Category Archives: Booklists

The strong women in fiction

This month, the boys in the book club decided to focused on some of the strong female protagonists in YA fiction.

young women protaganists

We are looking at books with strong female leads this month. The success of the Hunger Games series continues, and builds, with each new movie. The recent release of Catching Fire has refueled the interest in the strong women of young adult fiction. But, as I started gathering this list, I realized I didn’t want to just focus on the Katniss and her friends. In my opinion, to be a true heroine, a girl has to make the tough choices with her eyes wide open and accept the consequences – good or bad. Happy endings aren’t always guaranteed and the good girl doesn’t always get the guy.

Read-alikes for the Hunger Games abound – and many have strong female characters. Dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction continues to be a strong theme in young adult fiction providing avid readers lots of choice. The young women in these books are physically strong, independent, and have been forced to make tough decisions. These 16-year-olds aren’t always the most eloquent bunch but they can throw a punch and aren’t afraid to break a nail getting the job done:

  • Legend  by Marie Lu. Unlike Katniss, June  Iparis was born into the right District. She is a prodigy who has proven her strength, cunning, and intelligence at the military university that is grooming her to become an important member of elite in the Republic’s fight against the Colonies. When her brother is reportedly killed by a rebel, she vows to bring him to justice. Soon she realizes her hunt for justice may bring down the government she has vowed to protect.
  • Blood Red Road by Moira Young. Saba’s world is filled with dust, heat, and broken promises but she also has a fierce love for her twin brother that lightens the daily struggles. When her father is murdered and brother kidnapped, she embarks is a quest to rescue him. If she happens to overthrow the government and become a killer on the journey – well, that’s a price they have to pay for taking him.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Beatrice Prior never really felt she was as selfless as a member of the Abnegation should be but leaving one’s faction is a serious action. When her tests suggest that she may have an aptitude for more than one faction, Bea realizes she has a choice; should she stay with her family and the Abnegation faction or should she take a risk and choose to become Dauntless.

The ability to fight is not the only characteristic of a strong girl. These girls fight back and stand tall without their fists:

  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Juliette Ferrars is jail for murder. No one knows why her touch is fatal and no one really cares – except the Reestablishment that see in Juliette the makings of a perfect weapon. So, Juliette, what are you willing to kill for?
  • Uglies by Scott Westfeld. Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen and become beautiful and as perfect as society can make her. When Tally’s friends show her that the operation also modifies one’s personality to make it “right”, Tally starts having second thoughts about what it means to be “pretty”.

Not all the strong young women live within the pages of the dystopian society. Although, traditionally, fantasy has been strongly influenced by the male hero, the girls are definitely gaining ground.

  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. The phenomenon of Twilight has garnered Bella Swan a lot of fans, but I would have to argue that she is not a strong female protagonist. The story of Clary Frey, on the other hand, has the forbidden love, action, and heartbreak with a girl who doesn’t wait for the guy to save her.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Orphan Alina Starkov has one constant in her life – her best friend Mal. When Mal’s life is threatened when their convoy is attacked, Alina unconsciously protects him, uncovering a power she has unknowingly been repressing all her life.  With her new power comes a new life; one in which Mal is not welcomed. Can she remain true to herself in this new world of power, politics and privilege or will she become a pawn in a war of power?
  • Eon by Alison Goodman. Eon is a crippled slave that has been groomed to be a Dragoneye; for the opportunity to be chosen by a Dragon. But, Eon has a secret; he is actually a girl and everyone knows that Dragons do not choose girls. So, when she is chosen by the Mirror Dragon, who has been lost for 500 years, she knows her life is about to change – but who will emerge – Eon or Eona?
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
  • The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • Tamora Pierce

Realistic fiction has always been popular with young adults and within these books readers can find many strong female protagonists. Here are only a smattering:

  • Fault in our Stars by John Green
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Girl in the Green Sweater by Krystyna Chiger with Daniel Paisner

Summer time and the reading is easy – update

I keep getting asked what I am reading this summer. So, I thought I’d share what has been in my beach bag and bedside table and what has been keeping me from getting my homework done.

Yes, I admit it. This summer’s themes were brain candy and series. Some times a girl has to have a bit of fluff in her reading. Everything in moderation. Some of the following titles were just really, really good. Others were good for a quick, fun reads. Click the links for the reviews as I get them written.

The Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross

Sense a theme? Steampunk and romance in 19th Century London. A handsome nobleman, a superman with some robotic parts, strong beautiful women, and evil doers.


girl in the steel corsetgirl in the clockwork collargirl with the iron touch

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

shadow and bonesiege and storm

I just loved these books and am hoping the third meets with the standard set by these two. Original, mixed with folklore of Eastern Europe.

