Monday, 22 January 2018

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 Starr Carter lives in a poor black neighbourhood, but attends a white prep school in the suburbs. She lives two lives, one in each place, but one night these worlds threaten to collide as she becomes the sole witness to the shooting of her best friend, Khalil. Khalil is unarmed and shot by a white police officer, while Starr sits by helplessly. 

The fallout from this shooting affects Starr, her family, and her neighbourhood. Starr's anonymity in the event is what keeps her safe, but when the shooting becomes a national headline and Khalil is portrayed as a thug, a drug dealer, and not Starr's childhood friend, the sweet boy who loves his mama, she struggles between keeping quiet and speaking out. As the only witness, Starr is the one person who knows exactly what happened that night. 

With hope that the system will not fail Khalil, Starr continues her normal day to day existence, but as time goes on, and street protests erupt, she finds it more and more difficult to reconcile her two worlds. She hears comments and sees behaviour with a heightened awareness that leave her deeply considering what she needs to do.

This book is a firsthand account of a life surrounded by racialization and marginalization.It explores and questions white privelege, black oppression, racism, police brutality, discrimination, and prejudice as Starr finds her voice and learns the power it has. 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Newt's Emerald

by Garth Nix

Lady Truthful Newington (aka Newt) will inherit her family's treasure, the Newington Emerald, on her eighteenth birthday.  The emerald is a beautiful gemstone, but more than that, it also bestows its wearer with magical powers.

Unfortunately, the emerald disappears one dark and stormy night, and Newt sets off to recover it.  As no well-bred young lady should be out on the streets on her own, Newt's plan involves using a disguise - a glamour that makes others see her as a man. The disguise definitely helps Newt move freely throughout London, but it also complicates matters as she has to maintain two different identities.  

This is a delightful regency romance that includes fantasy and magic, a case of mistaken identity and adventure. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Book of the Month : December - Let It Snow, Three Holiday Romances
Let it Snow
By John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

I am not one for romances but I was looking for something to get me into the holiday spirit and these short stories seemed like just what I was looking for.

Let it Snow is a collection of three short stories tied together by a common thread; written by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle,

So go make yourself some hot coco, grab your favourite snugly blanket, curl up by the fire and prepare for a warm night in with this to read. All three romances have a holiday theme and they definitely got me in the spirit of things. The three stories can stand alone but there is an underlying thread to tie them together in the end.

My favourite of the three authors stories was by John Green, I actually found myself laughing and read this one very quickly. The other tales were a little sappy for my taste ... but who am I kidding I love a little sappy, cheesy-ness once in a while. 'Tis the season for love and friendship and spreading joy and all that.

Richmond Public Library keeps this book in storage and only pulls it out this time of year so you might have to place a hold on it to guarantee you can get your hands on it.

Happy holidays to you all!

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The opening lines of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina go something like this: Happy families are all alike, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.  Salvador Silva and his adoptive father, Vicente, seem like a stereotypical happy family.  Salvador is a fairly content and well-adjusted teenager, about to start his final year of high school.  He has college applications waiting to fill out.  But lurking beneath the surface are the unhappy moments that afflict all families, each with their own unique pattern.

As much as Salvador loves and adores his father, he can't help but wonder about his biological father, and feels incredibly guilty for doing so.  Vicente's mother -- Salvador's beloved Mima --  is ill, which upends Salvador's previously well-ordered life.  But at least Salvador's life is more-or-less on an even keel, thanks to Vicente's patient and loving parenting style.  His best friend, Samatha, has a difficult relationship with her mother and as for her father, he might as well be a stranger on the street.  Salvador's friend, Fito, has a nonexistent relationship with his mother, because according to Fito, she abandoned him for the siren song of addiction, and his father left El Paso for California to look for work, and Fito hasn't heard from him since.

Finding a place where they can find a level of balance that approaches happiness is what drives this novel.  It's more of a character study than one with an easily described plot.  Saenz shows his readers how each character reacts to a given situation, such as when Fito's mother throws him out of the house, or Salvador punches a classmate for insulting Vicente.  The threads that bind this novel together are the ties of friends and family -- both the families they're born into and the families they create.  Family seems to be an ongoing theme for Saenz, from his earlier work He Forgot to Say Goodbye to his award-winning Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  And in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, it looms over the whole book.

