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Staff Picks: Books

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

I first fell in love with Chris Cleave’s writing in Little Bee, and when I read this novel set during World War II, I fell in love all over again. But as with a person, it can be hard to pinpoint what about a book makes you fall in love, particularly when the book depicts so many horrors of war.

I recently reread Everyone Brave is Forgiven to try to figure it out, and I think what most draws me to Cleave’s writing is that his characters are so full of heart and spirit that even bleak events (or the telling of them) seem to have redeeming value.

Cleave’s descriptions and dialog are vibrant and often humorous, and his writing is masterfully paced, playing with the way time can elapse very slowly and then without warning stand still on a sudden dramatic event. It’s quite a balancing act and evokes the precarious experience of going through daily life under the constant threat of bombing.

This is a story of suffering and tragedy, but paradoxically, the message I take away from it is of survival, redemption, bravery, and love.


Echo

When more than one patron and all the youth librarians you know, say you should listen to a particular audiobook, you must listen.  Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is an incredible book but it might be the best audiobook I've ever listened to. It's so good that I want to keep driving around instead of parking my car and getting to work. It's a story within a story about a young boy named Frederik, living in the heart of the Black Forest, during the early Hitler years. His father, an accomplished cellist, is deemed a Jewish sympathizer and is arrested and taken from Frederik. He's left to figure out how to navigate this most dangerous new world without him. But did I mention, Frederik does carry with him a magical harmonica. And that's just Part 1. Part 2 opens in Pennsylvania! This incredible story is suspenseful and superbly performed, with multiple voices and musical pieces throughout. It's historical fiction and fantasy combined into one amazing story. Available from KPL in print, Ebook, and audiobook as Compact Disc or through our downloadable service, Hoopla.


ONE BABY BUNNY WITH TICKLISH EARS SO FUNNY

Tickle My Ears is a very sweet and simple interactive board book for toddlers. Young readers help a little rabbit prepare for bed by getting him into his pajamas, fluffing his pillow, tucking him in, etc.

A book with expressive, irresistible illustrations and words by Jorg Muhle, it is meant to be read and reread for the delight of every young child.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of our very smart bunny named Patrick, who lived in our household about seven years . He died in late April from kidney failure at the age of ten. Patrick, you will never be forgotten!


Norse Mythology, Told Three Ways

The recently released Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is by no means new stories. They are very old stories. They are stories so old that the details have been blurred with the passage of time. Gaiman retells these stories in a way that reads like a novel. It begins with an expansive and rich creation story, telling how gods, the world, and people came into existence. Then, we hear the stories of the gods, giants, demons, and people who populate the legendary 9 worlds. We meet Thor, and learn how he got his hammer, called Mjölnir. We hear of all the ways that Loki, the Trickster, manipulates and deceives the gods repeatedly and seemingly for his own amusement. We learn where bad poetry comes from. Finally, we see it all destroyed in Ragnorok, the epic battle that will end the reign of the gods of Asgard. 

The joy of stories is in the retelling. In the book The Gospel of Loki (by Joanne Harris), we get to hear the same stories, but told from Loki’s perspective. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he is convincing as a sympathetic character betrayed by the “popular crowd” of Asgard, an evil deity bent on destruction, or something in between.

What if the stories don’t end there? American Gods (by Neil Gaiman), explores the idea of gods being brought to America with their believers, and what happens to them once they are here. Do gods need belief to keep existing? What about the new gods of America, such as Media, and Technology? American Gods follows the story of Shadow Moon. In the first few pages of the book we meet Shadow in prison, where he is released a few days early because his wife has been killed in an auto accident. He meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday, who offers Shadow the job of escorting and protecting him. What I like about this book is the atmosphere and feel that the author is able to create. It’s part road trip story, part epic legend.


Kizzy Anne Stamps is an excellent story

Virginia schools are integrating and Kizzy Anne Stamps is about to start a new school. Although, Kizzy is strong willed and stubborn she’s nervous about attending school with white kids. Her old-school teacher suggested she become acquainted with her new teacher so Kizzy started writing her letters. She told Mrs. Anderson all about herself, her dreams and her struggles.

