Dueling reviews: Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat

August 7, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...


The Unsinkable Ellie

Librarian Review:

This book blew me away! When I picked up this book I was unsure what to expect but from the opening sentence I was immediately intrigued and couldn't put the book down, I read it all in one sitting and there were several moments of tears on my behalf toward the plot and characters.

This is a beautifully written book based on actual events of the sinking of The Empress of Ireland. Ellie is our main character who is forced to work as a stewardess on the ship by her Great Aunt. Ellie is an unusual character who at first I did not like and kept reading to see her get her comeuppance; only to find out that she is a very guarded and emotionally damaged young woman. On the ship Ellie meets a young man nicknamed "Lucky" and they begin a platonic romance. However, during the sinking of the ship it is most likely that Lucky has perished and that Ellie is on her own.

The twist of the story is that a journalist really wants Ellie's story and he finds Lucky's journal and blackmails Ellie for a trade - her story for Lucky's journal. At this point in the book we find out the myriad secrets that Ellie has which go beyond being a handful of survivors from that fateful night.

This book is sublime - sophisticated, elegant, beautifully written and the plot and characters kept me gripped and interested. I highly recommend this read!

Youth Review:

Unspeakable. The title suggests a tragedy, something too painful for words. Personally, I think this book is too good for words. It's got those details, those little quirks about each character, it's got those nouns that act as adjectives so that the images you paint in your mind aren't forced but very real (need an example? At one point the author writes, "iceberg eyes" instead of "cold and blue" and I might have shed a small tear), that I don't want to tell you about this story because I want you to read it and see the people yourselves. Ellen Hardy, an eighteen-year-old girl who boards a ship to work as a maid to the upper class - much to her disgruntlement - shares her tragedy in this beautifully written novel by Caroline Pignat, Governor General's Award-winning author of Greener Grass. When it is not transporting readers to flashbacks on the ship, the Empress of Ireland, the story is set in Rimouski, a town in Quebec, and I've got to say, I feel very proud to be reviewing a book by a Canadian author who both has the heart to research about her country's history and who has the talent to create a story as rich as the one this book contains.

          In the same way layers make a chocolate cake better, layers create a good story. It gives it dimension and depth and flavour. (Like cake.) Good art is being able to collect these multiple layers to create a singular masterpiece, and somehow, in 311 pages, Pignat is able to do just that. Ellen Hardy at the beginning of the book did not have me rooting for her. Ellen Hardy was spoiled and selfish and I wanted her to learn a lesson. But as the story wears on and I see Ellen surviving a sinking ship, losing people she loves (by choice and by fate), and the way she is able to love the people who matter to her, I see that Ellen was not a bratty little girl - she was just young. She was a girl becoming a woman. Simply put, Ellen Hardy grew up. A good book has an "ah" moment for the readers that makes people remember it. Pignant makes Unspeakable a great book by giving numerous "oh", "ah", and "I wish I didn't have to actually get up to use the bathroom so I could have more time to read" moments each time Ellen matures and grows. Yes, every author seems to be writing a coming-of-age book nowadays, but this one is different. It doesn't feature a strange, eccentric, wild, colourful character that goes on adventures. It has a quiet strength in the main character that is developed and discovered as the book goes on, and through all of its characters, proves that every person lives an adventure. It has truth. Unspeakable is a story about a girl who lived one hundred years ago, on a ship that no longer can be found, but this girl feels real, and her story resonates with honesty.

          One last thing I enjoyed about Unspeakable: it is evident that Pignat did her research and did it well. The Empress of Ireland really was a ship that sunk in 1914, right before the First World War, and the mechanical descriptions of the boat (although I have not verified them) seem authentic and effectively add to the storyline. There is nothing I appreciate more than a thoroughly-researched, well-written book and Caroline Pignat definitely delivers.

