11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

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I love preteen novels with elements of the supernatural and this book doesn’t disappoint. Amanda and Leo are old friends, born on the same day and always happy to celebrate their birthdays together. Until this one. Something happened to their friendship that left them estranged. Turning eleven can be hard but in this instance it gets harder as the day repeats on Amanda. She can’t escape all the bad feelings and her miserable Hollywood theme party creating a fun ride as she attempts to face it differently each time. Age appropriate relationships and the unexpected ways the day plays out will keep a young reader engaged in this enjoyable work. (Submitted by Pippa)

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Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

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Meanwhile across town, I finished reading Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book “Sex and the City and Us” and I couldn’t help but wonder, was I a Miranda or a Charlotte? If you’re a fan of this HBO show from the late 90s – early 2000s, then this read will definitely appeal to you.  Subtitled “How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love,” this book is an examination of the cultural impact that the show had on the world as we know it: from feminism to being single to finding love in your friendships.

The book turned out to be a fun read! It wasn’t as academic as it is made out to sound. In fact, it’s more of a behind-the-scenes look at the show, how it started, how the people behind it used stories from their own lives to help shape the stories being told, etc. I thought I knew everything about the show, but this book taught me so much more. For instance, I didn’t know that Sarah Jessica Parker was reluctant to do the program since she was more of a movie actress and wasn’t interested in pursuing television. This was all before what is now considered the new golden age of television. In fact, Sex and the City may have been at the onset of that resurgence, having given HBO a major hit show that would bring the network to the forefront of the movement with other series such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.

At the end of the day, if you’re a fan of Sex and the City and if you’re wondering whether you should pick up this book or not, my answer to you would be: “Abso-frickin’-lutely.” (Submitted by Alan)

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Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

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I’ve read a few biographies by or about musicians but this one was the most passionate, honest, but brutal in its way, so far. The title pretty much says it all; Laura Jane Grace started life as Tom Gabel, became involved in the punk music scene as a teenager and eventually fronted a punk band called Against Me! What I learned in between those 3 points is the struggle someone goes through when they feel like they aren’t who they are supposed to be and how self-destructive that feeling can make you all the while trying to live, work, create music, and to love. Reading about what Tom did to himself was tough, but I’ve never been close to anyone who has struggled with their identity like this, but it all felt very honest and upfront and I wanted to know how Laura Jane made it work. The book touched on her new life but I’m hoping she has the courage to tell us more in the future. (Submitted by Renee)

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The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

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A delightful read that combines culinary delights with the ups, downs, and twists of everyday human life. Several stories told from the young, old and in-between voices of various people from different walks of life in a small town in the USA.

All stories held together by the commonality of food and the enjoyment of food.  This is not a mystery, but a sweet little journey into a short glimpse of time in the lives of others. Maybe some life lessons to be learned who knows? A nice, quick read. (Submitted by Jamie).

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Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World by Keiichi Shigusawa

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Kino No Tabi is the novelized version of the popular anime series Kino’s Journey.  Although published by Tokyopop in 2006, it is not a manga.  The descriptive style of writing could easily work as a manga and it is a good companion piece with the DVD, Kino’s Journey, which is also available from Surrey Libraries.  This young adult novel is set in a post-apocalyptic future Japan although any reference to time and place is nonexistent.  Instead the novel is set more in a fantasy realm and uses elements of the known world as tangible points for the reader.  Kino is a young adult, possibly a young teen.  The reader is left to guess because her current age is only described by others as younger to them although we find that she started on her journey at the age of twelve.  Her companion on her journey is a talking motorcycle named Hermes.  Why the motorcycle is able to talk is slightly alluded to when on one of their adventures they meet another traveller with a talking dog.  The dog and Hermes find each other’s ability to talk equally ridiculous, but accepted nonetheless.  Kino travels with Hermes to different countries as they are described.  These countries are more like city states which have their own rules and idiosyncratic beliefs.  Kino has a fixed rule of not staying in one place more than three days in order not to become too involved with the people of the city she visits.  This rule of course never holds true since she invariably becomes embroiled in some adventure or intrigue within the city.  Kino’s travels are an allegory for a teen’s journey into adulthood and their similar contempt and attraction for what that will mean to them. (Submitted by Shane).

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The Colonial Problem: An Indigenous Perspective on Crime and Injustice in Canada by Lisa Monchalin

colonial-problemI dare say this single book gave me more information and knowledge about Canadian Indigenous People than half a dozen of history textbooks that I came across while in high school, college, and university – combined. Technically, this book is a textbook. But, in reality, it reads so well and it is so interesting, that I, personally, don’t view it as a dry academic material. I purely enjoyed it. It enriched my knowledge and opened up my eyes to many things I often overlooked. Also, the author does an excellent job inviting a reader to be included in the conversation and this inclusion creates a special bond that enables you to better understand the culture and people you are reading about. By the way, Lisa Monchalin is an international speaker and advocate who brings light to various Indigenous matters that were and, sometimes still are, misunderstood or misrepresented. Doctor Monchalin is the first Indigenous woman in Canada to hold a PhD degree in Criminology. (Submitted by Mariya)

Would you like to meet Lisa Monchalin in person and hear her speak about the book she wrote? Well, you are in luck! You get a chance to do so on Wednesday, September 26, 2018; 6:30 pm-8:30 pm at the Guildford Library in Surrey, BC. Event is FREE; registration is required. Call 604-598-7366 to register.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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