Wednesday, April 9, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal and John Nickle

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book/Humor/Mystery/Fractured Fairy Tales
Audience: Ages 4–8

First lines: "There are eight million stories in the forest. This is one of them."

Allison's Guest Summary & Review:
With a title like this, I couldn’t help picking up this read. Officer Binky is a fun character, rife with all the characteristics of a gumshoe detective, who investigates the crimes occurring in five fairy tale classics. Kids will be familiar with these stories, retold afresh without reinvention, and complete with tongue in cheek references. But children will also be enthralled by Levinthal’s artwork–an appealing acrylic montage. All in all, this was a fun read, which should keep kids laughing!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring 2014 Giveaway!

Now that it looks like spring is here to stay—rain and all!—it's time for our annual Spring Giveaway here on Book News and Reviews. Although I don't have as many titles up for grabs as in some of our past giveaways, I do have some really, really good ones this go-around. Several are even still months away from their publication date, so this is truly an opportunity to read what could be the next big thing before it is discovered by everyone else!

As always, the rules of entry are at the end of the post. Please note that all prizes must be picked up at a BCPL location. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. 

Here are the titles I have available:

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (August 2014)
It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves. –Publisher's Summary

Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef (August 2014)
Nontraditional, controversial, rebellious, and politically volatile, the Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are remembered for their provocative paintings as well as for their deep love for each other. Their marriage was one of the most tumultuous and infamous in history—filled with passion, pain, betrayal, revolution, and, above all, art that helped define the twentieth century. Catherine Reef's inspiring and insightful dual biography features numerous archival photos and full-color reproductions of both artists' work. –Publisher's Summary

Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan (June 2014)
Upstairs, downstairs, and in which lady’s chamber?
   On the brink of World War II, two girls are sent to the grand English country estate of Starkers. Hannah, the half-Jewish daughter of a disgraced distant relative, has been living an artistic bohemian life in a cabaret in pre-war Germany and now is supposed to be welcomed into the family. Anna, the social-climbing daughter of working-class British fascists, is supposed to be hired as a maid so that she can spy for the Nazis. But there’s a mix-up, and nice Hannah is sent to the kitchen as a maid while arrogant Anna is welcomed as a relative.
   And then both girls fall for the same man, the handsome heir of the estate . . . or do they?
  In this sparkling, saucy romance, nearly everything goes wrong for two girls who are sent to a grand English estate on the brink of World War II—until it goes so very, very right!
–Publisher's Summary

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau (June 2014)
Testing Trilogy #3
In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor, Cia Vale, vows to fight. But she can't do it alone. This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves—and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates... The stakes are higher than ever—lives of promise cut short or fulfilled; a future ruled by fear or hope—in the electrifying conclusion to Joelle Charbonneau's epic Testing trilogy. Ready or not…it’s Graduation Day.
The Final Test is the Deadliest!  –Publisher's Summary

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman (June 2014)
In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.
Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen" -- doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.
Lillian's rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.   –Publisher's Summary

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey (May 2014)
To Bee or not to Bee? When the widely disliked Honeywell Stingers football coach is found murdered, 17-year-old Millie is determined to investigate. She is chasing a lead for the school newspaper – and looking to clear her father, the assistant coach, and prime suspect.
Millie's partner is gorgeous, smart—and keeping secrets
Millie joins forces with her mysterious classmate Chase who seems to want to help her even while covering up secrets of his own.
She’s starting to get a reputation…without any of the benefits.
Drama—and bodies—pile up around Millie and she chases clues, snuggles Baxter the so-ugly-he’s-adorable bassett hound, and storms out of the world’s most awkward school dance/memorial mash-up. At least she gets to eat a lot of pie.
Best-selling author Beth Fantaskey’s funny, fast-paced blend of Clueless and Nancy Drew is a suspenseful page-turner that is the best time a reader can have with buried weapons, chicken clocks, and a boy who only watches gloomy movies…but somehow makes Millie smile. Bee-lieve it.
 –Publisher's Summary

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn (May 2014)
As the only heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and privilege, not living in exile—but now the time has come when she must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.
Fans of Bitterblue and Seraphina will be captured by a Creature of Moonlight, with its richly layered storytelling and the powerful choices its strong heroine must make. 
–Publisher's Summary

