with charming foibles and truly engaging virtues. The central romantic triangle was well crafted and concluded with not one but two surprising twists. Beyond all of this, the suspense of several subplots built and maintained tension throughout 480 pages. None of which could have been achieved without the extraordinary, almost musical quality of Hartman’s writing. Recommend this book to any readers who enjoyed Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr andFairest by Gail Carson Levine.

YA FANTASY Hardcover LBN 1033767


September 2015

"Pieces and Players" by Blue Balliett

Fans of Blue Balliett’s previous mysteries are in for a treat as this book features characters from several previous novels. Early, the wordsmith from Hold Fast, meets up with legally blind Zoomy from The Danger Box as well as Petra, Calder and Tommy from several books including Chasing Vermeer. The talents of all five kids are needed to solve a curious theft. 13 pieces have gone missing from a small secretive private museum. The members of the museum’s board are all acting strangely. As the kids fall under the spell of the charming, old museum, the stolen art starts to speak to them.

JUVENILE MYSTERY Hardcover LBN 1033767


August 2015

"Are You Seeing Me?" by Darren Groth

This contemporary Canadian YA novel features a B.C. road trip, the Ogopogo and an earthquake! Justine and Perry are twins on the cusp of adulthood. They have always depended on each other and voices all around them advise they need a change. Perry is autistic. People say it’s not fair to him to live with his sister, he needs independence. Justine needs her freedom, they say. Justine and Perry go on a road trip together, after which Perry will move out. During the course of their hilarious journey, they realize dependence on each other is exactly what they want. These characters got under my skin as few have recently. Recommend this book to readers who like funny books or are sick of dystopian and/or YA romance novels.

YA FICTION Hardcover LBN 1105128


July 2015

"The Masked Truth" by Kelley Armstrong

This outstanding contemporary YA book, is Kelley Armstrong doing what she does best. Her deft characterization of the protagonist – in this case, Riley - wields her to the reader’s heart precisely as the crushing pace of the plot takes hold. Heart-stopping, dangerous, unpredictable, entirely compelling plot weaves with wisdom and interesting specifics that enrich the reader as she tries to catch her breath. I love Ms. Armstrong’s adult books. The Masked Truth is the first of her YA books that I’ve read, that entirely rivals her brilliant adult writing. Further, it expands the ranks of diverse books as one of the main characters has schizophrenia. His perspective is presented with precision and empathy and his condition adds unique tension to the suspense. Although Ms. Armstrong’s paranormal books all have themes that oppose prejudice and stereotypes, this treatment is new in my experience.

YA FICTION Hardcover LBN 1070063


June 2015

"Mad Miss Mimic" by Sarah Henstra

This is a wonderful YA historical Canadian debut. Its 1872 in London and our heroine is Leonora. She’s intelligent, witty, gorgeous, and an heiress. Her prospects in society are complicated only by the fact that she can’t speak without stuttering, unless she is mimicking exactly the words and accents of others. The author – a professor of literature at The University of Toronto – uses this metaphor to great advantage to express how women of this time, no matter how wealthy never the less had no voice in politics, or even their own affairs. As didactic as it sounds, this clever idea is executed with precise subtly. Beyond this aspect of the book there is a fantastic mystery, action, adventure, romance, witty dialogue and interesting mostly factual content about the early history of heroin.



May 2015

"The Scorpion Rules" by Erin Bow

Earlier this year, I read an advance reading copy of this Canadian, YA Science Fiction book, before it had a title or an ISBN. I’ve been dying to write a review ever since, and finally, both are available. Imagine a world like “I Robot” where VIKI won.

In The Scorpion Rules, world leaders ask an A.I. entity, Talis, to solve humanity’s entangled environmental and political catastrophes. Talis’ solution is to take over the world and the lynch-pin of his control system, which prevents most wars, is hostages. All human political leaders must cede an heir – a loved one – to Talis. Talis raises and educates these hostages, these Children of Peace, together in isolation. If one of their parents violates international law, they are executed. It is among these Children of Peace that our story takes place.

Greta, the “Canadian” princess in this future world, finds a way to negotiate with Talis when really, several hostages lives should be forfeit. This future world is rich with the author’s serious solutions to environmental challenges and the A.I. entities provide a wonderful framework for relishing human triumphs, vulnerabilities, short comings and beauties. I loved this complex, unique gem of a book.  I loved it as much as Graceling, Seraphina,The Fault in our Stars, and the series, His Dark Materials. It is a book I will use to praise others from now on. Look for it in our Fall Bestseller List.

YA SCIENCE FICTION Hardcover LBN 1096208


April 2015

"None of the Above" by I.W. Gregorio

None of the Above is the debut novel of a doctor who diagnosed an intersex female patient. Before I read the synopsis for this book I had never heard the term. It offers lots of useful information in the context of a character discovering that she is intersex, not female as she’d always thought. What does that mean to her? What does it mean to others? What does it actually, medically mean? Read this book and find out.

YA LGBTQ FICTION Hardcover LBN 1063213


"Gracefully Grayson" by Ami Polonsky

I see many of you have purchased this book. How is it circulating? Have you read it? In grade six, Grayson, a kid who keeps to himself feels a real connection with his English teacher – the teacher who also directs the school play. That’s partly why Grayson auditions. Before the auditions, all the drama kids do several acting exercises together. In one, you ask yourself “What have you always wanted to be?” Grayson’s unequivocal answer to himself is “a girl.” And so on impulse he decides to audition for the female lead role and gets it. Grayson doesn’t tell anyone that he feels like a girl on the inside. He just gradually gains confidence through learning his lines, becoming an excellent actor and being a girl on stage. Only at the very end of the novel, is he broaching the issue of wanting to be a girl, starting with dressing like a girl. Recommend this book to kids interested in drama. The drama kids are represented as open, supportive and welcoming to Grayson and everyone. Everyone involved in the play is part of a magical family. Kids who are outsiders might find a home.



March 2015

"The Case of the Missing Moonstone" by Jordon Stratford

This Canadian mystery for juvenile readers, the first in The Woolstonecraft Detective Agency series, features a fantastic premise. What if Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein and Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron who became the world’s first computer programmer – had met as girls? In this delightful story Ada is a precocious but belligerent eleven-year-old genius, belligerent because people baffle her. Mary is less advanced intellectually for her age but entirely more in tune with other people. Together they strengthen each other, and decide to make a difference in the world by apprehending clever criminals. Their detective agency’s first case is a smashing success! I can’t wait for book two!

JUVENILE MYSTERY Hardcover LBN 1037538


"When Everything Feels like the Movies" by Raziel Reid

Jude lives in a small town, where the high school administration supports, but doesn’t appreciate his penchant for wearing lipstick and other gender-bending glamour. I especially love that he auditioned for Dorothy, in the school’s Wizard of Oz production. Jude is constantly bullied until one night he fights back, and gets badly beaten. A boy among the perpetrators returns to help Jude to the hospital, and a fledgling, dangerous relationship sprouts. This novel won the Governor General Literary Award and is shortlisted for Canada Reads 2015. It’s an excellent choice for reluctant readers as its short, full of dialogue, but also plot driven. I read most of it into the wee hours of one evening.

YA GBLTQ FICTION Paperback LBN 1028524


February 2015

"Glory O'Brien's History of the Future" by A.S. King

Glory O’Brien is a photographer; as her famous mother was. Glory is an outsider with one crazy friend, who lives on a commune farm across the road. Around the time of Glory’s graduation from high school, as her summer and future looms ahead of her, empty and inauspicious, she starts to have visions. Sound bites, tiny snatches of video that Glory glimpses when she looks in people’s eyes. They are fragments of people’s futures, and pieces of their pasts. From these glimpses a narrative of the future builds. The United States will have a second civil war, but why? Eventually she pieces together that a federal law will make it mandatory to pay all women the same as men in comparable jobs. First one state, then many, passes another law, making it illegal to hire women – for any job. Brilliant. It sounds so possible, this premise is a powder keg of ideas and discussion. The closing paragraphs are among the most powerful I’ve ever read. Of course, telling you would be an unforgivable spoiler so… I beg you to read it.

YA FICTION Hardcover LBN 1004008


December 2014

"Rocket Blues" by David Skuy

This book was kindly given to me by the author at a dinner we were both attending. He is a very nice, modest, charming man. Happily, he’s also an excellent writer. Rocket Blues is a perfect book for boys who are reluctant-readers. Our protagonist is the fastest, top goal-scoring player on his extremely competitive AAA hockey team. A new coach cuts him anyway – because he’s small. Rocket is incredulous, embarrassed and devastated. As he scrambles to join another AAA team, he joins an AA team in the meantime. The new team welcomes him and values his contribution. He enjoys a new leadership role, and sharing his passion for hockey. When he’s offered a spot back on his original team it is no longer an easy choice.

Canadian Juvenile Fiction Paperback LBN1004065


"We Are All Made of Molecules" by Susin Nielsen

This is a fine, Canadian example of a high demand but elusive genre – the funny boy book. Ashley is the most popular, fashionista girl at her school, although she’s not that bright. Her grades are terrible and she constantly misuses figures of speech like: “Honest-to-God-hope-to-die-stick-a-beetle-in-my-eye.” These gaffs are well and truly laugh-out-loud funny. Ashley’s gorgeous recently divorced mother welcomes into their pristine, white décor home, not only her new slovenly, geeky boyfriend, but his doubly geekorific son, Stewart. Juxtaposed to chapters in Ashley’s self-absorbed voice, Stewart’s perspective is presented as kind, thoughtful, empathetic, witty, and open hearted. Themes of bullying and tolerance augment the comedy. Eventually Ashley redeems herself, showing good character and judgment.

YA Male Humour Fiction Hardcover LBN 1032649


November 2014

"Half A World Away" by Cynthia Kadohata

Adults in juvenile books are often not drawn with the honest, simplicity that defines some of our lives. The parents portrayed really don’t have it together. Nevertheless, they’ve adopted a son – Jaden – who is consumed by anger, fear and sorrow. They’re attempts to help him seem useless. He distrusts specialists so they can’t help him. Before anything is close to being resolved with Jaden, his parents become eligible to adopt a baby from Kazakhstan. With ludicrous optimism, they take their distressed son abroad, with nightmarish results. And yet, in an outcome hard to predict, these bumbling grown-ups make one, golden, gorgeous decision, that begins to heal Jaden and cement him into their family.

Juvenile Fiction Hardcover LBN 1008620


October 2014

"Rethinking Normal" by Katie Rain Hill

I read this YA memoir in one sitting, when I really should have been getting a good night’s sleep. The last book I read overnight was The Fault in Our Stars. I mention this to underlie, that even though the author is quite young, a university student, she is a good writer. Typing “she”, just now, brought a tear to my eye, as this memoir relates Ms. Hill’s journey so far, as a transgender person and subsequent LGBTQA rights advocate. She’s fought hard to be called “she.” As intriguing as her struggle for selfhood is, what is most engaging about Ms. Hill, is Ms. Hill. The pages resonate with her warm, generous, courageous voice, despite a childhood of ruthless bullying. Read this book; not because she is the first transgender high school graduate in her part of the world. Read it because one can’t help but cheer for her. Her book is also rich with excellent advice, resources and recommendations for both transgender people, and the people who love them.

YA Non-fiction Hardcover LBN 1006530


September 2014

"The Falconer" by Elizabeth May

This debut novel is book one in a planned trilogy. We meet our protagonist Aileana Kameron, a debutant attending a ball. Then she slips from the festivities. She can taste a faery nearby and she plans to kill it. Like everything in Aileana’s world, the fae in this book are what the reader expects, and then a twist appears. Aileana is a ninja assassin of faeries, inventor of dirigibles, clockwork bombs and killing mechanical projectiles, all while confined by tradition, gigantic dresses, and courting husbands. Just as Aileana begins to master the art of secretly killing fae, she meets a suitor who can see faeries and a grim future. A magical prison will soon fail, releasing thousands of them, unless she can restore the lock.



