Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Garden of Eve

Written by: K. L. Going

First line: "Once there was a beautiful garden."

Why you should read this book: Evie's mom is dead and now there's no one to help her see the magic in the world, just her father and his ridiculous obsession with orchards. But maybe there is a seed of magic in the twisted, dying apple orchard he's just bought; everyone says it's cursed, even Alex, the ghost boy who lives in the cemetery across from her new house, but then again, if there are ghost boys, maybe there's also such a thing as magic. Together, and Alex and Evie start to unravel the mystery of what happened on this land many years before they were born, and what happens to the living when the dead leave them behind.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Dead moms. Dead siblings. Dead kids. Sort of a tearjerker.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Written by: Colonel Christ Hadfield

First line: The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles.

Why you should read this book: This is literally the most inspirational thing I have seen in years: beginning with Hadfield’s decision, at age nine (immediately following the moon landing) to always make whatever choice an astronaut would make (despite his awareness that there was no such thing as a Canadian astronaut), the narrative follows Hadfield through his training and career, focusing primarily on his decision to always be prepared for everything, even the impossible, and to always take pride and pleasure in whatever activity he’s engaged in, no matter how difficult, boring, or disappointing it might be. Along the way, we’re treated to tantalizing views from space, little known details about an astronaut’s life and NASA’s inner workings, and Hadfield’s quirky, wide-eyed sense of humor and take on living life to its fullest. Simply an amazing story of an amazing life, told with grace and good will, which inspires readers to make the most of their existence by always working toward their goal without pinning any of their happiness on actually achieving it: love what you do, Hadfield says, and prepare for anything, and you can be as pleased with yourself as he sounds.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You get motion sick just thinking about car rides.

The Grave Robber’s Apprentice

Written by: Allan Stratton

First line: Years ago, in the Archduchy of Waldland, on a night when the winds were strong and the waves were high, a boy washed ashore in a small wooden chest.

Why you should read this book: Gathering together familiar tropes from countless fairy tales and the occasional work of William Shakespeare, this book breathe fresh life into old archetypes to create a unique and satisfying work that inhabits worlds we already know, stitched together into a new and surprising tapestry. Angela, the Little Countess, is more or less happy in life until she learns that she must marry the repugnant, wife-killing Archduke Arnolf on her thirteenth birthday; Hans, the grave robber’s apprentice, is about to run afoul of his adoptive father due to his lack of interest in desecrating corpses. Together, they escape their respective horrible fates, do battle with monsters real and imaginary, uncover secrets long forgotten, and restore order to a kingdom crushed by evil and betrayal.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’ve ever considered murdering an older sibling to get your fair share of the inheritance.


Written by: Kieran Larwood

First line: Sheba gazed through her tiny window to the seaside view beyond.

Why you should read this book: A really lovely offering in the steampunk genre for young readers, Freaks shares the journey of Sheba, a sideshow attraction with wolfish features and, sometimes, a wolfish personality. Lonely throughout life, she is happy to be purchased by a larger sideshow and taken to Victorian London in the company of other career freaks, but when she finds herself embroiled in a scheme to kidnap impoverished children for diabolical purposes, Sheba is imbued with purpose. Along with her new friends, Monkeyboy, Sister Moon, Gigantus, Mama Rat, and six trained rodents, Sheba is determined to crack the conspiracy and save some children even less fortunate than she is.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: A fair amount of poo throwing may be off-putting to some readers.

School of Fear

Written by: Gitty Daneshvari

First line: A bell is not a bell.

Why you should read this: Written with a quasi gothic sensibility (an atmosphere reinforced by illustrations reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s) this middle-grade novel follows the unlikely adventures of a quartet of fearful kids, brought together, some forcibly, at Mrs. Wellington’s School of Fear, for the purpose of learning to overcome their crippling phobias. Miss Wellington is an aging beauty queen who seems to know nothing whatsoever about children, education, or behavioral conditioning, and there are definitely all sorts of questionable secrets hiding in the walls of Summerstone, the crumbling mansion housing the school. Still, hundreds of former students and prominent persons attest to the efficacy of Mrs. Wellington’s unorthodox methods, so the children have no choice but to submit, until tragedy strikes, leaving them on their own, with their fears, and a new mission.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: While it presents as a sort of horror story, it’s really unspeakably silly. The nonsense is almost overwhelming at times.