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)

You are welcome to borrow The Lost City of Z at Surrey Libraries!

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 coming soon: movie adaptation – DVD

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel written by Ray Bradbury. Although the book was published more than half a century ago, it remains a classical best-seller. The novel’s subject is relevant and captivating today and, very likely, it will be just as pertinent in 50 years from now.

Guy Montag, protagonist of the novel, lives in the futuristic United States. He is married and has a respected job. Mr. Montag is a fireman; he searches for, captures, and burns books. In his world, books are dangerous, illegal objects. One day, after conversing with an uncharacteristically lively and intelligent teen, Guy starts feeling uneasy about his work, family, and life in general. He tries to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, but it’s not simple to do in a society where critical thinking or even thinking at all is deemed subversive and abnormal. To make matters even shakier, Guy secretively saves a book from burning and brings it home – an action the cost of which can be his own life.  (Submitted by Mariya)

Borrow a copy of Fahrenheit 451 from your local Surrey Libraries branch

The book is also available in these formats: (eBook ) and (Downloadable Audiobook)

 

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

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Best book for girls about to start high school! This book was really hard to put down – the setting is very contemporary with lots of appeal for young people. I read this book out loud to my reluctant 12-year old daughter, and she begged for “one more chapter” every night. It sparked some great conversations about everyday life experiences – how friendships change, staying true to yourself, even the tricky world of texting and snapchat. I’ve recommended it to all my mom friends with daughters about to start high school. We borrowed the ebook from the library, but since then my daughter wants a copy of her own to keep and reread. This is a stand-alone book, not part of a series, but there are other great books by the same author. This author has really captured something special – I feel like I got inside the head of a young teenager and was better able to understand their joys and challenges. Not too preachy. Not too sugar-coated or scary. Just right. (Submitted by Sara)

Borrow a copy from your local Surrey Libraries branch!

An eBook version is also available.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

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As a fan of biographies, I was thrilled to discover this book that details both the lives of eighteenth century writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights Mary Wollstonecraft, and her daughter Mary Shelley, author of the classic novel Frankenstein. Romantic Outlaws reads like a gripping historical fiction as the remarkable storyteller and historian, Charlotte Gordon, examines both of the lives of these incredibly influential literary voices. Weaving the lives of these two women in alternating chapters, the reader is provided with a window into the social and political atmosphere of Western Europe during the late eighteenth century as Mary Wollstonecraft experiences both the glory and the terror of the French Revolution, while struggling to promote the equality of the sexes. Gordon simultaneously explores the life of Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, focusing on the romantic relationship between Mary and the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Gordon presents the reader with the lives of these women who paved the way for the future of feminism, as the themes that are present in the work of both women are still highly relevant in today’s society where women still struggle for equal representation socially, politically, and economically. This was a riveting read! (Submitted by Sarah)

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