La Belle Savauge by Phillip Pullman

Over a decade and a half after the release of The Amber Spyglass, the last book in his groundbreaking  His Dark Materials trilogy, Phillip Pullman returns to the world of Lyra Belacqua. In this debut novel La Belle Savauge, first, of a new trilogy titled The Book of Dust, Pullman introduces new characters, while at the same time giving us a closer look at the pasts of some old ones. Set in a time when the church has nearly every scrap of power, Pullman manages to perfectly demonstrate both the good and bad sides of religion.

Nearly a decade before the events of The Golden Compass, a boy named Malcolm roams the streets and canals of Oxford with his daemon Asta at his side. As the son of an innkeeper and the holder of a dozen odd jobs, Malcolm is the kind of boy who hears a little too much for his own good. When he finds a message meant for an agent of an organization known as Oakley Street, dedicated to fighting the church’s chokehold on politics and science, he is drawn into a world of secrets and spies. However, when he meets Lyra, the baby girl the nuns in the local priory are taking care of, his entire world is flipped upside down. Since Malcolm has no siblings, he begins to think of Lyra as his little sister, one he would do anything to protect. And Lyra needs protection.

Malcolm finds himself caught between the opposing sides of the Magisterium and Oakley Street. In a web of secrets and conspiracies Malcolm and Asta struggle to keep themselves and Lyra safe, but as the forces of the church close in, together with mysterious strangers and dark rumors, that is not an easy task. With the help of a peculiar and unlikely cast of characters, Malcolm and Asta navigate their way through this surprising and wonderful tale.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf is a harsh and beautiful book, vivid and brutal and haunting from the from the first page.  Wolf by Wolf is set in 1956 Germany, with one twist– the Nazi’s won the war, and Adolf Hitler rules most of the world. The protagonist, Yael, is a girl with the ability to alter her appearance at will, due to experiments conducted on her in the prison camp before she escaped. Now Yael is an agent of the resistance, an agent with the most important mission of all upon her shoulders—assassinate Hitler.  Yael is one of the strongest female characters I have ever encountered in YA literature, strong and smart and fearless. Wolf by Wolf provides a hauntingly plausible look into an alternate past that is powerful and engaging.  The book is brutal and beautiful at the same time, making for an amazing story as Ryan Graudin blends historical fiction with science fiction, and adventure in this brilliant YA novel.

Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashmore

In a tale as delightfully confusing as the mismatched halls of Tu Reviens, Kristin Cashore brings to life a world of art and mystery. The story winds through five alternate universes that take place if Jane had made a different choice in the first half of the book. Each retelling solves a separate mystery that takes place at the same time and place but is never really revealed in the others. Each choice spins the tale into a new direction and genre, be it sci-fi, mystery, adventure, fantasy or romance. With its colorful setting, dark secrets, and unique and quirky characters Jane, Unlimited more than lives up to Cashore’s previous books.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints is a heartwarming tale of family and friendship. The whole book is filled with magic and miracles, darkness and redemption, Saints and Pilgrims, romance and friendship- and of course the odd illegal radio station. As you read you will find complex and unique characters, Beatriz (The Girl with No Feelings), Daniel (The Saint), Joaquin (The rogue radio DJ Diablo Diablo), Peter (the boy with a hole in his heart), Marisita (the girl who blames herself) and a whole bevy of others. In this amazing novel, Steifvater explores the complicated relationship between science and religion in some of the most beautiful and profound words possible: “By relegating the things we fear and don’t understand to religion, and the things we do understand and control to science, we rob science of its artistry and religion of its mutability.” It is a powerful and timely novel for young adults at the moment, and many teens could benefit from reading it.

Maggie Stiefvater is coming to bookshop Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 pm.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue, by Cath Crowley, is written from two people’s points of view; Rachel and Henry. These Australian teen, best friends tell the ups and downs of their loves and losses, with books playing a big part in their lives.