Another compelling theme of the novel is the nature vs. nurture argument, something Salvador grapples with on a daily basis, as he tries to answer the question of whether nature or nurture has more power over who Salvador will be when he grows up.  Fito struggles with it as well, albeit in a quieter way.

Saenz is capable of some truly gorgeous writing that lifts your heart into your throat, which at times borders on poetry (even though it's not technically poetry).  Like this quote: "...she burned her hand when some hot oil splattered.  The F word went flying through the kitchen and landed in the living room, where it hit my dad right in the heart."  Saenz is a master of figurative language.

Most of the novel takes place within Salvador's head, as his internal monologues and observations of what goes on around him.  Due to the subject matter, there's a lot of poignancy to Salvador's thoughts, including one about the different types of silences between people or ruminations on love.  I'll admit to needing more than one tissue.

There is a bit of salty language in the book.  Salvador even makes note of the fact that Samantha has had a love affair with the F word, as she chastises him for his swearing.  It never feels gratuitous and absolutely feels organic in the mouths and minds of Salvador, Samantha, and Fito.

Other books like The Inexplicable Logic of My Life are: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, the new Ms. Marvel series of graphic novels, featuring Kamala Khan, Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park.  They all have themes of family dynamics running through them.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Book of the Month: November - The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Image result for hundred lies of lizzie lovett

By: Chelsea Sedoti

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is a coming of age story with a unique voice. In a sleepy American town where nothing of interest ever happens, a young woman goes missing during a camping trip with her boyfriend. Hawthorne, a high school student who once knew the missing person, Lizzie Lovett, integrates herself into Lizzie's life in order to supposedly solve the mystery and provide herself with some much needed relief from her humdrum life.

Hawthorne is a self-proclaimed, misunderstood outcast with very few friends. Self-absorbed to the core, Hawthorne treats the disappearance of the once “It girl” of her high school as an opportunity to create a fantasy for herself. Hawthorne becomes obsessed with Lizzie’s life. She takes Lizzie's job, befriends her boyfriend, and creates an outrageous theory on what actually happened to Lizzie which she forces on anyone who will listen, despite how emotionally upsetting it might be. 

As she gets closer to Enzo, Lizzie’s 25 year old boyfriend, the characters really come to life. Enzo is emotionally devastated by Lizzie’s disappearance and grasping at any distraction to steer his thoughts away from the tragedy. Meanwhile, Hawthorne becomes more and more obsessed with having everything Lizzie had and knowing everything and anything about the missing girl’s life. Emily, Hawthorne’s best friend, recognizes how unhealthy Hawthorne’s behaviour has become and tries to help her but to no avail.  Hawthorne is oblivious to the emotions of everyone around her; their turmoil, suffering, and being exist only as they affect her. Themes like bullying, mental health, relationships, sex, and obsession are the backbone of this book.  

Reading through Hawthorne's unique voice makes you want to shake the her! What truly makes this novel enticing are the characters. Chelsea Sedoti managed to create well rounded, unique, and believable characters that keep you reading to the end! That said, this book was very enticing, infuriating, but enticing. I was compelled to read to the end and find out what happened to Lizzie Lovett despite (or perhaps) because of Hawthorne’s approach to her disappearance. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book whenever I wasn’t reading it. It made me mad, excited, confused, and everything in between. When I made it to the very last page, I let go of a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding the entire novel.

Warning:  For older teens due to sexual content.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Labor Day
Labor Day
By Joyce Maynard

Being the week of Labour Day I felt this title was appropriate. This is held in the Richmond Public Library adult collection but I believe this coming of age story is wonderful for young adult readers too.

Joyce Maynard has combined a young mans coming of age story with an interesting love story; not just between a man and a woman but also between a boy and a father figure. Labor Day tells the story of Henry and his single mother just getting through life until one Labor day weekend.