"Beauty of the Broken" by Tawni Waters

Once I enthused to a friend that I had just finished and loved a particular book. She said it was ridiculous - it included so many issues. I was really surprised, because I hadn’t noticed that. I just loved the story. Beauty of the Broken reminded me of that conversation. Excellent characterization introduces Mara, an introverted artist. Her brother is her best friend. She loves her mother, but not so much her dad, hates school and can’t wait to escape her small town. Xylia, a new girl arrives at school. She is self-assured, out-spoken and open. They become close friends and gradually Mara feels attracted to her. It’s a sweet, lovely romance. Now, if you list the issues, there’s gay and lesbian persecution, bullying, alcoholism, child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, racism, death and grieving… I think that’s everything. But this is not an issues book. It’s about Mara and Xylia falling in love.



August 2014

"Six Feet Over It" by Jennifer Longo

The dark comedy in this YA debut is subtle and complex. Here’s an example: our protagonist, Leigh, wanted to go to camp with her friend. Instead, her parents send her and her sister to their grandparents’ farm. Her sister’s cancer has just gone into remission and her parents want a break. (Like the cancer survivor doesn’t need one.) Leigh’s friend is killed. A tree falls on her at camp. Leigh’s parents say, “Don’t you burden your sister with this!” So Leigh grieves alone, while she and her sister help their grandparents all summer, chopping down trees for fire wood. Maybe you don’t see the humour in that, but I find it brilliant. This quirky book, full of outstanding, flawed characters offers many truths. One is that protecting loved ones – by keeping secrets from them – also limits how they can help. And sometimes they need to help more than they need protection.



"Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery" by Abby Sher

These harrowing stories are truly engaging; however I never wanted to start reading them before trying to sleep! One-hundred and seventy pages are dedicated to narratives that depict the lives and emancipations of three young women who became slaves. (One of these girls lived in the United States for her entire ordeal. She had affluent parents, went to school then high school and only became free at college!) Now each of these survivors is leading an organization that fights slavery. Fifty pages following these courageous stories provide the reader with detailed descriptions of how to help. There are numbers to call, lists of books to read, organizations to volunteer with, websites where teens can make donations, purchase goods that support slavery survivors, etc. Young people who want to get involved with a cause can start with this book.



July 2014

"Aldo Moon and the Ghost at Gravewood Hall"by Alex Woolf

Aldo Moon is adept at solving mysteries. Our protagonist, Nathan, is Aldo’s co-investigator. Aldo was adopted by Nathan’s wealthy parents, and so the two have grown up together. Nathan is a firm believer in Aldo’s psychic powers while his cousin, Lily is more scientific, and sceptical. The family is invited to stay at a splendidly gothic, run down, Victorian country estate. The first evening horrendous noises wake the household. Various nightly candle-lit investigations ensue. The banter between Nathan, Aldo and Lily is clever and very funny. The mystery is clever and has the flavour of an actual Victorian classic. I think a family might enjoy reading this together. The scary scenes preclude anyone much younger than eight.



June 2014

"Finding Grace" by Becky Citra

There are lots of reasons to love this Canadian book. It’s historical, a mystery, there are twins, there’s a single mother, there’s depression, there’s bullying, excellent characterization of all characters, on and on.

What I loved about the book is how realistic it is. The main characters are twins, Grace and Hope. At one point, they decide to take a raft out on the ocean. Of course, they aren’t supposed to. They think they have made a plan that will keep them safe, and of course, it doesn’t. There are factors involved that they didn’t anticipate and they get into serious trouble. This happened to my siblings and me ALL the time when we were little. Eventually we figured out that there were reasons for rules, for the decisions adults make. Grace and Hope figure this out too. Their story is unpredictable, funny and suspenseful.



"The Winner's Curse" by Marie Rutkoski

This is the first book in a fantasy series, akin to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas. Excited? I was! However, there is an interesting twist. Our heroine, Kestrel, is not a stellar, nearly invincible warrior. Her skill is as a strategist. She lives in a city her father recently conquered and its people were enslaved.

In her military society, daughters either marry or join the military. Kestrel wants neither. She just wants to play her piano. Then an intriguing slave enters her household. He teaches her about his conquered society and her loyalties waver. Finally, her slave betrays her. He successfully leads a revolution and reclaims the city. Her father’s force encircles. With a superior arsenal and strategic understanding, he will inevitably break the siege. The first book closes with Kestrel negotiating a way her father can win, her slave can keep some freedom, and no one dies. See how she did it! I can’t wait to see what happens in book two.


May 2014

"Omens" by Kelley Armstrong

I am a fervent fan of Kelley Armstrong’s work and of course, her books will accumulate trillions of holds with or without my zealous support.

Still... I would like to weigh in that I loved this first book in her new Cainsville series. This new character, Olivia, shines with passion and courage.  And already, there many intriguing details worked into the plot and characters and setting. There are only hints of mysterious paranormal things to come. The Women of the Otherworld is a tough act to follow but so far, so good. I am hooked!

Book two – Visions – publishes in August, 2014.

ADULT FICTION Hardcover LBN 895301


"Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl" by Emily Pohl-Weary

Sam Lee is an eighteen-year-old songwriter. She plays bass in her all-girl indie mega-successful band, but hates being famous. Her songs fuel the band’s success, but Sam shuns the limelight. Her band mates enjoy promoting the band while Sam protects her solitude.

I really like Sam. I think she will resonate with teen readers. She’s vegetarian and struggling to stay true to her selfhood, and then she gets bitten by a wolf. Turning into a wolf, is the first anonymity she’s had in years. She’s free! What an interesting idea. It’s just one of the thoughtful, compelling details of this romantic, paranormal Canadian mystery.



April 2014

"Perfect Lies" by Kiersten White

This young adult science fiction sequel to Mind Games, achieves everything fans of the first book – like me – could hope for. Fia has an uncanny instinct for escaping danger – a supernatural, survival of the fittest, talent.

Her instinct is 100% effective against all dangers except one.When Fia loves someone, when someone loves her, her instincts falter. How can a survival instinct account for the risk of friendship and trust? What do you do, when it’s safest to kill someone you love? Fia’s blind sister has visions. She sees a terrible vision involving Fia, over and over and over. I love, love, love, that this character battles against an outcome that seems inevitable.

This fast-paced story is a good choice for Hunger Games fans who are tired of dystopian settings.



"Shifting Sands: Life in the Times of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad" by Kathy Lowinger

This historical young adult novel portrays teenagers who lived during the times of three historical figures – Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.

Each of these figures encourages ordinary citizens to reject established norms and hope for more. Moses’ ideas encourage a slave to reject safety to reach for freedom and a new homeland. Jesus’ ideas encourage an impoverished travelling performer to believe in love and a better society. Muhammad’s teachings encourage boys to break a tribal honour system – a cycle of retaliation and murder - to instead embrace love and individual rights. The lives of these teenaged, fictitious characters give vivid context to the lives of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.

Epilogues after each narrative provide historical perspective. Shifting Sands is a clever concept effectively executed.



March 2014

"Revealed: A House of Night Novel" by P.C. Cast

Having read every book so far, I considered not reading the 11th book in the House of Night series. It’s a very popular series and maybe I should read a debut author instead. Well, I’m glad I indulged.

The characters continue to be very, very funny, and intriguing, especially their dialogue; the action maintains tension; and romantic developments were interesting. It’s nice that there are gay characters. I really like that about this series.

HOWEVER, what sets this book a part is that – well there’s no going back. (Spoiler alert…)  Sometimes in series, events occur, a mystery is solved, but then life goes back to normal. Here, that is decidedly NOT the case. Among many other intriguing subplots, our heroine Zoey Redbird MURDERS two men.  There would seem to be no loophole. No escape. She killed them. Now what? WHAT ON EARTH will happen next? I love this series and the way it explores the theme of moral and ethical choices.

Hardcover LBN 088934


February 2014

"Death and the Girl He Loves" by Darynda Jones

This is book 3 in Darklight, a YA Paranormal series. It sets itself apart in a densely populated genre, by an intriguing difference. Our protagonist, Lorelei, fails.

The fate of the world hangs on her superhuman abilities she’s just mastering as prophesied for generations, etc. etc. as is often the case in these series. The day of doom comes, she witnesses violence and catastrophes, her friends die horribly, and she flounders indecisive and ineffectual. At the last possible second, she gets an idea, and travels back in time. She always knew she could time-travel; but, could not figure out how to use the ability to advantage.

In the closing chapters of the book she awakens in her new present. It is a present that has been altered by her time travel and will continue to unfurl, in the following novels. It’s fascinating and well conceived.   She’s afraid her solution didn’t quite work…

Paperback LBN 947282


January 2014

"Panic" by Lauren Oliver

I have read all of Lauren Oliver’s books, with the exception of Delirium Stories.  I’ve loved them all, and Panic is no exception. It is her first YA contemporary novel.

In Panic, several characters trade the narrative back and forth over the course of one summer. They live in a town where it is traditional for members of the graduating high school class to compete in an illegal, elaborate tournament of secret dares, for a prize of $50 000.

As with her other books, Oliver has created an intriguing, suspenseful framework, in which to explore ideas about love and rippling interconnections between people. Readers will cheer for these characters, particularly lion-hearted Heather, who learns to love and be loved, unconditionally, for the first time.

Hardcover LBN 957286


December 2013

"Counting By 7s" by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a genius, but quietly so. So when she receives a perfect score on a state exam, her principal sends her to counseling for cheating. She finds the process interesting. Her counselor realizes immediately that she didn’t cheat, but continues her weekly sessions, planning to use her.

Thus, Willow makes a friend – her first - with the sister of the boy counseled after her. Equally, she is still in counseling when her parents are killed. From these tenuous connections, Willow forges solutions to immediate problems, changing and improving the lives of these people, eventually anchoring a new family. She says of her counselor ‘He’s not a bad person. He’s just not good at being a person.’ By the end of the novel this is no longer true. Willow reminds me of Anne Shirley.

Hardcover LBN 950046


"Curtsies & Conspiracies" by Gail Carriger

This is the second in my favourite ongoing series: Finishing School. Our heroine, Sophronia, and her group of exceptionally talented friends, are attending a boarding school for spies, disguised as a girls’ finishing school. The combination of harrowing action, aristocratic repartee, and frustrations and compunctions over gaffs in etiquette, even in life threatening situations, is truly hilarious.

For example during an attempted kidnapping a ruffian grabs Sophronia. She describes the experience as being, most indelicately confined. She notices her would be captors are without jackets – so thuggish. At one point in the struggle she baulks at the necessity to reveal her ankles, and so on. She is equipped with fantastic, steampunk contraptions and weapons, and lives in a world where vampires, werewolves, and debutant balls coexist. It’s marvelous.

Hardcover LBN 913921


November 2013

"Lawless" by Jeffrey Salane

This debut novel is like The Bourne Identity for kids. M Freeman’s father disappeared years before. Her mother, an art expert, never talks about him or his disappearance. M has been home schooled her whole life until in the span of a few hours, her mother decides M will go away to a boarding school. There M learns that her father was a world famous art thief, and the most celebrated graduate of the international school for criminals, she is attending. As her classes progress, M’s criminal abilities are surpassed only by her growing alarm, delight and confusion. After only a few months at the school, M is recruited to trace the painting from her father’s final art heist.

Hardcover LBN 883527


"The Opposite of Geek" by Ria Voros

This young adult Canadian book is delightful and unpredictable. Gretchen is cruising along in high school until she starts failing math, and her best friend joins the swim team. Abruptly her life is completely different. As she struggles to regain normalcy, she is shocked to realize that she enjoys spending time with her math tutor – who is unequivocally a geek! He loves physics, for example. Beyond this, he teases her, gently, into embracing her inner poetry geek.

The philosophical ruminations in this novel about being a geek– alone – make it a worthwhile read. What’s a geek? A geek is an enthusiast, an expert, or a specialist, despite any social negative subsequent repercussions that expertise might have. Why ARE there negative social repercussions?