          Unspeakable can be found on shelves under the Young Adult Fiction section, but I can assure you that adults young and old, as well as children of an advanced reading level (as long as parents are willing to explain a few adult concepts), will be able to enjoy Ellen's story of love, growth, and deep-rooted hope.



Zombies as good guys -- WARM BODIES reviewed

August 5, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover warm bodies by isaac marionWarm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Reviewed by Kristine, age 14

The book Warm Bodies written by Isaac Marion is a romance, action, comedy, and fictional. Warm Bodies describes the everyday life of an average man called 'R'. Sadly, he does not remember the rest of his name, for he is a rotting zombie.
It has been at least ten years since humans have acknowledged that the dead come back to life as their predators, hunting for their brains, and quenching their thirst. As R tries his best not to let his zombie instincts take over him, he meets Julie, a bold, living, clever teenager, while hunting. R is one of the first of his kind to overcome his urge to devour humans. R saves Julie's life and falls in love with her while doing so, but he regrets it later on, accepting the fact that a relationship between dead and living will never work. However, R refuses to give up and continues to pursue Julie, the two work side by side to revert the zombie "curse" and stop the "plague." As the story unravels, R starts to hear voices in his head. As the voices start to interfere with his work, he begins to realize the identity of the voices are people he'd once eaten. 
I found the story to be very intriguing with its different point of view. Zombies are usually the monster, or the villain of most plot lines, for example, The Walking Dead. Warm Bodies shows how hope and perseverance can bring out the solutions to many problems. I would recommend this book to teen readers, because the book contains violence, and few mature themes not suitable for younger readers.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

August 5, 2014 | Christine | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

The Rule of Thirds by Chantal Guertin cover imageThe Rule of Thirds by Chantal Guertin is a sweet novel about 16 days in the life of Philadelphia Greene, a high school student preparing for the upcoming Vantage Point statewide photography competition. An avid photographer, Pippa (as she’s known to her friends) has been preparing for this competition for the last six months, and wants nothing more than to win a place at that year’s Tisch photography camp in New York City. The problem is, on top of all of this, she also has to deal with her school’s mandatory volunteer hour placement at St. Christopher’s Hospital, a place that Pippa had hoped never to set foot in again. Despite her trepidations, the teen dives into her new candy-striping job head-on with lots of pluck and humour, and tries to find the happier side of a place she only associates with death and sadness. Along with all of this, Pippa must find a way to juggle her changing relationship with her best friend/model-in-training Dace, the attentions of love interests Ben and Dylan (!), and try not to let debilitating panic attacks stop her from getting to Vantage Point.

I think that The Rule of Thirds is a charming book that explores love, loss, and friendship in a very touching way. I felt that Pippa's interactions with the other characters at the school and in the hospital were very well-written, and I liked seeing all of the different rules that the main character had for different situations in her everyday life, such as:

1. Answer when she calls”


1. No one gets in the house.
2. If you’re about the let someone in the house, remember Rule #1.”

I also enjoyed reading about some of the different photography techniques that Pippa was using to make her shots, like focusing on items in the foreground while letting the background stay blurry, doing wide angle shots for her school newspaper, and making use of the titular “rule of thirds.” This was a very funny and enjoyable read, and I think that it would be a great book to have on your shelf this summer.

What did you think of The Rule of Thirds by Chantal Guertin?

Moving, insightful, compelling -- EVERY DAY reviewed

August 4, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover every day by david levithanEvery Day, by David Levithan
Reviewed by Fatma, age 16
“Once you experience enormity, it lingers everywhere you look, and wants to be every word you say.” 

And reading this book was experiencing enormity indeed.
Here's a quick checklist of the wonderful things this book contained:

Moving, lyrical prose: David Levithan has a way with words. I love how he's not afraid to use "big" words in YA lit. His writing style is complex (not complicated) and feels so utterly genuine, it draws your right in. 

