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Welcome to Mabel's Fables Bookstore!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Forever, Again

December 2016
Young adult

When her parents get divorced, Lily and her mother move in with Lily’s dominating grandmother, whom Lily has been afraid of since she was little. Alone in a new town without any friends, Lily begins to have the same dream she’s had since she was a little girl -- but hasn’t had for years. The dream where she is running through a field frantically searching for something, when she stumbles across a boy lying dead in the tall grass and a wave of despair and agony washes over her as she falls to the ground. Only now, instead of waking up, the dream continues and she feels an arm snake around her, right before she is stabbed in the heart. She wakes, gasping, to find her chest hurting exactly where the knife pierced her in the dream. This happens Every. Single. Night.

On her first day at her new school after another sleepless night, Lily meets Cole Drapeau, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the boy in her dream. As the two become friends, Lily learns about the murder that tore apart the town 30 years ago, when Amber Greeley snapped and killed her boyfriend Ben (Cole’s uncle), before committing suicide by stabbing herself -- at least according to the police. Lily feels a strange connection with Amber, and a sense of déjà vu that she can’t explain. When Lily and Cole decide to delve into the mystery and see if they can find out what really happened, they uncover way more than they bargained for.

Lizzie's rave: Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this novel was how author Laurie keeps the reader guessing right until the end, when we discover what really happened in a huge plot twist. I also really enjoyed the alternating viewpoints between Amber and Lily, which guide the reader through the events of both the present and past very nicely and highlights the similarities between Amber and Lily. I did find the relationships (Amber/Ben and Lily/Cole) to be a little over-dramatic and unrealistic at times. Fortunately, this didn’t interfere too much with the well-told story. - Reviewed by Elizabeth Ferguson

Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Age in store: 14+

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Crushing It

Simon & Schuster Canada
January 2017
Middle grade

Self-described warthog Kat feels she is no match in beauty and popularity to her “best cousin” Olivia, whom Kat likens to a graceful gazelle. Now in seventh grade, Kat is the studious, nerdy Manga lover while Olivia is the school's leading dancer and beauty trends expert. Both cousins may be complete opposites, but they stick together. Their latest mission: getting a certain boy to ask Olivia to the dance. 

That boy is Chris, Kat’s best friend. But he's changed over the summer – a lot  and so has Kat’s feelings towards him. Olivia has also noticed the change, and yet, however different she and Chris may be, he’s way too cute not to go with to the dance. As the three friends find themselves in tense, nail-biting situations, friendships and loyalties are put to the test.

Nicole's rave: Crushing It is a simple, enjoyable read filled with wholesome and lovable characters, combined with gut-churning, sweat-inducing middle school drama. Readers will feel those romantic pangs when Kat helps Olivia – however reluctantly  get the boy they both like, they'll cringe when Kat all-too often lies down like a doormat for Olivia, and they'll root for Kat when she rises to the occasion. I love that author Joanne Levy never has the two girls turning against each other. There is no cattiness between them, just admirable maturity as they deal with their issues. Fun, funny and "good" sillyCrushing It is a page-turner young readers will relish. - Reviewed by Nicole Abi-Najem

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Word of Mouse

Little, Brown and Company
December 2016
Middle grade

Isaiah is a little blue laboratory mouse who has suffered inhumane experimentation that has given him human-level intelligence. One day he and his family attempt to escape but only Isaiah gets free. He finds himself alone in a much bigger world than he has ever imagined, with mystery and danger at every turn. Not a great prospect for a fearful little mouse. As he makes his way in his new world, he will learn the value of courage, friendship and trust, and realize that if small people work together they can accomplish great things.

