The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The Lady of the Rivers (The Cousins' War, #3)The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I used my first free credit at audible.com to download the audiobook of The Lady of the Rivers. I absolutely love the myths of the French royal families who descended from merpeople and the story of Melusina is evident throughout this book. The audiobook was well-performed and I really enjoyed this book overall. It’s a different feel from The Tudor series, but once again, Philippa Gregory doesn’t disappoint. One of the strangest side effects of reading this book, is that it affected my gardening….the main character, Jacquetta, gardens according to astronomy….then later this year I found out about biodynamic agriculture…suddenly I’m much more concerned what phase the moon is when I’m planting.

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The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric

The Book of Human SkinThe Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Transported me in time and space to an unfamiliar world where brothers are very very mean to sisters. In this patriarchal place, the female protagonist has to do her utmost to survive her brother’s bizarre tastes. This book is kind of like a Cronenberg flick….you hate to read the gruesome details, and you just can’t put it down.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most unique aspects of this book are the narrator (the voice of Death) and the protagonist (Lisel). The interplay between the constant but playful voice of Death as he studies and admires Lisel, makes them an unlikely pair. Of course the historical setting of Germany in World War II adds a great deal of interest to the story. Lisel’s childhood is filled with mischief, learning and friendship as any youth would be, yet it is tainted by the events unfolding at the time. This book is a must-read and would especially appeal to anyone searching for answers about the atrocities that humans commit, and anyone who believes that hope can exist in even the darkest times.

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The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

Book title: The Cat’s Table

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Bibliographic entry Ondaatje, M. (2011). The cat’s table. Random House Audio.
Description An eleven-year old boy, Michael, boards a ship for a long voyage from Colombo to England.  As young boys will do, he befriends 2 other boys and together they explore all the nooks and crannies of the ship, getting in and out of trouble.  One day they witness a murder and are reluctant witnesses to solving the crime.
Reaction This tale is told through the adult’s eyes looking back on the boyhood voyage.  It’s so realistic, that it seems to be, at least in part, autobiographical of Ondaatje’s experiences.  A page turner.
Recommended age level Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes Coming of age, adventure, survival
Curriculum connections English: read a variety of student- and teacher-selected texts from diverse cultures and historical periods, identifying specific purposes for reading
Awards LONGLIST 2013 – IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Miscellaneous The audiobook is narrated by the author.

cats-table

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Book title: Under Heaven

Author: Guy Gavriel Kay

Bibliographic entry Kay, G. G. (2010). Under heaven. Toronto, Canada: Penguin Group.
Description Tai is assigned the duty of burying the fallen soldiers of his kingdom in order to put their ghosts to rest.  This strange task takes him two years to complete and leads to a series of events that will forever change his destiny.  He is awarded 250 pricless horses and must take them across China to his home kingdom.
Reaction This tale is both historical and fantastical as Kay creates the supernatural setting in ancient China.  The story is epic and involves many key players to help Tai set his life right again.
Recommended age level Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes History, family, tradition, honour
Curriculum connections English: read a variety of student- and teacher-selected texts from diverse cultures and historical periods, identifying specific purposes for reading
Awards Won the Sunburst Award, for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic; nominated in the Best Novel category at the World Fantasy Awardsnominated for an Aurora Award, for best SF/Fantasy Novel.  Awarded June 2011; nominated for the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.
Miscellaneous Set 300 years later, Kay’s next novel River Under Stars will be released in 2013.

Under Heaven US

Their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Book title: Their eyes were watching God

Author: Zora Neale Hurston

Bibliographic entry Hurston, Z. N. (2006). Their eyes were watching God. New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. (Original work published 1937)
Description  Janey endures three very different marriages and spends her life searching for love.  Set in Florida and the 1920s, the book is an eclectic mix of historical and cultural nuance.
Reaction  Janey’s story is every woman’s story.  The book is vividly poetic and emotionally complex as it explores the inner secrets of African American culture.  The classism within the culture is surprisingly complex and will be an excellent read for students.
Recommended age level  Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes Culture, love, class, race, American history, American geography
Curriculum connections History: describe the experiences of African Americans to the present time, particularly in connection with slavery, emancipation, and the civil rights movement (e.g., segregation, disenfranchisement, educational restrictions);English: read a variety of student- and teacher-selected texts from diverse cultures and historical periods, identifying specific purposes for reading
Awards
Miscellaneous Probably one of the most authentic African American voices of its time, the novel was not acclaimed until Hurston’s death in 1960.

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Book title: Changeling

Author: Philippa Gregory

Bibliographic entry Gregory, P. (2012). Order of Darkness: Vol. 1. Changeling. Toronto, Canada: Simon Pulse.
Description  The setting is Europe in 1453 and Luca, having grown up in a monastery, is asked to take on the work as an inquirer for the church.  He meets Isolde, a young woman trapped by her inheritance in a nunnery, and together they uncover dark secrets about the monastic order.
Reaction It’s a quick, mysterious, historical read with strong female characters, and strong male characters. I think the cover might make it a hard sell for the male teens in my secondary school library, but if they could get past that, I think they might enjoy it.
Recommended age level Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes  Religion, spirituality, superstition, magic
Curriculum connections History:  compare the characteristics of societies that are isolated and those that are in contact with other societies (e.g., leadership, religious beliefs, cultural expression, tradition and law, systems of communication, types of interactions within and among societies);
Awards
Miscellaneous  First in a three-part series called Order of Darkness

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Code Name Verity is Elizabeth Wein’s debut novel. Sure to be a winner of many awards, Code Name Verity highlights women’s role in World War II through the eyes of two friends: Maddie, a pilot, and Queenie, a spy. Full of honest and questionable stories based on author Elizabeth Wein’s research of the period, Code Name Verity is a page turner from start to finish. Loved it so much, I made a book trailer to entice readers to give it a try: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJI9it…

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The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Book title: The Rock and the River

Author: Kekla Magoon

Bibliographic entry  Magoon, K. (2010) The rock and the river. (audiobook) Brilliance Audio.
Description A wonderfully woven tale that explores the nuances of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in the United States.  Sam, the youngest son of a demonstration leader, learns first hand about racism.  He flirts with disaster as he learns to harness his anger into productivity.
Reaction Students are going to love this book. It’s a great step into historical fiction. Perfect for any teen, but especially for boys, it works through some of the harder issues of anger, courage and spirit. The Rock and the River is a beautiful analogy for change, a quest for identity and learning the difference between right and wrong.
Recommended age level Grade 7 and up
Subjects/themes  Racism, prejudice, social justice, freedom of expression
Curriculum connections  English: read a variety of student- and teacher-selected texts from diverse cultures and historical periods, identifying specific purposes for reading

History: describe the experiences of African Americans to the present time, particularly in connection with slavery, emancipation, and the civil rights movement

Awards  John Steptoe New Talent Author Award
Miscellaneous  Read by Dion Graham, a world-class audiobook performer