Archive for the ‘Staff Picks’ Category

Recommendations: Younger Readers (Part Three in an Ongoing Series)

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Lost Sun / Strange Maid, Tessa Gratton
In Gratton’s United States of Asgard, the Norse gods walk the earth. Odin advises the President. The Valkyries oversee ceremonies and sacrifices. Lost Sun is about Soren, a young Berserker who struggles with the wildness in his soul; Strange Maid is about Signy, the youngest and wildest of the Valkyries, who revels in hers. This Norse mythology with all the blood and poetry left in. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
Seraphina’s mother was a dragon; her father, a human. Since human/dragon liaisons are utterly forbidden – by both species – Seraphina is used to hiding the truth. Which becomes more difficult when she is chosen to tutor the royal princess; harder still when she is thrown into the orbit of the Captain of the Guard. Politics may be a matter of course, but treason is not, and Seraphina discovers a conspiracy that could rekindle the devastating human-dragon wars.  Highly recommended; now in paperback.

Black Dog, Rachel Neumeier
Natividad is a Pure, a wielder of protective magic that can keep the terrifying transforming Black Dogs at peace. Her oldest brother is a Black Dog, so she she knows how to behave around the savage creatures, but she have never encountered anything like the Black Dogs of Dimiloc. Which is fair: Dimiloc has never met anyone like Natividad and her brothers, nor the enemy after them. Smart and emotionally real.

Middle Grade
The Wiggins Weird Series (How To Curse In Hieroglyphics / Haunting Of Heck House), Lesley Livingston & Jonathan Llyr
Cheryl and Tweed are twelve year old cousins. Raised by their grandfather in a drive-in, the girls have an appreciation for the unusual things in life. Like the strange carnival that just rolled into town, which just might be carrying a very real curse among its sideshow exhibits. It will take all of Cheryl and Tweed’s ingenuity (and love of B movies) to save their town. Delightful.

Cold Cereal Saga (Cold Cereal / Unlucky Charms / Champions of Breakfast), Adam Rex
When Scott meets an actual leprechaun, he realizes that being the new kid in town is only the beginning of his problems. And when he and his friends Emily and Arno realize that the fairies are trying to take over the world with magical breakfast cereal, he knows those problems are bigger than he could have imagined. A great series, funny and serious by turns, full of Rex’s marvellous illustrations.

Young Readers
Julia’s House For Lost Creatures, Ben Hatke
“Julia’s house came to town and settled by the sea…”  Happy with her new location, but a little lonely, Julia puts up a sign welcoming lost creatures, and soon her house is full of them. Very full. But the intrepid Julia knowns just how to handle a house full of boisterous guests, no matter how unusual. From the author of the ‘Zita’ books, with the same warm and charming art style.

The Princess Who Had No Fortune, Ursula Jones & Sarah Gibb
This particular Princess has no time for Princes. She needs to fix the leaks in her old home; keep her father the King out of trouble; and get her overgrown garden into shape in time for a party. A gardener arrives, but he’s almost as bad at gardening as she is at baking cupcakes. The story is smart and sweet, and the the colourful silhouette-style illustrations are just plain gorgeous.



Friday, December 19th, 2014

Heaven’s Queen, Rachel Bach
Everyone – personal enemies, her own government, two separate alien species – is after Devi’s head. But as long as she can charge her power-armour, Devi will follow her usual protocol: charge into action, and punch, stab, or shoot the problem until it goes away. This final installment in Bach’s ‘Paradox’ series was as much fun as the first two.

Carbide Tipped Pens, Ben Bova & Eric Choi, editors
Bova and Choi’s new hard SF anthology explores the impact of scientific breakthrough on humanity from a wide range of perspectives. From medical tattoos to missions to Mars; from ancient China to the future of baseball, these stories turn far-out ideas into stories both epic and personal.

Ancillary Justice / Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
Breq was once a starship, an AI who controlled not only the ship but all the bodies it contained. Now she IS one of those bodies, and grappling with not only the burning desire to figure out how it happened (and who to destroy for it), but also the very real need to learn how to be human. Ancillary Sword, the sequel, is also available. Read them and you’ll understand why Justice won ALL THE AWARDS this year.

The Martian, Andy Weir
When a storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet, astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. He has supplies, but they won’t last for the years it will take a rescue crew to arrive. He has communication equipment, but it’s damaged. But he also has an enduring (if dark) sense of humour, top-notch engineering skills, and a serious determination to stay alive. Less a mood piece on the existential horrors of being alone in space than a book about ferociously competent people being ferociously competent, The Martian is an absorbing read.

Burning Paradise, Robert Charles Wilson
Cassie knows that the world is not what it’s supposed to be. She knows that humanity has been steered in ways both subtle and obvious to be more peaceful and benign. She knows this because of her parents, who discovered the distressing truth years ago and were murdered for it. And now the killers are back. They’re hunting Cassie and her brother. And they’re not human. (Now in paperback).

