Dogears: Strangled by Scarves

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and PresentFashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present Allison Matthews-David Bloomsbury Visual Arts September 24, 2015 Allison Matthews-David Bloomsbury Visual Arts September 24, 2015
Exit, Pursued By A Bear
E.K. JohnstonExit, Pursued By A Bear E.K. Johnston Dutton Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House Canada March 15, 2016
Dutton Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House Canada
March 15, 2016

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Full disclosure: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to E.K. Johnston many times on Twitter and at events. I read her most recent book, A Thousand Nights, and enjoyed it quite a bit before I decided to try this new one.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a young adult novel about Hermione Winters, co-captain of the cheerleading team, who is raped the summer before her final year of high school. It’s a book that is beautifully written and paced and it doesn’t shy away from handling the topic of sexual assault. It strikes a nice balance of dealing with the aftermath the rape (i.e. rape culture) while also establishing Hermione as someone who is more than just her tragedy, which seems to be the book’s thesis. It made me appreciate the friends I have, have had and will have because Johnston has done a fantastic job at depicting supportive friendships. It’s a book that makes you feel and get invested in its story. I truly hope you pick it up and libraries grab it because it’s a great and important read.

— Ardo Omer

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and PresentFashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present Allison Matthews-David Bloomsbury Visual Arts September 24, 2015
Allison Matthews-David
Bloomsbury Visual Arts
September 24, 2015

I’ve always loved fashion but since I’ve recently started to sew my own clothes, I’ve become more and more interested in how clothes are constructed and made. I saw Fashion Victims on a friend’s Goodreads feed and it piqued my interest. The book is the companion to an exhibit currently on view at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto that’s all about hazardous clothes and the risks we expose ourselves to in order to look good. This risks include death by your huge dress catching on fire, strangled by scarves, poisoned by fake flowers and green cloth and more!

While the book looks imposing, it’s really readable. There are some sections not for the faint of heart – or squeamish of stomach – but it’s fascinating. It’s one of those books that is so chock full of interesting facts about dangerous levels of mercury in top hats and exploding plastic hair combs that you’ll find yourself repeating them ad nauseam to friends and coworkers. Definitely pick this up if you’re interesting in the history of fashion, sewing, or just a morbid interest in the sometimes silly things we do, check this one out. I promise you it will make you think twice before buying that green dress!

— Anna Tschetter

The Night GardenerThe Night Gardener Terry Fan and Eric Fan Simon and Schuster Canada February 16, 2016
Terry Fan and Eric Fan
Simon and Schuster Canada
February 16, 2016

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Night Gardener is a picture book about a boy named William who is amazed by the fantastical tree designs created mysteriously overnight. The cover caught my eyes because it’s stunning and the art overall was lovely but I wasn’t affected emotionally by it. I do think kids will enjoy the majesty of the images and the lesson of getting to learn the craft that awes you (i.e. landscaping in this case). I did like the diverse people in the background but it just wasn’t a book that reached me in anyway.

— Ardo Omer

The Forbidden OrchidThe Forbidden Orchid, Sharon Biggs Waller, Viking, March 8 2016
Sharon Biggs Waller
Penguin – Viking
March 8, 2016

There’s a hesitation that I can’t quite turn off now when faced with YA books set in Asia, and The Forbidden Orchid justified that hesitation when I began reading it. Within two pages, I’d already encountered the phrase “exotic women in silk saris,” setting the tone for the rest of the novel. We are introduced to Elodie Buchanan, a girl whose father is a plant hunter in the Victorian Era. Elodie is humdrum and uninteresting, and I couldn’t muster very much sympathy or empathy for her desire for adventure. Frankly, she bored me throughout her adventures.

Once we’re in China, the story shifts into a strange mix of set dressing and awkward dialogue. Waller attempts to make Elodie and her father seem progressive for “Westerners,” but it comes off poorly. Her father laments “We’ve only brought strife and sorrow to this land and grabbed the best bits for ourselves,” and yet they both continue the colonialist tradition of Britain and Europe with their journey for the orchid. It’s hard to feel anything but exhaustion thinking about this novel, as it centers the perspectives of white British citizens in a country that has been dismantled and abused by colonialists. That centering is irresponsible, considering how little is taught about China and the rest of Asia in North American schools. Are a few throwaway comments from Elodie about how the Chinese people were taken advantage of enough to shift the balance? I would say not.

— Angel Cruz

The Dark Days ClubThe Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman, January 26th 2016, Penguin
Alison Goodman
Viking Books for Younger Readers
January 26, 2016

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Dark Days Club transports the reader back to an alternative version of 18th Century London, where we’re introduced to a young girl named Lady Helen Wrexhall. Lady Helen, like every other girl her age, is getting ready to make her début into society. Things are going rather well until one of her housemaids disappears and she finds herself pulled into a shadowy level of society she never knew existed. A world full of secrets, demons, and dark magic. Under the guidance of the mysterious Lord Carlston, she must decide whether to continue on with the life she had planned or fight the demons and embrace her family’s legacy.

This is an ambitious novel. There is a lot contained within it, and it may initially feel overwhelming. but it so well paced, and plotted that in the end you’ll find yourself wishing for even more. 18th Century London is such an interesting time, there is a distinct culture, and Goodman beautifully captured the unique mannerisms and customs of that period. She was able to fully immerse me into the world, while slowly adding in the additional dark fantasy elements.

The real star of The Dark Days Club, however, is Helen. She was such a force in this novel. Her personality was bright, but she wasn’t naive. And best of all every one of her relationships was well defined – between her and her brother, her mother, her best friend and of course, with Lord Carlston. Any romantic elements in the story took a back seat and let the individual character arcs develop.

The Dark Days Club was beautifully written, engaging and had a protagonist I’d happily follow in future installments. A great read for anyone who likes steampunk and gaslamp fantasy.

— Christa

Christa Seeley

Christa Seeley

Books Editor. Maple Flavoured Darth Vader Fangirl.
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