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Rachel Recommends: YA
Blog , What We're Reading / November 18, 2020

Genres: Fantasy/alt history, Sci-fi   I haven’t been reading very much Young Adult lately, but two of the titles that I have read recently have really been standouts. The first, Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, just sounded cool.   Trained at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in both weaponry and etiquette, Jane McKeene is poised for a successful career protecting the wealthy from the encroaching plague of walking dead. But when families begin to go missing, Jane uncovers a conspiracy that pits her against some powerful enemies. Sent far from home, Jane will need all her resourcefulness, wit and strength of character to survive.   I mean, I loved Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Series, and this one sounded similar – weapons and etiquette? Yes, please! It’s a fantastic zombie book, set in a post-Civil War alternative history, that deftly explores racial oppression throughout the action and tension of the story. This was a fun, engaging read that kept me hooked and interested the whole way through, and I highly recommend it. There’s also an excellent review of the book over at Tor. The sequel, Deathless Divide, is also out.      The other YA book that really…

What Rachel’s Reading: Sci-Fi Trilogies
Blog , What We're Reading / October 19, 2020

Genres: science-fantasy, science fiction    Well booklovers, it’s been quite some time since I posted some recommendations, and I’ve read a number of very good books in the past few months! It had been awhile since I read much new science fiction, so I set about ticking a few of the books off of that list – although most of them were more science-fantasy than strictly science fiction.   One of the books that had been on my list for ages was Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsin Muir, as it was nominated for a bunch of awards. This was a very fun read (exploring a haunted gothic castle in space? yes please!), and was adjective-tastic. Gideon is a great snarky protagonist, and I highly recommend this quirky science fantasy book. This is the first in a trilogy, the first two of which are out. The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense. The first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, this book unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants….

Children’s Picture Book Picks
Blog , What We're Reading / January 27, 2020

Well booklovers, in the past few years I (Rachel) have become an aunt several times over, which means I get to buy picture books! Here are some of my top picks from the past year or two:   I am Bat by Morag Hood   Bat does not like mornings, but he loves cherries – and his cherries start going missing! This book is aimed at the preschool/toddler age, and is one of my favourite new children’s books. have I also read it aloud to friends? I sure have. I also love Morag Hood’s Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea, which celebrates the differences between friends.     Dave the Lonely Monster by Anna Kemp   This is a fun story about a lonely monster called Dave, who lives all alone in his retirement cave. It’s a story about friendship, and treating others the way you’d like to be treated, and the rhyming story will definitely appeal to young listeners!     Mini Rabbit Not Lost by John Bond   The illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful, and the story will definitely appeal to kids who like cake! Mini Rabbit and his mother are making a cake, but he…

What Rachel Read
Blog , What We're Reading / January 9, 2020

Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Alternate History    It’s been awhile since I’ve recommended multiple books, and it’s mainly because I’ve been stuck into series for the past few months (Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, Neal Asher’s Agent Cormac series, and others), which are less interesting to hear about! For the Christmas break, I decided to pick some of the books that have been on my TBR list for a very long time, and are supposed to be very good. As it happened, all three of the books I chose were pretty fantastic – and they all had great female protagonists!   I started with Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, which is an alternate history of spaceflight that won the 2019 Nebula, Locus, and Hugo awards (and has also been very highly recommended by Brandon Sanderson, of whom I am also a huge fan).   It’s 1952, and the world as we know it is gone. A meteorite has destroyed Washington DC, triggering extinction-level global warming. To save humanity, the world unites to form the International Aerospace Coalition. Its mission: to colonise first the Moon, then Mars. Elma York, World War Two pilot and mathematician, dreams of becoming an astronaut – but…

Rachel Recommends: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Blog , What We're Reading / November 12, 2019

Genre: Dystopia, YA Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams. Humanity has nearly destroyed the world through global warming and now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.  I picked up this award-winning novel by Cherie Dimaline because we had a few copies in the shop and it looked interesting, as I tend to like dystopias, but it is so much more than your typical YA dystopia. It draws parallels between a fictional dystopian future and the true horrors of the Canadian residential school system, a legacy of Canada’s colonialism which significantly harmed the Indigenous children forcibly sent there, whose repercussions continue today. This is a powerful book by a Métis writer, and it’s…

