New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

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New Children's for the week of March 23rd : New Kids' Nonfiction
On Our Nature Walk

On Our Nature Walk

Our First Talk About Our Impact on the Environment
by Jillian Roberts
illustrated by Jane Heinrichs
foreword by Bob McDonald
also available: Hardcover
More Info
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New Fiction for the week of March 9th : New Poetry
The Dyzgraphxst

in an infinite series where we approach each oth’r
Jejune, forked in some road that might have
cropped up anyhow to cross us barely ready

or were we unaware that we had cracked I
to save us, split us three ways
as the centuries that made us possible left us

with all possible comprises, we have this one
existence, this so many elsewheres, in others,
I, and in every elsewhere, us both

and so you have arrived, Jejune, and so I
in a million pictures of our face, and still
I was not myself, i am not myself, myself

resembles something having nothing to do
with me and the idea that I would like
a holiday, a whole lifetime from this bend

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New Fiction for the week of March 2nd : New Fiction
The Amber Garden

The Amber Garden

The Alchemists’ Council, Book 3
tagged : epic
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London, Waterloo Bridge Station — August 1848


Ravenea stood on the platform surveying the unfamiliar surroundings and glancing anxiously at the outside world folk hurriedly walking by. Was her clothing appropriate? Would she pass among the people of the outside world unnoticed? She could not decide whether she was being overly anxious or respectably cautious. Perhaps if she were here on official Council business, or perhaps if this unconventional location were a crossing point at which she intended to greet a potential Initiate, her usual calm professionalism would prevail. Instead, much too late to change her mind, she repeatedly second-guessed her choice. What could possibly be worth this risk?


“Good afternoon,” said Fraxinus. Ravenea flinched slightly. Despite his flowing white hair and voluminous robes — highly unorthodox amidst the station’s occupants — she had not seen him approach. “Our time here is limited. I will be boarding a train within minutes.”


“Am I to join you?”


“Of course not!” His ice-blue eyes snapped at her, punctuating his words. “What excuse could you possibly offer the Alchemists’ Council if Azoth Magen Quercus learned you had embarked on an outside world train journey with a Rebel Branch Azoth?”


“What excuse am I to offer even for leaving the London protectorate for this station?” she asked. She glanced around once again at the passersby, worriedly skimming for a familiar face.


“Simple curiosity. Is this station not an architectural marvel of the modern world?” He gestured up and outward. For the benefit of onlookers, she smiled and nodded.


“And for what reason other than mutual observation of this outside world spectacle have you requested a meeting?”


“To relay information that may affect your future.” He paused.


She waited, hands clenched.


“Let me rephrase,” he continued. “To relay information that may profoundly affect the future of all three dimensions.”


Ravenea shivered despite the summer heat.


“Yes?” Her impatience grew.


“The Osmanthian Codex has been activated. If memory serves, the manuscript will mature fully within thirty years. The Rebel Azoths will then, once again, possess the knowledge to create an alchemical child.”


Ravenea froze, momentarily stunned. Her thoughts raced.


“But the bloodlocks! Osmanthus himself sealed the Codex with his primordial blood. And Makala sealed the secreted libraries from intruders after the Second Rebellion.”


A smartly dressed man within hearing range turned immediately to frown at her. She did not recognize him. He must merely have found her words vulgar.


“The ancestors intended worthy descendants to open the bloodlocks on both the Osmanthian and Aralian manuscripts,” said Fraxinus. “And Makala followed their lead.”


“Who is responsible?” she asked him. “A Rebel Branch Elder?”


“An Elder? Really, Ravenea, if an Elder both carried the bloodline and met the required prophetic conditions, one of us would have enlivened the manuscript centuries ago.”


“Then who?


“An outside world scribe,” he responded.


“That cannot be. Makala would not have allowed—”


“Yet here we are. And we have you to thank for this evolutionary exception.”


Another chill coursed through Ravenea.


“In what sense?”


“Our scribe was born in the outside world to exiled alchemists.”


“Alchemists cannot—”


She stopped. He smiled. She understood. She caught her breath.


Ilex and Melia.


Fraxinus turned, walked along a nearby platform, and disappeared into a train. Engines bellowed. People shouted. Wheels shrieked. Ravenea could not move.


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Someone Is Watching

This is what I remember: the warm night air, darkness as soft and inviting as a cashmere shawl, a gentle breeze brushing flirtatiously across the tops of the sweet-smelling shrubs in which I’m hiding, their coral flowers now folded in on themselves, closed to the dark. I’m vaguely aware of their faint aroma as I peer through my binoculars into Sara McAllister’s third-floor window, my knees aching from squatting so long in the same position, my toes cramping. It’s closing in on midnight, I’ve been here for hours, and irritability is curling around my consciousness like a hungry boa constrictor. I’m thinking that if I don’t see something—anything—soon, I’m going to call it a night.

