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Welcome to Mabel's Fables Bookstore!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Write This Down

Title: Write This Down 
Author: Claudia Mills (USA)
Age category in store: 11
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (September 2016)

Briefly, what it's about: Autumn loves writing more than anything else in the world. She has piles of journals filled with poetry, essays, stories and more, and she finds inspiration everywhere, including but not limited to Cameron...the dreamboat who sits beside her in journalism class. When Autumn's older brother Hunter discovers one of her "I'm in love with Cameron" poems and reads it out loud to his friends, including Cameron's older brother, Autumn is devastated. Hunter, her former protector and best brother ever, is now a boy who humiliates her and tells her she could never find success with her writing. Autumn vows to get published and prove him wrong. When an essay she writes about Hunter and their relationship wins a magazine contest, she's thrilled. But is she willing to share her family's secrets? 

Michelle's rave: Write This Down has a sweetness and innocence that makes it feel like it could have been written 50 years ago. Endearing Autumn spends her time with her nose in a journal and her best friend spends her time knitting. The girls have a really strong and supportive friendship -- it's wonderful to read about fully developed female friendships.A good chunk of this book is set either in a coffee shop, school gym, Autumn's house or classroom. There's a closeness between Autumn and her teacher that is lovely. Their shared passion for the written word and storytelling make this book ideal for a classroom setting. Regarding family values, I think it's important to have books that emphasize sibling relationships and how the characters get through life's obstacles.I especially appreciated the discussion/family meeting that happens with Autumn and Hunter's parents to address problems head on. I think it's an honest resolution and vital for young readers to see that open communication is an effective strategy to work through emotional struggles. -- Reviewed by Michelle Gram  

Numbers of stars: 4/5 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Another Me

Title: Another Me (September 2016)
Author: Eva Wiseman (Canada)
Age in store: 12

Briefly, what it’s about: In fourteenth-century Strasbourg, France, the Jewish population works and trades with the rest of the citizens, but lives in its own pocket of town. The community has always been relatively safe and children, like 17-year-old Natan and his younger brother, Shmuli, grow up happy. But in October 1348, everything changes. Rumours begin to circulate that the Jews are poisoning the well water, that they are the cause of the great plague. Natan however knows the truth. He can identify the people contaminating the water. They know he can and they don’t plan on letting him talk.  

Heather’s rave: Another Me both enthralled and angered me. I love reading historical fiction, I love learning about the past, but this one hit really close to home. I had never heard about the Jewish community of Strasbourg being blamed for the plague, nor did I know about their horrific fate. How can people be so blind to the truth, be so misled in their thinking? Author Eva Wiseman inserts her fictional tale into the true historical event with a deft hand and an interesting paranormal twist involving Jewish mysticism. She tells the story using two voices -- Natan’s and that of his first (and non-Jewish) love, Elena – which help to provide a wider perspective and deeper meaning to the historical background and to their day-to-day struggles. Another Me is not an easy read, but it is an important book. It will make readers think, it will make readers feel, and hopefully, it will make readers understand that differences should be embraced, not feared. - Reviewed by Heather Camlot

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Two Naomis (Lizzie)

Title: Two Naomis (September 2016)
Age in store: 10

Briefly, what it's about: Other than their first names, Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith have absolutely nothing in common. When the relationship between Naomi Marie’s mother, Valerie, and Naomi Edith’s father, Tom, starts to get serious, the girls are each coerced by their parent into attending a coding class together so they can get to know each other better -- something neither of them wants to do. Brianna, Naomi Marie’s little sister, is too young to understand what is going on and is just happy to have more people to play with. She thinks it’s funny that both girls are named Naomi and occasionally refers to them as :black Naomi" (her sister) and "white Naomi" (Naomi Edith). Adjusting to their new family situation presents challenges and adversity. Eventually however the Naomis must face their differences, accept the changes that are happening, and realize that their new blended family is pretty wonderful in its own way.

Lizzie's rave: This is a wonderfully endearing novel about growing up, friendship and blending families. Authors Rhuday-Perkovich and Vernick do a great job navigating the emotional topic of post-divorce family life and the adjustments that must be made when parents start dating again in a realistic and upbeat way. The two Naomis narrate their story in alternating chapters; both characters are distinct and engaging, with flaws that make them totally believable.

I did find Naomi Marie accepted that she would be the Naomi to go by both her first and middle name rather quickly (or maybe I am just a much more unaccommodating person!). And I must confess, parents Tom and Valerie really irritated me, the way they just signed up their daughters for a class together without telling them the real reason until they got there, and the way they tell the girls they are getting married while standing outside city hall about 10 minutes before it happens. Despite these flaws, this is a book that will definitely resonate with many readers, particularly those who have experienced changing families.  

Rating: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Eleven and Holding (Loretta)

Title: Eleven and Holding (June 2016)
Author: Mary Penney (United States)
Age in store: 11 

Briefly, what it's about: Macy Hollinquest is stuck. She can't go back to the way things were before Nana died and her coffee shop was sold to creepy George, who basically "stole" it from her family. She can't go forward because her father hasn't returned from duty after being discharged from the Marines. Where could he be? Macy's mother talks about a "secret mission" he's on but he would never miss her twelfth birthday, ever. So much of her life is like standing on a crumbling edge of a rock cliff, but Macy's holding on with all of her being to the one thing that is secure -- which is being eleven. Her birthday, however, is right around the corner and it's time to take matters into her own hands. Priority number one: find her dad.

