Nov 062018
 

What is this prejudice we have against Nonfiction?  Many people won’t read it because they feel it would be like reading a text book or it is just too boring.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  Below are a few nonfiction selections that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat….

 

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is an amazing book regarding events about which previously I knew nothing. ??. Written in almost mystery genre fashion, this is an intense read about a widespread evil conspiracy which caused many Osage deaths in the 1920s.  Why?  Mineral rights. The Osage never signed away their mineral rights and when oil was discovered on their land, they became among the wealthiest in the world. Greed and hatred brought about the demise of many. 

 

Louis Zamperini remained “Unbroken” following his experience as a WWII POW of the Japanese. Once an Olympic runner, Zamperini’s bomber crashed into the Pacific where he was stranded until “rescued” by the Japanese. Following his release from the POW internment camp, Zamperini finds a reason to have faith again. A very well researched and well written book.

 

26-year-old Beverly Deepe reported on the Vietnam War as a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. She reported from all over the country, moving freely and thinking independently of the military and diplomatic types. 

Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guide on the U.S. Presidents is a super fun way to share your love of history with your kids. Great illustrations and interesting blurbs of trivia make this a “go to” book. Did you know “George Washington almost missed the very first Inauguration Day?  He was short on cash and a friend had to loan him six hundred dollars so he could make the journey.” 

If you love true stories of spies, codes, and mayhem, this is the book for you!  Illustrations make learning about the Cold War fun and there are special projects throughout the book. Some of the information you will learn will be hair-raising!  For instance, “The Secret unlock code for the Minuteman missile during the Cold War was 00000000.” 

 

A very simple series of three vignettes. In 1920s Appalachia there was only folk medicine available to care for those inflicted with heinous injuries or epidemic disease. Into this maelstrom of illness rode Mary, a determined nurse, with big plans to bring vaccines, nurses, and a hospital to the area.

Now, please, go forth and read and enjoy Nonfiction!

 

 

 

 

Oct 022018
 

Kids seem to like this series. It is goofy. Lots of pages with few words and containing black and white illustrations. If they like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, consider this series too. There are now seven books in the series. This is an easy way to transition from the Easy Readers to Chapter Books without feelings of intimidation. Reading level of 3.8.

 

  An interesting take on the survival story. Ros, the robot, is stranded on an island. She is willing and able to learn survival techniques from the animals on the island.  Eventually, she becomes a mother figure to a goose but disaster strikes when other robots come to capture Ros and take her “home”.  This is better for your younger reader as there are a few plot holes with this one. Reading level of 5.1.

 

Field trips don’t get much worse than this!  On a visit to Carlsbad Caverns, students are separated from the adults when an earthquake sends them plunging into the earth.  Unfortunately, they find themselves in the midst of an underworld war and being attacked by mutant animals.  The students surprise themselves with their ability to work together and find the hidden strengths which will help them survive. This is a well told, fairly short, story that leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat. “A World Below” has a reading level of 4.7.

Tom Gates is a young, artistic boy who spends more time doodling in class and dreaming of his favorite rock band than he does worrying about turning in his homework.  You will laugh even as you shake your head at this well illustrated little book.  Reading level of 4.0.

Fitting in is hard to do. The kids of “Hello, Universe” have a hard time fitting in at school and at home.  “Psychics”, nerds, bullies, and a young girl with a hearing impairment try to find a place for themselves in an indifferent world.  When one of the kids goes missing, they will each need to harness their talents to bring him home. The author portrays the “outsider” well and utilizes myths and folklore in her story.  Winner of the John Newbery Medal. This book had a “fantasy” feeling to it as it portrayed unrealistic situations. Reading level of 4.7.

 

Sep 062018
 

A bunch of Middle School and Young Adult have been read and recommended.  Taxes have been paid.  Now to prove that I do actually read Adult books on occasion….

     “There There” , a debut novel by Tommy Orange, is best read in 1-2 sittings.  There are multiple characters and back stories and it takes a bit of work to keep everyone straight but it is completely worth it.   I would have liked more resolution after coming to know the characters so well and there is one relationship in the book that I do not find realistic. The writing is devastation in molten form. It burns but it is so beautiful you keep going, keep getting closer, even as it hurts. I loved this book. I wanted to read it quickly and yet I wanted to slow down and savor it.

     “Among the Mad” is #6 in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  Unfortunately, it is the only one left in the library’s catalog.  Apparently the others met an untimely end.  I hadn’t read any of the series before and decided to try it (yes, even though it was #6). It was wonderful.  Yes, now I am in that unenviable position of deciding whether to go back and start with the first in the series or continue from 6 on to the end. This book is so completely “of the time” of post WWI England that the sorrow and desperation just dripped off of every page. The mystery was intense and well plotted but I almost wished away the resolution. That never happens. Pick up the Maisie Dobbs’ series but for your own sake start at the beginning (like any sane person). 

     “The Hoarder” is an atmospheric, spooky, quirky read. In this case, quirky refers to a cantankerous old hoarder, a caregiver who sees saints everywhere, and a glamorous, neighborly transvestite investigator. Don’t expect all hearts and hugs. This isn’t that book. A mystery involving the death and disappearance of previous occupants of the house leads everyone into conflict. The writing is more literary fiction than mystery genre. The ending felt like a let down. Not because it was inappropriate but because I wasn’t ready for my time with these characters to come to an end.