Paperback Original LBN 947202


October 2013

"Until Today" by Pam Fluttert

This book is both hard to read, and yet tremendously engaging. It’s a good book to have on your shelves. Kat, now a teenager has been sexually abused by her father’s best friend, for as long as she can remember. Her journal entries are emotional shards, the writing helps her cope.

As her little sister gets older, Kat’s anxiety overwhelms her. She’s afraid she won’t be able to keep her safe; until finally, she finds a way. Remembering that scene brings tears to my eyes, as I write. Cheer for Kat, as she musters the bravery to talk to the police, and the police hug her, and cry and promise she’ll be safe from now on. This is another important, excellent book, from Canadian publisher, Second Story Press.

Paperback Original LBN 950174


September 2013

"Ink-blot" by Maria Eugenia

Some girls think they are badly drawn – too tall, too skinny, not skinny enough, and so on. People say Ink-blot is badly drawn, and she thinks they are silly. She couldn’t care less.

The illustrations in this book show children that the girls’ are worried about things that don’t matter. And they don’t… Hair doesn’t matter… Who cares about knees?  Every single Canadian little girl should have this picture book read to them. Every teenager and adult woman should read it too. Read this book. Then put it into the hands of every little girl you can find.

Canada’s Second Story Press has created another important, wonderful book.

Hardcover LBN 949972


"Dial "M" for Morna" by Evan Munday

I mentioned starting this book in LBI’s August Newsletter “What Did You Read Today?” section.Dial M for Morna is the second book in the Canadian series, The Dead Kid Detective Agency.

It’s really funny and might do the trick for reluctant readers. The author and his protagonist trade the narrative back and forth. Consequently, his outrageously heavy-handed humorous interjections don’t get too tiresome; as his protagonist moves the story forward more smoothly.

The author adds some interesting plot developments that enhance suspense and depth for future books, including one of the best cliffhanger endings I’ve ever read.

Paperback Original LBN 932812


August 2013

"The Wig In The Window" by Kristen Kittscher

This debut author has started a series for readers of Michael D. Beil, Kate Klise and Blue Balliett.

The friendship of two BFFs – Sophie Young and Grace Yang - is tested when they get suspicious of a neighbour, who happens to also be a guidance counselor at their school. They send an “anonymous” tip to the police department, reporting a murder. The murder victim turns out to be pickled beets. Sophie is reprimanded and sentenced to counseling – with the murderer. Sophie and Grace, though disgraced are still wary. As they disagree about the implications of mounting evidence, the girls learn a lot about themselves and each other.

Into a decidedly clever mystery plot, the author weaves interesting explorations of trust, friendship, culture, ethnicity, racism, and bullying.

Hardcover LBN 904225 / ISBN 9780062110503


"The School For Good and Evil" by Soman Chainani

This debut author has executed a simple idea, to its maximum potential. He’s built a world with schools for good and evil fairy tale characters, and used it to explore good and evil in fairy tales.

Students at the schools mostly come from fairy tale character families. King Arthur’s son is one example. Some students, however, like our protagonists Sophie and Agatha, are readers. This adds an interesting nuance to the story. Sophie and Agatha are very compelling, complex characters. Mostly that’s the author’s point, that people are complicated and both good and evil. Being a good person is a daily choice decision by decision. Also he makes the brilliant point that two friends don’t need a prince. The love of a friend is enough for a happy ending.

Hardcover LBN 903667 / ISBN 9780062104892


July 2013

Throne of Glass" by Sarah J. Maas

This YA Fantasy debut novel, is worthy of comparison to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, Robin LaFevers His Fair Assassin series, and Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina.

What sets this book a part though, is its outstanding cast of characters. Everycharacter has an impressive depth. No one behaves predictably; all have intricate motivations, political backstories, flaws, strengths, secrets and interconnections to all the others. Readers will LOVE these characters, especially our heroine – a legendary, seventeen-year-old, ruthless, yet honorable assassin.

This promises to be a riveting series. The hardcover sequel: Crown of Midnight, publishes in August, LBN: 922227. I can’t WAIT!!

Hardcover LBN 848946 / ISBN 9781599906959


"The Language Inside" by Holly Thompson

A book written in poetry is so engaging that pages seem to fly by. It’s an excellent genre to suggest to reluctant readers, or readers who lack confidence, perhaps ESL readers. Finishing a 528 page book – possibly in one sitting – unquestionably builds confidence and breaks down reluctance.

This plot also makes it a good choice for ESL readers as it laces together truly intriguing philosophical ideas about written language, poetry, communication, culture, thought, identity, self-hood, dance, family, migraine headaches as inspiration, cancer, running, and perception. It achieves all that without sentences.

Hardcover LBN 906925 / ISBN 9780385739795


June 2013

"Destiny, Rewritten" by Kathryn Fiztmaurice

Our heroine’s mother named her after Emily Dickinson. Unfortunately, Emily Elizabeth Davis really doesn’t like poetry very much – although she banters with a boy in her class in haiku. Emily prefers romance novels. It’s something she’s sure would mortify her mother who is herself a poet. It’s the happy endings Emily loves.

This book savours some of the pleasures of childhood – a best friend, a little brother, innocence, bookstores, allowance, small mysteries and reading.  It also embraces the time in Emily’s life when she grows up a bit, and her understanding of some of these things shift.

Hardcover LBN 882227


May 2013

"Mind Games"
by Kiersten White

This subtly paranormal YA novel combines Katsa’s grace (from Graceling) with the immediacy and urgency of The Hunger Games.

Our main character, Fia, has a sister, with remarkable Extra Sensory Perception. She receives a scholarship to develop her talents, but will only accept if Fia can go with her. Once at the school, the girls gradually realize it’s a dangerous place that wickedly exploits the mental abilities of its students.

The school’s staff discovers that Fia has an extraordinary ability of her own – an uncanny instinct to survive. They train her and turn her into a Mission Impossible type of super spy, earning her compliance by threatening her sister’s safety.

I loved this book! I can’t wait for book two.

Hardcover LBN 882453 / ISBN 9780062135315
April 2013

"Life Happens Next"
by Terry Trueman

This YA novel is the sequel to the Printz Honor Book Stuck in Neutral, and centres around the world of Shawn McDaniel, a fourteen-year-old with Cerebral Palsy. The author does a truly amazing job of putting the reader in Shawn's skin. What would it be like to not even be able to control your eyes? Read this book, and you’ll know.

Shawn can’t control his body or communicate at all, but he has a rich imagination and kind, intelligent spirit. A dog and a boarder with Down Syndrome offer him more connection than he’s experienced before with his family, who love him but discount him too.

This is a fascinating read and certainly a departure from the usual characters teens encounter.

Hardcover LBN 830085 / ISBN 9781423146650

"Blowing Bubbles"
by Kathleen Cherry

This Canadian picture book tells the story of Grandpa George, who likes roller coasters, and speed boats, and go-karts, and blows the best bubble gum bubbles ever. His grandson, Josh, loves spending time with him, but when Grandpa George has a stroke, Josh hates seeing him in the hospital.

The first time Josh visits Grandpa George, he is in a wheelchair, waving his arm. Josh figures out that Grandpa George wants him to push his wheelchair--fast. Afterwards, Grandpa George blows a bubble just like he always did.

This is a perfect little nugget of literature that will speak to kids.

Hardcover LBN 919968 / ISBN 9780987994707


March 2013

"Dark Star"
by Bethany Frenette

Here’s a young adult paranormal novel you may have missed. The fast paced plot, the banter between main characters and the feel of the world they live in is reminiscent of Cassandra Clare’s books with one important difference--no vampires! Instead, the protagonists are super heroes: crime fighters with different, uber-cool, super powers.

As is often the case in paranormal novels, our seemingly helpless and harmless heroine turns out to hold the balance of the world in her decisions. However, the author conveys the premise for this reality successfully.

Lots of aspects of this book are a refreshing change. Teens will love it. There is a sequel planned for 2014.

Hardcover LBN 864525 / ISBN 9781423146650

"Blogger or Journalist? Evaluating What Is The Press In The Digital Age"
by Tracy Brown

At the 2013 OLA Superconference, a book caught my eye: Blogger or Journalist?, targeted at grades 5 to 8. It’s excellent! Among other things, it explains that journalists are obliged to truthfulness, objectivity, impartiality, and fairness while non-journalists are not.

In the absence of journalists in non-traditional media on the internet, greater onus is placed on the reader, to assess these and other aspects of sources and helps kids to do that.

I received my sample from a new Canadian vendor, CrossCan Educational Services. They supply Rosen Publishing, Gareth Stevens, and many other strong non-fiction publishers.

Check out their website or be the first to email me, and I’ll pass along a copy of Blogger or Journalist? to you.

Hardcover LBN 916604 / ISBN 9781448883585
February 2013

"Rebel Heart"
by Moira Young

This is the second book in the Canadian series, The Dustlands. In Book One, Saba seemed indestructible, legendary. She was the Angel of Death and her understanding of right and wrong was solid.

In this second book, her ideas about herself and the world falter. Instead of decisive, her decisions range from diffident to thoughtless. Her friends and siblings lose faith in her judgement and skill. Her mistakes have permanent consequences and they damage her relationships.

As the author achieves all of this, her plot gallops forward with relentless action, danger, and suspense. However, the author’s greatest achievement continues to be Saba’s first person narrative.

Told with naked honesty and coarse slang, it is emotionally raw, engaging, and distinctive.

Hardcover LBN 816275 / ISBN 9780385671866


Timmy perceives that his detective agency is on the verge of going global and yielding millions. In his way are small-minded teachers and principals who fail to appreciate his talent. Hilarious illustrations compliment the text throughout.

In one scene, Timmy goes over to a classmate’s house to investigate missing Halloween candy. On his way to the front door, he glances into his younger brother Gabe's room. There’s a picture of Gabe--eyes wide, looking guilty--sitting on his bed surrounded by wrappers. He has chocolate on his face and fingers.Timmy notes in his notebook, “Gabe untidy.”

This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I’m delighted that it is the first title in a series.

Hardcover LBN 882321 / ISBN 9780763660505


January 2013

"Princess Academy: Palace Of Stone"
by Shannon Hale

This sequel to Princess Academy is all fans of the Newbery Honor Book could hope for: excellent characterization, lots of suspense, and happy endings, although there is room for Book Three.

In the course of the book, our young heroine brings forward legislation in the existing monarchy government, to quell a people’s revolution.

The plot does a pretty good job of explaining democracy, government and legislation so that young readers will understand.

Hardcover LBN 843759 / ISBN 9781599908731
December 2012

"Ask The Passengers"
by A.S. King

In this complex book, a girl living in a small town agonizes over who she is in her relationships with her father, sister, mother, best friend, and eventually, girlfriend.

She gradually trusts and opens up to the people around her more and more. She finally clarifies her uncertainty with love, and tells her dad that she’s in love with a girl.

If the world demands that she has to be in either a gay box or a straight box then she guesses she’s in a gay box. The blossoming romance is sweet and steamy.

Hardcover LBN 855435 / ISBN 9780316194686

"The Paladin Prophecy"
by Mark Frost

This is a teenage Mission Impossible with all of the intriguing gear and gadgets and bonus paranormal elements thrown in too.

Five teens meet as roommates at such an exclusive private school that it’s actually top secret. One of them actually eluded capture from mysterious assailants en route. As he reveals to his new friends the danger he escaped, they all try to figure out why he was targeted.

As they investigate, they become aware of super-human qualities in themselves and each other. Turns out it’s no coincidence that they find themselves together.

This book establishes some fantastic mysteries that promise to be explored in a series. I can’t wait for book two

Hardcover LBN 816855 / ISBN 9780375870453
November 2012

"The Reluctant Journal Of Henry K. Larsen"
by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund

Henry K. Larsen is in therapy and not happy about it. For one thing his therapist needs therapy, or at least his wardrobe does. Henry’s cutting remarks and dark humour reveal a small, enclosed world. Why is he here? Even if you’ve read a synopsis, you will still be caught up in the suspense.