Steve’s rave: This was my first James Patterson book and I really enjoyed reading it. Isaiah is a very striking and likeable character and so are the many friends that he meets along the way. There are times in our lives when we all feel a little bit like a mouse looking at a very big and scary world, and Isaiah (who offers words of mousey wisdom and encouragement at the start of each chapter) seems like a great friend to have at a time like that. The book is passionately written and closely researched, and helps give an important perspective on the cruelty of animal experimentation as well as showing off the interesting habits and abilities of mice, which (because so many view them as pests) are often underappreciated animals. The novel celebrates words and the power and enjoyment that comes from reading and communicating with them. Isaiah breaks barriers and forms bonds and confounds his enemies with his words. He shows that words, like mice and like people, might sometimes seem small and insignificant... but when they come together they can be unstoppable. - Reviewed by Steve Nesbitt

Rating: 4 / 5
Age in store: 10

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Saving Hamlet

Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth
November 2016
Young adult

Emma can’t wait to start her sophmore year and put THE EVENT from last year behind her for good. More importantly, she has been appointed the stage manager for the drama department’s production of Hamlet and Brandon, the cute senior she had crush on all last year, is directing the play. Before long however everything begins to unravel; Brandon casts Josh, the arrogant jock who has never been on stage in his life as Hamlet, Emma's best friend is no longer speaking to her, and Brandon does a truly awful job as director. The production is spiralling out of control and Emma doesn’t have a clue how to stop it.

One night, Emma stays behind after rehearsal, and when she accidentally falls through the trap in the stage floor, she finds herself mysteriously transported back in time to the Globe Theatre and to the very first production of Hamlet. Thanks to her pixie cut, everyone assumes she is a boy, and with no idea how to get home, she is thrust into life as a stagehand in Shakespeare’s time. During her time in the past, Emma will discover things about herself and what she must do to make her production of Hamlet a success.

Lizzie's rave: While time travel plays a big role in the plot of this novel, I would not classify this as a time-travelling book, Rather, time travel allows the characters to develop and the plot to advance. I absolutely love that this is not a book about an actor surmounting obstacles in order to perform, but refreshingly about a character whose role is offstage but who is equally, if not more, important than the actors. The struggles of putting on a high school productions were hilariously accurate, and while some of the secondary characters did get on my nerves at times, it was a very realistic representation of the friendship dramas that happen in high school.

My favourite part about Saving Hamlet is that it is about a young girl who is learning to take on a role of authority (stage manager), to stand up for herself, and to trust her instincts. While this book is sweet and lighthearted, it also contains some more serious and thought-provoking aspects, such as gender fluidity in theatre, LGBTQ characters, and sexism. This is a perfect book for theatre nerds and skeptics alike, as well as teens who are delving into Shakespeare for the first time. - Reviewed by Elizabeth Ferguson

Rating: 4.5 / 5
Age in store:14+

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

You in Five Acts

Penguin Random House
November 2016
Young adult

Five perspectives of performing arts students -- Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan and Dave -- carry through this novel of an intense last year at a prestigious New York arts school. All narratives lead toward a final tragic event and illustrate each character's unintentional contribution to the tragedy. Joy is trying to prove herself as a gifted ballerina, vying for top accolades as an African-American dancer in a sea of white competitors. Diego is falling in love with his best friend, while trying to prove to his family and friends that dance is a most noble profession and that he has the abilities to achieve greatness. Liv is a born actress whose reckless partying and lack of parental guidance or presence send her spiraling out of control, able to only find solace at the bottom of a pill bottle. Ethan is a know-it-all director who's head-over-heels for his lead actress. Dave is a former child star who is trying to figure out who he is away from his celebrity status and is lusting after his co-star.

Michelle's rave: I've been a big fan of Una LaMarche for a long time now. I admire how she writes family relationships, friendships and first loves. You in Five Acts is another example of her ability to reflect different perspectives of the same events. She creates fully formed, flawed characters and often explores race, culture, gender, religion and class divides. Each narrator never mentions the name of whom they're talking to, addressing them only as "you." At first I thought everyone was going to be writing about the same "you," but nopee Each character has their own special "you." I felt the urgency and pressure of the final year of high school and that the final performance showcases at an elite specialty school were on point. I actually wish there was even more about the school itself. The social relationships were layered and I definitely got attached to some over others (Diego, I'm looking at you!) The love of the arts was well reflected and the agony of shattered friendships and unrequited love was exactly as we've all felt at some point in our lives. The glowing embers of a crush, exploding into need-you-more-than-anything first love was totally delicious too!