India, Ethiopia, and America….you get a visceral sense of all of these places and the ways in which they connect and recede. Just as the characters in the book seem to bounce off of each other,changing each other and their fates. “Cutting for Stone” was a very atmospheric book with lots of history and medicine thrown in for good measure.

 

Aug 302018
 

Do you have a reluctant reader in your life?  Someone who gets intimidated by all of the PRINT in chapter books?  The following are a few books that deal with some heavier topics but do it in a succinct and powerful way that will have readers coming back for more! 

   

  1. ” Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai combines a “coming-of-age” tale with a refugee narrative.  Following the Vietnam War, Ha and her family move to America leaving her father behind somewhere in Vietnam.  This is a story of lost culture, country, and family and starting over in a new place with a different language.  Heavy hitting topics combine with small doses of humor as in the following:                                                                                             “Mother has always wanted an engineer, a real doctor, a poet, and a lawyer.                                                                                                                She turns to me.  You love to argue, right?                                                                                                                                                                     No, I don’t.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        She brightens.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I vow to become much more agreeable.”                                                                                                                          Any child could relate to unwanted parental expectations!  The Accelerated Reading level is 4.8 but it would be a great read for any student.         –National Book Award Winner and Newbery Honor Book
  2.  Reena’s parents both lose their jobs in the “big city” and on a whim the family decides to move to Maine where they have exotic animals like cows, pigs, and snakes.  Luke and Reena will need every ounce of bravery they possess to figure out this new landscape and the freedoms and responsibilities it entails.  This book deals with plenty of serious topics but without getting bogged down in emotional quagmires.  A light-hearted romp through the countryside written in a sparse and quirky style. Check out “Moo” by Sharon Creech. This was recommended to me by Grace. She will make a fine literary critic some day.  Reading Level=4.4. 
  3. Racism, religion, and family dynamics meld together to form a lyrical coming-of-age story with dual 1960s North and South settings. Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming” has been applauded by many.  Reading Level=5.3. A great way to get the rhythm of the story down is to listen on Overdrive digital audio while you read the print version. (Overdrive/Libby apps are free and allow you to check out ebooks and audio downloads) –National book Award Winner and Newbery Honor Book
  4. His older brother was shot and killed last night.  Now a young boy plans his revenge following a code he learned on the streets.  He doesn’t know as he gets on the elevator how many people are willing to change his mind and show him the way.  “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds is intense. Mrs. Francisco and I have a running debate regarding this book. Feel free to toss your hat in the ring (so to speak).    Reynolds also has a series based on individual members of a track team which have received lots of good press from our patrons.  Check out “Ghost”, “Sunny”, and “Patina”.  Reading level=4.3                                                                                                                                                                                      –Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Printz Honor Book
  5.  A more mature book for the young adult reader, “A Little Piece of Sky” by Nicole Bailey-Williams, is a realistic and gritty portrait of inner city life.  This isn’t a light, happy read by any means as the protagonist deals with abandonment, poverty, and grief.  Trigger warnings for suicide and family violence.  The reading level is rated at 5 but due to the subject matter, I would recommend to 8th and up. 
Aug 172018
 

Well, I have avoided it long enough.  It was necessary to read some teen fiction so I would have something to recommend. Don’t get me wrong. There are some very talented young adult writers; however, the genre seems to be in a “dark and dystopian” frame of “mind”. It just isn’t where I want to spend a lot of my time. Fortunately, I had some lovely folks recommend these books or authors to me, so I was able to pick up a few reads to pass along….

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The best fantasy novel I have read all Summer (adult included).  Psychics, ley lines, and a hunt for a missing king.  I am a sucker for a good “treasure” hunt and this delivered.  It is a mystery/gothic romance and the first in a series so there will be more fun in the future. Thanks Mrs. D. for the rec.

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“Imperfect Spiral” is a story of grief and guilt following a terrible accident and the scapegoating of “others”.  When a young boy is killed walking home from the park, a community plays the “blame game” and a young girl tries to deal with her own feelings of guilt and grief while deciding how involved she will become in the political aftermath. Thanks to Taylor for the recommendation (actually she gave me a two page list of books to read and this was one of them).

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The rich and middle class live in a compound to protect them from the monsters that roam the earth following a catastrophe that changed the earth’s social structures.  Hunters track down and kill the monsters trying to break into the compound and have a huge, ranked social media presence. The monsters are getting smarter and the hunters fewer. Suddenly, the hunters realize they may be fighting more than monsters…..Thanks to Jaida for the rec.

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Amy’s father died in a car wreck. Her mother moved from California to the East Coast, leaving Amy to come after the school year finished.  Amy’s brother is in rehab. Now she must travel cross country with a young man she doesn’t know.

Roger’s girlfriend dumped him with no warning. His mother’s old friend wants him to drive a young girl across the country.  She didn’t mention the reason Amy doesn’t drive anymore….