This is an excellent treatment of bullying representing all involved. It’s also hilarious and points out to readers that their nerdy classmates and the outsiders could be the most interesting people at school.

Kids will also enjoy the Canadian setting: Vancouver and parts of Ontario. The author is a Canadian Bestseller, her novel Word Nerd won the 2010 Red Maple Award.

Hardcover LBN 816237 / ISBN 9781770493728

"One Year In Coal Harbour"
by Polly Horvath

Primrose Squarp has the most hilarious perspective, and author Polly Horvath portrays her point of view with consummate skill. Particularly incomparable humour comes from a substitute teacher and her cat poetry, but even Primrose’s recipes will make readers laugh out loud.

The book also conveys that everyone in a community has value and anyone may surprise you. People you thought were no-hopers, or mean and stuck up, may nevertheless make dreams come true. The Canadian setting will be welcome to readers, especially when community protests win against a logging company.

This is the sequel to the Newbery Honor Book Everything On a Waffle. However, Horvath has made this book accessible to readers who haven’t read the first.

Hardcover LBN 860357 / ISBN 9781554981885
October 2012

"Bright's Light"
by Susan Juby

I read Susan Juby’s Nice Recovery and loved it. More than that, I loved her for writing it, and I was looking forward to her next book. Well, Bright’s Light is the most unpredictable book I’ve read in years.

The settings, the plot, and the characters all reveal themselves with evermore incongruous and absurd progressions. It’s marvelous! She puts together some slapstick scenes that are very, very funny.

Despite the absurdity of virtually everything, she makes the characters believable and sympathetic. Their concerns are ridiculous, and yet we feel sad, when they are sad. It’s a brilliant achievement.

I should add, that I think maybe the book is a parody or has a symbolic level that I don’t fully understand. Read it and let me know what you think.

Hardcover LBN 820770 / ISBN 9781554683376

"Etiquette & Espionage"
by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger’s adult Parasol Protectorate series is a very funny paranormal steampunk series. Essentially, the comedy hinges on confronting Victorian ladies with werewolf and vampire-related untidy problems.

The Etiquette & Espionage YA series is set 25 years earlier, and shares a few characters. In it, a spy school is disguised as a finishing school. Young ladies learn that vampires are fastidious dressers. Defeat one by first defacing his attire...askew his neck tie, then attack, and so on. They learn elocution, knife throwing, curtsies and martial arts.

Our heroine uses her new talents at a family ball, successfully intercepting a devious plot, entirely undetected by the guests.

Hardcover LBN 855368 / ISBN 9780316190084


September 2012

by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina is a talented musician, newly hired to tutor the nation’s young princess, a girl with almost no musical ability or ambition. She is, however, politically and socially accomplished. As tutor and student get acquainted, the reader learns about their world.

An adjacent country is populated by dragons who have learned to take human form, and circulate at court. In fact, Seraphina’s mentor is a dragon.  Seraphina and the princess form a bond just as Seraphina falls in love with the girl’s betrothed and a dragon conspiracy targets the royal family.

Rachel Hartman has skillfully crafted a richly imagined world, cast, and mystery plot. The book unfolds with sparkling clarity, alive with intricate details that entwine beautifully. The first title in an exciting, new, Canadian YA Fantasy series.

Hardcover LBN 777231 / ISBN 9780385668392

"A World Away"
by Nancy Grossman

Eliza Miller is an Amish girl who is hired to work in a suburban home, away from her community. She makes her first phone call, puts on her first pair of jeans, watches TV and movies and talks to her first non-Amish teenager.

Her experiences reveal a surprising amount about both Amish and modern culture giving a balanced portrayal of both. The characters and plot have depth and are unpredictable.

This book is a sweet romance and coming-of-age story for any teen readers, not just those interested in Amish communities.

Hardcover LBN 843226 / ISBN 9781423151531
August 2012

"Renegade Magic"
by Stephanie Burgis

In this sequel to Kat Incorrigible, Bath and its healing waters are revealed to get their power from magic. Young readers will learn a lot about Bath’s history as Kat sneaks around the streets at night, trying to do the right thing but accidentally getting her family in deeper and deeper trouble.

Hilarious pandemonium will get lots of laughs from young readers until Kat’s cleverness and goodness finally win against impossible odds. This is a marvelous adventure and tremendously empowering for young female readers.

Hardcover LBN 763199 / ISBN 9781416994497


"The Enchantress"
by Michael Scott

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (unequivocally my favourite YA Paranormal series)  draws to a close with this sixth and final book. Full of surprises, it was fantastic, and the plot--though intricate--had a relentless pace.

The theme that good and evil is in everyone and that everyone chooses to be either good or evil permeated the entire series.

Hardcover LBN 780113 / ISBN 9780385735353


July 2012

"The Dead Kid Detective Agency"
by Evan Munday

The first title in a new series that features a kids curling team! As someone who loves curling, I would shamelessly recommend this book based on that fact alone.

Our protagonist, October, learns to curl as the plot progresses, and her descriptions of curling “action” are priceless, even if the reader has never curled.

Besides curling and other Canadian content there is a murder investigation in this book after October’s teacher is killed. She doesn’t believe--as the police do--that it was accidental, so she and five ghost characters work to solve the mystery.

This should be a funny, fast-paced Canadian series.

Paperback LBN 738461 / ISBN 9781550229714


"Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator"
by Josh Berk

Even though Guy, the main character in this book, is mourning the death of his father, he is still really funny.  Sadness, going to therapy, depression, watching his mother’s sadness: he presents all of it in the most hilarious terms.

For example Guy explains there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but he’ll never, ever, ever accept his father’s death, so suck on that stage five.

Beyond this, the mysteries in this book and how they are solved are quite intriguing. Yes, forensic investigation is explained and it makes nerdiness cool.

Hardcover LBN 784317 / ISBN 9780375857010


June 2012

"The Fault In Our Stars"
by John Green

This book opens as Hazel, a teenage terminal cancer patient, argues with her parents that a fake I.D. would combat her depression more than joining a Support Group. Still, she goes, and of course it was depressing as hell..but there she meets a guy.

Wit and vitality thrums in every line of dialogue. This book is funny, sad, and quietly brilliant. Did I mention compelling? I read it in one sitting.

Hardcover LBN 760108 / ISBN 9780525478812

by Kristin Cashore

Since Kristin Cashore’s Fire was published (see my Sept. 2009 review), fans have been longing for her next book. Bitterblue is everything we could have hoped it would be. It has a fast paced but nuanced plot, an expanding cast of singular characters, and it’s clever, funny, intriguing, richly imagined, full of love…and it’s long!

I will offer one sparkling detail: a magnificent new character, a Graceling librarian with perfect recall. Books he’s read cannot be lost. Banned? Burned? He simply writes them out again. Isn’t that a splendid idea? I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Bitterblue.

Sure, this New York Times Bestseller doesn’t need our support; but, I urge you to read it anyway. Relish this fine work, sure to be one of 2012’s highlights.

Hardcover LBN 805657/ ISBN 9780803734739

May 2012

by Veronica Roth

I recommend this book (and the first book in the series, Divergent) as the best choice for fans of The Hunger Games. The protagonist, Tris, is a lot like Katniss. She has an extraordinary role to play but isn’t sure who to trust or what decisions to make. Eventually, like Katniss, she decides to follow her gut.

Divergent readers anxious for this book’s release will not be disappointed. The action is relentless, and the author’s ideas and themes are engaging and intriguing. Unlike Katniss, Tris’s adventures and self-discovery have just begun. Once again, I can’t wait for the next one.

Hardcover LBN 7732348 / ISBN 9780062024046

April 2012

"Grave Mercy"
by Robin LaFevers

The note a Dewey Diva left me for me on the Advance Reading Copy of this YA fantasy compared it to Graceling. I was delighted to discover that her assessment was valid and that’s the most emphatic praise available in my arsenal.

The plot will leave readers breathless (and likely sleepless) from reading into the night. The romance develops gradually, with subtlety, and completely captivates. Readers will love this good, brave, triumphant heroine.

And like Katsa, she’s a brilliant assassin.

Hardcover LBN 820672 / ISBN 9780547628349

by R.J. Palacio

This book, about a little boy with an unusual (some would say ugly) face, teaches the reader a lot about courage, kindness, and character. It’s also a very funny book.

The main character, August, at one point, is joking with his friend, who asks: “Can’t you get plastic surgery or something?” August replies, pointing at his face, “Hello? This is after plastic surgery!” and they both laugh hysterically.

It’s hard to know what else to say to encourage you or a child to read this dear book, the author’s debut. Two friends I respect very much recommended it to me. I strongly recommend it to you.

Hardcover LBN 741154 / ISBN 9780375869020

March 2012

by Lauren Oliver

This YA Science Fiction sequel to Delirium (see March 2011 review) is an excellent recommendation for fans of The Hunger Games.

Lena has escaped the society that calls love a disease, and lives in the wilds with the Resistance.  She escaped because Alex sacrificed himself, and the loss of him breaks her heart. Life in the wilds is hard and dangerous but she works hard and slowly recovers.

She goes undercover for the Resistance in New York City, where she infiltrates a political organization and falls in love with a boy she should despise.  The plot cuts back and forth between her escape and her New York assignment. The technique heightens the suspense in this fantastic, romantic page-turner.

Hardcover LBN 778444 / ISBN 9780061978067

"Mr. And Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire!"
by Polly Horvath

Madeline’s parents (loopy hippies) are kidnapped by foxes, who want to find Madeline’s uncle, a government code breaker. While the foxes interrogate her parents, Madeline goes to her uncle’s where she meets Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, who have just that day decided to become detectives.

I defy you to read this without laughing out loud.  I highly recommend this title for all families to read together. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny’s bickering is priceless.

This illustrated novel is set in BC, and visits the communities of Cowichan Valley, Hornby Island, and Vancouver Island.

Paperback LBN 741152 / ISBN 9781554981809

February 2012

"The Great Rabbit Rescue"
by Katie Davis

This juvenile mystery is a hilarious sequel to The Great Hamster Massacre. Anna and Suzanne are still next-door neighbours, but Joe-down-the-street’s parents have separated and Joe goes to live with his dad. His mother still lives down the street with The New Rabbit. (The Old Rabbit had a fatal heart attack in its hutch when Anna’s cat came into Joe’s yard and looked menacing.)

Joe’s dad doesn’t have room for The New Rabbit, and Joe worries about The New Rabbit left behind. When Anna and Suzanne decide to “look after” it, its health rapidly declines...but why?

Order the book to pick up the investigation.

Hardcover LBN 780817 / ISBN 9781442420649

"Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick"
by Joe Schreiber

Perry’s family hosts a Lithuanian exchange studen for his final year of high school. She’s a mean tempered, introverted, greasy haired, fashion disaster. She refuses to fit in all year then demands Perry take her to the prom.

He does, and she humiliates him before morphing into a leather suited, articulate, gorgeous, sexy, martial arts and sharpshooting assassin. Seems pretty fortunate, since she has several hits planned for the evening, and Perry is her driver.

This high-speed, coming-of-age YA novel features car chases, murders, abductions, helicopters, explosions, betrayals, and falling in love.

Hardcover LBN 738662 / ISBN 9780547577388

January 2012

"Spy School"
by Stuart Gibbs

Our small, short, athletically-challenged underdog protagonist is invited to join a secret spy school, where he meets a girl who’s top of the class. She’s brilliant, a martial arts expert, adept with firearms, and gorgeous. He’s delighted when she invites him to join her secret investigation.

Amidst a fast-paced plot, a believable friendship slowly builds between them, and a hint of romantic tension creates suspense. This comedic juvenile mystery novel really is laugh out loud funny while building an unpredictable mystery.  Also, the spy gadgets and gear are pretty cool.

This is the first in a series I know I'll enjoy reading.

Hardcover LBN 780819 / ISBN 9781442421820

"Nice Recovery"
by Susan Juby

In a gripping narrative, Susan Juby recounts drinking incidents from her childhood and teenage years, how she became an alcoholic, and her gradually recovery. I think it’s helpful that Juby spends a lot of time trying to convey what addiction is.