Definitely not a series to be left in the beach bag.

Impossible and Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin


Although not a series both books have fairies, curses, and girls who are struggling with who they are and what they are going to become.

I really enjoyed Impossible, Extraordinary was good but, boy, did I want to give Phoebe a good shake.

The Program by Suzanne Young


Apparently this is the first of a series. Not light, not fun. I had a student suggest it and I’m glad he did. It isn’t a beach book.

Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer


I just loved these books. Original take on some old fairy tales. Meyer has done a great job taking the original story and making it into something new.

Fairy tale meets science fiction – how cool is that?

The Girl with the Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti

girl with the borrowed wings

This novel was a surprise for me. It was added to my list by my daughter. Starts slow but the rhythm of the novel is fluid and poetic. A novel about repression and desire, abuse and individuality.

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1) by Eoin Colfer

Reluctant assassin

The fans of Artemis Fowl will enjoy meeting Chevron and Riley and the evil Albert Garrick. The action moves and the body count rises but Colfer still makes time for some sarcastic wit and backstory. Not my favorite Colfer book but it will definitely appeal to the middle school set.

Raven Flight by juliet Marillier

raven flightThe second book in the Shadowfell series, Raven Flight continues to follow Neryn as she tries to learn how to control her gift as a Caller. Meanwhile, Flint falls under suspicion at Keldec’s court. Definitely not a stand-alone, Shadowfell is fantasy in the high tradition. I love Marillier’s poetic language and pacing. I have been looking forward to this sequel for months.

Ascendency Trilogy by Susan Nielsen

false princerunaway king These books really reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, which I also enjoyed. These will be very popular with the grade 7-9 set. Filled with action, intrigue, impossible decisions, and sarcasm – just the right combination for this age group.

Become Inspired! a booklist by Miranda Forrest

There’s a new display in the library featuring books to inspire YOU!

These books contain stories of triumph over adversity, and tell tales of survival. Other books contain advice to guide you to success, showing how athletes and artists achieved greatness.  

corneredCornered: Hijinks, Highlights, Late Nights and Insights by Ron MacLean

In Ron MacLean’s first book he entertains with his quick wit, sharing inside accounts from his early days as a radio announcer to his time hosting Hockey Night in Canada. Containing hilarious and inspiring stories, MacLean has been there for many of Canada’s sports milestones over the past few decades, and he shares his experiences here.

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Ultimate Teenage Success Guide by Sean Covey

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

bounceBounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed

Filled with interesting and helpful insights, Bounce offers a look at hidden clues to success. Former Olympian Matthew Syed explores our competitive nature, revealing how competition can provide an explanation into the most controversial issues of our time.

Sports Leaders & Success: 55 Top Sports Leaders & How They Achieve Greatness

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan & the World He Made by David Halberstam

Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy

Keane: The Autobiography by Roy Keane

Moneyball: The Art of Winning and Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

longrunThe Long Run: A New York Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long

Pushed to the brink of death after being struck by a bus while cycling, Matt endured psychological consequences that were just as punishing as his injuries. This book features his story as this elite athlete struggled against the odds to compete again.

Playing with Fire: The Highest Highs and Lowest Lows of Theo Fleury by Theo Fleury

My Greatest Day: 50 People, 50 Greatest Moments by Scott Morrison

No limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps

Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey by Kelly Slater

tigerThe Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

A man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote Russian village in the winter of 1997. Horrifyingly, the tracking team discovers that these are not random attacks, but an animal out for vengeance. We read the struggle facing the lead tracker as he hunts down the tiger, revealing insight into the relationships of man and nature as well as predator and prey.

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

Ideas and Opinions: Albert Einstein by Albert Einstein

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

buddhaBuddha: A Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra takes us on the journey of a young prince who abandons his inheritance to discover his true calling. With an iconic journey that will change the world forever, we follow Siddhartha through his life as he deals with love, murder, and betrayal and overcomes it all to achieve enlightenment.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Water, water everywhere…

created by fox_kiyo's

created by fox_kiyo’s

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops.  Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”  – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Authors use water in variety of ways in novels. It is used to create a mood – either violent with storms or gentle with the imagery of a lake at sunset. Water is used as a setting – by the ocean, at the beach, or in an oasis.  Authors use water to isolate characters from society (Lord of the Flies) by surrounding islands or by placing characters on ships. This month we are looking at books where the use of water plays a role in the development of the plot or is intrinsic to the telling of the tale. I asked the yasla-bk listserv for their suggestions of titles. We received a flood of suggestions, the suggestions poured in, the ideas flowed.

