Christodora by Timothy Murphy

christodora

I confess that I am in love with New York City, which is why this book initially appealed to me, as it revolves around NYC’s Lower East Side and more specifically, at the Christodora, a historic apartment building that still stands today in the heart of Alphabet City. We are introduced chapter by chapter to a core group of residents that call the Christodora home, jumping from the 70s, 80s, 90s, right through until the present and into the near future as their lives and stories intertwine in an epic tale of fate and circumstance.

We meet a new couple deep in love, a doctor dealing with depression, and an AIDS activist coming into his own. The themes take us from the AIDS crisis to drug addiction to the art world and beyond. The characters in Tim Murphy’s Christodora will win you over and have you rooting for them all the way to the final page. This was my favourite book of 2017! (Submitted by Alan)

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If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay

if you hold a seedI came across this picture book by chance and I am grateful for this wonderful encounter. To me, a picture book, no matter how good the written content is, also has to have a very strong visual component. If You Hold a Seed kept my eyes drawn to every detail in the illustrations and I was savouring the beauty of the artist’s vision and how well it manifested in simple, yet warm and touching images. We need more picture books like this! – where pictures really do the narration. As for the story itself – it’s full of hope, patience, believing, and succeeding. I give a solid ‘A’ to Elly MacKay for writing and illustrating this gorgeous children’s book. (Submitted by Mariya)

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The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

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Gratuity, or Tip for short, is a terrified, angry, badass eleven-year-old. Ordinarily, Tip is used to handling all sorts of situations, having grown up managing her absent-minded mother. But these aren’t ordinary circumstances. The main reason she’s terrified is because an alien race, the Boov, have taken control of Earth and are forcing all humans in the United States to relocate to Florida, and no one knows what fate awaits them there. The main reason she’s angry is because her mother was abducted by the Boov last Christmas Eve, and Tip hasn’t seen or heard from her since.

And as for the badass part? Tip has decided that instead of boarding the Boov rocketpods to Florida along with everyone else, she is going to drive the family car across the country herself.

Adam Rex creates that great mixture of page-turning, immersive action and wry, self-aware humour that I loved so much in Douglas Adams’ writing. (When I finished, I felt like I needed to read it over again to catch all the satire and social commentary that I missed while I was barreling through to find out what would happen to Tip.) The True Meaning of Smekday is peppered with laugh-out-loud scenes and earworm phrases that I found myself chuckling at days after I had finished reading. Whether you read the book, which has accompanying illustrations by Adam Rex, or – like I did – listen to the audiobook narrated by the incomparable Bahni Turpin (you will be thinking in a Boov accent for weeks), you really cannot go wrong with this quirky, irreverent, giddy romp of a book. (Submitted by T. Thomas)

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Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

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This delightful new picture book takes a look at Christmas traditions, especially that most important one – picking out and decorating the tree! Full of charming, retro illustrations, a diverse cast of loving family and friends, and lively rhyming text, it’s sure to become a holiday favourite. (Submitted by Gayle)

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My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo

my-beautiful-birds

This gorgeous picture book tells the story of Sami, who has had to leave his home in Syria and flee to a Refugee camp. The pictures are done in plasticine, and are so beautiful and moving. Sami had to leave behind his birds as his family ran, and he misses them so much. The story shows an gentle path towards healing both in the pictures and in the words. An eye opener for children who might never have heard of Refugee camps and what it means to be a refuge and leave your home. (Submitted by Sharleen)

 

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The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service

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 “There are strange things done/in the midnight sun/By the men who moil for gold/The Arctic trails have their secret tales/That would make your blood run cold/The Northern Lights/ have seen queer sights/But the queerest they ever did see/Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge/I cremated Sam McGee.”

Robert Service was a mild-mannered bank clerk in real life, but the way this poem makes the Arctic come alive, you’d think the man was a veteran of the Klondike. It’s funny; the version of Sam McGee I remember from my childhood conjures up images of grinning corpses, lonely cold, and complete silence, save for the sound of a lone sled’s runners slicing eerily through the snow. Bleak, strange, wildness…all surrounded by devastating, enveloping cold. When I pulled it off the shelves today and gave it a quick re-read, I was surprised (and delighted) to find that not only does it still have all that wildness, it’s funny, too. There is definite humour in these pages – the unnamed speaker of the poem lends some definite snark to the situation.

What a great tale. Each time I read this poem, I get chills. There are poems that have the ability to completely transport us to a specific time and place, and Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee remains one of the best. Brrrrrrr!

P.S. Bonus Canadian points go to this edition because it’s illustrated by Ted Harrison. (Submitted by Veronica)

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The Burning World by Isaac Marion

burningworldReading the previous installment, Warm Bodies, (or watching the movie) isn’t a necessity. If you have, you’ll get a richer understanding, but if you haven’t, no big deal. That’s impressive, because I loved Warm Bodies, but I was sort of wary about a sequel.  Don’t worry – Marion has expanded on Warm Bodies and brought us an action-packed, philosophical, futuristic powerhouse of a story. There are zombies trying to slowly regain their humanity, there are zombies who are not nearly human, there are survivors building a new world, and there is an eerie and mysterious new “Axiom Corporation” controlling the puppet strings somewhere.  It’s a great read. Great fun, great adventure, and great writing. I loved R’s journey into self-discovery, I delighted in the mystery of the wholly unsettling Axiom Group, and I loved the band of resistance fighters scattered around what’s left of North America. The pages flew by. Definitely a must-read for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction and The Walking Dead.

Side note: This isn’t a book for the squeamish. It is about the undead and a bunch of humans desperately surviving, and there is some gruesome stuff in here. Zombies, you know. (Submitted by Veronica)

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