A melancholy look at two souls dealing with different types of loss and grief and the friendship and romance that result.  Morgan Matson knows how to write a good book!

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“Heartless”.  The Queen of Hearts lost her heart.  This is the tale of how that happened and why this book couldn’t have a happy ending. It is very atmospheric. The first part was a 5 smooth-star read; however, the drama drama got to be a bit much.

 

Aug 162018
 

Today is the first day of school.  Where did the Summer go?  About 2 weeks ago, it occurred to me that I had not read any middle grade or teen novels this Summer. What fresh recommendations would I be able to give? Disaster! I could already see the disappointed looks on the faces of young readers. What a slack librarian!  Fortunately, there were plenty of books at hand!  I covered my dining room table with reading options. Middle grade is where it’s at as far as great adventures, magic, and fun so that is where I started.

Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful author.  Yes, she wrote “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Because of Winn Dixie” but her “Mercy Watson” series stole my heart!  Raymie Nightingale tells the tale of a wonderful friendship formed between three young girls training for a local talent contest. Each girl has a distinct goal in entering the contest and each one is dealing with serious issues at home.  I was cheering them on throughout the whole book and heartily recommend this book to everyone! smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Set in late 1800s Washington, this is the story of May Amelia, daughter of Finnish farmers and sister to SEVEN brothers. I would have felt sorry for her except this adventurous gal needed no help from anyone.  As we follow the hardscrabble life of the family, we watch as each of the children reach for their goals while supporting their family.  This book has some “sad bits” but it was a wonderful read. smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

 

Two young boys are the best of friends. When a babysitter enters the picture, life changes drastically for one of the boys. Will his friend be able to save him without losing his friendship?  This book dealt with very serious issues and while the book was written at approximately a 4th grade reading level, I wouldn’t recommend it to that age of child.  There was a glimmer of hope at the end of the novel but not much.  smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

The Accelerated Reading level for this children’s adventure tale is 5.5.  The story itself feels a lot “younger” than that. It is a sweet story about a family falling on hard times and moving from a grand house to a shack in the English countryside. The kids meet lots of interesting people, form friendships, and have wild adventures while their mother works to keep a roof over their head and their falsely imprisoned father sits in jail.

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When a drought hits the reservation, eleven-year-old Gregory and his family head for the big city.  Gregory tries to fit in at a new school while dealing with the loss of his home and father. Culture shock, poverty, and domestic abuse seem like a lot to cram into this very short book.  smooth-starsmooth-star

Dec 012015
 

At thirty-two Kimberly Rossi, a finance officer at a Lexus car dealership, has had her heart broken more times than she wants to remember. With two failed engagements, a divorce and again alone with no prospects, she hardly seems the type to dream of being a published romance author. Dreading another holiday alone, she signs up for The Mistletoe Retreat, a nine-day writing retreat in Burlington, VT. Deep inside Kimberly knows she’s at a junction in her life and it’s time to either fulfill her dream or let it go. The other reason she decides to attend the conference is because famed romance writer, H.T. Cowell, once the best selling romance writer in America, and the author whose books instilled in her the desire to be a writer, will be speaking in public for the first time in more than a decade.

In one of her breakout sessions Kimberly meets another aspiring writer, and one of the few men at the conference, Zeke, an intelligent man with a wry wit who seems as interested in Kimberly as he is in the retreat. As Kimberly begins to open up to him about her stories and dreams, she inadvertently reveals her own troubled past. As Zeke helps her to discover why her books fail to live up to their potential she begins to wonder if he’s really talking more about her life than her literature. But as she grows closer to him, she realizes that Zeke has his own darkness, a past he’s unwilling to talk about.summer

Sep 032015
 

If you enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s gritty character, Lisbeth Salander, check out Andi and Julie. Andi Oliver is a young amnesiac who wakes up in Santa Fe with no memory but a strong determination to survive in “Biting the Moon” by Martha Grimes. Cynical secretary, Julie Collins, has decided to quit her job and partner with a friend as a Private Investigator; however, when the first case she works on involves a 16 year old girl, she finds the job may be more brutal than she expected in “Blood Ties” by Lori Armstrong.

 

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Feb 032015
 

TulipsIf you like historical mysteries, these two are a treat!

“Crocodile on a Sandbank” by Elizabeth Peters is the first in the Amelia Peabody series.  Amelia is a spinster in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.  She inherited a large estate from her father and can now afford to travel the world.  Due to her interest in Egyptology, she plans a trip up the Nile.  Amelia has a tendency to take over and direct people as she sees fit, so when she runs into a well known archeologist (with a well deserved reputation for being rude) the sparks fly.  However, something is amiss in the Valley of the Kings.  Someone is stalking Amelia’s friend, Evelyn.  Is it someone from her past or someone looking to scare away the whole team?

Following the Napoleonic Wars, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, returns to England.  Little does he know that he will soon be accused of a heinous crime against a young woman he knew only in passing.  Someone is trying to frame him for murder.  Will he be able to ascertain who the real murderer is or will he hang for a crime he didn’t commit?  Check out “What Angels Fear” by C. S. Harris.

These are indeed two Forgotten Gems worth checking out!