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Here's a great addition to any secondary school library; and one that takes the reader back to the 'hippie' days and a time when racial issues were rampant. Freedom's Just Another Word, written by Caroline Stellings, is set in 1970 when Janis Joplin, "an electrifying blues-rock singer at the height of her fame -- and of her addictions" is passing through Saskatoon. The chance meeting between Janis and the novel's main character, Louisiana, Easy for short, sets the stage for Easy's journey to self-discovery. Easy is an 18-year-old, biracial, want-to-be blues singer, who ends up driving to Texas with two nuns (a story unto itself) in an effort to connect again with Janis. The racism Easy experiences in the southern United States is chilling. The decisions Easy has to make along the way are none other than easy. ~Lynn W.
Eric Walters writes a story that many beginning readers will enjoy in Batcat and the Seven Squirrels. Readers will find that this tale is based on a real life incident from Eric's own past. At the centre of the story is 8-year-old Nathan who first finds one squirrel eventually leading him to care for seven of them along with the neighbourhood stray cat. Nathan learns about the cycle of life as the squirrels eventually leave his care, but ends up gaining a pet of his own in the process. This chapter book is part of the Orca Echoes series, featuring "lively, entertaining short chapter books aimed at readers between ages seven and nine". ~Lynn W.
Teens often face difficult situations ... trying to figure out what to do, how to maintain friendships, how not to cause waves. In this highly engaging Orca Sports series title, Centerville by Jeff Rud, Jake Burnett, a high school senior is looking to get noticed on the basketball court and must cope with unforseen problems at Centerville. Centerville is the prep school that Jake begs his parents to attend in order to play on an elite basketball team in an effort to get selected for a college basketball scholarship on his way to the NBA. Unfortunately the school and the team doesn't match the brochure enticements that Jake and his parents bought into. Read this novel to find out what Jake does when hopes and dreams confront reality. You can check this title out from the HDSB Audio & eBook Collection. ~Lynn W.
Just as the title suggests, Deb Loughhead's novel is a tangled web of 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' compounded by a tight-knit group of teens all grappling with the death of Kit, a popular autistic boy, at a bush party near the community quarry. The Secrets We Keep is a fast read with compelling characters all connected as a result of their decisions and actions at the party. Readers will feel the distress and anxiety the various characters experience as each comes to terms with the role they played in Kit's death and how keeping secrets can ultimately eat you alive. A highly recommended YA novel. Borrow it from the HDSB Audio & eBook Collection. ~Lynn W.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris is an ollllld book; it was published in 1988, and the references to any technology used in profiling serial killers is pretty outdated to modern readers. And yet, it's a book that I re-read every October because it's so good at invoking the shiver down my spine. It's incredibly well-written for a thriller and entirely provoking ... it's also one of the few in the genre written from a female perspective by a male author that doesn't ring false. The movie is great, but the book brings some background knowledge to bear that informs the decisions made by characters in the movie, opening up new vistas of horror. FBI trainee Clarice Starling is sent to interview a serial cannibal, which sets her on the path to hunting a killer. The plot sounds so dry and formulaic, but to read it is to truly find oneself inside the basement of an insane asylum and the back room of a funeral parlour. ~Steph T.
The Mask That Sang, written by Peel District School Board teacher Susan Currie, is winner of the Second Story Press Aboriginal Writing Contest and is a great read for students in the junior grades. In the novel we meet Cass and her Mom, who have always lived on their own, facing the challenges before them. For Cass it's always the school bullies, and for her Mom, it's always finding a way to pay the rent, put food on the table, and take care of Cass. When they move into Cass' grandmother's house and find a 'false face' mask, Cass begins the journey of learning who she is and from where her roots stem. Students will enjoy the friendship Cass finds with classmate Degan; and the issues they face together whether dealing with Ellis, a rich, but awkward student, or problem solving the mysteries that unfold from Cass' mask. ~Lynn W.
Apparently Dancing in the Rain continues the story begun in Dancing Naked. Although I hadn't read the first novel, I felt that author Shelley Hrdlitschka provided enough details and background information that the story presented as a stand-alone title. The characters and what they experience as a result of their mother/wife passing away from breast cancer is realistic and heart-wrenching. Main character, 16-year-old Brenna, struggles with trying to support her father, taking care of her sister, falling in love, and figuring out how her adoptive mother could have chosen to give her up. While some plot points seem formulaic, the overall story makes the novel worth the read. A great novel for students in grades 9 and 10. ~Lynn W.
Neal Stephenson returns to his glorious past as a true hard science fiction writer with Seven Eves, which fills my Snowcrash-loving heart with joy. When can we decree that Neal Stephenson is right up there with Gibson and Asimov when it comes to describing a future with science that may seem far-fetched to us now, but is actually, possibly, workable? Seven Eves begins with the destruction of the moon, usually a climactic point for other genre writers. With the inevitability of rocks from the pulverized and in pieces moon hitting the earth and causing the end of all life as it's known, humanity has about two years to find a way to carry on and look to the stars. Which is where Dinah, our robot-building protagonist, is introduced to us, along with several other amazing characters who embody the intelligence and warmth that, if facing the apocalypse, we would want to be present in the ones rebuilding the human race in space. After accidents, murders, radiation sickness take their toll on Earth's survivors, however, there are only seven women left of the entire human race, the titular Seven Eves, of which the rest of humanity must be birthed from. The book is split into two parts, with the second part taking place generations after the Seven Eves have lived, and with Earth re-seeded and alive, ready for the seven very distinct descended races to take their place on their home once more. However, it looks as though there may have been survivors ... which I won't spoil. There are some long passages of exposition that skews heavily towards scientific explanations, but if you're a fan of hard sci-fi, don't miss this one! ~Steph T.