The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant

The Jaguar's ChildrenThe Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Remember how when you studied Canadian literature we were referred to Margaret Atwood‘s book Survival? The Jaguar’s Children is a fine example of how this same theme is evolving in the year 2016 as our main character aims to travel to El Norte to escape the oppression of his homeland in Oaxaca, Mexico. I wish I could download this book into the brains of anyone involved in political discussions about free trade and immigration if only to offer a deeply personal perspective. This character-driven book offers masterful writing as Vaillant gradually reveals why his protagonist sacrifices all he holds dear for the hope of gaining access to North America. I particularly marvel at the way Vaillant invites the reader into the language and cultural history of the Zapotec through his family history.

Nominated for an Ontario Library Association Evergreen award, The Jaguar’s Children will leave you wanting more.

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Punishment by Linden MacIntyre

PunishmentPunishment by Linden MacIntyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MacIntyre masterfully combines a serene small town setting with the incestuous secrets of the past. Tony, a retired guard from the nearby penitentiary, returns home to create some space between himself and the drama of his former employment only to discover that his past won’t let him alone. White lies and half-truths abound in the community around a murder, a drug ring and the ex-convict living nearby. Tony is compelled to get further involved than he ever imagined. MacIntyre combines clues and red herrings so skillfully that the reader will never see what’s coming. Nominated for the 2016 Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen award, this gem is sure to thrill readers of all types.

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The Art of Getting Stared at by Laura Langston

The Art of Getting Stared AtThe Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book as it is nomineed for an Ontario Library Association White Pine Award. I have been criticized for praising books too highly but honestly, the White Pine selection committee does such great work. I loved this book and I was surprised when it brought me to tears a number of times. The way the Langston interweaves Sloane’s discovery of her onsetting alopecia with the calls from her mother’s volunteerism in the Sudan and Sloane’s own volunteerism at the local child hospice unit speaks to the complete spectrum of mental health stresses that humans deal with. Sloane authentically struggles not only with the onset of her immune disorder but how to weigh her grief for her hair with the grief she feels for the patients that she visits. As a teacher-librarian, I would recommend this book for anyone grade 7 and up.

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Delusion Road by Don Aker

Delusion RoadDelusion Road by Don Aker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is nominated this year for an Ontario Library Association White Pine award and It is hopping off the shelves in my secondary school library. At first I found the book to feel very abrupt as the chapters interchange between the two essential plots and subplots of the novel. This contrived double-narrative improves towards the midway point as the plots begin to come together. The characters of Willa and Keegan are very believable and well-developed so that we really care about what’s happening as the plot thickens. Ayer even makes me feel sorry for Wynn at one point! This book, with its predictable structure, and it’s classic themes of good vs. Evil….vs. Evil will surely appeal to teens from grade 7 and up.

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Rush by Eve Silver

Rush (The Game, #1)Rush by Eve Silver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eve Silver‘s book Rush is a sure fire winner with the strong young adult readers in my secondary school library. It begins with the life of an otherwise ordinary girl who gets pulled through dimensions into a ‘game’ but it turns out that she actually has to really kill the enemy Drau that she is up against. Miki ‘levels up’ as she becomes less afraid to hunt the Drau. There are hints at deeper issues as Miki deals with her own shock to the intensity of her situation, and as she tries to make a connection with the elusive leader Jackson, who has put up emotional walls to deal with his responsibility to the game. Because of the twists and turns in world-building and planar leaps, I don’t recommend this to weaker readers, but for those into science fiction, I do. I really enjoyed the game culture and also how Miki and her friends have to maintain all ‘normal’ appearances when they’re not fighting for their lives.

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The Troop by Nick Cutter

The TroopThe Troop by Nick Cutter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As The Troop is nominated by the Ontario Library Association’s for the White Pine award, I picked it up in audiobook. This book is seriously scary….I have an 11 year old boy named Maximilian (weird coincidence) and the idea of him going anywhere overnight is nerve-wracking. Now I’ve taught Lord of the Flies, read Island Heart of Darkness and Robin Cook so I’d like to think that I had a pretty good idea of where Cutter was going, but there are many surprises along the way.

I enjoyed the experience of Cutter’s suspense, and there were times where I had to do deep breathing exercises to summon the courage to keep listening as the boys first are without guardians, turning on each other or hiding in the cellar. But while it was about the right age group for White Pine readers, and Cutter’s style in and out of the action and aftermath was masterful, I didn’t really enjoy it. Is it because I’m not in the right demographic? Maybe. But I also think it’s because the creation of horror is more important to Cutter than the originality of his premise.

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The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim (The Story of Owen, #1)The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston

Give me a book about dragons in the White Pine section of the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading http://www.accessola.org/web/OLA/Fore… and I am your girl. Now if you set that book in my area of Ontario and revise Canadian history to include all sorts of dragon mishaps, I am hooked. (And you thought the Great Lakes were just a great summertime getaway destination?) I devoured The Story of Owen, like a dragon on a blacksmith shop. Attracted to carbon emissions, dragons are set to be a dangerous nuisance across the globe and Ontario’s Owen is destined to become next in his family line. The narrator is Siobhan, whose academic and musical talents make her the perfect sidekick as Owen’s training accelerates with a sudden increase in local dragon attacks.

This fantasy tale would be a great entry point for any reader who wants to try fantasy as it combines 2015 realism with the dragon slayer’s athleticism. However, fantasy lovers and Canadian history lovers will really appreciate author E.K. Johnston’s revision of familiar events. Personally, I will definitely recommend this book to the readers in my secondary school library and I can’t wait to read her next one in the series.

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely fabulous. You’ve got to really like dragons (and luckily I do) but Rachel Hartman will have a fan in me forever after this. I hope she’s busy writing a sequel as after I was done I immediately looked for the next one. This is high fantasy, with lots of rich world-building and complicated new concepts and vocabulary for things. Hartman is not only delving into the fantastic with relish, but she is also making a social commentary about the ridiculousness of asking creatures to be what they are not in order to conform with societal norms. The taboos that the dragons break as they attempt to conform to the world of the humans are laughable. I’m also really glad that the ‘freaks’ (no spoilers) also get some superpowers as they develop their fringe community. I would highly recommend this book to any reader, young adult to adult, who enjoys fantasy.

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