Robinson Crusoe – Defoe

Treasure Island – Stevenson

The Old Man and the Sea – Hemingway

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Verne

The Far Side of the World – O’Brian

Not Wanted on the Voyage – Findley

Life of Pi – Martel

Ship Breaker – Bacigalupi

Scorpio Races – Stiefvater

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Twain

The Far Side of the World – O’Brian

Birthmarked  – O’Brien

The Raft – Bodeen

The Water Wars – Stracher

They Came From Below – Nelson

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi

Dark Water Rising – Hale

Exodus – Bertagna

Imaginary Girls – Suma

Horatio Hornblower series – Forester

Shipwreck – Korman

The Cay – Taylor.

The Island of the Blue Dolphins – O’Dell

Call It Courage – Sperry

Water Steps –  LaFaye

Dark Life – Falls

Whale Talk – Crutcher

Swim the Fly – Calame

Drought –  Bachorz

The Vicious Deep  – Cordova

The Highest Tide – Lynch.

The Killing Seas – Lewis.

Undine – Russon

Water : tales of elemental spirits – McKinley and Dickinson (short fiction)

Nation –  Pratchett

Moby Dick – Melville

Ripple Trilogy – Swanson

Ranma 1/2

Not your Mother’s bedtime story….

by BenedictFrancis

by BenedictFrancis

The genre of horror includes all kinds of stories. First, we have the classical gothic tales like Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoker’s Dracula and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. These days the genre of horror can include psychological horror through to gruesome and gross reads. Authors can get our hearts beating by messing with our heads or make our stomachs turn with their depictions of zombies, monsters and other things that go bump in the night. These are the books that evoke the feeling of fear in the reader. Personally, I enjoy a good horror book but I’m not a fan of the subgenre of gruesome and grisly.

As with many genres, there is cross-over. Some of these titles could fit onto a dystopian list, for example.

So, here’s a list of suggested horror reads – titles and authors.  Some are light. Some are dark. Some are just really, really red and sticky.

Favorite Classics

  1. Dracula – Bram Stoker. For those who want to meet the original Count.
  2. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley. One of my all-time favorite books. A story that really asks what makes a monster?
  • If you like Frankenstein, try the Kenneth Oppel’s prequel, This Dark Endeavor and Such Wicked Intent.

Humorous horror aka “blood-lite” (I don’t know how coined the term so I can’t give credit, but it is a good way of describing this type of book)

This phrase may seem like an oxymoron but these books do have the traditional fear factor mixed with varying degrees of humour. One of the best I read this summer was:

  1. Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride. I can’t wait for the sequel. Sam is having a tough week. He has just found out that he is a necromancer, one of his friends has become a talking head, and he finds himself trapped with a hot werewolf. Now all he has to do is figure out how to use his powers to save himself and his friends.
  2. Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer. “High school bites. Especially when you are a teenager.” Like all teenagers, Vladimir Tod has to survive the trials and triumphs of high school but he also has a secret he’s trying to hide – he’s a vampire.

Favorite Crusader gore

We like our horror. These are the top five books/series we can’t keep on the shelves:

  1. Department 19 by Will Hill
  2. Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  3. Enemy by Charlie Higson
  4. Knife Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  5. Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

Books on the Silver Screen

This post is late but I was asked to add it here anyway. In May we looked at books that have been made into movies. There were a lot of them. I choose only the books we have in our library to narrow the list. The boys still wanted to read from a variety of genres, so the list covered a variety.

Books on the Silver Screen



  • Angels & Demons – Dan Brown
  • The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  • The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  • Carrie – Stephen King
  • Moonraker – Ian Fleming


  • Shogun – James Clavell
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  • I am David – Anne Holm
  • Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  • Forrest Gump – Winston Groom
  • Black Robe – Brian Moore
  • Dead Poets Society – N. H. Kleinbaum
  • Invictus – John Carlin


  • The Lincoln Lawyer – Michael Connelly
  • Dead Man Walking – Sister Helen Prejean
  • Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • Coach Carter – Jasmine Jones (movie came first)

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • 2001 A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
  • Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling
  • Outbreak – Robert Tine (movie came first)
  • Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice
  • Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Alan Moore
  • I am Number Four – Pittacus Lore
  • I am Legend – Richard Matheson
  • The Wolfman – Jonathan Maberry (movie came first)
  • Princess Bride – William Goldman
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Best Canadian teen books for guys in 2012

I am at the CLA Conference this week listening to some really great talks. One of the sessions today was on the CLA Book Award Notables. It started me thinking what would be my picks (if I could choose) for the 2012 Canadian Book To Buy For Your Teen Guys Award (It’s a long title – give me a better name – I’ll run with it). As with CLA, I will choose from books published, in hard cover or paperback, in the previous year.

