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Welcome to Mabel's Fables Bookstore!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (Melissa)

Title:  The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (March 2014)
Author: Leslye Walton (U.S.)
Age Group In Store: 14+

Briefly, it's about: The day that Ava Lavender was born caused quite a stir in her small west coast town. Ava, born with wings, was not quite a bird, not quite an angel, but definitely something more than human. When an earth-shattering incident happens to Ava, she decides that she must understand more about herself, to know where to turn next. As she begins to unwind the stories of her mother and her grandmother, she unknowingly unravels some unexpected truths about the nature of love, the power of forgiveness, and the magic that follows all of us if we can let ourselves see it.

Melissa's Rave: I am still shaking from the emotional impact this novel had on me. It was such an incredible story. The magic realism of this story makes for quite a mesmerizing tale, and I was transfixed by each and every one of the characters, anxious to see how their stories would unfold, and praying that they would not make the same mistakes as their ancestors. Leslye Walton writes a story that is very raw and yet very real. Her characters jumped off the page, as if I was reading an actual history or memoir. Ms Walton says that the complexities of the experience of love was one thing that inspired her to write this novel, and this is exploration becomes quite evident the longer you read.  Spanning three generations, Walton uses three very different woman to examine how love - in all its denominations - shapes who we are, the choices we make, and ultimately the direction our lives take. Impossible to summarize, this story is an epic tale, that will have you desperate to get to the next page, so enmeshed in the magical world of the characters will you become.

It's Perfect For: Fans of Black Spring by Alison Croggon, fans of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, fans of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
# of Stars: *****!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead (Michelle)


Title: Love Letters to the Dead (April 2014)
Author: Ava Dellaira (U.S)
Age Group in Store: 14+

It’s briefly about: Laurel is given an assignment in English class: write a letter to a dead person. She initially chose to write to Kurt Cobain, because he was her sister May’s favourite musician, and, like May, he died young. Laurel chooses to write to him instead of her sister, as the tragic accident that took her life only happened several months before, and Laurel was trying to start a new life at a new school where no one would ask her questions about her past. Laurel decides to stretch the assignment to become her own personal journal, where she writes to many different dead people: River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin to name a few. In writing her thoughts out on paper, she searches for a way to privately deal with the death of her sister, how she feels responsible for it and the further shattering and splintering of her once idyllic family. No matter how hard she tries though, a new school, new look, new boy, new friends and masking pain with illegal substances only delays the escape of the inevitable truths bubbling below the surface. Laurel's writing forces her to begin to finally recognize all parts of her sister, the good and the complicated, and come to terms with her own personal skeletons. 

Michelle's rave: Gosh I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down. Yes, I cried on the subway - several times. Love Letters to the Dead was so poignant, so poetic, so raw. The way Laurel described her feelings and experiences were mature and had depth, but still felt like the authentic thoughts of a teenager, not an adult pretending to be one. This novel ebbed and flowed beautifully, there were no irrelevant parts and Laurel’s story just broke my heart. She also managed to find other broken or tender souls to become her comrades post-tragedy and they all desperately needed each other. The primary characters were all three-dimensional and touched me deeply. As a teacher, and an adult, pieces of this story made me super uncomfortable, i.e. the amount of teenage alcohol consumption, hyper-sexuality of underage girls, sneaking out at night and skipping school etc. but maybe that’s because I know that many teenagers do that stuff and it makes me sad. Regardless, the reasons most of these characters turned to outside influences was to soften the blow that life was dealing them, whether it be loss, abuse, school pressures, family pressures, questions about sexuality. Ultimately, it was understandable.


Number of Stars: *****

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heap House (Loretta)


Title: Heap House (March 2014)
Author: Edward Carey (U.K.)
Age group in store: 11 

Briefly, What it's about: Fifteen-year-old Clod wears itchy short pants and carries around general use plug, which is his birth object. He is a full-blooded Iremonger, one of the many revered family members of Heap House. Things unloved and tossed aside find home here, and the ancient Iremonger clan has made their fortunes from this stinking pile of discarded waste. 

The entire city of Flinching is an ever-shifting pile of trash, and Heap House sits in the centre of all the filth and stench, muck and discarded waste. The other Iremongers live below, working tirelessly to keep the trash out of doors and the family comfort in. 

