The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby

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I have loved the humour in Nanaimo based Susan Juby’s other young adult and adult novels, so I eagerly looked forward to reading her newest title, The Fashion Committee.  The book did not disappoint.  On the surface the plot line might sound like it’s a light or superficial story, as two teens are competing in the same fashion competition, to get a spot in a coveted art school.  However, there is a depth to the writing and the characters that draws you into the many challenges each individual faces.  This is excellent realistic fiction for teens or adults.  References to local spots in BC are fun too. (Submitted by Kristen)

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God in Pink by Hasan Namir

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Hasan Namir’s novel, God in Pink, is a deeply powerful psychological and philosophical narrative. It’s a plea for justice, the use of critical thinking, and empathy.

Ramy is a young, gay man living and studying in Baghdad. His country, society, and religion view homosexuality as a sin; therefore, Ramy’s life is filled with loneliness, secrets, violence, injustice, and downright misery. After constantly living in fear and anxiety for many years, the protagonist of the story turns to God and his tumultuous heart and mind seek counsel from a local sheikh. However, help is not easy to find when people see the world in black and white colours only. Even more challenging is to make people think for themselves rather than follow scriptures which presumably state exactly what’s right and what’s wrong. One of Ramy’s greatest struggles is to understand why religion states that God loves us all equally, yet that same religion outlaws homosexuals, leaving them taunted and penalized for being the way they are.

This book offers plenty of thoughts for discussion and contemplation, and will serve as a perfect opportunity to touch base with your own values and beliefs. (Submitted by Surinder)

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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

face like glassThis Young Adult novel sucked me in from the first line. A Master Cheesemaker who lives underground in a City called Caverna has discovered something eating his cheeses, but he can’t seem to trap it, until one day he spots its footprints in the remnants of a soft cheese – those of a 5 year old child. Once he discovers the child, he takes her under his wing and names her after one of his cheeses, Neverfell. Neverfell is an intriguing child who asks many questions, and grows up under his cheese tutelage. But he makes her wear a black mask whenever there is a chance that anyone could see her. When children are born in the caverns of Caverna, they are unable to learn facial expressions from their parents or nurses. Their faces are blank until they are taught a series of Faces by those watching them. Those who are poor learn very few expressions, those that are rich have more opportunities. Neverfell feels trapped but knows nothing different until a Master Facesmith visits their cave and things start unravelling. With a Master Kleptomancer stealing treasures from those in power and a Steward ruling the city who could be insane, how will Neverfell survive? (Submitted by Sharleen)

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The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

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To say that Myrtle (“Tilly”) Dunnage had a traumatic childhood would be an understatement. At the age of ten, Tilly is accused of a serious crime and as a result – taken away from her single mother and evicted from the village of Dungatar, the only world she has ever known.

Twenty years later, to everyone’s astonishment, Tilly Dunnage re-enters the lives of Dungatar villagers. On her return, Tilly finds her mother, Molly, to be half mad from all those years of sorrow, loneliness, and poverty; the rest of the village and its residents remain almost unchanged except for the fact that everyone grew up or aged. There is much resentment, hate, and fear directed toward Tilly and her mother. However, Tilly is not a Cinderella type of a girl that would cry away in an attic waiting for some magical intervention; she is quite a character and that combined with her acquired skills in clothing design and sewing – make her a revolutionary ready to ignite some change. Armed with a Singer sewing machine, Tilly transforms people and the world around her. Myrtle Dunnage instigates a fashion revolution in Dungatar which is closely accompanied by revenge directed at those who did her wrong.

Rosalie Ham did a terrific job depicting a little village and its residents, as well as the major background– Australia in 1950s.

Supplement the book with the movie starring Kate Winslet as Tilly Dunnage. Costumes and actors’ play are definitely worth watching (Submitted by Mariya).

 

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Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

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I had just about given up on heroic fantasy. Then, I discovered Kings of the Wyld, a fresh and lively standalone adventure that is gripping, funny, and occasionally brutal. The plot is familiar. Circumstances force a former mercenary band of heroes to reform for one last quest. But the mixture of classic high fantasy tropes from Tolkien, the grittiness of Joe Abercrombie (without the pessimism), and the light satirical touch and humour of Terry Pratchett, give this story an engaging vigour.

In the end, it’s a very human story with sympathetic, likeable characters, especially the main protagonist Clay Cooper. He is an affable man who would like to put his violent past behind him and enjoy a peaceful life with his family. But of course, fate is not done with him yet. He must rise to the occasion one more time, and persuade his erstwhile companions to join him. Along the way they face every sort of magical and monstrous creature in the fantastic bestiary, and face some mighty foes in battle. They must rediscover the power of friendship and family, and what it means to be a hero.

 Recommended for lovers of heroic fantasy or anyone who likes a rousing adventure and doesn’t mind a certain amount of graphic violence. (Submitted by Jim)

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Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

menagerieAh, the power of a page-turner. I hesitate to classify Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie as one particular genre because there are elements of urban fantasy, thriller, mystery, and contemporary fiction throughout. Vincent has created an alternate reality of sorts, where fantastical creatures (everything from the phoenix to human hybrid-esque mermaids, centaurs, etc.) live among us. Well, that’s not quite accurate. They don’t live among us. They have no rights at all. They are caged and abused, either for spectacle or research.

Enter Delilah, who is a smart young woman (too smart for her small hometown in Oklahoma) and is already opposed to the treatment of “cryptids.” While on a birthday trip to a traveling circus, Delilah is revealed to be more than what she seems – perhaps a cryptid herself. She quickly realizes just what this means as she is stripped of her every right and sold into the menagerie. Of course, now being on the other side of the bars means she must befriend her fellow cryptids while gaining a more thorough understanding of their lives. She also has to decide whether or not to trust the mysterious staff member Gallagher, who has his own story.

Vincent has created a world that feels absolutely real and there is a real battle of ethics here. I liked Delilah and I was desperate to know what happened next. Other reviewers have noted that the ending felt rushed, which I agree with, but it was such a thrilling read that it almost doesn’t matter. Serious page-turner alert! (Submitted by Veronica)

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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

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I can’t think of a better summer read than David Grann’s 2009 book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. This is the fascinating, page turning, nail biting true story of Percy Fawcett, a real-life Indiana Jones type adventurer who inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”, dedicated his life to finding the lost city of El Dorado deep in the Amazonian jungle, and the mystery of what became of him. The task of finding El Dorado is an unimaginably dangerous one; many hundreds have tried, and few have come out of the jungle alive, most disappearing without a trace, even as late as a 1996 expedition where none (of sixteen strong) was ever seen or heard from again. We watch this story unfold through a humorous and unlikely lens: an admittedly out of shape journalist from New York with no experience in the field deciding to go to the jungle and hunt for clues about Fawcett’s journey, 80 years later. Beginning with Fawcett’s early adventuring days hunting down legendary caves filled with gold and jewels in colonial Sri Lanka, to his days “learning how to be an adventurer” in the Royal Geographical Society, and finally to his final days trekking through the Bolivian rainforest, I could not put this book down and it sent me on a series of frenzied Google searches, my mind hungry for more information. I already plan to re-read this book and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a well written mystery with a side of history. (Submitted by Mandi)

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 coming soon: movie adaptation – DVD