That’s when I hear it—the snap of a twig, perhaps, although I’m not certain, that signals someone behind me. I turn to look, but it’s already too late. A gloved hand quickly covers my mouth, blocking my screams. I taste leather—old, stale, earthy. And then, those hands, seemingly everywhere, on my shoulders, in my hair, snapping the binoculars from my fingers, as fists slam into my stomach and against the side of my head, causing the world around me to blur and the ground to give way beneath my feet. A pillowcase is pulled roughly over my face. I can’t breathe, and I panic. Keep your wits about you, I tell myself in an effort to regain my equilibrium and hold my growing terror at bay. Keep track of everything that’s happening.

Except that everything is happening too fast. Even before the pillowcase is pulled into place, the white cotton overwhelming the blackness of the night, I see nothing but a vague shape. A man, certainly, but whether he is young or old, fat or thin, black or brown or white, I have no idea. Has the man I’ve been waiting for been waiting for me? Did he spot me hiding in the bushes and simply bide his time?

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Columbus and the Fat Lady

Columbus and the Fat Lady

And Other Stories
by Matt Cohen
introduction by Wayne Grady
also available: Paperback
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Cozy Mysteries

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New Children's for the week of February 24th : Awesome New Middle-Grade Books
Until Niagara Falls

We live in Niagara Falls. People who visit call it the honeymoon capital of the world. People born here just call it The Falls. Gran says with all the traffic, noise, and crowds, life here is certainly no honeymoon.
Before school was out for the summer, everyone in my class had to do a project on someone or something that made The Falls famous. Our teacher told us about Annie Taylor, who went over the falls in a barrel with her cat. She wasn’t sure if the part about her cat being black at the beginning of the ride and white at the end was true, which made us all laugh. Most of the boys signed up for the other daredevils that plunged over the brink in some kind of crazy contraption or the collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge.
I chose Jean-François Gravelet, The Great Blondin. He was a funambulist. That’s the fancy name for a tightrope walker. The Great Blondin started with P.T. Barnum in his Greatest Show on Earth, but he was most famous for walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
During work period, I stared at the giant June calendar on the chalkboard, trying to think of a way to get extra marks. I’d given up the idea of walking a tightrope as a demonstration. I wasn’t brave enough to try to balance on a thick rope, even if it was only a foot off the ground.
Miss Heard, the other grade five teacher from across the hall, came to whisper something to my teacher. Miss Heard actually looked pretty when she covered her mouth with her hand. She had the worst set of crooked teeth in the world. I was relieved not to be in her class. I would never be able to stop staring at those teeth long enough to concentrate on my work.
“Brenda,” my teacher called out. “We need your help.”
I got out of my seat and went into the hallway. She probably wanted me to take a message to the principal’s office. I was the only kid in school who could find her way to the principal’s office and back without getting into trouble.
“Someone in Miss Heard’s class isn’t feeling well,” Miss Wilson explained. “She’s not sure of the way home.”
A skinny girl in a faded dress leaned against the wall.
“Rosedale Crescent is off of your street, isn’t it?” Miss Heard said.
I nodded.
“You have your grandmother’s permission to walk her home,” she said, putting the girl’s thin, clammy hand into mine. “Then you are dismissed.”
I opened my mouth in disbelief. It was only two o’ clock. We hadn’t even had afternoon recess. Most kids would have liked the idea of leaving early, but I didn’t. I would have to spend my extra time with Gran. She would make me help with some kind of housework, reminding me over and over again that someday I would have a house of my own. She didn’t know I planned to hire a servant.
“Just a minute,” I said and ran back to my desk. I grabbed my project notes and pencil case, along with every book from my desk, and stuffed them into my school bag. I had to make it look like I had a ton of homework.
“Her name is Maureen Sullivan,” Miss Heard said, taking us to the front of the school. Students didn’t usually use that door. It felt strange walking beside the school flower beds.
As I tightrope-walked the curb, I couldn’t help but notice the frayed laces of Maureen’s worn running shoes. One of her socks had lost its elastic, and it puddled about her ankle, looking, I guessed, the same way she felt.
I walked her to the corner, stopped, and waited. This was only out of habit. I had never seen a car drive up Homewood Avenue.