Insightful, impressionable characters: A (yep, that's his name) is a wonderful character, unlike any protagonist I've ever come across. So dynamic and with such a multi-faceted understanding of so many things. He wants to see the good in people, which makes him a bit naive, but at the same time he acknowledges that not everyone is 'happy-go-lucky' and ultimately, it's his responsibility to experience that firsthand. Rhiannon was also just lovely. Overall, if there's one word to describe these characters it would be plausible .

Compelling (not to mention incredibly original) story-line: A wakes up in a different body every day, forced to acclimate himself to different genders, settings, situations. David Levithan manages to make every single person A wakes up in so distinct. They all have their relevance to the story and it is executed with absolute finesse.

What more can I say? I just sincerely, wholeheartedly loved this book. Every Day will definitely be joining my favorites list. :)

Deep messages -- PAPER TOWNS by John Green reviewed

August 2, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (9) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover paper towns by john greenPaper Towns by John Green

Reviewed by Tina, age 13

Paper Towns is teen fiction and a mystery novel. Quentin Jacobsen, an intelligent but shy character, has been innocently in love with his childhood friend, Margo Roth Speigelman, a cunning and intriguing woman. After years of being apart, Margo shows up in Quentin's bedroom asking him to be a part of her scheme of revenge. The night is full of mischief, thrill and everything feels infinite, until the next day when Margo goes missing. Quentin is determined to find her.

This novel has a wide variety of content, for example, "What a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person" and "IT'S NOT MY FAULT MY PARENTS OWN THE WORLD'S LARGEST COLLECTION OF BLACK SANTAS!"

I found Paper Towns exhilarating but predictable. This book is capable of making me (and others) laugh, cry and consider the way you see people. Paper Towns conveys deep messages that not everyone can understand, but that's okay, because the target audience is teenagers, who will get it. In addition, Paper Towns' positives do override its swearing and mature content. Unfortunately, I found the ending lacking in support, the book just didn't seem complete.

Overall, Paper Towns has made me look at the world (and life) differently.

Ticks, hair loss and hysterical coughing -- CONVERSION reviewed

August 1, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover conversion by katherine howeConversion by Katherine Howe

Reviewed by Kieona

History repeats itself. Inspired by true events, in Katherine Howe’s Conversion, readers experience the truth in that famous saying.

The story is told from the perspective of Colleen Rowley, a senior at St. Joan’s Academy. Senior year is proceeding normally, until the most popular girls at St. Joan’s are infected by a mysterious illness that causes ticks, hair loss, and hysterical coughing. The “Mystery Illness” quickly infects a staggering number of other students, and subsequently entangles the community of St. Joan’s in a mass of concerned, uninformed parents and nosy media personalities.

Colleen watches as the mysterious illness changes her school, her friends, and her life. Add all that to the regular stress of being a senior, including college applications, courting boys and other important stuff, and readers will be able to relate to the drawback of unpreparedness that unexpected events can cause.

Wait, there’s more! The main setting, Danvers, Massachusetts, was once called Salem Village... the place where witch trials were held, and the same place where girls suffered from a similar sickness in 1706. Could there be a connection? Read Conversion to find out.    

Dueling reviews: Helen and Troy's Epic Road Trip by A. Lee Martinez

July 31, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...


Journey to the heart Land

Librarian Review:

Step right up and test your strength and your sense of humour. Helen and Troy are on a journey through magical america in order to end a curse placed upon them by an ancient God. They must endeavour upon a pilgrimage throughout out the United States to save themselves from an unsure fate worse than death.

Helen and Troy are two typical teens in America who work at a burger joint and their lives are thrown in an act of fate when a creature appears to them one night and gives them directions on what they have to do in order to stop the curse that has randomly been placed on them and to save their lives.

This book is LOL funny and an awesome look at greek myths and mythos set in a contemporary world. If you enjoyed the Percy Jackson series than this may be a book for you to check out. Personally this librarian loves anything that A. Lee Martinez has ever written.