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft (April 2014)
Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family. Adios, Nirvana author Conrad Wesselhoeft, takes readers from the skies over war-torn Pakistan to the dusty arroyos of New Mexico's outback in this young adult novel about daring to live in the wake of unbearable loss. –Publisher's Summary

Cold Calls by Charles Benoit (April 2014)
Three high school students—Eric, Shelly, and Fatima—have one thing in common: “I know your secret.
Each one is blackmailed into bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who whispers from their cell phones and holds carefully guarded secrets over their heads. But how could anyone have obtained that photo, read those hidden pages, uncovered this buried past? Thrown together, the three teens join forces to find the stranger who threatens them—before time runs out and their shattering secrets are revealed . . .
This suspenseful, pitch-perfect mystery-thriller raises timely questions about privacy, bullying, and culpability.  –Publisher's Summary

Crossover by Kwame Alexander (March 2014)
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).
   Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.  –Publisher's Summary

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle (March 2014)
One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.
   From the young "silver people" whose back-breaking labor built the Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could tell it.  –Publisher's Summary

Unhinged by A.G. Howard (January 2014)
Splintered #2 (Warning: Summary contains possible SPOILERS for Splintered)

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was crowned Queen of the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the boy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly appealing Morpheus. Now all she has to do is graduate high school.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the sake of a man she knows has manipulated her before? Will her mother and Jeb trust her to do what’s right? Readers will swoon over the satisfying return to Howard’s bold, sensual reimagining of Carroll’s classic. 
–Publisher's Summary

Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner (2013)
A health and technology journalist documents the author's efforts to promote family bonds and healing during a haphazard year spent sharing a home in San Francisco with her complicated octogenarian mother and teenage daughter.   –NoveList

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver (2013)
Visited by a high-powered attorney who has initiated a clemency petition on her behalf and who is also the mother of her victim, death-row inmate Noa is slowly persuaded to share the events surrounding the murder in spite of her reluctance to reveal the whole story or have her life extended.   –NoveList

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (2012)
His Fair Assassin #1

In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Brittany, seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts--and a violent destiny.  –NoveList

Rules of Entry

1. To enter the drawing, you must complete two tasks
First, you must leave a comment at the bottom of this post stating which ARCs you would like to receive. If you do not leave a comment at the bottom of the post, I will not know which prize(s) to give you if you win the drawing. You may choose up to five titles; you are not guaranteed to win your top choices, but I do my best. Second, you must log in to the Rafflecopter Widget with your e-mail address or Facebook account and Click "+1" and "Enter" on the widget only after you have posted your comment below. After completing the first task, you can also earn bonus entries by following the directions in the widget.

2.  All ARCs must be picked up at a Bullitt County Public Library location. Winners will be notified via e-mail and will be posted on this blog. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Rafflecopter Widget: Enter the Giveaway Drawing Here
(Don't forget to leave your comment in the Comments section below!)
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

REVIEW: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Format: Audiobook (CD)

Summary: Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death narrates the story of Liesel, a young German girl who is eking out a meager existence for herself by thievery when she encounters something she can’t resist—books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares stories to help sustain her neighbors during bombing raids.

Tracy's Thoughts:
I was expecting a lot from this book, and it's possible that my lower-than-expected rating stems from my slightly disappointed reaction. As always with audiobooks, I also have to wonder whether I would have had the same reaction had I read it in print format. In this case, I don't think so. The narration was wonderfully done. The reader—his intonations, emotions, and accent—perfectly captured the amiable yet distant voice of Death.

As to the narrative conceit in and of itself, I am somewhat conflicted. In some ways, I felt that to write a book from the (mostly) dispassionate POV of Death was quite clever. This distance and perspective add a wider scope to the narrative, allowing readers to gain a bit of context that adds to the central story of Liesel, Max, Rudy, Rosa, and Hans. For example, I liked gaining insight into what happened to thief-leader Arthur Berg after he left Molching. The conceit also allows for a first-person account of the larger atrocities and wide-scale deaths in the camps, information that would be lacking if Liesel were the narrator. But with that said, the constant foreshadowing quickly grew annoying. I really think it is unnecessary and at times even detrimental to the flow of the story. As I listened to the audio, I also I wondered at Death's detailed knowledge of Liesel's story. I recall a statement at one point that he wasn't always present, cannot know everything, and saw Liesel only 3 or 4 times, but he tells the story as if he were omniscient and privy to every detail. There is a reveal at the end which shows how Death learned so much, but in his recitation of certain events (SPOILER highlight to read: e.g., when he spoke of how he felt about collecting Rudy after the bomb and his detailed memory of the others as well) it seems as if he were intimately aware of and affected by their lives before he knew the full story.

