Monday, September 29, 2014

Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

A beautifully written debut novel.  I absolutely loved these quirky, flawed characters...I was rooting for Tom, Henry, Rose, and the entire cast of characters the whole way. 


"it occurred to Tom that embracing the possibility of a happy future might be the bravest thing he had ever done."

Book Description via Amazon.com



From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had. 

 
Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.

Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop's charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he'd fathered a son who is heading Tom's way on a train.  His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings's wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

I volunteered to pick the next selection for my book club.  Being a librarian makes this a somewhat daunting task...there is an inherent pressure that I have to  pick a "good" book, a book that will inspire discussion and perhaps even debate.  I think I hit the mark with Jan-Philipp Sendker's The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.  This is such a beautifully written story with characters that both break your heart and make you want to cry tears of happiness.  The location is just the proverbial cherry on top - twentieth century Burma - exotic and mysterious and wonderful.  The only question is what am I going to serve for dinner?

"Only a few days earlier he had explained to her that he did not merely read books but traveled with them, that they took him to other countries and unfamiliar continents, and that with their help he was always getting to know new people, many of whom even became his friends." Pg. 128

From Booklist
Already a huge hit in Europe, Sendker’s debut is a lush tale of romance and family set in mid-twentieth-century Burma. Four years after her father mysteriously disappeared, Julia Win traces him to the small town of Kalaw after finding a love letter among his possessions addressed to a woman named Mi Mi. In Kalaw, an old man named U Ba approaches her, promising to tell her the story of her father’s life before he came to New York and met her mother. As a child, Tin Win was abandoned by his mother, who was told by an astrologer the boy was cursed. At 10, Tin Win gradually goes blind. He’s taken in by a kindly neighbor, who finds him a home at a local monastery. It is there that he meets Mi Mi, whose crippled legs make her as much of an outsider as Tin Win. Their natural camaraderie quickly turns into love, but their happiness is brief. A beautiful tale bound to enchant readers on this side of the Atlantic. --Kristine Huntley

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

I love this *almost* as much as Smile...but really how can you top perfection.  Perfect for grades 5 and up...and by up I mean any adult.







From Booklist

*Starred Review* Telgemeier’s follow-up to Smile (2010)—possibly the only universally embraced graphic novel on the planet—offers the same thoughtful perspective while also creating a slightly more mature and complex tone. Raina boards the family minivan traveling from California to Colorado to visit relatives, sharing a charged and eventful trip with her mother, sister, and younger brother. Cleverly, the trip is interspersed with flashbacks that flesh out the emotional background and neatly dovetail with Smile. While the focus of the story explores Raina’s combative relationship with her younger sister, Amara, it is in some sense about families themselves, the tensions they breed, the unspoken worries that swirl through households, and the ways an older generation’s unintended example echoes through younger generations. This may sound dark and heavy, but it actually exists only as an underlying reality. Telgemeier keeps the surface story popping and zippy, even through the constant sparring between the awkwardly adolescent Raina and her firecracker younger sister, a relationship that will prove profoundly familiar to many readers. Telgemeier’s art complements her writing to great effect, offering a cheerful, vivid cartoon simplicity that allows readers to instantly engage even as it leaves room for deeper truths to take hold.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

 A perfect ending to a perfect series...my only complaint is that it is over. 

"But I guess I'm the same selfish ass I've always been.  For all my talk of vows and honor, what I really want is to put you up against that wall and kiss you until you forget you ever knew another man's name." (Pg. 168)

"In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach." (Pg. 234)

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up—The Darkling has finally risen, and only Alina Starkov has the power to free Ravka from his evil influence. But with her powers depleted, her best friend injured and broken, and boyfriend Mal at odds with her decisions, Alina knows her odds of finding the elusive firebird are stacked against her. As Alina seeks out the firebird amplifier that will give her the power she needs to defeat The Darkling, she learns that her ties to him may be too great for her to resist. Readers are advised to read—or even reread—the first two books before delving into this conclusion to the trilogy, as there is little backstory to remind readers what transpired in the first two books. Once again, Bardugo is a master at building an action-packed fantasy with extraordinary world-building and complex characters. Though they try to do the right thing, the characters are perfectly imperfect; they question themselves, take risks, and make plenty of mistakes. While The Darkling is a little too similar to Harry Potter's Voldemort, he is still a delicious combination of evil, cunning, and manipulation. Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed, especially with the reappearance of charismatic Nikolai/Sturmhond. Already optioned for a movie, this trilogy is a must for libraries serving teens.—Leigh Collazo, Ed Willkie Middle School, Fort Worth, TX

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie, I forgive you for making me wait soooooo long for this sequel, it was absolutely worth the wait.  I love these books something fierce, with all their romancey goodness, perfect settings and swoon worthy characters.   Although, I am not actually sure what I love more:  the characters or the setting...New York, Paris, Spain???  Ah, to be young and in love *and* in Paris...come on!!!  While the settings are dreamy, her main guys are a-mazing...√Čtienne, Cricket and my new favorite Josh...SIGHHHHHH. 

Book Description via Amazon



“Stephanie Perkins’s characters fall in love the way we all want to, in real time and for good.” —Rainbow Rowell, Award-winning, bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl

A New York Times Bestseller
Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison

This is a perfect easy, breezy read.  It makes you want to grab your girlfriends, jump in the car and hit the road...preferably to somewhere warm with umbrella drinks.

Book Description via Amazon



Three women, two weeks, one convertible: sometimes life doesn't take you in the direction you expect...

Colleen Bradley is married with a teenage son, a modest business repurposing and reselling antiques, and longtime fear that she was not her husband’s first choice.  When she decides to take a road trip down the east coast to check out antique auctions for her business, she also has a secret ulterior motive.  Her one-woman mission for peace of mind is thrown slightly off course when sixteen year old Tamara becomes her co-pilot.  The daughter of Colleen’s brother-in-law, Tamara is aware that when people see her as a screw-up, but she knows in her heart that she’s so much more.  She just wishes her father could see it, too.

The already bumpy trip takes another unexpected turn when they stop at the diner that served as Colleen’s college hangout and run into her old friend, Bitty Nolan Camalier.  Clearly distressed, Bitty gives them a story full of holes: angry with her husband, she took off on her own, only to have her car stolen.  Both Colleen and Tamara sense that there’s more that Bitty isn’t sharing, but Colleen offers to give Bitty a ride to Florida.

So one becomes two becomes three as Colleen, Tamara, and Bitty make their way together down the coast.  It’s a road trip fraught with tension as Tamara’s poor choices come back to haunt her and Bitty’s secrets reach a boiling point.  With no one to turn to but each other, these three women might just discover that you can get lost in life but somehow, true friends provide a roadmap to finding what you’re really looking for.