The cracks in the sidewalk here were bad. In between the dandelions, billions of ants lived in small, sandy mounds. Everyone who walked to school this way said these ants bit, and then they flattened a few mounds before moving on. I wondered why the ants kept on building their homes in the same spot.
Maureen took a big gulp of air. She looked like she might throw up.
“Let’s take a shortcut through the park,” I said, dragging her across the road.
“Good to know a shortcut,” she said with a thin smile. “We just moved here.”
“Where did you live before?” Gran still used the original names of places in the city, like Stamford Centre and Silvertown, places that didn’t exist anymore. I just went by places you could swim. “Did you live up by the Cyanamid swimming pool?” I asked. It was the biggest pool in the city, with a triple-decker diving board, and because it was connected to the canal, sometimes there were real fish in the water. It was too far away to walk, and Dad wouldn’t drive me because we had a perfectly good pool in the park at the end of our street.
“Were you near Chippawa Creek or Dufferin Islands?”
Maureen didn’t speak. She just shook her head slowly from side to side.
Dad was right. The park in our neighbourhood had everything a kid could want. There was a wading pool and a huge sandbox at one end. The adult pool had a deep end with a diving board. Behind that was a tree-topped hill with grown-up swings, slides, and teeter-totters. The hill was perfect for tobogganing.
Because of the baseball diamond and soccer field, it was a busy place in the summer. The Kiwanis Club ran a sports program. Once you turned ten you could join, and that was the trouble with having skipped a grade. Everyone in my class belonged but me.
“This is the municipal park,” I informed her, using my best presentation voice. As soon as I was old enough to work, I planned to be a tour guide. “The swimming pool has a deep end with a single diving board.”
“Uh-huh,” was all she said.
We cut across the baseball field. As we walked beside the pool’s chain-link fence, I looked through the wire diamonds. A couple of buckets of paint and some rollers sat in the empty shallow end. Soon the bottom would once again be bright blue and the sides sparkling white.
“They’re painting,” I said, dropping my school bag and clutching the wire for a good look. “You know what that means?”
Maureen shook her head and leaned against the fence post.
“It means when it’s dry, we can go swimming.”
A man in paint-splattered overalls came out of the door to the boys’ change room. “Hey, you two,” he yelled. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Hi, Jasper,” I called back. “I have to take this girl home. She’s not feeling well.”
“Then get going,” he said. “Quit hanging around in the hot sun.”
I turned to Maureen, who sat on the cement with her back to the fence, eating something off her finger. I figured she must have found part of a cookie in her pocket. Then I watched in horror as she scraped her fingernail along a patch of dried bubble gum and put it in her mouth.
“You can’t do that,” I said with a grimace.
“Do what?”
“Eat stuff off the sidewalk.”
“It’s just gum.”
I didn’t offer my hand to help her get up.
We walked under the trees and across the grass until we reached Jepson Street.
Cars zipped up and down this street all the time. It got really busy in the summer because Jepson Street ended at Victoria Avenue, the street that took you to the falls. Here we had to wait, but I didn’t mind. Every house on the street had either an oak or an elm tree on the front lawn. The trees grew over the road, making a huge, leafy tunnel. It was the best way to go when biking to the library.
“Where do you live?” I asked before we turned on to Rosedale Crescent. But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew. The lawn of the little green wooden house was full of furniture and cardboard boxes. A motorbike leaned against the front porch.
Children swam about the place like tadpoles. A red-cheeked baby slept beneath a blanket spread across two kitchen chairs.
A skinny woman in a halter top and tight pedal-pushers was sorting through the boxes. She looked up. Her blond curls had been dragged back into a ponytail. Frizzy pieces escaped all over, giving her a kind of golden halo. She had pale, freckled skin and bright-green eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Then she put her hand to Maureen’s forehead and sighed. “I guess it’s your turn,” she murmured, leading her by the hand up the porch steps. “Thank you for walking my daughter home,” she said as she opened the screen door.
Maureen’s mom wasn’t like the other moms I knew from school. She had a kind of teenager look, one that Gran wouldn’t like.
I looked at the baby sleeping on the lawn. She didn’t tell me to mind the baby, but I couldn’t just walk away and leave it. What if a giant dog snatched it up and ran off?
“Goodbye, Mrs. Sullivan,” I said, when she finally came back outside.
“Oh, goodbye,” she said to the inside of a cardboard box. Then she pulled out her head. “I hope you’ve had the chicken pox.”

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The Ice Chips and the Stolen Cup

The Ice Chips and the Stolen Cup

Ice Chips Series Book 4
also available: Hardcover
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