The book lists many organizations teens can contact if they have the same question. Susan Juby writes in her acknowledgements that she undertook this memoir hoping to help teenagers.

Nominated for the 2012 White Pine Award.

Paperback LBN 755619 / ISBN 9780143170679

December 2011

"A Discovery Of Witches: Book One Of The All Souls Trilogy"
by Deborah Harkness

When Diana Bishop, researching at Oxford University, opens an obscure manuscript from the stacks, the entire supernatural world descends on Oxford and her.

She’s the first person, vampire, werewolf, or witch to be able to open if for centuries, though many have tried. Why is the manuscript so important?

In the ensuing maelstrom, she meets a vampire who has had four careers, one involving the manuscript (Wouldn’t you think an immortal would have ambitions beyond high school?) I loved this book, it was imaginative, suspenseful, romantic, and librarian recommended!

Hardcover LBN 785521 / ISBN 9780143119685

"Blood Red Road"
by Moira Young

Saba, her pa, her twin brother, and their little sister live on a secluded, dying lake. Saba has met two people in the whole world outside her family until the day riders come, kill her father, and kidnap her twin.

Intrepid, stalwart, and stubborn, Saba pursues the riders, dragging her sister along and gathering friends as she follows her brother and his captors. En route, the author reveals a savage world bereft of technology after civilization was destroyed.

The desolate setting and Saba remind me of William Nicholson’s brilliant series The Slaves of the Mastery.  A White Pine Award Nominee.

Hardcover LBN 713530 / ISBN 9780385671835

November 2011

"The Miseducation of Cameron Post"
by Emily M. Danforth

Cameron is a Montana teenager madly in love with her first girlfriend. Their secret, fledgling physical relationship is discovered and she’s sent to an ultra-religious boarding school mandated to “fix” her sexuality. Cheer for Cameron as she defends and defines her selfhood.

This is the best book I’ve read since Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Like that series, this book has an intriguing, clever, central metaphor. Add Graceling and The Hunger Games to the list of books to compare as The Miseducation of Cameron Post has equally compelling romance, strong characters and relentless suspense.

I loved this book. Please read it. Be the first to ask and I’ll send you an advance reading copy.

Hardcover LBN 778429 / ISBN 9780062020567

"A Monster Calls"
by Patrick Ness

Connor has terrible nightmares. When he meets a real monster, Connor’s not particularly afraid. He has much, much scarier things in his life. The illustrations perfectly convey the horror in the story.

Siobhan Dowd, the author of Solace of the Road (November 2009 audio review) and The London Eye Mystery (July 2009 audio review) died in 2007. Before her death, she left notes for a novel, which were given to Patrick Ness, who completed this book.

Like Brian Selznick's Caldecott Medal winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it is lovely to hold--a champion of the printed book.

Hardcover LBN 738736 / ISBN 9780763655594

October 2011

"The Princess Curse"
by Merrie Haskell

This fantasy, squarely for girls, has a refreshing heroine. She’s unexceptional. She’s not a genius. She doesn’t have magical abilities or superpowers. She’s just an apprentice to an herbalist.

When the princesses of her kingdom suffer under a curse, she sets out to break the curse for the reward. As events unfold, breaking the curse moves from selfish pursuit to selfless quest. Her friends’ lives are at stake. This growth in the main character is deftly achieved. She stubbornly studies her craft, patiently experimenting until her hard work pays off.

Suspense builds gradually until she finds a self-sacrificing solution.  The story is funny, sweet and unpredictable.

Hardcover LBN 753022 / ISBN 9780062008138

September 2011

"Drink, Slay, Love"
by Sarah Beth Durst

Pearl, a self-absorbed, privileged, beautiful, bright teenage vampire is stabbed through the heart by a unicorn, which she immediately starts referring to as Mr Pointy Sparkly. After the attack she can survive sunshine. “Bonus!” she thinks, “All the better to hunt humans!”

She enrolls in high school and finds humans to be relentlessly friendly and trusting. What’s the matter with them? She joins the prom committee, secretly planning that her family will feast on all who attend.  But a problem develops when she gets attached to the humans. What’s the matter with her?

Young adults should really enjoy this dark comedy, especially Pearl’s frequent disparaging references to vampire novels and movies.

Hardcover LBN 738679 / ISBN 9781442423732

"The Scorpio Races"
by Maggie Stiefvater

The author thanks her editor for not panicking when she mentioned this book is about killer horses. I thought, "Killer horses? Really? Okay, I’m not reading that.” Then a librarian friend said, “Read it, the writing’s so beautiful.”

In the story, a remote island hosts a race for fast, carnivorous, magic horses that emerge from the ocean. Each year during the race. horses fight and riders get eaten. This year, a young woman decides to enter the race on a regular horse, like a deer among wolves.

Romantic, suspenseful, scary and, as promised, the writing is beautiful.  The author wrote Shiver, Linger, and Forever.

Hardcover LBN 735383 / ISBN 9780545224901

August 2011

"Liesl & Po"
by Lauren Oliver

This is Lauren Oliver’s first book for children, following her two excellent YA novels: Before I Fall (Nov. 2010 review) and Delirium (March 2011 review). Liesl & Po follows the pattern of her previous books, extremely different from each other, but excellent and extraordinary.

In this fantasy story, lonely and downtrodden characters find each other, bolster one another’s courage, and defeat nasty villains. It’s a funny, joyful story with magic and memorable characters destined for critical acclaim.

Hardcover LBN 728152 / ISBN 9780062014511

"Betsy Wickwire's Dirty Secret"
by Vicki Grant

Canadian Vicki Grant provides a very funny young adult novel, with some of the most memorable characters emerging from a refreshing and unpredictable plot.

The most noteworthy character is Delores, a tiny, opinionated, well-read, flamboyantly dressed powerhouse who barges into Betsy’s life. If a young adult asks you for a funny novel, offer them this one.

Hardcover LBN 738046 / ISBN 9781554681822

July 2011

"The Magnolia League"
by Katie Crouch

Our heroine Alex was home-schooled on a commune in California: dreadlocks, activist/environmentalist world view. When her mother dies suddenly, she’s shipped to a Savannah mansion and a wealthy grandmother she’s never met, who’d sooner drive her Cadillac across the street than walk. The comedic success of this juxtaposition cannot be overstated. Alex’s outrage over Southern overindulgence is well sustained and very funny. Beyond this premise, add engaging mysteries, convincing romance and original paranormal elements. The characters and even the stifling setting will grow on the reader as well. Look forward to an outstanding series.

Hardcover LBN 717683 / ISBN 9780316078498

June 2011

"Addie On The Inside"
by James Howe

This companion to The Misfits is a JF novel in verse. Addie is a very bright, outspoken, unpopular girl, who has no close female friends. She constantly speaks out in class about social issues. Her intelligence and unerring moral compass engender the eye-rolls and cruel teasing of her classmates. Howe’s poems fluently convey Addie’s emotions. The obvious reader for this book would be a girl like Addie herself: an articulate, maybe geeky, top student. However, reluctant readers will also love this book. The poems make the pages fly and keep the reader engaged - “I’ll just read one more.”

Hardcover LBN 717389 / ISBN 9781416913849

"Queens Of The Ice"
by Carly Ida Adams

This non-fiction book in the Lorimer Recordbooks series is a real page turner!  A female hockey team played about 100 games between 1931 and 1940. They lost only two. Isn’t that amazing? Carl Liscombe –who played for the Detroit Red Wings – said of the team’s captain, Hilda Ranscombe, “Hilda was just as good as any boy, and better than most, myself included.”  Don’t you want to hear more? Get this book and give it to your patrons. They won’t give it back until they’ve finished it. This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Hardcover LBN 717758 / ISBN 9781552777213
May 2011

"The Luck Of Jude"
by Andrew Larsen

The main character’s problems are common but engaging: divorced parents, bullies, and school projects. The bully in the story morphs into a friend a little too easily, but other elements compensate. The author subtly includes that some of the characters are new Canadians, which will resonate with readers who are also new to Canada. This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Hardcover LBN 717479 / ISBN 9781552777367

"This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship Of Victor Frankenstein"
by Kenneth Oppel

Victor Frankenstein, his twin Konrad, and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth live in a remote chateau outside Geneva at the time of the French Revolution. Tutored by the twins' father and other exceptional scholars, they lack nothing. When Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor and Elizabeth devote their keen intellects to finding a cure in dangerous alchemy. The setting is deliciously gothic: violent lightning storms; treacherous, deep black caves; and cobwebbed laboratories. The relentless, unpredictable, action-packed plot includes a compelling, romantic triangle.

Hardcover LBN 725052 / ISBN 9781554683390

April 2011

"Beauty Queens"
by Lauren Oliver

Libba Bray has written a new YA novel that will make you laugh out loud at every sitting, and my prediction is that you’ll read it in only one. This book empowers teenage girls to take on the world. It has mystery, action/adventure, romance, but more than anything this is a funny, funny, funny book. Teens will read it in droves.

Hardcover LBN 717630 / ISBN 9780439895972

"Empire Of Ruins"
by Arthur G. Slade

Character development is the emphasis of this action packed third book in the Canadian, YA steam punk/SF series. Modo, Octavia, and rest of the characters go on an expedition together to Australia. During their mission, Octavia again asks to see Modo’s real, misshapen face. (Since he can transform it, he shows her handsome faces.) Her reaction to his real face is disappointing to both of them. It’s an interesting development in their relationship. Other plot twists and the cliff-hanger ending will have readers looking forward to book four. Please see the Audio Picks section for a review of the second book in the series.

Hardcover LBN 702825 / ISBN 9781554683581

"The Great Hamster Massacre"
by Katie Davies

A girl, her best friend, and her little brother hang around their neighbourhood one summer, driving their parents and adult neighbours crazy. At one point, a hamster begging campaign begins. After several psychological assaults on the parents, they give in. Owning hamsters is fun for the kids, right up until they find the cage in a bloody mess. What really surprised me is how excruciatingly funny the author was able to make the death and funeral of hamsters. The kids end up pursuing a murder investigation that is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. 
Hardcover LBN 717450 / ISBN 9781442420625
March 2011

by Libba Bray

This is the first book in a series to recommend to fans of The Hunger Games. The author of Before I Fall presents a dystopian society where love is a disease (delirium) cured by a medical procedure at eighteen. Lena, who is almost eighteen, can’t wait. Until she was eight, Lena and her mother secretly hugged, danced, and loved. Then her mother committed suicide because of the disease. That’s what people say, but Lena’s confused...until she meets Alex. He introduces her to poetry, music, kisses and her confusion explodes. Her emotional turmoil takes place in a danger filled plot; but her bravest act is to finally say, “I love you.”

Hardcover LBN 702820 / ISBN 9780061726828

by Jennifer Donnelly

Readers will love these passionate characters, and will cheer, laugh, and cry for them. Readers will learn about music, music history, the French Revolution, and might even value their little brothers more. There are two teenage heroines in this story, Andi (contemporary) and Alexandrine (from the French Revolution). Andi is privileged, talented, a genius and suicidally sad. Alexandrine is impoverished, talented, smart and courageously fighting her sadness with action. Andi reads Alexandrine’s diary, and it saves her. This is a wonderful book. Andi will linger with readers.
Hardcover LBN 690758 / ISBN 9780385737630
February 2011

by Jackie Morse Kessler

On the night Lisabeth attempts suicide, Death asks her to join the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as Hunger. Even though she’s anorexic, she walks into her backyard, mounts a horse and gallops into the sky. Her parents’ failure to acknowledge her emaciated body seems more surreal. Lisabeth’s scenes as Hunger portray her courageous steps toward self-awareness and house the perfect symbol for the defeat of her Thin voice. The book closes with an author’s note about eating disorders, the author’s experience with them and where to get help. Bravo!     

