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Staff Picks: Books

Beast

This take on Beauty and the Beast really is original. Dylan, an over-sized and hirsute 15 year old, is our unreliable narrator. Awash in a sea of self-pity and zero self-esteem Dylan spends most of the book thinking everyone sees him the way he sees himself (honestly, he spends so much time pitying himself it's exhausting) and waiting for a sign from his deceased father. Jamie, an amazing, funny, and creative girl challenges Dylan’s superficiality when he realizes that not only is he totally into her, but that she is transgender. So, confession: this book ticked me off a lot. I spent a lot of the day yelling at Dylan for being a jerk. Almost all the characters are crappy people and I felt incredibly cynical about them. BUT! I could not put it down. As frustrating as I found this book, the writing is compelling and the character growth is authentic. Also, unreliable narrators make for a fun read, even when they are super irritating.


Snowman Goes From Being Lonely to Being Perfect With a Little Love and New Friends

The Most Perfect Snowman, written and delightfully illustrated by Chris Britt, is about a simple,lonely snowman named Drift, who has arms made out of sticks and a nose and mouth made of coal.

He dreams of wearing some splendid items of clothing like a hat, scarf, mittens and of possessing a pointed carrot nose. like so many other more stylish snowmen, who would often ridicule his plain looks. 

One day three children come upon Drift and much to his delight share with him a scarf, hat, mittens as well as a pointy carrot nose. Upon donning his new togs, the kids proclaim him to be a perfect snowman and all spend the rest of the afternoon in fun play.

Once darkness begins to set in, the kids say goodbye and head home.During the night ,a blustery blizzard blows most of Drift's clothes away. All is not lost because he befriends a scared, cold and hungry tiny bunny who asks for his help to survive. Sure enough, Drift gives the bunny his scarf for warmth  and his carrot nose to relieve his hunger. With these acts of kindness and generosity, he proves that he truly is the most perfect snowman!

 


Gotta Read 'em All

I’ve been a Pokéfan for almost 20 years now.  It started in middle school with Pokémon Blue on and now I’m currently working my way through Moon and draining my phone battery with Pokémon Go (hey, don’t judge Go, it’s getting me outside for fresh air and exercise).  It’s been years since I’ve watched the anime and movies, but it’s probably time to check it them out again.  Apparently, there’s some wisdom hidden between the battles and Poké-antics.I know how silly that sounds, but roll with me on this.  


The Essential Pokémon Book of Joy is a cute, short book of quotes from your favorite characters that offer lessons in life, love, friendship and, of course, Pokémon battles.  Ok, they may not all be profound, but some of them are surprisingly deep.  Even the baddies from Team Rocket occasionally offers some good advice such as never abandon a teammate in trouble, and do not fear failure/never give up.  Meowth is particularly clever and has my favorite quote from the entire series: “We do have a lot in common.  The same air, the same earth, the same sky.  Maybe if we started looking at what’s the same instead of always looking at what’s different...well, who knows?”  Pokéfan or not, that’s something we should all keep in mind.


If you’re feeling a little low and need a little pick-me-up, there is plenty of joy to be found in this book (including Nurse Joy)!  Even if the quotes don’t make you think, they’ll at least make you smile.  Whether you’re a Rising Star, Ace Trainer, or Veteran, be sure to flip through this book and, as Meowth says, remember to “..mind your P's and Q's and Pikachus.”

Faithful

I’m an Alice Hoffman fan. I’ve read just about everything she has written, some I like more than others. Faithful is one of my favorites of hers.

This is a story of tragedy and sorrow. Shelby and Helene are best friends in high school until an accident changes both of their lives.

Grief, guilt, recovery, friendship – it is all here but I didn’t find it as depressing as it sounds from this description. I agree with the reviewer who wrote…. “there is unique magic that Hoffman casts in all of her novels; seriously, this is a novel for anyone who has faith.”

This is a beautiful novel about surviving, forgiving ourselves, and connecting with others.


Paper Girls 2 For Me and You!

Paper Girls 2 is here! If you're new to the series, just know that it is the perfect comic to read while waiting for season 2 of Stranger Things. Complete with a great group of kids, crazy monsters, and 1980s hairstyles in all their feather- fringed glory. If you are already a fan, you’ll remember, at the end of Paper Girls Volume 1, KJ was still missing, and the gang was mysteriously transported out of the 80s. If you’ve somehow been patient enough to wait for the next volume instead of going out to buy the single comics, you’ll be excited to know this one starts right where the last one left off—with the girls being dropped right in the middle of 2016, and Erin coming face to face with her adult self!

Will Erin be disappointed in her future self? Will they ever find KJ? Will the paper girls be able to survive the horrors of 2016???

There's only one way to find out-- check it out right now!


