Staff Picks for February 2015
In the dead of winter, there's nothing nice than curling up with a good book (especially after a long, hard, exhilerating day of powder skiing). We have just the book for every member of your family to snuggle up with.
Candace Staff Pick: Elizabeth Bailey, the author, suffered from a neurological disorder that kept her bedridden for over a year. A friend dug up a wild violet, potted it and brought it to her friend with the hope it would cheer her up. Also in the pot was a small wild snail. The author woke one night, hearing what she thought was the sound of something eating and realized it was the snail eating paper.. Barely able to lift a book, the author was constrained by this illness and became focused on the snail. The snail would sleep during the day and wander at night, venturing out of the pot, but always making it back to the pot by morning.
This little snail became the focus of the author’s life. Worrying about the living quarters of the snail, a terrarium was built to house the snail and appropriate food provided, The snail grew and and the days went by and gradually the author healed.
This book is a gentle and heartwarming read, I had trouble putting it down wanting to know what adventure the snail would undertake next. Along the way, the author’s attention was absorbed by the snail and she became very grateful for the little things in life that we so often ignore. Eventually, the author was healed and she returned to her home and the snail was returned to the wild. Crediting the snail with saving her life and providing her with peace and an appreciation for all that surrounds us.
Candace Staff Pick: ( Recommended for 3-6 year olds) A wonderful picture book that has poetry, counting, science and much more is wonderfully illustrated. It tells the story of a pond and the creatures found there each described so artfully you imagine them coming to life on the pages. A great book that will have the kids asking to read it over and over again.
Virgie's Staff Pick: This engaging tale of three generations of midwives is told from three points of view; a grandmother, Floss; her well-meaning but overbearing daughter, Grace; and Grace’s introverted daughter, Neva. The story weaves together the past and the present in a seamless manner, maintaining the themes of birth and motherhood.
Family secrets test the bonds between these three women, but I need not spoil a mesmerizing story. It held me captivated till the very end!
This is a fast, easy read that kept me interested until the ending!
Virgie's Staff Pick: I remember reading my first Anne Tyler book in the early 80’s, and many of her 19 novels since, so I was thrilled to read one last novel by this Pulitzer Prize-winning author!
This is the story of a family … four generations worth … simple as that! Tyler’s families are what make her novels so special and she describes this family as there was “nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, there were no more than average…But like most families, they imagined they were special.”
This stunning novel about family life just rings so true! It depicts the bonds and the tensions, the love and the exasperation beautifully! Just sit back, “join” the Whitshanks, think about the little moments that make up your own life, and enjoy every readable hour!
Shannon's Pick: “No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure.”
These are the three lies that Cadence begins her story with, and they are a few of many to come. Cadence is a Sinclair, a family of New England royalty that vacations on a private island off of Martha’s Vineyard each summer. The Sinclairs are wealthy, beautiful, poised and athletic. Cadence reflects on blissful past summers spent with her cousins and Gat, a handsome, charismatic boy filled with passionate beliefs that Cadence begins to fall for. Life becomes imperfect when the Sinclairs return to their regular lives off the island. Family tensions build as Cadence’s grandfather ages, his three daughters fight over his enormous estate, and Cadence suffers an injury on the island that impairs her memory. Cadence cannot remember what happened the night of her accident and her family won’t tell her. The Sinclairs return to the island a year later, and Cadence tries to piece together what happened the night of her accident, and why her family has changed so much.
I read this book in one afternoon and could not put it down. E. Lockhart builds such a perfectly dysfunctional family drama that keeps you reading as Cadence pieces together her memory. Full of twists and turns, this book is truly thrilling and unforgettable for all readers.
Emily's Pick: The High Divide is a modern, literary Western: beautiful, sweeping historical fiction, set in the post-Civil War West, and also a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey.
This is the story of Ulysses, who disappears one morning, inexplicably leaving his family behind at their home on the harsh, high plains of Minnesota. Eli, Ulysses’ teenage son, sets out on an epic journey to track down his father, with his younger, sickly brother, Danny, in tow. Suddenly left alone by her husband and two sons, Gretta feels obligated to take care of the home and somehow dig her family out of debt. Yet Gretta quickly sets off on her own journey west for answers about her husband’s whereabouts, and more pressingly, the safety of her sons.
The chase takes readers into boxcars crossing the windy plains, through saloons and opium dens, to the buttes and badlands of Montana, where each character faces watershed decisions.
Emily's Pick: After meeting Ron Rash at Literary Sojourn in 2013, I have vowed to read every book he publishes. Something Rich and Strange is a collection of Rash’s thirty finest short stories, all of which are set in his home region of Appalachia. These stories have everything I look for in short fiction: masterful economy of words, lyricism, suspense, and thought-provoking themes and questions.