Henry’s family owns a second-hand bookstore, with a unique ‘Letter Library’. This is what their bookstore, Howling Books, is best known for. Anyone can write or mark anything in any of the books in the Letter Library. A letter to a loved one, a dedication, underlining a few words they liked. They’re all so unique, which makes it interesting. The rest is for everyone else to see and imagine different things from these little notations. This was a touching and vital part of the story, as many love stories are explained through this library. Including Rachel and Henry’s. One thing I disliked was how Henry kept going back to his girlfriend, Amy, who he started dating after Rachel left her childhood home to live by the ocean with her family. Rachel and Henry are destined to be together, and Cath Crowley makes you wait for it. Her intense writing keeps you on the edge of the seat, as Rachel comes back to Henry’s town after three years. Only this time, she’s got a secret. Her brother, Cal, drowned in the ocean, and she isn’t taking it well at all. Her moods change, she’s skinnier, she bleached her hair, and she decides to not tell anyone about her loss. Rachel took a job at a coffee shop near her aunt’s house, where she stays because of the move. But the job miraculously falls through, and her aunt found her work at Howling Books, cataloging the Letter Library. Rachel and Henry see each other for the first time in three years, and it’s not pretty. Even though Rachel is supposedly ‘over’ Henry, she still wants nothing to do with him. She tries to avoid him the best he can, until one night, their friend is playing at a club, and Henry decides to drink a little more than he should have. Amy broke up with him earlier, and said that she was in love with someone else. That someone else was Greg Smith, a good looking guy with lots of money. Amy says it’s got nothing to do with Henry, but he’s convinced it’s because he doesn’t make much money, working at a second hand bookshop. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, they both know Henry is a little bit right. Rachel and Henry run into each other at the club after he falls down from drunkenly accusing Greg Smith when he sees him with Amy. After that, Rachel and Henry get closer, not knowing they both want each other until it’s too late. Meanwhile, Henry’s family is falling apart, because some people want to sell the bookstore and the others don’t. Seeing if the long lost friends can save the bookstore and their love is a crazy, intense story.

Words in Deep Blue is a quick read, though enough time passes to make you feel like you’re in the story yourself. Even with its many heart wrenching sad points, this is a book I could not put down. Constant shockers and amazing writing makes it a true must-read. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be sucked into a story about love, books, and friendships. Anticipation crawls on your skin as you read about Henry and Rachel, hoping they find their true feelings for each other. Crowley’s beautiful and realistic writing makes everyone want to spread the Letter Library in their own bookstores. Cadie P.

Save

The Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

The Sea of Shadows is a story shrouded in mystery and darkness. With a beginning filled with monsters and magic in a forest of death, the plot calms after the first few chapters. While still an adventure full of mishaps and dark magic; this allows for a wider range of readers. Well suited for people who are into the whole zombie apocalypse, and people who aren’t. The diversity of the cast of characters paired with the dark and compelling story line will draw in all types of readers and keep them engaged and eager for book two.- Claire C.

Interview by Flannery Fitch of Karen Fortunati Author of The Weight of Zero

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its own living death on her again.

But Zero’s return is delayed due to unexpected and meaningful relationships that lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. These relationships along with the care of a gifted psychiatrist alter Catherine’s perception of her diagnosis as a death sentence. This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how some of the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.

Where did you get the idea for The Weight of Zero? Why did you choose to focus on bipolar disorder rather than clinical depression?

There was no one person or thing or event that inspired this story.  I didn’t consciously choose to write about a particular mental illness. Catherine, the main character, just appeared in my head one afternoon during a writing retreat. I knew immediately that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that she feared life with this condition.

I’ve thought long and hard about why Catherine, why bipolar disorder and why suicide and I think she resulted from a blending of many of my life experiences. First, my husband is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and through him, I’ve learned about illnesses and treatments. Second, my life has been touched by suicide: the first by a work colleague and the second by an extended family member. Finally, I’ve witnessed the mental health journeys of family and friends, a few of which included bipolar disorder.

When I first started writing, I didn’t know that much about this condition, basically just the standard stereotypes so I threw myself into research. I’ve been asked if it was an emotionally difficult task to write this story. It was but not for the obvious reason of being inside a character with suicide ideation. I always knew how Catherine’s story would end. What got to me was the enormous responsibility I felt to make sure this story rang true; that it was authentic, accurate and respectful. I really worried a lot about that and without a doubt was the most difficult part of writing this story.

What do you hope Weight will do for readers?

The first is to reinforce for a reader struggling with any kind of issue is that they are not alone. I’d love for that reader to understand that help is really out there, even if it takes multiple attempts to find it. In The Weight of Zero, there’s a disconnect between Catherine and her first psychiatrist that becomes even more apparent when she forms a bond with her second psychiatrist. This was my vision from the very beginning and one that my editor embraced – this “failure” of care and the existence of quality treatment that might take some effort to find. I also wanted to underscore the tremendous potential when you form a true partnership with your clinician.