Paperback LBN 696099 / ISBN 9780547341248

"Fractured: Happily Never After?"
by Joanna Karaplis

A new, small Canadian publisher presents a collection of three stories for young adults. In the first, an outsider named Snow decides one of her seven computer nerd friends is more worthy of kissing than the popular prince. Next, a reality TV show and dance contest--presented in texts--becomes an interesting romance, a la Cinderella. In the final, darker story, an anonymous girl with a beautiful voice performs on YouTube. She secures an audition for a reality TV show, but plastic surgery ruins her singing voice and more. These fast-paced stories will engage even reluctant readers, with lots of action and dialogue.

Hardcover LBN 697392 / ISBN 9780986576706

January 2011

"Queen of Hearts"
by Martha Brooks

Martha Brooks writes so well, she could fill boiling an egg with suspense. In this book people are being treated for tuberculosis in rural Manitoba during World War II. Brooks’ protagonist is smart and mouthy and has the heart of a lion. Immediately, the reader is right there with her, stuck in a sanatorium, afraid she’ll die, afraid her sister or brother or friends will die. She admires the brave people around her. She tries to do the right thing, no matter how hard that is. Bravo, Martha Brooks: another outstanding YA novel. This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Paperback LBN 690754 / ISBN 9780888998286

"Delaying The Game"
by Lorna Schultz Nicholson

This book is from the Formac Hi/Lo Sports Stories series, aimed at readers aged 8-13. Our protagonist, who used to play hockey with guys, has moved to an all girls team. She’s an excellent hockey player but she’s having trouble adjusting. She misses how easily she could talk with the guys on her old team, and she misses one of the guys in particular. A reader doesn’t have to be interested in hockey to read this book, but reading it may get some girls interested in playing hockey. (Particularly references to making Canada’s Olympic women’s team.) This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Hardcover LBN 709076 / ISBN 9781552775714

December 2010

"The Sky Is Everywhere"
by Jandy Nelson

Lennie and her beautiful, charismatic older sister Bailey were inseparable until Bailey suddenly died. It’s an interesting device that all we learn about Bailey is what Lennie tells us. Her thoughts and heartbreaking memories are lovely and lyrical. Sometimes she writes them down--on trees, walls, coffee cups, scraps of paper--and leaves them behind. A boy notices her writing, and gradually finds and gathers more and more of these scraps, falling in love with her in the process. This exceptional, dense novel communicates much about grief, love, music, passion, and family. I highly recommend it.

Hardcover LBN 652028 / ISBN 9780803734951

"All Just Glass"
by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes--veteran of the YA vampire genre--has written an action-packed plot that takes place over just 24 hours. Two teen sisters belong to a clan of vampire-hunters, and wake to an unbearable new reality: one of them has become a vampire, and the other must hunt and kill her. Told from their alternating perspectives, they both struggle to trust each other and somehow change the rigid laws and moral standards they’ve both been raised on, so they can both survive. This struggle is a convincing metaphor for religious persecution transcending into religious tolerance. Excellent!

Hardcover LBN 702797 / ISBN 9780385737524

November 2010

by Laura J. Burns

Yes, this is another YA vampire romance, but it has a neat twist. Our heroine, Shay, starts the story weak and sick with a debilitating blood disorder. A new kind of blood transfusion transforms her into a strong, crazy, free-spirit, but it also gives her visions of a boy. She already loves him when they meet, even though she knows he’s a vampire. Soon they figure out that she is too! Their “happily-ever-after” hits a snag when his clan decides she needs to die. The sequel should be amazing.

Hardcover LBN 675983 / ISBN 9781442408166

"Before I Fall"
by Lauren Oliver

As many reviews state, this book is like the movie Groundhog Day, except the protagonist is a popular high school girl. As she relives the same day over and over, a compelling mystery develops, a lovely romance blooms, friendships gain depth, she appreciates her parents and darling little sister, and she truly changes. She transforms from a flaky, superficial bully into a brave, selfless, caring, loving person. She does all this through fine-tuning small interactions. It’s an excellent delineation of bullying, and a brilliant debut.

Hardcover LBN 647148 / ISBN 9780061726804

October 2010

"Jealousy: A Strange Angels Novel"
by Lili St. Crow

I love this series! (See previous reviews.) Dru is a female part-vampire--very rare and potentially very powerful. Vampires want her dead, and Dru starts to deteriorate under the pressure--she often cries, and can’t sleep or eat. This vulnerability makes her a realistic and sympathetic character even as she gains political power within the series’ richly imagined secret paranormal society.

Hardcover LBN 673426 / ISBN 9781595142900

by Sophie Jordan

Jacinda, belongs to a secret line of dragon descendents who can also take human form. They have varying abilities--Jacinda’s is breathing fire. She is the first in hundreds of years, and her importance is a burden that makes her rebellious. Another secret race exists to hunt dragons. Naturally, our heroine falls in love with one of them. The "Romeo and Juliet plot" is convincing and suspenseful. Twilight fans will love this book.

Hardcover LBN 690720 / ISBN 9780061935084

September 2010

by Kiersten White

Evie has worked for the International Paranormal Containment Agency since childhood because she can detect paranormals in a crowd of humans, something no one else in the world can do. At seventeen, she learns that the Agency has categorized her as paranormal – non-human. The author builds a fast-paced, mystery plot and a complicated, political, paranormal system. It’s refreshing that Evie has a romance with a boy who is not physically perfect or romantically sophisticated. This promises to be an excellent series.

Hardcover LBN 690750 / ISBN 9780061985843

"Song Of The Sword"
by Edward Willett

This is the first title in a five-book YA series called The Shards of Excalibur. Ariane learns she is a descendant of the Lady of the Lake and must find the five lost shards of Excalibur before Merlin does. Instantly, Ariane can transport herself through water and rematerialize hundreds of kilometres away. She can also sense the first’s calling her. The story starts in Winnipeg and has wonderful Canadian references and some really funny passages. Ariane is constantly in danger, and the suspense is beautifully maintained.

Hardcover LBN 690764 / ISBN 9781897550908

"The Danger Box"
by Blue Balliett

I recommend this book for a number of reasons, namely quirky characters, a great mystery, and a fast-paced plot. A sight impaired boy writes lists as a coping mechanism for stress. When he meets a loud-talking girl with an eclectic vocabulary and they find an old notebook, they study it (using the internet and library extensively) to figure out where it came from. Meanwhile, criminal characters are closing in to steal the notebook. Blue Balliett portrays research and hard work, history and science as tremendous adventures. Reading this book will get young patrons excited about studying Charles Darwin, particularly his one notebook that really is missing.

Hardcover LBN 684906 / ISBN 9780439852098

August 2010

"The Kneebone Boy"
by Ellen Potter

Max is the youngest Hardscrabble sibling. He knows pretty much everything, but he tries to be subtle to avoid getting hit. Lucia is bossy and articulate but not as smart as Max, which annoys her. Otto is the oldest and hasn’t spoken or taken off his scarf since their mother disappeared. The settings and mystery plot are marvelous and convoluted. Any child with even a modicum of interest in reading will be delighted by this book. Booklist described the writing of Ellen Potter as “Dashes of Dahl, snippets of Snicket, and heaps of Horvath.'

Hardcover LBN 690585 / ISBN 9780312377724

"The Mysterious Howling"
by Maryrose Wood

Book one in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, aptly described as Jane Eyre meets Lemony Snicket. A girl graduates from an austere boarding school, where she has internalized dozens of rules in vigorous discipline and absurd self-sacrifice. At her first governess job, she finds her charges locked in a barn wearing blankets. They bark and chase squirrels. She gamely absorbs these facts and begins teaching elocution while calmly insisting that clothing is compulsory. Much later she learns the children were apparently raised by wolves. I read this book then read Jane Eyre for the first time. (Shameful! I know.) The Mysterious Howling is a brilliant, hilarious parody.

Hardcover LBN 651927 / ISBN 9780061791055

July 2010

"King Tut's Tomb Robbers"
by Miguel Carbonell

Set in 2025, a family’s time-travel vacation to Egypt goes horribly wrong. The brother gets sent to the wrong time period, dropped into the court of King Tutankhamun, the year he died. The author uses this vehicle to explore the mysterious circumstances of King Tut’s death and also inserts some interesting time-paradox plot twists.

Paperback LBN 679289
Hardcover LBN 679292

"Burned: A House Of Night Novel"
by P.C. Cast

The House of Night continues to be among my favourite YA paranormal series. Zoey’s friends have seven days to figure out how to heal her shattered soul, scattered in the Otherworld. Themes of loyalty, making good choices, and believing in themselves and each other continue in the character development of Zoey, Stevie Ray, Aphrodite and Stark. If Hermione Granger attended The House of Night, she’d have trouble keeping up with our clever fledglings!

Hardcover LBN 661020

"White Cat"
by Holly Black

This is the first book in a new YA paranormal series, The Curseworkers, and it has a brilliant romantic twist. Lila has always been Cassel’s best friend, but for years he’s been in love with her. After they share an adventure and he saves her life, suddenly, she passionately loves him back. Then Cassel learns his mother cast an irreversible love spell on Lila. Now he doesn’t really know how she feels, and neither does she. Holly Black weaves a fast-paced mystery into this engaging romance and builds a unique paranormal world with several intriguing subplots.

Hardcover LBN 668931

May 2010

"Blood Promise"
by Richelle Mead

The recent Stigoi attack at St. Vladimir's Academy was deadly–Dimitri was captured and turned. He and Rose had promised each other that if this happened, she would hunt him and free his soul. On her heartbreaking journey, Rose learns about her bond with Lissa and meets new allies. Back at to St. Vladimir’s Rose and Lissa are becoming more powerful as political intrigue and danger build around them. Mead’s exploration of right and wrong is fascinating and complex.

Paperback LBN 673423

"Northward To The Moon"
by Polly Horvath

This is a worthy sequel to the outstanding book My One Hundred Adventures. Jane’s stepdad Ned can’t actually speak French, which apparently has implications for his job as a French teacher in Saskatchewan. After he gets fired, Jane, Ned, her mom and siblings return home to the east coast via B.C. and Las Vegas, as we meet most of Ned's peculiar family. Hilarious familial miscommunications, assumptions, and absurd habits ensue. This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Paperback LBN 678426

by Christina Meldrum

Christina Meldrum uses a series of flashbacks to effectively illustrate that perception is hugely influenced by how much or how little one knows: in this case, both the reader and the protagonist, Madapple. Meldrum also explores how easy it is to harm people when trying to protect them. This book is a brilliant debut. 

Paperback LBN 655782

"Beautiful Creatures"
by Kami Garcia

The Caster Chronicles: Book 1. Of all the paranormal YA romances recently published, this one stands out. The gothic setting is outstanding with it's overgrown gardens, murky swamps, crumbling graveyards and mansions, and foreboding thunderstorms. The contemporary high school romance between Lena (the unusual new girl) and Ethan (a popular clique insider) develops credibly and sizzles with sensuality. The extensive cast of characters includes some of the most compelling witches, vampires, and werewolves I've read in a long time. I look forward to book 2 in October 2010.

Paperback LBN 636461

March 2010

"Betrayals: A Strange Angels Novel"
by Lili St. Crow

This is book two in the Strange Angels series. The voice of Lili St. Crow’s protagonist, Dru, conveys intelligence, courage and a quirky sense of humour. She articulates her thoughts and feelings precisely. Readers will feel her face burn when she blushes, the ache of her exertion, the warmth behind her ribs when she talks to a boy, and the fear and thrill of her developing supernatural powers. St. Crow achieves all this concurrent with relentless life-or-death action. And, one conversation at a time, Dru is developing relationships with both a vampire and a werewolf.

Paperback LBN 637433

by Norah McClintock

This book was not published in the Orca Soundings series designated for teens reading below grade level, but it is an excellent choice for teen reluctant readers. There are very few characters and the plot has a lightning pace, despite a simple chronological timeline. The main character, Stephanie, is abducted, but escapes only to find that she is surrounded by wilderness. She uses the survival training her Grandfather taught her survive and navigate her way to the nearest town. All the while, she fears her abductor will track and recapture her. Riveting!