The nominees are (in no apparent order):

Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

Death Benefits by Sarah N. Harvey

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

Fanatics by William Bell

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

Fly Boy by Eric Walters

Half Brother  by Kenneth Oppel

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Ashes, Ashes  by Jo Teggiari

And the winner is… I can’t decide. I have it down to my top 3. Think I’ll sleep on it.

2013 MYRCA list announced

I can finally tell you what books made it onto the 2013 MYRCA list. Some may be young for our students so I starred my list of must-reads:

THE 2013 MYRCA Shortlist

Against All Odds – Natale Ghent (HarperCollins)

The Bedmas Conspiracy – Deborah Sherman (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

* Blood Red Road – Moira Young (Random House)

Box of Shocks – Chris McMahen (Orca)

The Case of the Missing Deed – Ellen Schwartz (Tundra)

Dragon Seer’s Gift – Janet McNaughton (HarperCollins)

The Dragon Turn – Shane Peacock (Tundra Books)

Encore Edie – Annabel Lyon (Penguin)

*End of Days – Eric Walters (Random House)

*Fly Boy – Eric Walters (Penguin)

Ice Storm – Penny Draper (Coteau)

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes – Jonathan Auxier (Penguin)

*The Tiffin – Mahtab Narsimhan (Dancing Cat)

*This Dark Endeavour – Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins)

Timber Wolf – Caroline Pignat (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

*True Blue – Deborah Ellis  (pajamapress)

Undergrounders – David Skuy (Scholastic)

*Witchlanders – Lena Coakley (Simon & Schuster)



April is Fantasy month

Fantasy is one of the oldest and largest genres of fiction. In a very broad sense, any book with a fantastic element fits into this genre. Its focus on other worlds, magic, and mythical creatures often results in a blurring of the lines between adult and children fiction. Many fantasy books which were originally intended for a younger audience have subsequently been published for adults. The opposite is also true.

The problem with this is that, in the past, fantasy fiction has not been taken very seriously because it was for kids. Recently, however, fantasy has had a massive jump in popularity and has seen a variety of sub-genres, which vary greatly. For this book list we are going to focus on high fantasy primarily, although I have included a few titles in the other sub-genres for variety.

A large number of the current fantasy novels being published today could fall into the paranormal and/or contemporary sub-genre. Think Twilight – vampires in the real world. We are going to skip this sub-genre for now because I can see us creating a whole booklist just for it.

Due to the epic nature of many fantasies, it is not uncommon for fantasy writers to create series. For this list, stand-alone titles are in bold.

High Fantasy (heroic, quest):  Plots occurs in a different world. Hero fighting against monumental odds (evil going to destroy the world) and learns about himself in the process.

  • Sabriel – Garth Nix
  • The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  • Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
  • Lightbringer – Brent Weeks
  • Pendragon – D.J. MacHale
  • Eragon – Christopher Paolini
  • The Liveship Traders – Robin Hobb
  • The Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Dragonriders of Pern – Anne McCaffrey
  • Death Gate Cycle – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • Sword of Truth – Terry Goodkind
  • Magician – Raymond E. Feist
  • Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
  • American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  • Tears of Artamon – Sarah Ash
  • Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone – Greg Keyes

Comic/humorous fantasy: these titles will often fall into any of the other sub-genres

  • XanthPiers Anthony
  • Myth Adventures – Robert Asprins
  • Discworld – Terry Pratchett
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  • Fluke Christopher Moore
  • Low Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy: Set in the real (could be modern) world but with magical elements.
  • The House of the Scorpion Nancy Farmer
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  • The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
  • The Green Mile – Stephen King
  • Black – Ted Dekker
  • White Cat – Holly Black
  • Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • Reckless– Cornelia Funke
  • The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff

Retold fairy tales or mythology remixes: the author revisits a tale or legend and updates it.

  • Princess BrideWilliam Goldman
  • Dealing with Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
  • The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The Sandman –Neil Gaiman
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – Gregory Maguire
  • The Alchemyst – Michael Scott
  • Percy Jackson and The Olympians- Rick Riordan

Science fantasy: hybrid of fantasy and science fiction. To fit into this category there must be an element of magic or the supernatural.

  • A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  • Doctor Who – Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad
  • The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
  • Star Wars


Historical fantasy: can include alternate history and parallel universes that do not include the magical element, although most do have magic or elements of the supernatural.

  • Island in the Sea of Time: S.M. Stirling
  • Belisarius: Eric Fint and David Drake
  • American Empire:  Harry Turtledove
  • A Crack in the Line: Michael Lawrence
  • His Majesty’s Dragon: Naomi Novik


  • Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Odyssey
  • The Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night
  • Le Morte D’Arthur
  • Through the Looking Glass