Henry's mother finds it difficult to leave the house, with a debilitating discomfort of other people and places. Henry is doing his best to take care of her until they meet an intriguing man the Thursday before Labor Day. While shopping at their local convenience shop Henry is approached by a man, looking a little worse for ware with some blood on his pants and a large cut on his head. Would you invite a stranger with blood on his clothes into your home? Thirteen year old Henry and his mother, Adele, did and what happens next might surprise you.
It turns out that the stranger, Frank, is an escaped convict on the run. Frank is strong and innovative, helpful and kind, even when he has Henry's mother tied up to a kitchen chair there is a safety that Adele seems to feel.

Henry learn's some of life's valuable lessons: how to make the perfect piecrust; don't put in too much water, how to throw a baseball; finger placement is the key. Henry will also learn about jealousy, betrayal, love and patience all from the mysterious Frank.

This is an adult title and has some strong language and contains a small amount of sexual content.

Also available in streaming audiobook format through your RPL Hoopla account.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Book of the Month: September: Scythe

by Neal Shusterman

Imagine a world where humanity has conquered death.  There's no more disease, hunger, poverty, ageing, or death by accident.  Sounds really neat, right?

Until you consider there's also no pain.  Or joy.  Or any intense feelings.  People sort of drift along in life, "turning the corner" (resetting to a younger physical age) every so often, marrying and remarrying.  Just living their lives.  The only possible wrinkle in someone's life is when a Scythe drops by.

If a Scythe shows up in your home, school, or office, it usually means someone is going to die. You, see,  a Scythe is tasked with "gleaning" -- killing -- people, in order to keep the population under control.

Every so often, a Scythe takes on an apprentice, in order to teach them the ways of being a Scythe and how to glean according to their moral codes.  One just doesn't take a life indiscriminately.  There's a method to the madness.  Honorable Scythe Faraday raises more than a few eyebrows when he takes in two apprentices.  Usually a Scythe only takes one apprentice.  For the next year, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch will endure training in the physically and mentally demanding art, science, and philosophy of ending another person's life.   Whichever one of the two succeeds in passing a test at the end of the year will become a new Scythe.  The other will go home.

At least that's the way it's supposed to work.  Until Scythe Goddard  proposes a resolution at one of the Scythes' conclaves that the successful apprentice must glean the unsuccessful one.  This sets the rest of the book careening toward it's suspenseful conclusion.

Neal Shusterman never ceases to impress me with his world building.  At first glance, this is a perfect world, until Shusterman reveals, the levels of corruption roiling under the perfect surface. Everything Shusterman creates -- from nanites that heal every injury and cure diseases to the Thunderhead, which has evolved from the Cloud into a benign, omniscient presence that governs society -- are just within the realm of possible, so you aren't grappling with the science of science fiction and are able to dive into the knotty philosophical questions that come with being a Scythe: is there room for compassion; why can't a Scythe feel that being a Scythe is a calling; and is it possible to enjoy one's job as a Scythe?

Even though the laws of Scythedom are presented as a absolute, the laws and rules of Scythes, like everything, are open to interpretation, which is where a lot of the conflict arises.  And to throw another wrench into the plot, Scythes aren't subject to the laws that govern the rest of society and only live by ten ironclad commandments.  They even live outside the realm of the all-knowing and all-seeing Thunderhead.

The book is heavy on intrigue, but (thankfully!) light on romance.  Which makes sense, because Scythes, rather like Jedi, aren't supposed to have emotional attachments to other people.

Structurally, the book goes back and forth between  Citra, Rowan, Faraday, Scythe Curie, and other characters.  Each chapter opens with an excerpt from the diary of a Scythe, usually Scythe Curie, known as the Grand Dame of Death.  It's fascinating to see the different points-of-view of Scythdom and how different Scythes interpret their moral codes.

This book drew me in so subtly and cleverly, that I didn't even realize I hadn't been able to put it down until I finished it.

Scythe so impressed the Printz committee, that they gave it an honor, even though their habit is to not award the first book in a series.  It more than deserves its 2017 Printz Honor.

If you're looking for something that draws you in and doesn't let go, this is a book for you.

Scythe is the first of Shusterman's Arc of the Scythe series.

If you want to explore other books by Shusterman, read his National Book Award winning Challenger Deep, or the Unwind series.