Paperback LBN 633146

"Homicide Related"
by Norah McClintock

This is the second Ryan Dooley Mystery of a planned trilogy, and it is an excellent teen read. Dooley’s relationship with his girlfriend Beth deepens and strengthens and he dares to share more of his troubled past with her, despite his fear that she will think less of him. Seeing such vulnerability in a “tough-guy” character is intriguing. For her part, Beth defends Dooley in conversations with her mother. Beth’s mother has good reason for concern. When two murders occur in the plot, Dooley investigates both of them, as he and his uncle are suspects. This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Paperback LBN 631916

"The Shepherd's Granddaughter"
by Alison Goodman

The allegorical elements of this 2010 Red Maple Award nominee are clever and well-executed. A Palestinian teenager takes over her grandfather’s flock of sheep. When Israeli settlers build on the mountain her grandfather and previous generations used to graze the flock, she resorts to a more secluded pasture where she knows wolves live, and learns how to share the space with them. Later she builds an uneasy relationship with the son of the Israeli settlers. Young Adults won’t be bogged down by the subject matter as the characters are engaging and the plot is unpredictable and suspenseful. This publisher is a member of The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO).

Paperback LBN 587195

September 2009

by Kristin Cashore

This prequel takes place in an adjacent kingdom to Katsa’s in Graceling. One hopes these kingdoms converge in Kristin Cashore’s third book. Half-human, Fire possesses mesmerizing beauty while mentally she can control people around her as well. She fears and carefully cloisters her powers until she’s summoned by the quirky royal family. Gradually, Fire develops her abilities and helps war preparations. As she learns to trust herself, she learns to love the royals. Fire is a magnificent, lioness of a character developed against a pulse-pounding plot and lovely romance. 

Hardcover LBN 632680

"Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side"
by Beth Fantaskey

This YA paranormal novel parachutes a Romanian vampire--black cape and all--into a rural American a vegan household, no less. His haughty, outraged letters home to Romania are laugh-out-loud funny. (See particularly his scathing missive on the “indestructible lentil” on page 47.) References to “Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health and Emotions” are also frequently hilarious.  Into this satire, the author weaves a credibly steamy, stormy romance.

Hardcover LBN 639749

"Eon: Dragoneye Reborn"
by Alison Goodman

This Young Adult fantasy has many qualities to recommend it. The setting is a richly textured Asian fantasy world with a dragon religion; but, the dragons are real and very powerful. Their priests make up a complex patriarchal political establishment into which our tentative, brilliantly talented female protagonist penetrates--disguised as a male apprentice. She is one of many well drawn characters. Meanwhile, a formidable plot races by--sword fights, formal multicourse dinners, ceremonies, murder, conspiracy, and mystery!

Hardcover LBN 617038

"Strange Angels"
by Lili St. Crow

This is a YA paranormal, action/adventure, plot driven page-turner, and a darn good one. The main character and her father are drifters, experts at hunting werewolves and destroying them. Then her father comes home a zombie! She has to kill him, and the pages start flying. If that were all there were to this story--the first in a series--it would be exciting enough. What’s refreshing is that the writing relishes language. For example, “I looked down at the floor, that strange heat swamping my cheeks like water filling up a footprint.”

Paperback LBN 617284

May 2009

"Bad Tuesdays #1: Twisted Symmetry"
by Benjamin Myers

This book was recommended to me as the best book of the year, which is a pretty bold statement this early in the year, but I see the point. The plot, characters, and nature of the paranormal/science fiction/fantasy elements in this story are unlike any I can remember. The closest literary kinship I can think of is Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, but even that isn’t 'weird' enough.

For teens who like Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Paranormal but feel like there’s nothing new to read, this is the series for them. It came out of the slush pile and several books are ready to publish. I can’t wait.

Paperback LBN 617038

"43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying To Meet You"
by Kate Klise

I hadn’t really committed to reading this particular book--I was just going to look at it--but then the first page is a letter, followed by a reply and, well, I just kept reading. The ghost in this story appears by correspondence too, sometimes making interjections--in her font--into letters in progress by other characters. Kids who don’t consider themselves to be “readers” may do what I did, pick up this book, and be half finished before they decide to read it

Hardcover LBN 615968

"Suddenly Supernatural #2: Scaredy Kat"
by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

The paranormal plot of this book moves quickly, grabbing young readers and keeping them interested. Why Kat--our young medium protagonist--can’t communicate with a boy spirit she sees, is an interesting and clever mystery. What I really liked about this book, though, is that into this plot driven story, the author weaves important ideas about Kat and her friend Jac’s growing selfhood in relation to their parents. The girls discuss their feelings about problems in emotionally healthy exchanges that are nevertheless funny, and believable, and don’t come across as didactic. The character development is engaging, and readers will be pleased that the third book, Unhappy Medium, is available in hardcover and audio.

Hardcover LBN 585681

"Suddenly Supernatural #3: Unhappy Medium"
by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Hardcover LBN 616045

Unabridged CD LBN 611543

February 2009
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by Pearl North

In a future world, Libyrarians champion dwindling numbers of books from Eradicants, a religious culture that seeks to burn them.  Three Libyrarians learn the location of the most important book in the world and set off to save it.

This is a fine adventure story full of interesting ideas about community and humanity, war and peace.  It is also an homage to books, writers, and librarians.  It will make you cry, for the love of books.  Any youth or child who has ever enjoyed reading a book will relish reading this one.

Hardcover LBN 616881

by Gail Carson Levine

A girl must be sacrificed to the omnipotent God she and her society believe in.  A lesser God from another culture has been watching her and decides to try and save her life.  In the pursuit of their quest, they fall in love.  Gail Carson Levine presents a compelling and suspenseful journey that also invites children to think about religious belief.

Hardcover LBN 567360

Paperback LBN 567360

Unabridged CD LBN 597530

"Untamed: A House Of Night Novel"
by P.C. Cast

The suspense is relentless in this fourth book in the best YA vampire series I've read so far.  Zoey and her six closest friends are all growing and developing naturally through the books, and their supernatural powers and changes are really interesting and engaging. The audio edition is also very well done, with realistic teen dialogue and conversations.  It's also refreshing to read a frankly, sexy vampire book.  The readers are teenagers, after all, not toddlers.

Paperback LBN 587208

Unabridged CD LBN 601128

"Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You"
by Peter Cameron

In the summer before going away to college, an intellectual, introverted teen explores his frustrations with the shortcomings of speech. He resents that people are careless with speech and that most of what they say is redundant. His ideas are interesting and explored through conversations with his divorced parents, his older sister, a therapist, his grandmother, and others.

Hardcover LBN 538483

Unabridged CD LBN 587546
December 2008

"George's Secret Key To The Universe (audio CD)"
by Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking

Noted physicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy use a fairly suspenseful novel as a framework to present their idea that Physics is interesting. Blackholes, super-computer space-travel, finding other habitable planets, and saving Earth for future generations all figure into the lives of some funny and well developed characters. The audio works well to mesh enthusiasm into some dry passages.

Hardcover : ISBN 0743571614 / 9780743571616
LBN # 558827 / Price $34.99 / Pub Date: October 2007

"Young Samurai: The Way Of The Warrior"
by Chris Bradford

In 1611, Jack, a young “rigging monkey” survives a harrowing ocean crossing to Japan, only to have every last crewman on his ship massacred during a silent, night-time Ninja attack. From there, like the pacing of the Harry Potter books, this book is difficult to put down because the action never stops. Jack encounters mysterious enemies, a gracious girl mentor, a sullen rival “brother”, and the intriguing intricacies of Japanese language, culture, cuisine, martial arts, and etiquette. Excellent characterization promises that interest will build in this series with many different kinds of readers.

Paperback : ISBN 0141324309 / 9780141324302
LBN # 586996 / Price $11.00 / Pub Date: August 2008

October 2008

"Fairest (audio CD)"
by Gail Carson Levine

This fantasy is set in a royal court where coronations, weddings, and even courtly games, are sung. A talented singer enters this world and soon finds herself tricked into singing for the talentless foreign queen. It is an intriguing, funny, romantic story, and this audio version by Full Cast Audio is truly extraordinary. If you have one audio book for Family Listening, it should be this one.

Hardcover : ISBN 1934180084 / 9781934180082
LBN # 548704 / Price $43.95 / Pub Date: October 2007

"A Very Fine Line"
by Julie Johnston

Set in small town Ontario in 1941, this novel weaves suspense into themes of sisterhood, childhood friendships, first love, supernatural ability and steadfast motherly support. Like most Tundra Books novels, every Canadian Library should have a copy.

Paperback : ISBN 0887768296 / 9780887768293
LBN # 588480 / Price $14.99 / Pub Date: August 2008

September 2008

"Alcatraz Versus The Scrivener's Bones"
by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz’s second adventure is funnier, more exciting, continues good character development, and is as equally fast-paced as the first.  I defy you to find a reader who would not enjoy this book.

Hardcover : ISBN 0439925533 / 9780439925532
LBN # 586755 / Price $18.99 / Pub Date: October 2008

by Kenneth Oppel

I really liked Kenneth Oppel’s bat books but his Airborn series is even better. This time Matt and his peerless love interest, Kate de Vries travel into space. Oppel has created Canada as the country sending the expedition into space and works in lots of pseudo-Canadian content. It’s a Canadian fast-paced-action-adventure-romantic-comedy-fantasy-for reluctant readers that experienced readers will also not be able to put down.

Hardcover : ISBN 0002007452 / 9780002007450
LBN # 586963 / Price $21.99 / Pub Date: August 2008

by Kristin Cashore

Debut author Kristin Cashore has created a wonderful fantasy world comparable to Robin McKinley’s “Blue Sword” and “Hero and the Crown”. In Cashore’s world, people born with different coloured eyes have a “grace” or an extraordinary talent. The protagonist Katsa has a talent that’s underestimated as a killing grace. And that is just a tiny part of what I was delighted to learn promises to be a series. I would hazard to say Katsa’s courageous heart is irresistible to any teen girls who have ever enjoyed reading anything, and may well be the first breakthrough book they read for pleasure.

Hardcover : ISBN 015206396X / 9780152063962
LBN # 587142 / Price $18.95 / Pub Date: August 2008

"Night Runner"
by Max Turner

An excellent vampire adventure from a debut Canadian author. Our teen protagonist learns that he’s a vampire and kindles a sweet, believable romance, all in the midst of various chase scenes in a few days. He runs hides, escapes, hunts and eventually fights. Through several factions of vampires and/or vampire hunters he finds allies and selfhood.

Hardcover : ISBN 1554680840 / 9781554680849
LBN # 580306 / Price $14.95 / Pub Date: September 2008

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen: Book Cover

"Word Nerd"
by Susin Nielsen

Word Nerd does involve home schooling, single parenthood, peanut allergies, bullying, drug abuse, rehabilitation and death.  Essentially, an overprotected lonely, boy finds a selfhood beyond his mother in a local Scrabble Club. An excellent, truthful juvenile read about being yourself. This book is perfect for all those kids who were not popular in the crazy world of public school. The setting is Vancouver and other parts of Canada.

Hardcover : ISBN 088776875X / 9780887768750
LBN # 586994 / Price $20.95 / Pub Date: September 2008

"My One Hundred Adventures"
by Polly Horvath

My One Hundred Adventures takes place over a seaside summer, so vivid you can hear the surf. Polly Horvath builds a repertoire of unique characters whose cacophony eventually forms a crazy and believable community. A funeral, where a doctor interrupts the eulogy to defend his diagnosis really is hysterically funny on many, many levels and representative of the genius of this novel. Over the summer, lots of things happen that together help the protagonist grow up a bit and feel separate from her family for the first time .

Paperback : ISBN 0888999097 / 9780888999092
LBN # 587172 / Price $12.95 / Pub Date: September 2008

July 2008

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

In this "Breaking Dawn" preseason, you might suggest a young adult vampire book that I found interesting. Cynthia Leitich Smith creates a contemporary world where populations of Werewolves and Vampires are known to exist. Quincie, the female protagonist, has a werewolf friend, and tries to keep this fact secret from most people to avoid discrimination. Prejudices against werewolves in the legal system are discussed as are ideas about conflict with romantic relationships between humans and werewolves. It's a strong metaphor for racism and just part of what's going on in this mystery novel.