Loretta's rave: This is a lovely story. Every aspect of Macy's life is difficult and confusing, but Macy refuses to give up until she finds some answers. She makes some bad choices and isn't always honest with her best friend, but she needs answers. Of course, they are not the answers she is expecting and her life just gets more complicated, but she pushes forward into the unknown while racking up a pack of guilt. Macy discovers that life can surprise you in joyful, unexpected ways, yet there are also the painful surprises that suck your breath away and force you to grow up. These she faces with courage and learns how to turn loss and growing pains into hope and renewal. Real honesty about mental health issues and the strength found in friendships.

Number of stars: 4.5/5

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (Lizzie)

Title: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (August 2016)
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin (USA)
Age in store: 11

Briefly, what it's about: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story looks at the 48 hours leading up to the morning of September 11, 2001, through the day-to-day lives of four kids from across the United States: Sergio (Brooklyn, New York), who struggles to cope with his absentee father while living with his grandmother; Will (Shanksville, Pennsylvania), whose family is still trying to overcome the death of his father; Nadia (Columbus, Ohio), a Muslim girl born in the U.S. who gets teased for wearing a hijab, and Aimee (Los Angeles, California), who is adjusting to life in a new school after moving across the country. The book is told from the alternating perspectives of these four characters, none of whom are directly affected by the loss of a loved one that day, but rather who are forever changed by the events.

Lizzie's Rave: As author Nora Raleigh Baskin points out in the afterword of her novel, for kids today there is no “before 9/11,” that many children view it as an event that “happened in NYC” without understanding the far reaching effects of that day. She wrote this story to illustrate just how far reaching the effect was, and she succeeds brilliantly. Even though I was in elementary school when 9/11 happened, like many adults today, I remember exactly where I was when I found out.

For such a short novel, the impact of this book is remarkable. Baskin’s choice of having three-quarters of the book take place before the attacks on the Twin Towers means that we really get to know the characters, and the impact of 9/11 becomes that much more apparent. And yet, even though I knew what was coming, I found this book very suspenseful. I also loved how diverse the characters are, each with different races/religions/backgrounds/circumstances. One of the strongest features of the book is how mindful the author is of her target audience -- she does not give gory details; she only provides enough to give readers a sense of the horrific events.

As we approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11, this timely book provides the perfect opportunity to open up discussion about the events of that day. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Secrets, Lies and Scandals (Lizzie)

Title: Secrets, Lies and Scandals (July 2016)
Author: Amanda K. Morgan (United States)
Age in store: 14+

Briefly, what it's about: Each for their own reasons, Mattie, Ivy, Tyler, Kinley, and Cade end up in the same summer school psychology course taught by the dreaded Dr. Stanford. Following a series of events that results in Dr. Stanford dead on the classroom floor, these five students must decide how they are going to cover up what happened. A jumbled up group of characters who, in normal circumstances, would have barely spoken to one another now have to trust each other to keep their secret.  

Lizzie's rave: This book is so incredibly suspenseful, it kept me turning pages way past my bedtime. Author Morgan does a fabulous job keeping up the pace of the novel, and the plot twists and turns when you least expect it. The backstabbing among the characters and the psychological effect that covering up the death has on each one of them seems genuine and adds real authenticity to the story.  

The best feature is that it alternates among the viewpoints of the five main characters. Seeing the events unfold through multiple perspectives really builds suspense and shows how the death of Dr. Stanford affects each of them in their day to day lives. The characters are distinct, with their own personality traits, backstories and flaws: Mattie is shy, Ivy is the former “popular girl” who has slid down the social ladder, Kinley is the teacher’s pet, Tyler is the troublemaker, and Cade is stuck in the class after his father decided he needed to get ahead for the next school year. More importantly, each has their own secret that they are protecting along with the murder.

Reminiscent of the hit TV series How To Get Away With Murder, Secrets, Lies and Scandals is a definite must-read for fans of thrillers and suspense novels.

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My Lady Jane (Lizzie)

Title: My Lady Jane (June 2016)
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (USA)
Age in store: 14+

Briefly, what it's about: Between the reign of Edward VI and his half-sister Mary I, England was ruled for nine days by the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, a sixteen-year-old political pawn who was beheaded for treason -- at least that’s what our history textbooks say. In this fantastical and very funny retelling of history, Jane and Edward’s stories have a much happier ending. Instead of the infamous Catholic vs Protestant battles of the time, England is divided into Edians, who have the ability to shapeshift into animals, and Verities, who persecute them.

As ordered by the king, Jane is married off to a complete stranger, Gifford (Guildford in history) Dudley, who, she quickly discovers, spends every day from sunrise to sunset running around as a horse -- something that becomes incredibly convenient when they are fleeing from Mary’s soldiers. At times silly but always delightful, this novel is filled to the brim with enthralling characters, humour, romance, and adventure.

Lizzie's rave: For a book written by three different authors, and from three different viewpoints, the flow of this book is seamless. Jane, Edward, and Gifford are very likeable characters: Jane is an intelligent girl with a feminist and progressive viewpoint, rather than the spoiled young king you would expect; Edward is a sweet young man whose main regret while dying is the fact that he has never kissed a girl; and Gifford, of course is the lord who spends his days galloping across the English countryside as a horse!

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and I had my doubts about adding fantasy to the mix -- but it totally works in this book. You need to know before opening this book that it is definitely not meant to be taken seriously (though it is nevertheless well researched). This is a very funny, intelligent, historical comedy written in a “Monty Python meets the Princess Bride” style, with pop-culture references spanning Shakespeare to Disney to Game of Thrones. For all of its comedy, it has a very well-written plot line, full of royal secrets, conspiracies, and double crossings.

Number of stars: 5 /5 stars