But with my narrator-quibbles aside, The Book Thief is an enjoyable bildungsroman centered on Liesel herself, her illicit hobby, her relationships, and a child's slow realization of the evils of Nazi Germany. The characters—not just Liesel, but also Papa, Rosa, Max, and Rudy—are all vibrantly drawn. I particularly loved Hans and Max, and I was intrigued by the sad story of Ilsa Hermann. Much of the prose of this book is incredibly striking, especially when describing the characters themselves, such the recurring motif that describes Rudy's  lemon hair. My favorite, though, was the introduction of Rosa Hubermann, who
looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it. There was a distinct waddle to her walk. Almost cute, if it wasn't for her face, which was like creased-up cardboard and annoyed, as if she was merely tolerating all of it.

I loved this description and many others. The imagery is sophisticated and often complex. However, I also think it becomes a bit overdone and pretentious at times

Thus, I liked The Book Thief and found quite a lot to admire about it. I agree that its Prinz Honor is well deserved. However, I also find myself rather dispassionate about the story overall, much like Death's narrative itself.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Anderson

Allison, our Outreach/Programs Supervisor here at BCPL is back with another guest review! This time, she's got me hooked. I think I'm going to have to read this book (and its prequel) for myself!  –Tracy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Genre: Alternatie History/Speculative Fiction
Audience: Adult/Young Adult Crossover
Series: Boleyn Trilogy #2

Summary: What if Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a son who’d grown up to be king? With his regency period over, King Henry IX is sitting the throne of England trying to maneuver palace intrigue, war on the horizon, passion, and secrecy. His legitimacy still doubted, tensions are at a heightened state with the Catholics, and he is betrothed to the young princess of France. But he is still enchanted with his childhood love, Minuette, and the court is beginning to take note. Even more scandalous is the fact that Minuette is in love with another—Henry IX’s best friend. Will the secrets of the court change the course of an empire?

First Line: “You will not tell me what I can and cannot do with my own son!”

Allison’s Review:
Rarely do I find a book that I read cover to cover in basically one sitting. Rarely do I find a book that while completely fiction, mirrors actual historical events in a way to keep me interested. Rarely do a find a quick-paced storyline that is also detailed. And rarely do I find a book in which the author has been able to take such artistic license with history in order to write their fiction yet stay so true to many aspects of real-world historical events. This book—and in fact both books in this series published thus far—have managed to accomplish all of this!

If we were to imagine a living male heir of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, William Tudor (King Henry IX) is that heir. Watching him come of age, with a mixture of the personalities and characteristics of both his parents, is mesmerizing. And the political intrigue (of which I am not usually a fan) is captivating. The love triangle surrounding Minuette is thought-provoking. Sinister plots abound. Henry IX’s sister Elizabeth is a beloved royal princess who’s to be married off in a diplomatic bargain, yet the character we know as Elizabeth I is evident.

Most enjoyable for me in this storyline is the constant mystery and intrigue that sends you catapulting between one imagined outcome and another. And, the teaser chapter from the next installment in the trilogy, The Boleyn Reckoning, leaves me asking the question: Can the release date of July 15th get here already?

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 Hub Reading Challenge: Are You In?

So the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge officially began a week ago today. Last year, my pledge to read twenty-five of the eligible titles went unfulfilled. It was, in fact, a dismal failure as I only managed to complete nine eligible titles within the given time frame.

But that's not going to stop me from giving it another try. Of course, the challenge may be even more challenging this year, as I have lots of distractions right now between work, school, family, and my never-ending house search. But I go into this year's challenge determined. At the very least, I have to do better than last year, right?

So now I have to vowed read (or listen to) at least 25 of the 77 challenge-eligible titles before 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 22nd. Eligible titles include 2014 winners and honor books of the six YALSA awards, Top Ten titles from YALSA’s 2014 selected lists, the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award teen honoree, and 2013 Stonewall Book Award honorees. A complete list of eligible titles can be found here.

I've already read 15 of the eligible titles, so that leaves me with 62 to choose from (unless I wish to reread a title). First up is a book I've been intending to read for ages anyway: Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.