Rachel Recommends: Octavia E. Butler
Blog , What We're Reading / October 18, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia   I’d been hearing about Octavia Butler for awhile, not least because a few years back there was a university course where students were coming into the bookshop to order her book Dawn, the first in her Xenogenesis series.  Octavia E. Butler was one of the first female African-American science-fiction writers, and her work is highly acclaimed. Her work has received the Hugo and Nebula awards, and in 1995, she was the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”).  “I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open,” Butler once said in an interview with The Indypendent. “I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.” However, it wasn’t until I discovered that she had a vampire book, Fledgling, that I started reading her work. In her books, Butler explores the politics of race, gender, power, sexuality, and community; often the characters in her books form alternative communities. She also often entwines these politics with a critique of hierarchical thinking and behaviour.    Fledgling is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac…

Rachel Recommends: An Ocean of Minutes
Blog , What We're Reading / June 20, 2019

This is a book that I read several months ago, and as it’s just come out in paperback, I figured it was time to get around to writing a review of it, as it has stuck with me. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim is listed as a romance, and it is, sort of. I initially picked it up because of the time travel and deadly virus, however as the author says, it is really more about migration and displacement, and she is using time travel as an analogy for immigration. I found this book to be very compelling, and I recommend it especially to those who liked The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’ve also read reviews comparing it to The Handmaid’s Tale, which wasn’t something I would have thought of, however it is a speculative/dystopian novel, and thinking back, the writing style was somewhat reminiscent of Margaret Atwood. This is Lim’s debut novel, and it was shortlisted for The Giller Prize last year. Synopsis: Polly and Frank are young and in love, a lifetime together before them. But one evening in 1980, as the Texas sun sets over their shoulders, the world is suddenly pulled apart by a deadly…

Rachel’s Reading: Urban Fantasy Series
Blog , What We're Reading / May 27, 2019

Genres: Urban Fantasy Alright booklovers, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted what I’ve been reading, and it’s because I’ve gotten stuck into several different series! As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series (Napoleonic wars fought with dragons) – and after finishing book 8 (which ended on a cliffhanger), I discovered that I had somehow neglected to order book 9, the final book! So I’m waiting on that one. I’ve been reading a lot of urban fantasy books over the past month. I finally started Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files in February, and I’ve definitely been speeding up as I’ve read them! Harry Dresden is Chicago’s first (and only) wizard private investigator, solving cases and occasionally consulting for the police on some of their weirder investigations. The first few books felt like fairly straightforward private investigator books (albeit with magic), but the beauty of a series like this is that you can really develop the characters over the course of many books (there are currently fifteen books in the series, with 23-24 planned), and I am now fully hooked. So much so that I’ve been putting off reading the last few books because I don’t want…

Rachel’s Reading: Naomi Novik
Blog , What We're Reading / April 25, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Alternate History   If you’ve asked me for fantasy recommendations at the bookshop before, odds are I’ve suggested Uprooted by Naomi Novik at some point, as it is an excellent stand-alone fantasy novel. Her new book, Spinning Silver, is in the same vein as this one. Synopsis: Will dark magic claim their home? Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge – and if she fails, she’ll die. Yet if she triumphs, it may mean a fate worse than death. And in her desperate efforts to succeed, Miryem unwittingly spins a web which draws in the unhappy daughter of a lord. Irina’s father schemes to wed her to the tsar – he will pay any price to achieve this goal. However, the dashing tsar is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of mortals and winter alike. Torn between deadly choices,…

Rachel’s Reading Non-Fiction
Blog , What We're Reading / March 11, 2019

Genres: Non-Fiction – Memoir, Popular Science   Well booklovers, you may recall that last year I decided to try and read more non-fiction, and it went… not great. I’m doing better this year, as I’ve already read multiple non-fiction books. The standout for me so far has been Educated, by Tara Westover – the day I started it, it kept me up reading late into the night until I finished it! I had been hearing about it for awhile, as it’s been highly recommended by people such as Barack Obama and Bill Gates, and I finally got around to reading it last month. From the back of the book: Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals. As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she…