Youth Review:

Helen and Troy’s epic road quest is a fast paced, magical and whimsical book filled with Greek mythology and snappy comebacks that I think everyone should read once in their lives (if you have read the Percy Jackson series or the Heroes of Olympus series, then you’ll definitely adore this one!). Helen is an enchanted American and is the first fully fledged centaur in centuries. But she’s still a teenage girl who’s self conscious about her body and the way her fur smells when it rains. Then, there’s Troy, the typical all around perfect guy who everyone loves. The book starts off in their adventure quickly. Their boss at the burger joint they work at tries to revive his god, but dies trying and the god sets Helen and Troy up on a quest. There is a spark of romance that starts up between them, which has been there for a while, that they’ve been ignoring for a while. But it will eventually come out. I would give this book a 5 on 5!





"It's so good..." -- BLACK ICE reviewed

July 29, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover black ice by becca fitzpatrickBlack Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Reviewed by Fari

Britt Pfeiffer (Bonus points for being able to pronounce her last name! :D) knows how she’s spending her senior Spring Break; backpacking. Along with her best friend, Korbie, and Korbie’s boyfriend, Bear, she was going to backpack the Teton Range and she had spent the year training for it. But, of course, life decided to have a little fun and dragged Britt’s ex-boyfriend, who also happens to be Korbie’s older brother, into the mix when she’d finally been having some success moving on after eight months. Now she has to spend another week with him while Korbie and Bear will be no help at all.

However, nothing goes according to plans as, while Britt and Korbie are driving to Korbie’s family’s cabin in the mountains, an unexpected snowstorm drives them to seek shelter in the nearest cabin… which has already been occupied by two men. It’s not long before they discover that these two guys are actually criminals on the run from the police and Britt is forced to lead them out of the mountains for it is that or face death.

Suddenly, clues are discovered about the girls who’d been murdered on the mountains this past year and Britt gets closer and closer to discovering the truth. Also, she’s not quite sure why one of her captors, Mason, is being so nice and looking out for her. What’s he hiding? Because in these mountains, everybody has a secret.

When I went into this book, I hardly had any expectations because I had heard some pretty negative things about Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush saga and wasn’t sure if this book would be the same. However, I was unexpectedly delighted by this book. It was pretty fast-paced, the occasional funny lines (including laughing at Britt) and a definite page-turner. The suspense had me at the edge of my seat!

I usually don’t show much interest in murder-mysteries, especially if it doesn’t involve some sort of mythical creature, but when I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down! On the rare occasion that the my mom made me stop reading to do something more “useful”, my mind would still be between those pages, wondering, hoping, curious and guessing. It was an awesome read!

Let’s now talk about the main character, shall we? At the beginning of the book, Britt was a spoiled rotten, self-centred brat. She was extremely annoying and I just wanted to hit her with the book for being so whiny, weak and just pathetic! She wants to backpack in the mountains, for goodness’ sakes! She won’t last a day if she doesn’t stop being so needy, expecting everyone to protect and do everything for her! However, gradually, as the book goes on and Britt survives more, she finally starts to use her brain and she becomes stronger and is able to stand on her own two feet. So, there was actually good character development there.  

 PLOT TWIST! I’ve always been a sucker for plot twists and in my opinion, this book has an epic plot twist-ish kind of thing! In the middle of the book, I didn’t even know what was going to happen because the direction it was taking was… gone and now there’s the plot but… I can’t say much without spoiling everything… I thought it was going in one direction but then, just like that, it took a 180 and I was left feeling a little lost. The second half is definitely the better half with more action, suspense and guessing games as well as very many surprises! The end was not at all like I’d expected it to be. At first I’d thought that I had the answer but then after that’s eliminated, the real answer creeps up on you slowly but surely and you realize what’s happening two pages before Britt and it’s so good!

Bit of a warning but there are some sexist situations and comments closer to the end of the book. It gets all sorted out at the end but… Just thought to mention.