Virgie's Pick: In war, heroic action is evident both on the battlefield and at home. Most war stories focus on combat deeds, but civilians also fight for their countries in ways that may be equally as dangerous as picking up a weapon. If you are looking for a great World War II historical fiction that will keep you glued to your seat and bring you to uncontrollable tears, then consider reading this book by Kristin Hannah.
The novel begins in 1995, when an elderly and terminally ill French woman prepares to move from her home to a nursing home. There are few possessions that are important to her, but she insists on bringing an old trunk. Her son humors her, not knowing that the trunk contains important mementos as well as false identification papers from WWII. He has no clue who his mother really is … and this is precisely when the real story begins!
Two French sisters, just ordinary women living in a city under siege and a country at war, are forced with unthinkable decisions in order to survive. These sisters take different paths to heroism in World War II. Isabelle, a beautiful young woman, plunges into the war effort as a French Resistance operative, leading downed pilots across the Pyrennes Mountains from France to Spain. This unlikely role for a beautiful young woman serves as her disguise. Her sister, Vianne, is devastated when her husband is called to the battlefield. She finds herself living in her own house with a Nazi general, as she desperately tries to survive and protect her daughter, as well as hiding Jewish children to save them from the atrocities of war.
In my opinion, this book has it all; a compelling plot taking place within a historic point in history, courageous and resilient characters so different from each other, but both so lovable, and a story so heartbreaking to bring me to tears! It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed such a book. I was disappointed when I finished it … only because I didn’t want it to end!
Logan's Pick: Butcher’s Crossing is the story of Will Andrews, a student at Harvard who upon reading the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson drops out of school and heads west to fully immerse himself in the natural world. He winds up in the small town of Butcher’s Crossing and impulsively joins a group of men who are hunting an almost mythical herd of buffalo in the Colorado territory. With incredibly rich descriptions and whole pages of easily quotable passages, Williams perfected the Western novel. Perfect for fans of Cormac McCarthy or anyone interested in a literary description of 19th century Colorado.
Wendy's Pick: A pleasant read that reaffirms one’s faith in all that’s good in life. A.J. Fikry’s life is a scrambled mess after losing the love of his life; he works reclusively at the bookstore he and his former wife founded.
Life and love won’t leave Fikry alone, and we root for him as slowly a happy life comes back to him.
Great book club read with clever references to literature, and laugh out loud descriptions of what it’s like to work at a bookstore.
Dystopian, yes; doomsday, no. I loved this wonderfully crafted novel by 2014 Literary Sojourn author Mandel.
The world is turned on its ear by a pandemic flu. The survivors lead a very 19th century life. The novel follows a traveling Shakesperean acting troup.
Mandel weaves several different story lines throughout the book, charting lives and events long before the pandemic, and how those lives are remembered by those who remain.
Chris's Pick (recommended for 4+): This is wonderfully fun children’s picture book. Bear wants to give everyone a hug but Skunk wants to stop him. Written in the theme of an old time melodrama, where all of Skunks stinky tricks back fire on him. Things just keep becoming more and more stinky. Skunk does finally get a hug and realizes just how wonderful they are.
Chris's Pick: Out of the Easy is the story of Josie who lives on the wrong side of the tracks in New Orleans in the 50’s. She has everything to run away from, a mom who is a prostitute, growing up in a whore house and her past that is finally coming to catch up with her, even though she really had nothing to do with it.
Out of the Easy is very compelling coming of sage story. Written in Ruta’s beautiful voice.
If you enjoy this you should also read Ruta’s first novel, Between the Shades of Grey.
Chris's Pick: Atlantia is set in an underwater world similar to Atlantis. Rio only wants to choose to go the top and live on the land. When her twin sister Bay announces her choice to go above, Rio had to come to terms with her leaving and find another way to go to the top. She turns to the ‘underground’ swimming races and meets True. How far will she go to get her dream and be with her sister again. How will she keep true to True?
From the author of the best selling series of Matched, Ally Condie has brought us another world where choices mean eveything.
Chris's Pick: The Magician’s Lie is a very fast paced intriguing story of the best female illusionist of her time. But when her husband turns up murdered in one of the her tricks everything points to Arden. She must now pull off the best illusion of her life and get herelf out of this mess. Written in a very unique style of time line, over the course of one night and past events, The Magician’s Lie is very powerful.
Chris's Pick: Mae has only ever known the world of the Red bloods. The hunger, sadness, and bone tiredness that comes from being a Red.
She longs to run away from the oppression of the Silver bloods. But when she finds herself thrown into their world by unforeseen events, she must lean which enemies she needs to watch more. As she spends more time with the Silver bloods, she sees that they too have problems.
This a fantastic fantasy novel for teens. I just feel in love with Mare’s character, and her no nonsense way of saying what’s on her mind.