Difficult Women

I was already looking forward to Roxane Gay's forthcoming collection of short stories; then I heard her interviewed on All Things Considered. And the reviews have been favorable, with Kirkus stating  "Gay is an admirable risk-taker in her exploration of women's lives and new ways to tell their stories." Now I'm even more eager to read it! 

She also has a memoir, Hunger, coming out this spring. 


Oliver and Ollie

Although the book, Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas: The Tale of a Little Cat with a Big Heart by Sheila Norton is a work of adult fiction, it nevertheless reads like a true story. This despite the fact that the narrator is the main feline character himself. Set in the English countryside, it's a heartwarming tale of an orange young cat who at the start of the volume leads the good life with his best friend George., who owns the village pub called The Forester's Arms.

One night after last call, a fire breaks out in the pub which destroys the establishment and turns Oliver's entire world upside down. During the mayhem and confusion of the conflagration, he is separated from George. Over the course of a few episodes, he has brushes with danger, is adopted by other humans more than once, considerably brightens the life of one reclusive girl he meets, and in the end..., well you better read it for yourself.

This story is told in Oliver's own voice displaying the feline perspective. All in all, Oliver is a very special cat who seems to bring happiness and good cheer wherever he goes, and to all he meets.

My husband and I are also proud owners of a cat named Oliver; Ollie for short. We found him seven or so years ago while taking a walk on a college campus near some tennis courts. Although we were never certain of this, it appeared as if he had been thrown from a car sometime ago. My husband spotted the little grey animal that at first sight looked like a dead baby possum. Upon closer inspection and the creature's sudden but slight head movement he realized that what he had in front of him was a very dirty, exhausted kitten , fighting to stay alive. After retrieving a cat carrier from home, we drove the kitten to the local cat hospital. There, the veterinarian told us that our foundling would probably not have survived another twenty-four hours if we hadn't gotten to him, since he was very dehydrated and hadn't had a meal in days.

While being treated at the vet's, he ate voraciously and drank lots of water. After close to two weeks, he was ready for a good new home. Since I visited him daily at the clinic, I grew very fond of this cat who just also happened to be a very determined talker. He seemed to want to tell me every detail of what terrible plight had befallen him and I fell in love with the little guy. After convincing my husband that our family was the only one for this kitten, we named him Ollie and he joined our other two cats and bunny.

Ollie is a very special cat; he enjoys gabbing with us every chance he gets and is a real sweetheart.

Happy holidays to all!


Lucky Penny

Penny’s life is a mess. She’s living out of her friend’s storage unit, and working for a 12-year-old tyrant at a laundromat. When she’s not attempting to rescue cats from mean kids in the neighborhood, she’s reading fantasy romance novels, and working on a real life awkward romance of her own. Lucky Penny, by creators Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, is a quirky romantic comedy, and also my new favorite graphic novel at the moment.

It reads like a cross between the epic Scott Pilgrim series and the super twee web cartoon Bee and Puppycat. It’s adorable, funny, and unabashedly nerdy. I enjoyed it immensely, and you probably will too, so check it out already!


Of Fire and Stars

I love a good, fun fantasy. The world building in Audrey Coulthurst’s debut novel, Of Fire and Stars, is thorough and interesting, as is the character development. Right from the start we are introduced to a girl who discovers she has an Affinity for fire, and while parts of the world are accepting of that, she’s already betrothed to the prince of a kingdom that believes magic use to be heretical. What gives this story a great twist is the romance that blossoms between our protagonist and the sister of her betrothed. I found it refreshing and interesting to read a world where their priorities were flipped - the main challenge of these two women being together wasn’t that they were both women, but that one was betrothed to the other’s brother. Oh, and she can use magic, which is kind of a big deal. Especially when magic-users might be involved in an assassination (or two). There were so many layers to this fantasy, and each one made me want more, even days after finishing the book.


Miss Jane

From Miss Jane by Brad Watson:

“She was born into that time and place, in the farmland cut from the pine and broadleaf woods of east-central Mississippi, 1915, when there was no possibility of doing anything to alleviate her condition, no medical procedure to correct it. It was something to be accepted, grim-faced, as they accepted crop failure, debt, poverty, the frequent deaths of infants and small children from fevers and other maladies.”

The novel Miss Jane is a beautifully-written character study of a girl born alone in every way—an odd duck in a family worn down by hardship, alienated from society due to the unique nature of her disability and in no small part to simple geography. She is alone save for the paternal kindness of a country doctor. But there is something about Jane Chisolm, something deep inside, that allows her to connect with nature and build a meaningful life in solitary. I can’t say enough about this book; Brad Watson writes with empathy for his heroine, an empathy that extends out to all of us experiencing the human condition. Using beautiful descriptions of nature to foster tone and atmosphere in the novel, Watson creates a striking sensory experience that propels Miss Jane to the forefront of great contemporary fiction.