Black Ice is going to be released on October 7, 2014. In a way, it’s a good thing that the book is going to be released in October, when winter starts to show. This is definitely not a summer-y read, even if I did read it in summer! Becca Fitzpatrick also wrote the Hush, Hush saga, containing the four books Hush, Hush, Crescendo, Silence, and Finale. I have not yet read the saga, because I have heard VERY mixed things about it, though I am considering giving it a try since I liked this book…

Book Review: This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Earl by Esther Earl

July 29, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Esther Grace Earl was only twelve years old when she was diagnosed with
metastatic papillary thyroid cancer in France, where she was staying with her
large family of seven. Her type of cancer is usually easily treatable, with an
up to 90% survival rate, but Esther’s cancer had spread to her lungs and
therefore needed more treatment and attention. They ended up all moving
permanently to America, where she received heavy treatment and lots and lots of medication. She was fine until 2008, when her cancer began to take a turn for the worse. She died August 25th, 2010, shortly after her 16th birthday.

This book is Esther’s story, told mostly through her diary and blog entries, with notes from her parents, Lori and Wayne Earl; her friends from Catitude, a Skype chatting group dedicated to upholding effyeahnerdfighters (nerdfighters were invented by John and Hank Green and are what they call people who fight for nerds and intellectualism), the largest nerdfighter web base; her siblings; one of her doctors; and her other friends. There’s an introduction to this book from John Green, in which he talks about how he met Esther and how she changed her life (he also dedicated The Fault in our Stars to her.).

This Star Won’t Go Out is amazing. Esther stays strong and cheerful, always optimistic even when death is looming over her. She’s very artistic; her drawings and writing are included in this book. She’s very straightforward about her cancer, and about her life with cancer. The book also gets very heart-wrenching and sad, especially towards the end, as Esther gets closer to her death.

I really, really liked this book, but I did have a problem with it: the pictures of Esther didn’t line up with the events in the book. You could have a diary entry from 2008 and have photos from 2010.This got a little confusing at times, especially when there were a couple of pictures a few pages from each other from different years, one with her hair short and bright orange, and the other with her when her hair was longer.

WARNING: Esther uses a bit of strong language in one of her diary entries, and is sometimes very, very straightforward with things like boyfriends, her fights with her siblings, and death. If any of these things make you uncomfortable, don’t read the book.

(with special thanks to our reviewer J.C.)

Let's Make Some Beautiful Music Together

July 29, 2014 | Christine | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham book coverAre you musically inclined? Do you find yourself creating neat rhythms whenever you drum your fingers against a table top, or tap your feet against the floor? Then Learn to Speak Music: a Guide to Creating, Performing, and Promoting Your Songs by John Crossingham might be worthwhile for you to check out. Starting from the basics, this book covers everything from why we all enjoy listening to music, how to use dynamics to create interesting effects in your music, to even choosing the best instrument for your personality. There’s also lots of great advice provided in this book that ranges from how to go about forming your own musical group and writing music and lyrics, to finding a workable practice space and what to do when you finally perform in front of a live audience.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It offers some excellent pointers on how to use your personal music to create something that everyone would like listening to someday. I liked how there are “playlists” for most of the sections, each one offering examples of how other artists have worked with music, such as doing covers of other groups' songs (like Talking Heads doing Al Green's "Take Me to the River"), how many band members were included in particular songs (the works of a duo like The White Stripes versus those of a large group like Arcade Fire), and even songs that mix hi-fi and lo-fi sounds together (like M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”). I also liked the candid quotes from various artists that are provided throughout the book, each one offering some great advice on things like songwriting (Feist), getting over stage fright (Emily Haines from Metric), and making sound recordings (Buck 65). There's even a neat section at the back of the book that takes a look at the most basic pieces of a band -- amps, bass, drums, keyboard and so on --, and gives expert examples of how each piece can be used more effectively to create something amazing with the group. All in all, I think this is a great book for anyone who wants to start something musical, and who is looking for ways to share their songs with the world.

What do you think of Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham?

Let me know. :)