This is a great story about a little girl and her border collie dog, Shag. She had a lot of challenges but she met them with strength, kindness and humor.


Strong Female Protagonist

Mega Girl discovered she had superpowers at age 14. Super strength, invulnerability and the ability to leap over buildings in a single bound. It was great at first, but now she’s all grown up, and realizes that it takes a lot more than punching killer robots to fix the world’s problems. At age 18, Alison decides to hang up the cape and enroll in college to find a more meaningful way to change the world but the past has a way of always catching up.

This graphic novel is a fresh and critical examination of the superhero genre, questioning and overturning comic book tropes we often take for granted while exploring what it actually means to be a hero. We have the first volume here at the library, and the series continues online at strongfemaleprotagonist.com


TIDY TO A FAULT

Author and Illustrator Emily Gravett has done it again! In "Tidy", she introduces us to Pete the Badger, who happens to be a cleanaholic. Pete was born to clean, scour, tidy up anything and everything; a daunting task if one lives in a forest. No tidying challenge is too big for Pete and he soon gets carried away resulting in a disaster for the forest and its inhabitants.

Luckily, Pete and his friends set things right and Pete learns a valuable life  lesson. Too much of a good thing may not be good after all!

This rhyming book is pure fun and the illustrations are delightful. It also effectively delivers a subtle message about preserving the environment. After all, as the saying goes "you don't know what you've got 'till its gone".


Beneath Wandering Stars

When this book showed up on my new books cart, I was first drawn in by the cover. It wasn’t a title I had been anticipating, but as I flipped it over to see what it was about, I knew I would be taking this one home.
After her brother Lucas is wounded in Afghanistan, Gabi Santiago vows to hike the Camino de Santiago in his name. The only catch, her brother’s best friend Seth, whom Gabi hates, has to walk it with her. As they hike this centuries old pilgrimage searching for meaning, forgiveness, and a miracle for someone they both love, they begin to understand each other better, and more importantly, themselves.
The Camino de Santiago has fascinated me for a long time. Five years ago, my mom and I watched a The Way (which I also highly recommend!), and I decided that I wanted to walk it. My mom and I agreed that in five years, when I turned 30, we would hike the Camino together, and finally that year has arrived. When this book appeared on my cart, it was just one more encouragement for me. The story moved me, and cemented my desire to make this pilgrimage. I highly recommend this touching story that deals with change, friendship, and grief in a beautiful way.


Flame in the Mist

Set in Feudal Japan, Flame in the Mist follows three main characters: Hattori Mariko, Okami, and Hattori Kenshin. Right from the start, this book yanks the reader in. A betrayal has taken place, and revenge is sworn. Ten years later, we see Mariko, less than thrilled to be married off as a tool for political leverage, on her way to Inako. When her procession is attacked, and she manages to survive, she decides to disguise herself as a boy and find out the truth of who attacked her and why they want her dead. Through her search for the truth, she finds herself among the Black Clan and Okami. It is from them that Mariko learns she may be clever, but she certainly has more to learn. Her world is a lot smaller than she imagined it to be, and perhaps things are more complex than she thought as well.
I devoured this book. As I neared the end, I became frustrated knowing there was no way this book could be a stand alone, and as I flipped the last page with a cliffhanger, I sighed. There is so much left to be explored in this enchanting world. I have so many questions, and I can’t wait for the next book to answer them. Fans of Samurai Champloo, Robin Hood, and feminism will love this story as I did.


Celine

If you have enjoyed Peter Heller’s previous two novels The Dog Stars and The Painter, you will certainly enjoy his latest effort Celine. Celine is very different from either of those first two novels, and requires a bit of a leap of faith to wrap your head around the storyline and the character of Celine herself, but that leap is made oh so much easier by the skill of Heller’s writing. Celine is an older, aristocratic, and well-dressed private detective who also happens to be a firearms enthusiast, greasy spoon aficionado, fan of Soldier of Fortune magazine, and has a complex and secret back-story. The novel follows Celine and her partner/husband Pete as they investigate the disappearance of the father of a captivating woman named Gabriela, with a complex and tragic back-story of her own. The story is beautifully written, fun to read, and strikes just the right balance of romp and heartbreak to really sink in and keep the pages turning quickly.