My one issue was that the ending felt a bit rushed and glossed over -- especially because the main event should lead to (and continue some) very serious conversations about race relations and police brutality. And the year-after epilogue, while acceptably answering a few questions and clearing up loose ends, was a touch too neatly tied in a bow for my satisfaction. - reviewed by Michelle Gram

Rating: 4 / 5
Age in store: 14 +
Perfect for fans of: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy NelsonThe Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah OcklerEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliBright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Boy Called Christmas

HarperCollins Canada
November 2016
Middle grade

Eleven-year-old Nikolas is a happy enough kid, considering all the hard blows he’s been dealt; his mother was killed by a bear, he and his father, Joel, have so little money they live in a one-room shack and scour the land for mushrooms to quell their hunger, and Nikolas can count on two fingers the number of Christmas presents he’s ever received. The story his father tells every night is what keeps him hopeful, the story of the elves who live beyond a secret mountain in a snow-covered village called Elfhelm. One day, Joel is invited to find proof of Elfhelm on behalf of the king of Finland and, if successful, will be rewarded with more money than he and Nikolas could dream of. Joel agrees to the adventure, even though Nikolas knows deep in his very soul that something awful will happen. After several months with dreaded Aunt Carlotta, Nikolas can stand it no more. He takes off in search of his father and discovers more than he ever bargained for.

Heather’s rave: What an absolute delight. Matt Haig has crafted a clever story about how Father Christmas (or Santa Claus or Père Noël or Kris Kringle or whatever you call him) came to be, with all the dry wit and dark humour of fellow British writers Roald Dahl and David Walliams. I admit I had a five-minute giggle fit at Page 12. Haig doesn’t miss any of the important details associated with the big man or the holiday itself, explaining everything from how Santa learned how to fit through a chimney (it was a matter of life and death, really) to why he wears the clothes he does. The characters who populate Nikolas’s world, both at home and in Elfhem, are little gems. Dreadful Aunt Carlotta, misguided Joel, cheese-dreaming Miika the mouse, practical joker Blitzen and explosion-obsessed Truth Pixie are only a handful. While most of the novel continues along at a fast pace with plenty of laughs, there are moments of pure heartbreak to remind readers that everyone experiences hardship, even the jolly old elf himself. A Boy Called Christmas is a great read-aloud for the whole family as a lead-up to the holiday.

Oh, and if you decide to head outdoors and scan the skies for Santa on Christmas Eve, be sure to have an umbrella handy. Consider the tip my Christmas gift to you. – Reviewed by Heather Camlot      

Number of stars: 4/5
Age in store: 10

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Best Gift Books 2016

With the season of giving upon us, We at Mabel's Fables wanted to share with you our favourite books to wrap up and present to the reader on your list. 

Happy holidays!

Favourite books from throughout the year: 

The Story of the Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day
By Jessica Courtney-Tickle 
The Story of the Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that follows an exciting journey of little Isabelle, with small potted apple tree in tow and accompanied by her puppy, Pickle. They embark at sunrise to dance in a spring festival, run through fields of flowers, hide from a summer storm, frolic in the autumn leaves, enjoy the harvest and build a snowman in the biting winter cold, finally returning home at sunset. What makes this book truly special is that it is set to the music of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. There is a button to push on each page to play Vivaldi's music while you read, enhancing Isabelle's adventure, and of course, making it a perfect introduction to classical music. - Michelle Gram

