Helen

Amber Fang: Hunted by Arthur Slade

Amber Fang studies to be a librarian with enthusiasm. In her spare time she plies her research skills to finding nefarious nearby targets – unrepentant murderers. Then she tracks and neutralizes them with detached precision. She is an enthusiastic student; a reluctant, obsessively ethical vampire; and a brilliant assassin. Her life is ordered and tidy but the research can be tedious. Socially she must keep to herself and discourage romantic entanglements. Also she has to relocate every few years – one can’t murder ALL of one’s nefarious neighbours without the local constabulary getting perturbed.

So, when Amber is offered an international assassination assignment of an infamous arms dealer (AKA unrepentant murderer) she accepts. Social exchanges longer than a few sentences ensue. An unconventional relationship blooms. Beautiful shoes are bought and lost. Amber’s interest in the world and curiosity about people is piqued. Amber Fang is courageous, clever, ethical, funny and Canadian (initially living in Montreal). There are a few Canadian jokes but there are a lot of librarian jokes. This book reads like the author was having a riot. Teenage and grown-up readers will too. I personally cannot wait for book two (Amber Fang: Betrayal) and three (Amber Fang: Revenge), both publishing in the Fall.    

Young Adult Fiction Paperback pr2690746

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Heroine is written in first person. Mickey Catalan – an elite catcher whose softball team is positioned to have an historic season – is injured in a car crash. Mickey’s doctors tell her she won’t be able to recover in time for the season. Mickey pushes herself to prove them wrong. She uses her Oxy-Contin pills to push herself harder. Then she uses more than her prescription dictates, to train, to deal with the pressure, to sleep, to get through her first day back at school, and suddenly the pills are gone. Mickey is an outstanding athlete and a role model. She’s a good student, poised to have her choice of scholarships – even though her family doesn’t need them. She doesn’t drink or smoke or lie to her parents or steal... until the pills are gone. She needs more pills to cover her withdrawal symptoms, to get through a game, and then another. She’ll get off the pills, when the season’s over. She just needs the pills to get to that point. Until then, she finds herself doing almost anything to acquire pills.

In the author’s note, McGinnis describes an eye surgery she had. She was given three Oxy-Contin pills to deal with her excruciating pain, as her eyes recovered. The first pill magically took away her pain. It also made her feel amazing. The next day, she looked forward to recapturing how the first pill made her feel. She took the second pill. It took away her pain but she did not feel amazing. Gone was the feeling of lightness and peace from the first pill. The same thing happened the third day with her last pill and so ended her experience with Oxy-Contin. Having read Heroine before the author’s note, I was extremely surprised to learn she’d never had an addiction. Mickey’s perspective is extremely compelling. Mickey is a heroine. If she can become an addict, anyone can.   

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr2692302

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali

Zayneb wears a hijab. As such, she is singled out by one of her teachers. He presents articles, such as Girl Buried Alive in Honor Killing, and characterizes the people in them as “typical Muslims”. (To be clear... they are not. That would be like saying people in the IRA are typical Christians.) Zayneb is an exceptionally articulate, bright student. She’s also brave. Mostly, she counters his arguments with logic. On one occasion, she’s half finished writing a snarky note to a friend in this teacher’s class, and he grabs it. Out of context, it’s grounds for suspension. En route to her spring break – a week early - an adjacent plane passenger dislikes Zayneb on sight, presumably because of her hijab. Also because of her hijab, a cute guy recognizes her as a fellow Muslim and greets her in a traditional manner. This boy, Adam, becomes a recurring ray of sunshine, among negative experiences Zayneb is suffering. Conversely, Zayneb’s strength, honesty, and passion become bright spots as Adam confronts a difficulty. Their relationship grows as pressure for each of them builds. Their romance is subtle, sweet and gradual. Hardships shared are hardships halved. Zayneb and Adam are unlike any characters I’ve met. I encourage you to make their acquaintance and so I'll exclude all spoilers! If you enjoyed Ms. Ali’s Saints and Misfits, you will love this lighter, joyful novel.  

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr2750804 

Connect the Scotts: The Dead Kid Detective Agency, Book 4 by Evan Munday

A favourite librarian friend who is very serious about Readers’ Advisory asked me to recommend a children’s book to read – a book outside her comfort zone of serious, literary, grown-up books. I recommended The Dead Kid Detective Agency series - in general - and the most recent book four, in particular. The series is really funny in both slap-stick and witty ways; but, it also has a sneaky literary side...

October Schwartz is a nerdy, goth, high school girl who has five dead kid friends. They are ghosts, only she can see, from different periods of Canadian history. October and her friends are working through solving each of the ghost kids’ murders. In this book 4, they are solving Tabetha Scott’s murder, who escaped slavery with her dad, along the underground railway in the 1860s. Throughout the book, the author presents racism – Canadian racism - in an astute way, squeezing serious literary content into a fast paced plot, including Scooby-doo type chases and running from dogs and evil football players - I love that the popular clique are the bad guys!
I’m looking forward to the next book, and future projects by Evan Munday.

Juvenile Fiction Paperback pr2618956

The Case of Windy Lake: A Mighty Muskrats Mystery by Michael Hutchinson

Libraries across Canada consistently request books for all ages in fiction and non-fiction by indigenous authors and/or about indigenous characters. This book fulfills both criteria. The author of this book is a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation, north of Winnipeg. His book is the first in a mystery series, set on Windy Lake First Nation.

Four inseparable cousins – nicknamed the Mighty Muskrats – overhear their uncle from the Windy Lake Police Service talking about a visiting archeologist. His boat was found but he is missing. The Muskrats decide to investigate. Their relationships with a wide range of people in Windy Lake helps them to piece together where the archeologist might have been, but it’s their own knowledge of Windy Lake and its wildlife that solves the case.

Concurrent with their investigation, the four cousins are obedient, respectful kids, doing chores and running errands for their grandfather and uncle. Also during their investigation a fifth, older cousin is involved in a protest. She engages in civil disobedience regarding a company she feels is endangering Windy Lake’s water. During her protest she gains a better understanding of the company’s perspective, or at least, the perspective of its workers. I think that’s an interesting decision by the author. This book shares what life for these kids is like. Depending on the reader, it’s a window or mirror they will welcome. For me, I learned a few things, and look forward to reading more in this series.  

Juvenile Fiction Paperback pr2666304 

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