If you know of any other excellent YA vampire and/or werewolf please let me know.

Hardcover : ISBN 0763627917 / 9780763627911
LBN # 544675 / Price $21.00 / Pub Date: February 2008

"Genius Squad"
by Catherine Jinks

Anyone lucky enough to have read “Evil Genius” will be happy to hear that this is its sequel. Cadel and his friend Sonia are invited to join a clandestine teenage team ­ under the guise of a group home for troubled youth ­ researching the activities of a company owned by Cadel’s evil ex-guardian. In the midst of fantastic espionage gadgets, kidnappings, police surveillance and wicked plans to control the world, Cadel and Sonia’s biggest conundrum continues to be figuring out human relationships. Who can they trust? A tremendously engaging young adult read.

Hardcover : ISBN 0152059857 / 9780152059859
LBN # 565896 / Price $18.95 / Pub Date: April 2008

June 2008

"Big Big Sky"

by Kristyn Dunnion

I think what I like best about this book - and I like lots of things about this book ­ is the dialect the author created for her distopia world. Such as, “Oh Kronk, whafa do?” She switches between 4 main characters’ perspectives very effectively. It’s a scifi, romance where two of the main characters morph into animals halfway through the plot, among other things. Intrigued? This book ­ target audience clearly teen girls ­ will suck in good readers and reluctant readers alike and keep them up all night. My clear favourite so far for 2008 AND the author is Canadian.

Paperback : 978-0889954045

LBN : 538393  / Price  $14.95

"The Magician"

by Michael Scott

This is the second in the trilogy “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel”. I loved the first book with all my heart ­ as my review shows - and was not disappointed with this continued, fabulous adventure. The closeness of Sophie and Josh the twins is compelling. Joan of Arc ­ a friend of Scathach the vampire vegetarian warrior ­ is a wonderful secondary character, but Scathach continues to be one of the most delightful characters I’ve recently met. A riveting read from start to finish.

Hardcover : 978-0385733588

LBN :  557162 / Price $19.99

"Marked : A house of night novel"

by P.C. Cast

This book is a year old, but ya know, I think there might be increased demand for vampire books in a few weeks.

This series is from the perspective of someone trying to make the best of becoming a vampire. Luckily there’s a vampire school, vampire friends and so on. There are also some fabulously creepy elements to this book, and the characters confront real teen problems. Very, very well done.

Paperback : 978-0312360269

LBN : 520391  / Price $9.95

March 2008

"Before I Die"
by Jenny Downham

I listened to Tessa’s story. I will buy it in print to savour some of the writing, it is that superb. Tessa’s first person narrative is perfect for audio and Charlotte Parry’s performance is mesmerizing. Teenage girls love stories that make them cry, and they will find none better. .

Hardcover : ISBN 0385751559 / 9780385751551
LBN # 538387 / Price $20.99 / Pub Date: September 2007
Compact Disc: ISBN 0739362887 / 9780739362884
LBN # 538389 / Price $42.00 / Pub Date: September 2007

"Does My Head Look Big In This?"
by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Halfway through grade 11, Amal decides to wear her hijab full-time. Randa Abdel-Fattah avoids bogging down her book with didactic passages – as can happen with issue novels. Instead, Amal’s cool-headed, feminist intelligence shines through with humour and courage. You will cheer her and her decision.

Hardcover : ISBN 0439919479 / 9780439919470
LBN # 520298 / Price $20.99 / Pub Date: May 2007

December 2007
"Power Plays"
by Maureen Ulrich

“Power Plays” isn’t just a hockey book for girls, although if you want to understand hockey, this is a good place to read and learn. As Jessie the protagonist finds out, playing hockey is so fast and so hard and so frustrating that scoring a goal nearly explodes your heart with joy. “Power Plays” also resonates with other pleasing and confusing emotions that punctuate a teenager’s life. Jessie’s problems with bullies and the tactics she uses for coping with them may comfort some readers or encourage them to seek help.

Paperback : ISBN 1550503790 / 9781550503791
LBN # 538467 / Price $12.95 / Pub Date: September 2007

"Fashion Kitty Versus the Fashion Queen"
by Charise Harper

Charise Harper is sneaky. She weaves spelling and definitions into her plot without bogging down the engaging, laugh-out-loud story. But don’t take my word for it, my colleague gave this book to her daughter, a reluctant seven-year old reader, and she read it in one sitting!

Paperback : ISBN 0786837268 / 9780786837267
LBN # 517251 / Price $11.99 / Pub Date: June 2007

November 2007







by Robin McKinley

Dragonhaven will keep a variety of readers up late. The story has the same majesty of Robin McKinley’s Newbery Medal book “The Hero and the Crown”, yet Jake’s engaging, distinctly teenage-toned narrative is hilarious. For example, (which he never says) he calls one of the dragons “Gulp” because whenever he sees the size of her, he says, “Gulp!” And so, he meanders through the story of how he raised an infant dragon, learned to communicate with her, and then tried to explain this to full-grown, 80-foot dragons.

Hardcover : ISBN 0399246754 / 9780399246753
LBN # 538421 / Prince $21.50 / Pub Date: September 2007

"H.I.V.E. : The Higher Institue of Villainous Education"
by Mark Walden

When Otto awakens in a school for criminally gifted children, he learns that he and all of the other students have been abducted, so he immediately hatches a plan to escape. His classes showcase fantastic gadgets and technology as he assembles a team to aid his escape. The characters and their extraordinary talents are believable and engaging, as is the development of their relationships. Readers who enjoy plot-driven narratives like Mission Impossible or Spiderman will enjoy this book. The sequel, along with the paperback edition of this title, will be published in 2008.

Hardcover : ISBN 1416935711 / 9781416935711
LBN # 525651 / Prince $19.99 / Pub Date: May 2007
Paperback : ISBN 141693572X / 9781416935728
LBN # 554888 / Price $7.99 / Pub Date: Jan 2008

The Overload Protocole
Hardcover : ISBN 1416935738 / 9781416935735
LBN # 554681 / Price: $18.99 / Pub Date: Jan 2008

October 2007
"Thy Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World"
by EL Konigsburg

Amedeo Kaplan and William Wilcox's friendship grows while they get to know Amedeo’s nutty, hilarious, ex-opera-singer neighbour, Mrs. Zender. While the plot meanders, (touching on Nazi history, racism, sexuality, secrets, truth, and Art history) Amedeo learns, to his surprise, that he is affluent, while both William and Mrs. Zender are not. As Amedeo’s self-awareness matures, Mrs. Zender grows up a bit herself. An inspired vocal performance by Edward Herrmann adds depth and resonance to these memorable characters.

Hardcover : ISBN 9781416949725
LBN # 538168 / Price: $21.00
Compact Disc: ISBN 9780743569088
LBN # 538169 / Price: $29.99
September 2007
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"Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians "
by Brandon Sanderson

"Alcatraz versus the evil Librarians” explores interesting ideas and is truly laugh out loud funny. It has slapstick comedy, dry humour, sarcasm and heavy-handed narrative interjections. (Now I’m going to give away the ending, so if you plan to read the book, stop reading.) (Last chance…) (Sanderson uses funny little bits like that.) (Some might find them annoying.) Evil Librarians have hegemony in Alcatraz’s world through their control of knowledge. At the end of the book, Alcatraz has a pair of lenses that can decipher any language. Does that not present exciting potential for the rest of the series?

Ages : 9+
Hardcover : ISBN 0439925509 / 9780439925501
LBN # 538071 / Price: $20.99
Compact Disc: ISBN 0545024692 / 9780545024693
LBN # 538072 / Price: $35.99

"Evil Genius"
by Catherine Jinks

What if you set up a fake online dating service by fabricating dozens of identities to “match” everyone who joined? What if you answered all their emails yourself, as these different identities, using the experience to build a computer program that predicted human behaviour? What if you liked one of the people and answered as yourself, and what if they liked the real, evil you? What if you were eleven years old? That’s a very small part of this often funny exploration of good and evil. A key character has cerebral palsy and she’s a math expert. A sequel is planned called “Genius Squad”. Male and female young adults will find reasons to love this book.

Ages : 12+
Hardcover : ISBN 0152059881 / 9780152059880
LBN # : 520314 / Price: $19.95
August 2007

"The Wednesday Wars "
by Gary Schmidt

“The Wednesday Wars” is set in 1960's America. Holling, our protagonist, is in grade 7 and is laugh-out-loud funny. His self-deprecating, first person narrative voice suits an audio presentation very well. It vividly captures the ludicrous humiliations he suffers, as well as his triumphs. (Click our “Audio Books” tab for further current audio titles in juvenile fiction and young adult, as well as adult fiction and non-fiction.) "... Helen Wilding Cook

Hardcover : ISBN 0618724834 / 9780618724833
LBN # 531790 / Price: $21.95
Compact Disc: ISBN 0439925010 / 9780439925013
LBN # 529462 / Price: $42.99

by Jerry Spinelli

Nine-year-old David and thirteen-year-old Primrose become unlikely friends through an unpredictable and engaging plotline. They sparingly express feelings to each other, the way kids do. Their friendship becomes touchingly protective, but not saccharine, and gradually heals their bruised hearts.

Hardcover : ISBN 0316166464 / 9780316166461
LBN # 514231 / Price: $19.99
Compact Disc: ISBN 1594839700 / 9781594839702
LBN # 520308 / Price: $28.98
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
by JK Rowling

“Yes, okay, I admit it. I love Harry Potter. I’m a fan. I reread “The Half-blood Prince” and couldn’t wait for “The Deathly Hallows”. I neglected housework and stayed up too late reading it. I even lost the thread of my husband’s engaging conversations because I was thinking about Ron and Hermione and Harry. Kreacher’s involvement was a nice touch. Not that it matters, but I loved “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"... Helen Wilding Cook

Hardcover : ISBN 1551929767
LBN # 512975 / Price: $45.00
June 2007
"Terrier: Beka Cooper Book 1"
by Tamora Pierce

"Beka Cooper’s trilogy is set in Pierce’s Tortall world where Beka empowers young female readers to believe in themselves. In the audio version, the narrator did an excellent job varying speed, accent, and inflection to distinctly portray at least seven endearing characters. Beka’s journal entries make up the majority of the book and are well suited to an audio presentation."... Helen Wilding Cook

Hardcover : ISBN 037581468X / 9780375814686
LBN # 491647 / Price: $24.95
Compact Disc : ISBN 0739337181 / 9780739337189
LBN # 489928 / Price $69.95
May 2007

by Charlie Fletcher
"Stoneheart made me cheer! George Chapman (12) learns to believe in himself as he walks – and increasingly runs - around in downtown London, England – running because he sees gargoyles peel off walls, statues jump off plinths, etc. He has inadvertently started a war, and the gargoyles and dragons are not on George’s side! Jim Dale did a wonderful job with small changes in his voice to differentiate the characters. Happily, “Stoneheart” is the first in a self-titled trilogy." ... Helen Wilding Cook

Hardcover : ISBN 034091162X / 9780340911624
LBN # 520465 / Price: $21.95
Compact Disc : ISBN 0545003652 / 9780545003650
LBN # 526553 / Price $47.95
"The Invention of Hugo Cabret"
by Brian Selznick
“This book literally gave me goose bumps. Selznick's combination of pictures and text not only emulates the overly slow and melodramatic enchantment of “silent film", but in doing so he pushes the parameters of “the novel”. Like “The Three Golden Keys” by Peter Sis is for the picture book, this novel is a groundbreaking achievement." ... Helen Wilding Cook

Hardcover : ISBN 0439813786 / 9780439813785
LBN # 505392 / Price: $27.99
Compact Disc : ISBN 0545003636 / 9780545003636
LBN # 520827 / Price $35.99