Recommendations: Fantasy (Part One in an Ongoing Series)

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

These days, we spend a lot of our time making suggestions and recommendations for customers, especially those who may not be fully caught up on the genre. It’s a lot of fun — in fact, it’s our favourite thing. Over the next few days, we’ll share some of those recommendations with you. Today’s topic:  Fantasy

Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
Maia is the fourth son of the Emperor. Despised by his father, he has spent his entire life relegated to a dismal manor home in the sticks until a sudden shocking accident puts Maia on the throne. At its core, Goblin Emperor is a court fantasy, with all the factions, intrigue, and political infighting that entails. But it is also the story of a young man learning what he can and will do. Compassionate and kind, with intensive worldbuilding and absorbing prose, Goblin Emperor is one of our top picks for the year.

Daring, Elliott James
John Charming: formerly a Knight Templar, currently a werewolf. Which explains the ‘former’ part: the Knights see werewolves as monsters to be destroyed. Which makes it tricky when they want John’s help to infiltrate a werewolf pack growing in power and influence. This is the second novel in James’ ‘Pax Arcana’ series, and a good choice for those who are all caught up with the Dresden Files.

Silence For The Dead, Simone St. James
Kitty Weekes knows that there is something wrong a Portis House, the manor-turned-psych-ward for shell-shocked veterans of the Great War. Something worse than the way the patients are treated. Something… angry. And when the weather and a medical catastrophe leave them completely isolated, it will take all of Kitty’s strength and ingenuity to keep the residents safe. It’s a ghost story, but it’s also about war, loss, and pain, and the many ways we can learn to survive them.

Radiant, Karina Sumner-Smith
Magicless in a world that values power, Xhea is an outcast, using her strange ability to see ghosts to eke out a living. When she meets Shai, a ghost and a much-prized Radiant, everything about Xhea’s life begins to change. And things long dormant, like Xhea’s emotions, her thoughts of the future, and her magic, begin to stir at last. Another wonderful book by a Bakka Phoenix staff alum. Hey, we can’t help it that so many of staff members are so talented.

Girls At The Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
You know this story: it’s the one about twelve sisters who disappear from a locked room to dance all night long. But you’ve never read it like this before: set in 1927 Manhattan, complete with speakeasies, flappers, gangters, and ragtime. It’s a spectacular book about love, loss, freedom, sisterhood, and dancing. And there’s no magic in it at all, except the magic of a brilliantly told story.

Recommendations, IV: Middle Grade

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Sorry, folks.  I’d planned to post this one over the weekend, but the whole “city-wide blackout aaaggggh!” put the kibosh on that.
So. Today’s recommendations are for Middle Grade readers.

The School for Good and Evil, Soman Chainani
Sophie and Agatha are both swept off to the fabled School for Good and Evil. Sophie is shocked to end up in the ‘Evil’ section, and Agatha, who only went to save her friend, isn’t thrilled to end up in the ‘Good’ Department. The girls are caught up in a crazy fairy tale, and the only way out is through.  Enjoyable and subversive.

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
When she runs afoul of the Witch of the Waste, young Sophie Hatter is turned into an old woman. At which point she sets off on an adventure, ending up in the travelling castle belonging to Wizard Howl. Zaniness ensues (and the follow-up, Castle in the Sky, is also delightful). Jones’ wonderful prose rewards readers of all ages.

Paranorman, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Normal is able to see and speak to ghosts, thought no one believes him. But when a 300 year old curse turns out to be true, it’s up to Norman, the ghosts, and a small group of companions to save the day. Fast-paced and funny, and more moving than I expected. Read the book, then watch the charming movie (or vice-versa).

How to Curse in Hieroglyphics, Lesley Livingston & Jonathan Llyr
Cheryl and Tweed were raised by their Grandad, who runs the drive-in theatre. Active and intelligent, they believe there’s more to the world than meets the eye. And when Dudley’s World-O-Wonders carnival comes to town, they’re proven right, in inimitable B-movie style. The action sequences, with illustrated storyboards, are a real pleasure.

Urgle, Megan McIsaac
The boys of Ikkuma Pit have no parents. They fend for themselves, each boy teaching a younger member to survive. When the Little Brother is old enough to survive on his own, the Older Brother leaves the Pit for the Forest. No one knows what’s out there: no one has ever come back. Until now… Original and powerful.



Day Three: The Recommendationing

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Today’ subject:  Young Adult

Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo
When Alina’s best friend is injured in the magically blighted area known as the Ford, she reveals a dormant power she never knew she had. Whisked away to the court of the Darkling, Alina must master her newfound power. But little of her new life is what it appears to be, and soon she discovers a secret that could change the entire country forever.  Fabulously original — and the sequel, Siege and Storm, is also excellent.

The Diviners, Libba Bray
Set in New York in the roaring twenties, this book is all jazz and ghosts and technological industrialists and a truly terrifying serial killer. Protagonist Evie’s risks and fears are viscerally real. A sprawling, deeply absorbing novel, for fans of historicals, epics, and atmosphere.

Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
Seraphina has a secret. Her mother was a dragon; her father, a human. Their union — and Seraphina herself — is technically against the law. So she’s used to lying, but it becomes harder when she’s chosen to tutor the royal princess; harder still when she meets the Captain of the Guard. When she uncovers a conspiracy to rekindled to human-dragon wars, court politics turn deadly.  A wonderful, wonderful book.

Planesrunner, Ian McDonald
Everett Singh’s brilliant physicist dad has been kidnapped, but no one believes him. When Everett realizes that his father has given him a key that permits travel to other quantum realities, he also realizes that there are people who will do anything to get it. This is the best combination of quantum physics, multiple-world theory and airships for teens EVAR!  (The sequel, Be My Enemy, is equally good).

Unspoken, Sarah Rees Brennan
Unspoken simultaneously manages to be 1) a subversion of the idea that a magival telepathic boyfriend is in any way a good idea; 2) a modern Gothic, or post-Gothic maybe, either way there are big spooky houses and family secrets; 3) funny as hell. The sequel, Untold, is also available (and you will want it immediately).


Recommendations, Part Deux.

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Today: Fantasy

A Study in Silks, Emma Jane Holloway
In this Victorian era run by the shadowy and ruthless steam barons, it doesn’t pay to stand out. Evelina Cooper is about to enter her first season, but there are a few things holding her back. First, there’s her magical ability with mechanisms. Then there’s the fact that she was raised in the circus. And if that’s not enough, her uncle is the brilliant and famous Sherlock Holmes. And then there’s a murder…  This is steampunk adventure at it’s finest.

Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett
Moist Von Lipwig. Vetinari. Vimes. The Low King of Dwarves. Goblins. Slide rules. And trains, trains, trains.  It’s Pratchett: is there anything else you really need to know?

Royal Airs, Sharon Shinn
In the country of Welce, people take their blessings from one of the five elements. Josetta, a princess, is all elay, air. Rafe Adova, a gambler from the roughest part of town, is that rarest of creatures: a man with no elemental affinity at all. When Rafe saves Josetta’s sister from a dangerous situation, events are set in train that neither of them could have imagined. A delightful follow-up to Shinn’s earlier book Troubled Waters.

Darkwalker, E.L. Tettensor
Nicolas Lenoir is a gifted police investigator who cannot bring himself to care about his cases, his subordinates, or even himself. But when a young informant goes missing, Lenoir rusty conscience begins to stir. His present investigation collides with a past betrayal and changes everything about Nicolas’ world.  A thoroughly enjoyable debut; I look forward to more from this author.

The Thousand Names, Django Wexler
Marcus wants to serve out his exile commanding the Vordanai Empire’s colonial garrison in peace. Winter wants to stay unnoticed in the ranks. Janus wants… well, that would be telling.  Part of a genre so new we haven’t named it yet, this Post Medieval, Pre-Steam adventure offers a distinct setting, engaging characters, and just enough magic to make things interesting.

Tis The Season For Recommendations

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

We give a lot of recommendations this time of year. A LOT. Talking about books is our favourite thing. So we thought we’d share some recent recommendations with you.

First up, Science Fiction.

Perdition, Ann Aguirre
Dred Devos controls one of the six territories of the spaceship Perdition, a vast floating prison. It’s not an easy position to keep. New convict Jael has the mercenary skills to make a good ally, but those deadly abilities make him less than trustworthy.  Action packed and character driven, this is a prison combat/escape movie SET IN SPACE. I mean, what are you waiting for?  (PB, $8.99)

Parasite, Mira Grant
Symbo-Gen has the cure for everything: all you have to do is take a pill with a genetically engineered tapeworm and your problems are gone! Except, of course, when they aren’t, as Sally Mitchell is about to find out. Grant’s vivid characters, dynamic plotting, and gift for the creepily plausible make Parasite a fun (if disturbing) read.
(HC, $22.00, signed copies available)

21st Century Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editors
An interesting and wide-ranging selection of SF short stories published in the last thirteen years. Hartwell and Nielsen Hayden really know how to put together an anthology like this — valuable because of it’s sheer range. No matter what kind of SF you like, you’ll find it here. And likely a new favourite, too.  (HC, $39.99)

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
Breq is a soldier on a wintry planet. She used to be a massive starship, an AI that linked thousands of soldiers together across the galaxy. Now she has been reduced to inhabiting a single breakable human body.  All she has left is the desire to find out what happened, and an even deeper drive for revenge.  Gripping and original.  (TR, $17.00)

Burning Paradise, Robert Charles Wilson
Cassie lives in a world similar to but not quite like our own. In her world, for instance, there were no World Wars. No Great Depression. The problem is, only Cassie and a few others know why: the Earth is being interfered with, being made more placid by an entity with a secret  agenda. Her parents died for that knowledge, and now Cassie is a target, too.  Action and adventure delivered with Wilson’s tradmark insight and graceful prose.  (HC, $28.99, signed copies available)