Clod is much more than what an Iremonger has always been. Although he was given a general use plug as his birth object, he also has a gift whereby he can hear his own and every other Iremonger birth object speaking. They don't say much beyond their names. Clod's plug is 'James Henry Hayward.' Aunt Rosamud's door handle says 'Alice Higgs.'

Enter a non-Iremonger who upsets the entire balance of things. Lucy Pennant begins to uncover some dark Iremonger secrets and Clod, unhappily betrothed to his cousin Pinalippy, is entranced by her plucky planeness and spirit of adventure.

Loretta's Rave:: I simply adored this book. The idea that everyone is given a birth object, handed down by one prickly Iremonger granny and that these objects (unbeknownst to everyone but Clod) have a life of their own, is very cool. 

The story is set up as a kind of journaling of various characters who are telling their sides of a twisted story. Lucy, the newly employed orphan who is expected to clean the fireplaces, describes a life below that is perilous with wafts of vile stench and danger in every corner. Clod's journal reveals a young boy in need of answers; about his own unique ability and his need to solve the mystery as to why the birth objects are calling out. His search for clarity along with his capacity for friendship and loyalty in a cluttered and deceitful house, is fresh where everything else isn't.

Heap House is a dark story and I loved every moment of it's heavy, stinky dankness. There is humour and hope, bravery and believing in oneself and delicious language.


Number of Stars: *****

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What We Hide (Melissa)

Title: What We Hide
Author: Marthe Jocelyn (Canada)
Age Group In Store: 14+

Briefly, What It's About: 
Jenny and her brother Tom are moving to England: Tom to go to University and hopefully avoid the (US Vietnam draft), and Jenny to attend boarding school and have an adventure of her own. Both of them are reeling from the fact that their best friend Matt has been drafted, and his future is much more fraught than they care to think about. As soon as Jenny walks onto the campus of Illington Hall, she knows she's made the right choice. She is 3000 miles from home, and she can be anyone she wants to be. So when asked if she fancies anyone, she lies, says she has a boyfriend, and that that boyfriend is Matt - halfway across the world in Vietnam. Jenny is not sure why she has lied, or why she keeps perpetuating the lie with more made up stories. But as her semester progresses, we come to see the perspectives of many of her classmates, each of them hiding their own secrets for their own reasons. And the reader must ask themselves just what is the truth, and who makes that truth real?

Melissa's Rave: Marthe Jocelyn takes on the challenging feat of presenting eight main characters in a 275 page  story. Despite the abundance of protagonists, she manages to richly and deeply convey beautifully thorough pictures of each and every one of them. Though I became more attached to some characters over others, every one of them had a clear, consistent, and deeply interesting story to tell. The setting of the book was an excellent choice, as the boarding school bred a kind of inter-connectivity not possible in regular classroom settings. I really became quite engrossed by the journeys of every character who perspective I was brought into, and I really appreciated the subtly and craft Marthe Jocelyn brought to the questions surrounding what it means to 'come of age'. 

It's Perfect For: Fans of Karma by Cathy Ostlere, fans of When We Were Good by Suzanne Sutherland, fans of What I Was by Meg Rosoff

# of Stars: ****

Friday, April 4, 2014

Landry Park (Liz)


Title: Landry Park (February 2014)
Author: Bethany Hagen (U.S.)
Age Group in Store: 14+ 

Briefly, What It's About: 
In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won't allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumours of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the centre of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty - her family and the estate she loves dearly - and desire.


Liz's Rave:  This book had a wholly original conceptualization of the (now common) trope of a dystopic future. Hagen creates an exciting world much more like that of Victorian England then the 24th century in which it takes place.  I appreciated the use of a female heroine who is not entirely likeable or sure of what she must do.  She is obviously in the wrong and although we don’t find it easy to relate to a portrayal of the futures “1%” we can appreciate a life so very different from our own . The book has been compared to Jane Eyre and many of Austen’s works and I think it relies heavily on the readers knowledge of these societal dramas to inform our understanding of Madeline’s struggle: of course she can’t just give up her estate, she’ll be cast out and die in the cold. The introduction of the illusive and charming  David Dana was worrying. “Please don’t let this be about him!” quoth I, but never fear dear reader! Madeline stays at the centre of her own little drama. Although David Dana makes for delightful page candy his goals do not overtake hers. I really can’t wait for the next novel.  Guys, seriously, who doesn’t love a 16 year old girl breaking down barriers in a dystopian future!? 

