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May 2018

Jo's Pick


by Marie Lu
(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)

This YA will remind some readers of Ready Player One (and yes, I've read that too) but I think Lu's futuristic take on virtual reality, high tech and gaming takes RPO one step further. Lu has a background in games so she knows what she's talking about.  Taking place in New York City and for the most part Tokyo, this is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure plus mystery that features a young American bounty hunter/code writer/hacker named Emika Chen and the billionaire gaming boy wonder, Hideo Tanaka who employs her to investigate a potential security breach within his company on the eve of the global virtual world championships known as Warcross. The world-building is stellar, the characters- in particular Emika's team, Phoenix Fighters are diverse, dimensioned and interesting, and it's such a thrill to have a female character front and center in what is normally a boy's domain. Emika is strong, resilient, flawed, and forged by a difficult childhood. She has tenacity  I also enjoyed the exploration of the inevitable black market, illegal goods world of Darkcross and the 'who's the villain' spin Lu pulls off at the end.Action-packed and explosive fun. The first in a trilogy.


Alice's Pick

Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York

by Francis Spufford

What an enjoyable read Golden Hill is! From the beginning, when the protagonist, Richard Smith, arrives in New York, a bustling small town at the time of 1746, with a bill demanding $1000 in payment, the story proceeds at a rollicking pace. Who is this stranger, arrived from London? Is he a scoundrel, a wealthy man, a charlatan, a rake? This is a great work of historical fiction, very well-written, funny, exciting, sexy, and terrifying in turns. There's no reliance on archaic language, except where it makes sense in the dialogue or story. The violence of the place, with the horrors of the slave trade and its hideous racism and genocide, casual murderous anti-Catholic mobs, and ridiculous class distinctions, are all relayed with an ease that  shows the reality of these situations. Golden Hill contains great characters, and a remarkable (and twisty, but not in that hackneyed "unreliable narrator" way) plot. The intwined lives of the characters ultimately reveal a very moving history.


Anne-Marie's Picks

Faraway Fox

written by Jolene Thompson
illustrated by Justin K. Thompson

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

This attractive children's picture book is a cleverly executed primer on the ecological concept of habitat connectivity. It opens with a familiar sight: a lone fox looking out of place in a human neighbourhood, hemmed in by roads, buildings and chainlink fences. He reminisces that this used to be the forest where he lived with his family. Justin K. Thompson’s illustrations in the grey muted tones of pavement and sidewalks and the angular style of the built environment convey the fox’s alienation here. He is depicted huddling under a car, sniffing at garbage and peering out over a divided highway many lanes deep: we understand in a visceral way that he is trapped. That is, until he happens upon an unusual construction project. Not only are humans creating a wildlife preserve adjacent to their subdivision, but they are also building a highway wildlife underpass. Curious, the fox wanders into this “burrow” and emerges out the other side into a wilderness painted in a riot of vivid greens and golds. After all this time he is home, reunited with his fox clan. Author Jolene Thompson concludes with a note on the importance of wildlife crossings for both individual welfare and overall population health in species as diverse as mountain lions and salamanders as they travel between fragmented habitats.



by Janik Coat
(Harry N. Abrams)

For those who don’t know, llamaphones are homophones with a llama. Brimming with dry wit and stylish illustrations, this board book introduces the curious case of homophones in the English language to the very young. A patient llama illustrates the difference between wait and weight, fairy and ferry and peak and peek, featuring occasional interactive features such as rotating clock hands, glitter and flaps. Like its predecessors Hippopposites and Rhymoceros, Llamaphones provides a fresh, fun opportunity for wordplay with toddlers.

Alice's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations

Jo's Recommendations