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion 
This delightful twist on Little Red Riding Hood is funny, engaging and visually stunning. Set in Africa, Little Red is a brave little girl full of spunk who knows how to put mean, hungry lions in their place! A wonderful example of female heroism for young readers and perfect for anyone who enjoys fractured fairy tales. - Elizabeth Ferguson
The Inquisitor's Tale is a rare combination of entertaining story, excellent writing and intense research for ages 9 to 12. The novel dives into the strange world of the Middle Ages as recorded by a curious investigator questioning the local peasants for any tale they might be able to tell him of three infamous magical children. Beautifully told and illustrated in the style of medieval works like the Canterbury Tales, with humour, adventure, superpowers  and --lest we forget -- a farting dragon, The Inquisitor's Tale is an outstanding fantasy for 2016. - Steve Nesbitt

by Sara Pennypacker
With war approaching and Peter's father off on military duty, Peter is forced to leave his home and his beloved fox, Pax, whom he's raised since rescuing him as a kit. But distance can't keep Peter from worrying and missing his best friend, and so he sets off on a journey -- hundreds of miles -- to find him. A wonderful and touching story about war and peace, love and grief, and family and friendship -- everything a holiday book should be. - Heather Camlot

Lady Midnight 
by Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare is easily one of my favourite authors and her new series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to The Mortal Instruments, doesn't disappoint. Set five years after City of Heavenly Fire, Lady Midnight gives readers the chance to revisit the Shadowhunter characters, see how relationships have changed and witness the repercussions of the previous events. Teens who enjoy fantasy will easily take to Lady Midnight, while Clare fans will enjoy the familiarity of the writing and characters. - Lee Gaudet

Favourite holiday-themed books: 

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story 
by Kallie George and Stephanie Graegin An adorable new picture book following a group of forest animals who find a present that falls out of Santa's sleigh as he flies by on Christmas Eve. The gift is simply labelled, "For the new baby on the farm, Love Santa." The animals work together to deliver the gift, as they know it will bring happiness to a small child. And bringing happiness is of utmost importance during the holiday season. The illustrations are endearing and atmospheric -- depicting a gentle, snowy night that exudes stillness and a blanket of winter. - Michelle Gram

by Richard Ungar
In this gorgeous picture book in true Richard Ungar style, the people of Chelm try to come up with a way to thank the mayor of neighbouring Polish village Lublin, who has sent a giant menorah as a gift. One by one, the townspeople suggest ways to show their appreciation, but something comical and unexpected always happens before the thank you reaches the mayor. On the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, young Yitzi has a most brilliant idea. This picture book shares a beautiful message -- no matter one's denomination -- of wanting to show appreciation and goodwill. The true story of Hanukkah is included at the end and the lovely drawings are full of secrets to discover. - Loretta Garbutt

by C. Roger Mader
While Santa is making his deliveries at her house, Slipper goes to investigate and does what any curious cat would do -- she crawls inside the large red sack he has left on the floor. When Slipper unexpectedly finds herself at the North Pole, this little cat witnesses all the magic of Christmas. With gorgeous illustrations and simple text, this is the perfect snuggle-up read aloud. - Elizabeth Ferguson

Fly Guy's Ninja Christmas 

This laugh-out-loud Christmas addition to the New York Times best-selling series is a delight for both children and the adults reading along. While some may shy away from claiming razzle-dazzle books as cherished classics, Fly Guy's Ninja Christmas deserves a place on your shelf this holiday season. Fly Guy and his human buddy, Buzz, are a hysterical duo, and Fly Guy's fateful encounter with Santa, and all the blunders that ensue, are worth the read (and laughs)! - Nicole Abi-Najem

Marguerite's Christmas
By India Desjardins and Pascale Blanchet
An old woman, set in her ways, isolated and fearful, returns to the real world when a young family needs her help. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she comes to see there is nothing to fear but fear itself, and for the first Christmas in a long time, finds the beauty in the world around her.  A beautiful and slow story filled with magical artwork make this a memorable and profound book. - David Gluck

This Christmas novel about how Father Christmas came to be is both hilarious and heart-warming, and makes for a great family read aloud or to be enjoyed on one's own. Just right for for fans of David Walliams and Roald Dahl and for those who love fractured fairy tales. - Erin Grittani