In addition, I’d like readers to gain an understanding of bipolar disorder by presenting an accurate portrayal of what many teenagers experience. It was critical to me that readers also appreciate how the stigma of mental illness – the stereotypes and jokes and even innocent phrases – so tremendously hampers treatment. The more aware we are, the more sensitive and respectful we become. These things have to happen if we are going to get mental health issues as mainstream as physical disorders.

What has been your favorite part of having The Weight of Zero published?

Meeting readers! As I write this, I’m less than a week out from the release date so my interaction is a little limited but I’ve done a number of appearances and have gotten to speak to readers who are awaiting the book’s release. It’s been incredibly moving to hear their reasons on why they want to read Catherine’s story and quite frankly, I’ve been blown away by their honesty. There have also been several reviews that have moved me to tears – the recognition of Catherine’s fears and struggles and equally as important, the sense of hope and optimism that the story has imparted.

I wanted this book to make conversations about mental illnesses a little easier and I’ve been floored at the response this story generates. Friends, work colleagues, neighbors, readers, potential readers, booksellers and librarians, basically anyone I spoke to about this story has had the same reaction. I give the synopsis, say the words “bipolar disorder,” “depression” and “anxiety” and the expression on their face immediately changes. The responses have been immediate: “Oh, my son/sister/ daughter has that” or “I struggle with anxiety/depression.”  That was how little it took, a thirty-second summary, to open the door to an open and honest discussion.

Why did you include a history project in this story and what was its impact on Catherine?

I was very much influenced by a paper that I wrote in school about Judy Chicago and her struggles as a female artist in the male-dominated art world of the 1960s and ‘70s. She turned to women in history for inspiration and strength but was also infuriated at how so many of their contributions had been omitted from mainstream history and culture. Her artwork, The Dinner Party, was her response.

When I set out to write The Weight of Zero, I wanted Catherine to draw inspiration and strength from a historical figure so I used a school project as a way to introduce this character. In my research, I focused initially on the D-Day Invasion and by complete luck found an article about the four women buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. Three of these women are from the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first all female, all African-American unit to serve overseas. These soldiers suffered horrible prejudice especially in the 1940s because they were women, they were black and serving in a segregated military. And like so many accounts of women in general and during World War II, they remain basically unknown.

In The Weight of Zero, Catherine is inspired by the fictional character of Private Jane Talmadge, who is based on the recollections of members of the Six-Triple-Eight. Talmadge suffers tremendous prejudice – horrific racism and sexism – yet still forges on despite the stigma. Catherine draws on Talmadge’s example for strength to battle the mental health stigma she experiences.

Do you have any plans for future projects?

I’m finishing another serious yet hopeful contemporary young adult novel that looks at a young woman’s experience at the often-dangerous intersection of mental health and law enforcement. Bipolar disorder is at the heart of this story too but this time it’s seen through the eyes of a sibling and it examines the secret prejudices we may carry.

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

In the first book of the Prisoners of Peace duology, Erin Bow introduces us to a new type of future dystopia. A dark sci-fi set in a terrifyingly plausible future, The Scorpion Rules is a true masterpiece. Complete with a captivating storyline, sprinkled with wry humor and gems of wisdom, The Scorpion Rules is one of those rare books that demands your attention and is impossible to put down. In The Scorpion Rules, Bow demonstrates a unique writing style that defies every cliché and expectation. With complex characters who think and act like real people, and plot twists you won’t see coming, as Bow explores the very meaning of friendship- and love. The Scorpion Rules, in conclusion, is a true gem in the world of Young Adult literature.-Claire C

Save

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

In this fast-paced time-travel novel, Ryan Graudin blends everything from sci-fi and fantasy to historical fiction, romance, and humor. With a compelling and action-packed storyline, and a vibrant and unique cast of characters; Invictus is perfect for a wide range of readers. Graudin brings a new take to the idea of time-travel, weaving in themes of friendship, romance, mystery- and the odd red panda. Whether or not time-travel or sci-fi is your usual genre, Invictus is a book that will grab you from the first chapter and not let go until you reach the last page. In the space of five minutes you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. And you will definitely fall in love with Imogen’s rainbow hair, Priya’s patience, Farway’s ego, Gram’s cluelessness, and Eliot’s mysterious mission. Hop aboard the Invictus, and sit back to enjoy this wonderful, quirky, mysterious, beautiful book.-Claire C

Save

Save