So, YALSA Hub, challenge accepted! Who's willing to join me? Let the reading begin!

Monday, January 27, 2014

NEWS: 2014 Youth Media Awards—Tracy Weighs In

The 2014 Youth Media Awards were announced this morning! Last year I had so much fun posting about by reaction to the Youth Media Awards announcement that I can't resist a repeat this year. But if you prefer to skip my (mostly) approving commentary, feel free to skip directly to the official Press Release.

John Newbery Medal

Medal Winner: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by ate DiCamillo
A new book by Kate DiCamillo automatically goes on my Newbery contender list, and Flora & Ulysses lived up to expectations. It's a smart and sensitive tale about friendship with plenty of laughter and adventures along the way. Ulysses's poetic compositions add a literary element to the romp, and the integration of graphic novel-style panels is both innovative and unexpected. Although overall I was much more enthused by 2012's MG offerings than those I read in 2013, Flora & Ulysses is a Newbery winner I can get behind.

Newbery Honor: Doll Bones by Holly Black
With Doll Bones released for middle-grade readers and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown for the YA market, Holly Black had a pretty busy year. Both titles generated a fair amount of awards buzz, but Doll Bones is the title I expected to see honored. I'm happy to see it make the list.

Newbery Honor: The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
Last year's winner skewed a bit young in the Newbery reading age, as does The Year of Billy Miller, a simple yet engaging book about a year in the life of a second grader. It's rich in character development and offers up vivid four demonstrations of important childhood relationships in bite-size, accessible pieces for newly independent readers. I didn't expect to see it on this list, but like last year, I am glad to see that younger chapter-book readers aren't being ignored. Bravo!

Newbery Honor: One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
This is a book that only recently appeared on my radar thanks to its inclusion on NPR's Best Books list. It sounds like a very intriguing mystery indeed.

Newbery Honor: Paperboy by Vince Vawtor
So... I took this one home ages ago and still haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I guess I should get on that.

**What's Missing:
Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool

I fully expected Claire Vanderpool to take home a second Newbery. Instead, Navigating Early earned her a Printz Honor. Given the recent inclusion of "younger" MG novels among Newbery winners and honorees, I wonder whether there is a concerted effort among the committees to shift tween books (for the 10–14 audience) more toward the YA end of the awards spectrum?

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
I adored Counting by 7s, a heartwarming, surprisingly funny book about a twelve-year-old girl coping with losing her parents and the various connections she makes in the process. Because some reviewers felt the ending was a bit too perfect, I wasn't really expecting a nod... but I hoped for one nonetheless.

Randolph Caldecott Medal

Medal Winner: Locomotive, illustrated and written by Brian Floca
I am soooo happy about this one. The text, images, and typography of Locomotive work together seamlessly to convey movement and wonder, skillfully evoking the sounds, sights, and even feel of 1869 train travel. (Also a Sibert Honor Book)

Caldecott Honor: Journey, illustrated and written by Aaron Becker
This was my favorite fiction picture book of the year and the title I expected would receive the medal. The magisterial artwork of this wordless picture book is wonderfully expressive and creates a strong narrative without any need of words—plus, it plays fantastic homage to Harold and the Purple Crayon. Read my review.

Caldecott Honor: Flora & the Flamingo, by Molly Idle
This wordless, lift-the-flap gem is yet another impressive example of visual storytelling. For me, it created the feeling of live animation—perhaps no surprise, given Idle's background in animation. Read my review and/or check out the fabulous book trailer to see what I mean.

Caldecott Honor: Mr. Wuffles!, illustrated and written by David Weisner
Silent picture book guru David Weisner was a frontrunner on pretty much everyone's Caldecott list. Mr. Wuffles! is an imaginative, comical tale that makes wonderful use of composition and color. Anyone else find it interesting that all three Caldecott honor books are wordless? Clearly wordless picture books were all the rage in 2013, and it's no wonder with such fabulous examples.

**What's Missing:
The Mightly Lalouche
, illustrated by Sophie Blackwell and written by Matthew Olshan
I knew this one was definitely an underdog, receiving little attention in the myriad Mock Caldecott races, but I loved this quietly captivating story of the little man who could. The pen-and-ink illustrations featuring three-dimensional cut outs create a bold, colorful, collage-like style that is both charming and reminiscent of a silent film after color is added in.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award
(Aka, the category where I am always shamefully underinformed...)

Medal Winner: P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
This one is also sitting at home in my out-of-control TBR pile. However, given that I haven't yet read its prequel (One Crazy Summer) either, I haven't been very motivated to pick it up. So I guess now I have a bit more incentive!

King (Author) Honor: March: Book One, written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
Also sitting at home. At least this year I've heard of the books on the list! I have heard glowing reviews of this graphic-format work, and I am planning to read it ASAP.

King (Author) Honor: Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers is consistently awesome, but I haven't read this one either. Or his other 2013 release (Invasion), though I have been on the library hold list for a while now.

King (Author) Honor: Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
I enjoy generally enjoy Grimes's poetry and fiction... so how did I miss hearing about this title? This is why I love awards lists—I discover so many wonderful books that I might've otherwise overlooked.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award

King (Illustrator) Medal: I, Too, Am America, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Langston Hughes
The imaginative use of collage and watercolor illuminates the text perfectly. I approve.

King (Illustrator) Honor: Nelson Mandela., illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson
Yay! I have yet to encounter a Kadir Nelson illustration I didn't adore. His paintings in Nelson Mandela do a fabulous job of conveying tension, emotions, and subtext.

Michael L. Printz Award

Medal Winner: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Sedgwick uses recurring motifs and characters to build a novel of linked vignettes, creating an eerie novel of impressive style and structure. Unfortunately, the shifting of characters and timelines does not allow for much in the way of character development, so at the end I was pretty disinterested in the fate of Eric and Merle. Still, the literary merit is undeniable, so despite my personal ambivalence about the book, I'm not surprised (or even unhappy) to see it recognized by this year's committee.

Printz Honor: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
With lovely prose meditations and vibrantly realized characters, Rowell captures the pureness of first love without glossing over the ugly, awkward parts of life. I thought Eleanor & Park might be overlooked due to its extreme popularity, but I am glad to be proven wrong. Read my review.

Printz Honor: Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
I haven't yet read this layered, historical fiction novel, but it sounds so our-of-the-ordinary that I am very much looking forward to it.

Printz Honor: Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool
As I have already noted, I expected this title to fall in the younger age category. In fact, I thought it would win the Newbery. An Odyssey-like adventure punctuated by intricate plotting and rich details, I am happy to see it honored regardless of the category.

**What's Missing:
I thought Patrick Ness's More Than This might get an honors nod, but I was wrong. Still, although I love Ness and appreciated the symbolism of his novel, it wasn't one of my favorites of the year. Far, Far Away had a lot of buzz too. Personally, my favorite unrecognized title was All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry. (I'm not naming Charm & Strange only because it nabbed the Morris Medal!)

Other ALA Award winners announced this morning include:

Charm & Strange
by Stepahnie Kuehn,  William C. Morris Award winner
I was completely mesmerized by this emotionally intense story about isolation and madness that weaves together two separate narratives. A fantastic combination of voice, character, and pacing kept me on edge from start to finish. In my opinion, this win was SO well deserved! Read my review.

Better Nate Than Never
by Tim Federle, Stonewall Honor Book
Nate's inner monologue and offbeat personality are laugh-out-loud funny, but the story also managed to dexterously addresses deeper issues, such as bullying, disappointment, family, religion, and sexuality. However, all of this is handled with a light touch, so that Nate is allowed to shine all on his own, without judgment or labels. I didn't think about this book when considering possible Stonewall recipients (probably because it is geared toward the MG market rather than YA), but I am so happy to see it recognized. I am eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel :)

Niño Wrestles the World, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award
This child's picture book in which a young boy imitates the melodramatic world of Mexican wrestling is hilarious and wonderfully illustrated.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, Pura Belpré (Author) Award
I quite enjoyed this book and appreciated the authentic cultural details.

For a complete list of awards, winners, and honorees (if you're not sick of awards lists by now), you can read the ALA Press Release.

Friday, January 24, 2014

BEST OF 2013: Adult Fiction & Nonfiction

There are a lot of potentially great 2013 books that I haven't gotten around to reading yet (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah and  Charles Graeber's The Good Nurse are next up in my towering to-read pile!), but after surveying our entire library staff, here are our picks for 2013's Best Books for Adults:

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Weaving back and forth through time and across characters, this compelling first novel begins with an eight-year-old girl who watched as her father was "disappeared" by Russian soldiers in the middle of the night.  Akhmed, the not-so-good physician of the local Chechen village and a family friend, is determined to rescue Haava from a similar fate and seeks the assistance of a cynical, tough-minded surgeon at a nearby hospital. The story centers on just five days of the lives of Haava, Akhmed, and Sonja, and yet it provides an almost magical look at the myriad connections—both discovered and never realized—that shape peoples lives, especially in a time of war.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Even before it was discovered that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for author J.K. Rowling, this compelling mystery  about a P.I. and his new office temp teaming up to investigate the suspicious death of a young model had the attention of critics. Describes by one reviewer for Library Journal as "a mash-up of Charles Dickens and Penny Vincenzi."

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
In this mesmerizing story of love, loss, obsession, and the haunting power of art, a young man who lost his mother in an tragic accident grows to adulthood, only to become entangled in the art underworld of New York City

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
In this stunning, thought-provoking novel, Ursula Todd goes through a series of  lives and deaths, experiencing wars and epidemics in ever-changing circumstances. Every time she hits a bad end—done in by Spanish flu, murdered by an abusive husband, killed in a bombing raid—it all begins again. Often, she has a nagging sense of déjà vu, but she can never put her finger on why. Reading Life After Life is like reading a sophisticated Choose Your Own novel for grown-ups, one that resets itself. Atkinson weaves an intricate web of parallel paths, detours, and intersections which is utterly fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, and frequently startling with  unanticipated moments of sharp humor.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

This emotionally powerful story of two brothers born in a quiet village outside Calcutta spans decades and continents. In an era of political turmoil, the brothers choose divergent paths—Subhash retreating to a quiet university in New England while Udayan becomes increasingly involved in a Mao-inspired rebellion against India’s social iniquities—and yet their lives remain almost fatalistically entwined despite their estrangement. Perceptive and universal in theme, the story explores the myriad nuances of guilt, marriage, parenthood, moral conviction, loyalty, and betrayal through day-to-day events against the more expansive backdrop of world affairs. The Lowland unfolds slowly, but Lahiri’s elegant prose and full characterizations make for a riveting tale.
  From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Interpreter of Maladies.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
A woman stuck in a loveless marriage and an obituary writer looking for her lost love discover a surprising connection. Part literary mystery and part love story, this novel is full of grief, shame, and hope.

The Returned by Jason Mott
The world is turned upside down in this emotional novel in which people inexplicably begin returning from the dead. At the heart of the story is an elderly couple whose 8-year-old son suddenly reappears nearly 50 years after his death.

Six Years by Harlan Coben
Six years after the love of his life left him to marry another man, Professor Jake Sanders learns that this rival is dead and that the woman of his dreams is not who she claimed to be. Betrayals and secrets are unearthed as Jake then races against the clock to track down the real woman he once loved and lost.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham
Reader favorite Jack Brigance, the attorney from A Time to Kill, makes a reappearance in Ford County, Mississippi, in this surprisingly suspenseful courtroom drama about wills, racial tension, and family secrets.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The author of The Jane Austen Book Club creates another unforgettable work in this heartbreaking work about family dysfunction. This is a book best read "blind"; spoilers contained in some reviews and blurbs may ruin the experience otherwise.

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
Eli Landon is suffering from the public and police scrutiny after being wrongly impli- cated in the murder of his soon-to-be wife. He then takes refuge in a old family home and falls in love with resident housekeeper Abra Walsh, with whom he is entangled in an old, life-threatening mystery.

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a distant family member reconstruct the life of a reclusive copper heiress in this fascinating tale of family scandal, privilege, and a surprising path to happiness.

Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson
The Duck Dynasty star chronicles his unusual life from childhood through the founding of the family business.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
Through clear, gorgeous prose and raw honesty, Lindhout recounts the year she spent as a hostage in Somalia for over a year. The harrowing story is balanced by Lindhout's descriptions of her childhood, her youthful interest in world travel inspired by National Geographic, and her almost-accidental introduction into the world of combat-zone reporting.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO and and top-ranked businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg shares though-provoking advice for women, urging them to seek professional challenges and take more risks to find work that they can feel passionate about.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Through the deaths of five young men in her Mississippi community over the course of four years, the National Book Award–winning author explores the realities of poverty and blackness in America. This candid, beautifully wrought account maintains a light, humanistic touch but does not gloss over the gritty details.

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