It's Perfect For: Fans of Matched by Allie Condie, Salvage by Alexandra Duncan, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

# of Stars: ****

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Erin)


Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Paperback release date: April 2014)
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz (U.S.)
Age group in store: 14+

Briefly, What It's About: Aristotle is a closed off, angry teenager with a brother in prison that his family refuses to acknowledge. Dante is a sunny, open-minded teenager who talks about his feelings with ease and has a very close relationship with his family. One day, the two meet at a swimming pool and a forge an intense friendship - the kind that changes both their lives. Through this friendship, and the awkwardness of middle teenage year experiences, the two begin to make discoveries about themselves that will affect them forever.

Erin’s Rave: This book is different than the type of thing that usually appeals to me, but by page 22, I was in love! This is such a beautiful story of friendship, loyalty, and self discovery. It really deals with a lot of coming of age stuff that we’ve all gone through and that highschool students experience. These boys are struggling with what it means to be independent and what it means to be men. They are struggling with social issues, cultural identities, and sexual identities, but author Benjamin Alire Sáenz navigates these issues with real grace. I may have shed real tears as the story wrapped up.

# of Stars: ****1/2

It’s perfect for: fans of Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, fans of Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidone Sobat, fans of Angry Young Man by Chris Lynch

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Salvage (Eve)


Title: Salvage (April 1st 2014)
Author: Alexandra Duncan (U.S.)
Age group in store: 14+

What it’s about: 17-year-old Ava has lived her entire life in space onboard the merchant ship, Parastrata. She’s always been good at following the rules: cooking, cleaning and completing other domestic tasks, always careful not to get in the way of the men’s work. Secretly she wishes for more, to help in the ship’s mechanic station, to sing, and to have her opinions heard. Then one night she breaks the biggest rule of all and faces banishment and death. She flees to Earth to find the one person who might be able to help, her blood aunt Soraya. Finding one woman on a planet overcrowded with billions of people is no easy task. Ava finds herself thrown into a life of dangers but also possibilities she could never have imagined in the bubble of Parastrata. Lies are revealed, and the very principles her whole life has been been built on begin to crack as everything she thought she knew caves in around her. Ava must find the strength to wade through a world she has never known, to get the answers she deserves and find a place she can call home. 

Eve’s Rave:
 This novel is young adult sci-fi done right. Ava’s journey is so amazingly rich, from the different people she meets to the elaborately detailed environments she comes across. The author creates different pockets of life, each with their own unique and realistic atmosphere, from the technology dependent city of Mumbai to the floating garbage island, the Gyre. You get the opportunity to experience many cultures and regions within one book. It’s the small details like the unique dialect of those who are born in space that creates such a fully formed and believable universe.

At the beginning, I found Ava frustratingly naïve. Her acceptance of the rules and principals of Parastrata and her demure, submissive behavior drove me mad. However, this just demonstrates the author’s talent in crafting an oppressive society, for with each step Ava puts between her and the spaceship she once called home, she gains strength and passion for what her future could be. She shows great resilience despite all the challenges she is thrown and with each success you can feel her gaining confidence.

The supporting characters never felt random or unnecessary, each was a fully realized person that brought a unique quality to help heal and teach Ava in her new life. They act as guides to her growth and discovery. Her relationship with Miyole, a little girl she meets when first coming to Earth is the most touching. You see some of the good qualities Ava has kept from her life aboard Parastrata like, patience and her caring nature. The thing about Ava and Miyole is they give each other so much, one does not care for the other more, it’s always about them surviving together, not two people but instead, one unit.

Salvage is a story about love, how to accept it and how to hand it out. We are shown multiple love stories in this book, those of mothers, of daughters, of friends and of family. This is not your typical Disney, “happily ever after”, but it left me feeling hopeful and I think that is a much better sentiment.

# of Stars: **** 1/2

It’s perfect for: Fans of The Selection series by Kiera Cass, fans of the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie, fans of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth.