Tag Archives: Holidays

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy National Doughnut Day, beloved patrons!

Via the National WWI Museum

While you’re enjoying your doughnut-related deals today, here’s a little history about the celebration itself.

National Doughnut Day began in 1938 as a fundraiser for the Chicago branch of the Salvation Army, both as a way to help those harmed by the Great Depression, and to honor the work of “Sallies”, or women volunteers who made doughnuts, served coffee, and administered to the enlisted of the First World War.

About 250 Salvation Army volunteers traveled to the Western Front to work in service huts where soldiers could have a hot meal and coffee while on rest. These huts were generally abandoned buildings or scrap-metal shacks, it was a real struggle to bake at all, or to do so in sufficient quantities.  Instead, two intrepid Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts, which could be made and cooked quickly and easily regardless of the setting. These are reported to have been an “instant hit” with soldiers, and Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.”

Although the doughnut subsequently became popularly associated with the American Army abroad, it is not, in fact, the reason soldiers were referred to as “Doughboys.”  That’s actually a nickname that has its origins in the Mexican-American War of 1846-7.

So enjoy your doughnuts, beloved patrons, and while you do so, spare a thought for the brave women who made it possible!

And now, on to the books!

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive FungusIf you, like us, are fond of cooking shows and cookbooks, you’ll know that there are few things in the world that scream “luxury” like truffles.  But what on earth is a truffle?  And why do we care so much? In this delightful book, Ryan Jacobs takes us beneath the gloss of star chefs and crystal-laden tables, to where the truffle supply chain is touched by theft, secrecy, sabotage, and fraud. Farmers patrol their fields with rifles and fear losing trade secrets to spies. Hunters plant poisoned meatballs to eliminate rival truffle-hunting dogs. Naive buyers and even knowledgeable experts are duped by liars and counterfeits.  Deeply reported and elegantly written, this page-turning exposé documents the dark, sometimes deadly crimes at each level of the truffle’s path from ground to plate, making sense of an industry that traffics in scarcity, seduction, and cash. Through it all, a question lingers: What, other than money, draws people to these dirt-covered jewels? An adventure for gourmets, travel enthusiasts, and trivia alike, this is a book that Publisher’s Weekly called a “fascinating work . . . This deeply researched and eye-opening account of the lengths people will go for wealth, gratification, and a taste of the prized fungus will captivate readers.”

The Volunteer: National-Book-Award finalist Salvatore Scibona’s fascinating new novel opens when a small boy, speaking an unknown language, is abandoned by his father at an international airport, with only the clothes on his back and a handful of money jammed in the pocket of his coat. But in order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment, decades earlier, when a young man named Vollie Frade, almost on a whim, enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Breaking definitively from his rural Iowan parents, Vollie puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events, which sees him go to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp. From the Cambodian jungle, to a flophouse in Queens, to a commune in New Mexico, Vollie’s path traces a secret history of life on the margins of America, culminating with an inevitable and terrible reckoning. By turns moving, frightening, insightful, and captivating, this is a book that manages to be both intimate and epic.  The New York Times Book Review agreed, calling this novel “Thrilling… Scibona has built a masterpiece.”

The Lost Letters of William Woolf: Irish author Helen Cullen has crafted a delightful tale about the power of love and the written word that will hold appeal for mystery-lovers and romance readers alike. Inside the walls of the Dead Letters Depot, letter detectives work to solve mysteries. They study missing zip codes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names—all the many twists of fate behind missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills, unanswered prayers. Their mission is to unite lost mail with its intended recipients. But when letters arrive addressed simply to “My Great Love,” longtime letter detective William Woolf faces his greatest mystery to date. Written by a woman to the soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives capture William’s heart in ways he didn’t know possible. Soon, he finds himself torn between the realities of his own marriage and his world of letters, and his quest to follow the clues becomes a life-changing journey of love, hope, and courage.  The Irish Times loved this book, sending it on its way by calling it  “Enchanting, intriguing, deeply moving.”

Geek Girls Don’t Cry: Real-Life Lessons From Fictional Female Characters: What does it mean for a woman to be strong—especially in a world where our conception of a “hero” is still so heavily influenced by male characters and superheroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman?  Here’s a book that takes its lessons from the great heroines and women heroes of fiction, offering advice tailor-made for fans of any age. Andrea Towers, who works in public relations at Marvel Entertainment, outlines some of the primary traits heroic women can call upon, like resilience, self-acceptance, and bravery, pulling in stories from real-life women as well as figures from the pop-culture pantheon. She also interviews the creators of our favorite fictional heroines, who discuss how they drew from their own experiences to develop these protagonists and how, conversely, their own creations continue to inspire them.  As much fun for heroines, women heroes, and those in training as it is for those looking for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of comics and comic stories, this is a book that earned a starred review from Booklist, who celebrated “In a market flush with biographical anthologies of awesome, powerful, and sometimes unknown women, Towers’ book stands out, and not just because the women she discusses do not technically exist. She puts the creative in creative nonfiction as she takes the biographical details of fictional female characters and associates them with various real-life issues to empower and comfort readers.”

The Favorite Daughter: Readers looking for a gripping thriller to add to their beach bag or travel case, look no further.  Kaira Rouda’s newest novel is being hailed as one of the highlights of the early summer. Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.  It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed? How far will Jane go to find the truth?  Find out in this book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “An exceptional psychological thriller.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

It’s our first FBF of the month, beloved patrons!  And though February may be a short month, there’s still plenty to celebrate!  In addition to the holiday on February 14, there are a few other days that might strike your fancy to celebrate, such as:

February 17: National Random Act of Kindness Day (originally a New Zealand holiday that appears to be spreading)

February 25: National Clam Chowder Day

February 26: National Tell A Fairy Tale Day!

February 28: National Toast Day (as in toasted bread–originally a UK holiday, but, as fans of toast, we are delighted to join the celebration!)

February is also Black History Month.  Stop in and check out our displays and get some recommendations to enrich your reading!

And speaking of books…here are just a few of the titles that trundled their way through this week’s wacky weather to meet you!

The Atlas of Reds and Blues: Some of literature’s most noteworthy books take place within the context of a single day, and Devi S. Lakar’s novel follows in that tradition, setting out a story that unfolds over the course of a single morning.  When a woman―known only as Mother―moves her family from Atlanta to its wealthy suburbs, she discovers that neither the times nor the people have changed since her childhood in a small Southern town. Despite the intervening decades, Mother is met with the same questions: Where are you from? No, where are you really from? The American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, she finds that her answer―Here―is never enough.  Mother’s simmering anger breaks through one morning, when, during a violent and unfounded police raid on her home, she finally refuses to be complacent. As she lies bleeding from a gunshot wound, her thoughts race from childhood games with her sister and visits to cousins in India, to her time in the newsroom before having her three daughters, to the early days of her relationship with a husband who now spends more time flying business class than at home.   This is a novel that looks at the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today’s America.  Based on Laskar’s own experience of a raid on her home, this is a searing and important work that earned a starred review from Booklist.  Their review describes it as a work that   “takes place in a morning; it covers a lifetime . . . Not only does Laskar bring her honed skills as a poet and journalist to her pulse-racing first novel about otherness and prejudice, she also draws on her own experience of a shocking raid on her home. Laskar’s bravura drama of one woman pushed to the brink by racism is at once sharply relevant and tragically timeless.”

The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill: Another striking debut about the dark underbelly of the American dream, James Charlesworth’s first novel is told from the perspective of the children of a ‘self-made man’.  All their lives, the children of George Benjamin Hill have fought to escape the shadow of their father, a dust-bowl orphan, self-made millionaire in bedrock American capitalism (fast food and oil), and destroyer of two families on his way to financial success. Now, they are approaching middle age and ruin: A failed ex–minor league ballplayer, divorced and mourning the death of his daughter in Miami; CIA veteran, off his meds and deciphering conspiracies in Manhattan; a Las Vegas showgirl turned old maid of The Strip, trying to stay clean; and an Alaskan bush pilot, twice un-indicted for manslaughter and recently thrown off his land by the federal government.  While their father finds himself at the center of a national scandal, these estranged siblings are drawn from their four corners of the country, compelled along crowded interstates by resentment and confusion, converging on a 300-acre horse ranch outside Omaha for a final confrontation with the father they never had.  This is a story about corporate greed, about the failures of capitalism, and, in the midst of these huge themes, there is a moving and suspenseful tale about one family’s unique dysfunctions.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a lovely review of this debut, noting, “Charlesworth doesn’t mince words. . . . For such an unabashedly polemical first novel, The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill works surprising well, due in large measure to the unremitting intensity of its prose, the unsettling verisimilitude of its characters, and the moral courage at the core of its message.”

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction: A miraculous alchemy occurs when one person reads to another, transforming the simple stuff of a book, a voice, and a bit of time into complex and powerful fuel for the heart, brain, and imagination.  Meghan Cox Gurdon’s work tales a scientific approach to the act of reading, blending the latest neuroscience and behavioral research with a passion for literature to explain and explore the dazzling cognitive and social-emotional benefits that await children, whatever their class, nationality or family background. But it’s not just about bedtime stories for little kids: Reading aloud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age, deepening the intellectual lives and emotional well-being of teenagers and adults, too.  For everyone, reading aloud engages the mind in complex narratives; for children, it’s an irreplaceable gift that builds vocabulary, fosters imagination, and kindles a lifelong appreciation of language, stories and pictures.  This is a book for anyone looking to understand the power of sharing and hearing stories that Library Journal recommended “For anybody interested in reading, especially parents, teachers, caregivers, and librarians, this inspirational work proclaims its joys and rewards.”

The Girls at 17 Swann Street: As much as we are heartily over the “books with girls in the title” trend, there’s no denying that Yara Zgheib’s debut is a vitally necessary and deeply emotional story that deserves to be read and discussed.  Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.  This isn’t an easy read, but it’s an important one.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, calling it, “an impressive, deeply moving debut. ”  And can we just say, what a week it is for debut novels!

The Stranger Inside: There have been a number of books that deal with strangers attempting to move into, or already living in, someone’s, and Laura Bendict plays on those fears in this new novel.  There’s a stranger living in Kimber Hannon’s house. He tells the police that he has every right to be there, and he has the paperwork to prove it. But Kimber definitely didn’t invite this man to move in. He tells her that he knows something about her, and he wants everyone else to know it too.  His  words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. This trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her charming Craftsman bungalow. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life–and destroy it.  This book also earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Outstanding…. Kimber’s complicated personality and unusual family life drive the ever-twisting, surprise-filled plot…. [She] is the epitome of the unreliable narrator.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

 

Five Book Friday!

We know plenty of people who have had their fill of celebrations over the past month or so, dear readers.  For many of us, the beginning of January is a terrific time to build a pillow fort and snuggle up with a good book and some comfort food.  If, however, you are looking for some fun ways to keep the party going, here are a few suggestions for some quirky national days in January to celebrate.

January 6: National Shortbread Day: Check out the Walker’s Shortbread website for more information, and here for a quick shortbread recipe to try yourself!

January 11: National Milk Day: Said to commemorate the day that  the first milk deliveries in glass bottles began in the United States in 1878, as stated by Alexander Campbell of the New York Dairy Company.  In 1915, The International Association of Milk Inspectors submitted a request, but the day was never officially ratified.  Nevertheless, any day is a good day for a celebration, right?

January 13: National Rubber Duck Day: According to a 1973 Sesame Street calendar, Rubber Duckie’s Birthday is January 13 so around the country it’s National Rubber Ducky Day!

January 14: Ratification Day: Commemorating the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution.  Every year in honor of this day, there is a ceremony at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland where the treaty was signed, and a flag in the design that was displayed at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Paris flies over the State House.

January 21: National Squirrel Appreciation Day: Established by by Christy Hargrove from Asheville, North Carolina on January 21, 2001, because squirrels need some love, too!

And now, on to the books, dear readers!

The Frame-Up: Meghan Scott Molin launches a new mystery series in style in this fun and delightfully nerdy new novel.  MG Martin works as a writer for the comic book company she idolized as a kid. But despite her love of hooded vigilantes, MG prefers her comics stay on the page. But when someone in LA starts recreating crime scenes from her favorite comic book, MG is the LAPD’s best—and only—lead. She recognizes the golden arrow left at the scene as the calling card of her favorite comic book hero. But superheroes aren’t real. Are they?  When too-handsome-for-his-own-good Detective Kildaire asks for her comic book expertise, MG is more than up for the adventure. Unfortunately, MG has a teeny little tendency to not follow rules.  And her off-the-books sleuthing may land her in a world of trouble. Because for every superhero, there is a supervillain. And the villain of her story may be closer than she thinks.  This is a book for mystery lovers and comic book fans alike that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it a “stellar first novel…Molin’s clever humor enhances the inventive plot. Readers will eagerly await the sequel.”

The Big Empty: Stan Jones and Patricia Watts bring the remote beauty of Alaska to life in their mystery series featuring Chukchi police chief Nathan Active.  In this sixth outing, Active is asked to investigate a plane crash by his close friend, Cowboy Decker.  Evie Kavoonah, a young mother-to-be, and her fiancé, Dr. Todd Brenner were flying when their bush plane ran out of gas and hit a ridge, instantly killing them both.  Evie was like a daughter to Cowboy, who trained her to fly, and he insists there’s no way his protégée made a fatal mistake that day. Nathan reluctantly plays along and discovers that Cowboy’s instincts are correct—the malfunction that led to the crash was carefully planned, and several people in the village have motives for targeting the pair.  Meanwhile, Nathan’s wife, Gracie, is pregnant, but so scarred by memories of domestic abuse that she isn’t sure she should have the baby. Nathan must support her and their adopted daughter, Nita, while managing an increasingly complex and dangerous murder case.  Though this is an ongoing series, new readers will find a good amount to enjoy here.  Booklist gave it a favorable review, noting “Jones’s and coauthor Watts’s prose has been called muscular and stark, but it has an inviting, cinematic quality to it as well. A well-constructed mystery recommended for fans of C.J. Box and Craig Johnson.”

Eighteen Below: Another mystery series with a great sense of place, Stefan Ahnhem’s Fabian Risk novels transform the beauty of Sweden into a character in and of itself.  This third book in the series opens on a hot summer’s day, as the police chase a speeding car through the streets of Helsingborg. When they reach the bridge, the driver keeps going straight into the cold, dark waters of the Öresund strait.  The body recovered from the wreck is that of Peter Brise, one of the city’s richest tech entrepreneurs. Fabian Risk and his team are confident this is suicide. Young, rich, successful―Brise just didn’t know how to ask for help. But then the autopsy reveals something unexpected. Brise was already dead when his car crashed. He’d been brutally murdered two months ago. His body frozen in perfect condition, at eighteen degrees below zero…Something doesn’t match up. And when a string of other odd murders and unusual behavior come to light in the area, Fabian Risk takes the case. This is a case that grows darker and darker with each twist, giving Kirkus Reviews cause to cheer, “Hats off to Ahnhem for creating a villain more powerful than the franchise team charged with bringing him in.”

HousegirlThis is a new-to-us book that we’re really excited to feature here today.  Michael Donkor’s work is a moving and unexpectedly funny exploration of friendship and family, as three women forge their way in a complicated world.  Belinda knows how to follow the rules. As a housegirl, she has learned the right way to polish water glasses, to wash and fold a hundred handkerchiefs, and to keep a tight lid on memories of the village she left behind when she came to Kumasi.  Mary is still learning the rules. Eleven-years-old and irrepressible, the young housegirl-in-training is the little sister Belinda never had. Amma has had enough of the rules. A straight-A student at her exclusive London school, she has always been the pride of her Ghanaian parents―until now. Watching their once-confident teenager grow sullen and wayward, they decide that sensible Belinda is the shining example Amma needs.  So Belinda must leave Mary behind as she is summoned from Ghana to London, where she tries to impose order on her unsettling new world. As summer turns to autumn, Belinda and Amma are surprised to discover common ground. But when the cracks in their defenses open up, the secrets they have both been holding tightly threaten to seep out. NPR provided a fascinating review of this novel, explaining, “I hate novels because too often, I know exactly where the story is heading, where the characters are heading. I loved Housegirl because Michael Donkor’s storytelling and character building were so exquisite…Two days after I finished the book, I found myself actually missing [them]. This is a rare accomplishment.”

It Takes Two to Tumble: Cat Sebastian’ historical m/m romances are always an emotional, funny, and clever, and this newest addition to her Seducing the Sedgewicks series is no exception, turning a beloved romance trope on its ear with rare skill.  After an unconventional upbringing, Ben Sedgewick is perfectly content with the quiet, predictable life of a country vicar, free of strife or turmoil. When he’s asked to look after an absent naval captain’s three wild children, he reluctantly agrees, but instantly falls for the hellions. And when their stern but gloriously handsome father arrives, Ben is tempted in ways that make him doubt everything.  Phillip can’t wait to leave England’s shores and be back on his ship, away from the grief that haunts him. But his children have driven off a succession of governesses and tutors and he must set things right. The unexpected presence of the cheerful, adorable vicar sets his world on its head and now he can’t seem to live without Ben’s winning smiles or devastating kisses.  Amidst the turmoil of runaway children, a plot to blackmail Ben’s family, and torturous nights of pleasure, Ben and Phillip must decide if a safe life is worth losing the one thing that makes them come alive.  Booklist gave this title a starred review, noting “Sebastian’s latest elegantly and eloquently written Regency historical… slowly unfolds into an unforgettable love story that manages to be both sweetly romantic and sizzlingly sensual at the same time, demonstrating once again why Sebastian is one of the brightest new stars in the romance genre.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

A Poem for the New Year

The Passing of the Year

By Robert Service (1874-1958)

My glass is filled, my pipe is lit,
My den is all a cosy glow;
And snug before the fire I sit,
And wait to feel the old year go.
I dedicate to solemn thought
Amid my too-unthinking days,
This sober moment, sadly fraught
With much of blame, with little praise.

Old Year! upon the Stage of Time
You stand to bow your last adieu;
A moment, and the prompter’s chime
Will ring the curtain down on you.
Your mien is sad, your step is slow;
You falter as a Sage in pain;
Yet turn, Old Year, before you go,
And face your audience again.

That sphinx-like face, remote, austere,
Let us all read, whate’er the cost:
O Maiden! why that bitter tear?
Is it for dear one you have lost?
Is it for fond illusion gone?
For trusted lover proved untrue?
O sweet girl-face, so sad, so wan
What hath the Old Year meant to you?

And you, O neighbour on my right
So sleek, so prosperously clad!
What see you in that aged wight
That makes your smile so gay and glad?
What opportunity unmissed?
What golden gain, what pride of place?
What splendid hope? O Optimist!
What read you in that withered face?

And You, deep shrinking in the gloom,
What find you in that filmy gaze?
What menace of a tragic doom?
What dark, condemning yesterdays?
What urge to crime, what evil done?
What cold, confronting shape of fear?
O haggard, haunted, hidden One
What see you in the dying year?

And so from face to face I flit,
The countless eyes that stare and stare;
Some are with approbation lit,
And some are shadowed with despair.
Some show a smile and some a frown;
Some joy and hope, some pain and woe:
Enough! Oh, ring the curtain down!
Old weary year! it’s time to go.

My pipe is out, my glass is dry;
My fire is almost ashes too;
But once again, before you go,
And I prepare to meet the New:
Old Year! a parting word that’s true,
For we’ve been comrades, you and I —
I thank God for each day of you;
There! bless you now! Old Year, good-bye!

Teen Takeover! Cozy Stories and Hot Chocolate: The Perfect Pair!

One of the best things to do during the winter months is snuggling up with your favorite blanket, a cup of cocoa, and a good book. Lucky for you we’ve got the best reads picked out matched with a complimentary cup of cocoa!

Trapped by Michael Northrop

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive. Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. For a chilling adventure we recommend pairing with a hot cup of peppermint hot chocolate!

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her, and his name is Xander. When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. This story is full of sweet fluff and a beautiful message of acceptance, moving on, and creating new relationships. Pair with a BIG mug of dark chocolate hot cocoa with an extra scooping of marshmallows!

Let It Snow by John Green & Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle

Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. For stories this sweet and bright we recommend warming up with a orange flavored hot cocoa for a cozy atmosphere.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions? For a whirlwind of excitement and adventure pair this exciting read with some sweet white chocolate hot cocoa topped with whipped cream and sprinkles!

My True Love Gave to Me by Various Authors

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love. With this book we recommend one of the best things you can do during the holidays…invite over friends and family! Get yourself together with friends, set out a hot chocolate bar for guests, and read aloud with each other!

Happy Holidays lovely readers!

 

To find recipes for the hot cocoas and a video on how to make the ultimate hot chocolate bar check out the links below!

The Ultimate Hot Chocolate Bar

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa

Orange Hot Cocoa

Funfetti Hot Chocolate

 

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy June to you, beloved patrons!

We hope you are enjoying the more pleasant weather and longer days, and that you have some summertime adventures planned.  In case you are looking for some national holidays to celebrate (the quirkier, the better, of course!), here are just a few worthy of your consideration:

June 1: National Donut Day: Doughut Day?  However you spell it, today’s a day to celebrate this much-loved pastry.  The Boston Public Library’s Blog has a whole post devoted to donuts (doughnuts?), which you should definitely check out!

Via Fake Library Statistics: https://twitter.com/FakeLibStats

June 4: National Cheese Day: It might only be an unofficial holiday, but if there’s cheese involved, that’s good enough for me.

June 6: National Drive-In Movie Day: This day honors the opening day of the first drive-in, by Richard M. Hollingshead Jr. of Camden, New Jersey. Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey on June 6, 1933.  If you’re looking to celebrate this day, here is a map with all the drive-in theaters still operating in the United States!

June 12: National Loving Day: Commemorating  the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws that banned inter-racial marriage in the United States.

June 17: National Turkey Lover’s Day: Apparently, in April 2016, this holiday was submitted by the National Turkey Lover’s to the National Days Calendar, and is celebrated the third Sunday in June.  So it’s a real thing.  And if turkey is your thing, we hope you enjoy this day!

And, as always, there is never a bad time for a good book–so let’s take a look at some of the new titles that have processed onto our shelves this week and are eager to make your acquaintance!

Lighting the Fires of FreedomDuring the Civil Rights Movement, African American women were generally not in the headlines; they simply did the work that needed to be done. Yet despite their significant contributions at all levels of the movement, they remain mostly invisible to the larger public.  Beyond the work of a few “remarkable” or “exceptional” women, most Americans would be hard-pressed to name other women leaders at the community, local, and national levels.  Thankfully, Janet Dewart Bell’s book begins to remedy this situation.  In wide-ranging conversations with nine women, several now in their nineties with decades of untold stories, we hear what ignited and fueled their activism.  Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1968,  this book, and these voices offer personal and intimate accounts of extraordinary struggles for justice that resulted in profound social change, that deserve to be remembered.  Booklist agrees, calling this work  “A fresh and revealing oral history of the civil rights movement as told by nine African American women . . . striking and fascinating stories that greatly enrich our appreciation of the crucial roles women of diverse backgrounds played in the pivotal fight for civil rights.”

Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000 Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American FrontierIn 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury “floating university,” populated by some of America’s best and brightest scientists and writers, including the anti-capitalist eco-prophet John Muir. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity.  More than a hundred years later, travel writer Mark Adams set out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Using the state’s intricate public ferry system, the Alaska Marine Highway System, Adams traveled three thousand miles, all the way to the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encountered dozens of unusual characters–and a couple of very hungry bears, as well!  This book is the story of that remarkable voyage, as well as an investigation into how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska’s current struggles in adapting to climate change.  Told with flair, humor, and no little wonder for the incredible sights he took in, Adams’ book is a spectacular travel narrative for any armchair wanderer.  Outside magazine described this book as “Great nonfiction…takes a topic you thought you knew well and makes it new again…[Adams’] storytelling is guaranteed to make you want to get off your beach towel and book passage somewhere in the great wild north.”

Star of the NorthD.B. John’s gripping and timely thriller begins in 1988, when a Korean American teenager is kidnapped from a South Korean beach by North Korean operatives. Twelve years later, her brilliant twin sister, Jenna, is still searching for her, and ends up on the radar of the CIA. When evidence that her sister may still be alive in North Korea comes to light, Jenna will do anything possible to rescue her–including undertaking a daring mission into the heart of the regime.  At the same time, several other narratives, focused on the lives of North Korean citizens and officials, begin to unfold, progressing to a conclusion that is as creative as it is surprising.  A British writer, John’s novel has been receiving praise on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with The Guardian noting “The best thrillers offer something more ambitious than simply raising the pulse rate of the reader. In Star of the North it is geopolitical complexity…This is a masterly evocation of life under the Kim Jong-un regime.”

Love and Ruin: Fans of real-life characters in historic fiction, this one’s for you.  In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid desperate to prove her journalistic skills by reporting on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War.  Through her work, she becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict.  But she also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.  In the shadow of another World War, and within the turbulent, vivid, and unforgettable cities of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and their professional careers ignite.  But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer.  This isn’t your run-of-the-mill historical romance, nor is Martha your typical heroine–and in bringing her to life, Paula McLain has crafted a story that is as heartrending as it is redemptive.  The New York Times Book Review said it beautifully in their review, noting that “McLain does an excellent job portraying a woman with dreams who isn’t afraid to make them real, showing [Gellhorn’s] bravery in what was very much a man’s world. Her work around the world . . . is presented in meticulous, hair-raising passages. . . . The book is fueled by her questing spirit, which asks, Why must a woman decide between being a war correspondent and a wife in her husband’s bed?”

The Optimistic Decade: Although Heather Abel’s novel is set in a utopian summer camp in the 1990’s, this is very much a story for (and, in some ways, about) today.  In this camp live five fascinating people: There is Caleb Silver, the beloved founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There are the ranchers, Don and his son, Donnie, who gave up their land to Caleb and who now want it back. There is Rebecca Silver, determined to become an activist like her father and undone by the spell of both Llamalo and new love; and there is David, a teenager who has turned Llamalo into his personal religion.  Although the story is set in Colorado, Abel uses this summer camp as a symbol of the settlement of Israel, and to think about the act of building dreams on other people’s land.  As each character grapples with how best to more forward, they begin to realize that maybe, it’s not about the land at all.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, describing it as a “politically and psychologically acute debut… A strong sense of time and place anchors the story, and Abel’s well-crafted plot brings all the strands of the story together into a suspenseful yet believable conclusion. Without landing heavily on any political side, and without abandoning hope, Abel’s novel lightly but firmly raises questions about how class and cultural conflicts play out in the rural West.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

As many fans of the film franchise Star Wars will know, today is a linguistically significant day–so don’t be surprised if someone comes up to you with the greeting “May the Fourth be with you!”

According to CNN:

As legend has it, and according to the origin story recognized by Lucasfilm, the phrase was first used on May 4, 1979, the day Margaret Thatcher took office as UK Prime Minister. The Conservative Party reportedly placed an ad in the London Evening News that read, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

Via TVNZ

With social media, the line has grown in popularity and prevalence, so for those fans out there, May The Fourth Be With You.

There are plenty of other fun days to observe in May, too!  Check out a few of the more quirky and entertaining national days to celebrate soon:

May 5: Free Comic Book Day! For more information, check out the Free Comic Book Day website, and follow the #FreeComicBookDay!

May 6: National Lemonade Day: Started in 2007, this is a day aimed at teaching young people how to start, own and operate their very own business via a lemonade stand.  For more information, check out lemonadeday.org!

May 12: National Miniature Golf Day: Tee up, and learn more about other devotees of everyone’s real favorite sport via #NationalMiniGolfDay.

May 21: National American Red Cross Founder’s Day: Marking the the anniversary of the American Red Cross, which was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton.

May 25: National Tap Dance Day: Honoring the birthday of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, this is a perfect day to get your dancing shoes polished and ready to go!

And, as we all know, there is no day that is not perfect for finding a new book to savor!  Here are just a few of the stellar titles that have paraded onto our shelves this past week:

America is Not the Heart: Elaine Castillo’s debut, a multi-generational epic, has been featured and praised in magazine and on websites across the country, and hailed not only for its insight and honest, but for its humor, as well.  When Hero De Vera arrives in America–haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents–she has already well experienced at rebuilding her life from scratch.  Now, she is starting anew once again, living in her uncle’s home in the Bay Area.  Her uncle’s younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter–the first American-born daughter in the family–can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.  The tale that is revealed is a sprawling and soulful one about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.  Kirkus Reviews gave Castillo’s work a starred review, and offered a beautiful analysis of her book, saying in part: “Castillo is a vivid writer, and she has a real voice: vernacular and fluid, with a take-no-prisoners edge. At the same time, she complicates her narrative by breaking out of it in a variety of places—both by deftly incorporating languages such as Tagalog and Ilocano and through the use of flashback or backstory . . . Beautifully written, emotionally complex, and deeply moving, Castillo’s novel reminds us both that stories may be all we have to save us and also that this may never be enough.”

Losing the Nobel PrizeWhat would it have been like to be an eyewitness to the Big Bang? In 2014, astronomers wielding BICEP2, the most powerful cosmology telescope ever made, revealed that they’d glimpsed the spark that ignited the Big Bang. Millions around the world tuned in to the announcement broadcast live from Harvard University, immediately igniting rumors of an imminent Nobel Prize. But had these cosmologists truly read the cosmic prologue or, swept up in Nobel dreams, had they been deceived by a galactic mirage?  In this fascinating book, Brian Keating, inventor of the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) launches readers on a thrill ride through the high-stakes, ruthless world of modern science, discussing the development of mind-boggling technology and the hope for bigger, better, and more awe-inspiring discoveries.  He also argues that the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress, may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration and bold innovation, and offers clear-sighting ideas for how to fix this process, as well.  Science and technology writers have penned splendid reviews of Keating’s book, praising his prose as well as his acumen.  Among them was ScienceNews, who noted how the book “dissects the error-prone humanity of science, but cuts the ugly details with beauty… Charming and clever, Losing the Nobel Prize bounces between clear explanations of nitty-gritty science, accounts of personal relationships and historical lessons.”

First Person: Man-Booker-Prize winning author Richard Flanagan is known for bending the rules of reality in his fiction, and this book, about a ghost writer and a conman is a stunning example of that talent.  Kif Kehlmann, a young, penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghost writing his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he’ll be paid $10,000. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him–his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: Who is Siegfried Heidl–and who is Kif Kehlmann?  As time runs out, as Kehlmann’s world feels it is hurtling toward a catharsis, one question looms above all others: What is the truth?  Twisted, unsettling, and delightfully creative, Flanagan’s newest release received as starred review from Booklist,who called it “An acerbic exploration of how the contemporary world came to be defined by lies, deceit, and obfuscation . . . Full of hilarious asides, this sonorous, blackly comic novel offers searing insight into our times.”

Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution: Here in Massachusetts, we often learn about the Industrial Revolution in terms of mills, looms, and Lowell.   Priya Satia’s thoroughly researched and rich history offers a different take on this seminal moment in human history by arguing that  war and Britain’s prosperous gun trade was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the state’s imperial expansion.  She opens with the story of a scandal: Samuel Galton of Birmingham, one of Britain’s most prominent gunmakers, has been condemned by his fellow Quakers, who argue that his profession violates the society’s pacifist principles. In his fervent self-defense, Galton argues that the state’s heavy reliance on industry for all of its war needs means that every member of the British industrial economy is implicated in Britain’s near-constant state of war.   From there, Satia considers the role and effect of firearms in the construction of western hegemony, challenging not only out thinking about the past, but its effect on our present and future, as well.  Booklist praised this work for (among other things) its “Tremendous scholarship. . . . Satia’s detailed and fresh look at the Industrial Revolution has appeal and relevance grounded in and reaching beyond history and social science to illuminate the complexity of present-day gun-control debates.”

The Great Stain: Witnessing American SlaveryNoel Rae’s work looks at slavery from the angle of contemporary, first-hand accounts of the practice, and its effects on enslaved people and those who enslaved them, creating a book that is difficult at times to read, but vitally necessary precisely because of the intimacy.  From the travel journals of sixteenth-century Spanish settlers who offered religious instruction and “protection” in exchange for farm labor, to the diaries of poetess Phillis Wheatley; from Frederick Law Olmsted’s book about traveling through the “cotton states,” to the accounts by enslaved peoples themselves, including Solomon Northrup and Mary Reynolds, this is a book that is eye-opening in its scope and research, and painfully prevalent even today.  David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, provided a blurb for this book, noting that “In the historical discussion, we often talk about the institution of slavery. We examine the debate over the legal question concerning slavery and its expansion in the United States, its role in the origin and conduct of the Civil War, but works such as The Great Stain bring us back to the human level, allowing us to hear what the institution meant for an individual.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!