Thursday, May 31, 2012

We Heart Debbie Macomber

While many longtime readers are familiar with Debbie Macomber's sweet romances, she is also a versatile and prolific author of stories about women's lives and their relationships.  Most of these are loosely connected series set in small-town communities. Macomber also incorporates gentle humor into her fiction.  

To participate in the pleasures of Macomber's old-fashioned, feel-good stories, start with the recent Knitting series. In the first, The Shop on Blossom Street, Macomber deftly combines the domestic pleasures of knitting with the compelling stories of her female characters: generations of women, including a cancer survivor (the shop's owner), who find satisfaction and resolution to life's problems under the spell of knitting, conversation, and friendship. 

Looking for Similiar Authors?  Try Susan Wiggs, Robyn Carr, or Sheryl Woods.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(Slighlty) Scary Picks for Younger Kids

Scary stories (at least mildly scary ones) are a popular pick for younger kids Many of the engaging picture books on the following list are ripe for reading aloud, even to preschoolers.

If You're a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberly

Monsters sing their own version of this popular song that encourages everyone to express their happiness through voice and movement.Ten Little Beasties (2011) and There Was an Old Monster (2009) are companion volumes.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Losing all hope in his ability to scare people, which is sorely lacking, Leonardo, who is terrible at being a monster, discovers a nervous little boy who seems to be the perfect candidate for him to practice on.

Laura Numeroff's 10-step guide to living with your monster

A guide to choosing and caring for your own pet monster, which includes useful information such as "monsters love country western music" and "monsters love to buy gum."

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

A naughty little boy, sent to bed without his supper, sails to the land of the wild things where he becomes their king.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Debut Mondays: Southern Charm by Tinsley Mortimer

Southern Girl Minty Davenport has always dreamed of skyscrapers, yellow cabs, and a life like Eloise’s in New York City. So upon graduation from college, she bids adieu to Charleston and makes a beeline for the Big Apple. Almost instantly, she finds herself at an event being photographed for Women’s Wear Daily, and her career as a New York society “It Girl” is launched. As Minty navigates the ironclad customs of New York society, a blossoming love life, and a job working for a ruthless and powerful publicist, she finds that the rules a southern belle lives by—being nice to everyone, accentuating her femininity, and minding her manners—don’t necessarily guarantee success in Manhattan. She may indeed be accumulating new friends and opportunities along with boldfaced mentions and a very eligible bachelor boyfriend, but someone is plotting her very public downfall. When Minty gets to the top of the social ladder, she must decide if the glamorous life she thought she wanted is really everything she hoped it would be.

Tinsley Mortimer’s insider observations about New York’s elite are deliciously witty, and the heart of her book is that of an irresistibly lovable young woman who is on the brink of finding her dream.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Friday Five: Bob Dylan Edition

The swift don't win the race. It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth.
- I and I

You better start swimming or sink like a stone, cause the times they are a-changing
- The Times, They are A-Changing

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
- Subterranean Homesick Blues

Yesterday's just a memory, tomorrow is never what it's suppose to be
- Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight

Lord knows I've paid my dues getting through, tangled up in blue.
- Tangled up in Blue

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

Happy birthday to arguably the most famous singer songwriter ever.  He's been active and influential in the music industry  - and American culture - for over five decades.  To get your Dylan fix, read these books or watch this movie.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Art of the Pitch

There are more novels written about the sport of baseball than any other sport. The structure of this timeless game lends itself well to exploring some of fiction's most common themes: death, love, friendship, honor, and identity. These novels that feature baseball use the sport to explore other challenges in the lives of the characters, as well as providing an opportunity for some base-stealing, bat-cracking, super-fly fielding action and conflict.

Chabon, Michael. Summerland.In the Summerland of Clam Island, Washington it never rains, thus, baseball is played year-round and inspires almost religious devotion among its residents, except for one, Ethan Feld. Ethan plays for the local team and is the worst player they've ever seen, and freely admits it. Yet, Ethan is the only person on the island who will be able to save the magical Summerland ball field and its threatened unseen natives, the ferishers, from the wily spirit-god, Coyote. Full of magical flights of fancy in air-light dirigibles, fantastic creatures such as the willful Spider Ann, the motherly beast Taffy, and a rag-tag team of fairy-tale ballplayers, it all depends on the crack of a bat and a ball in a glove if all the worlds are to remain in peaceful balance. Lots of baseball lore mixed with legends from Native American and other traditional sources.

Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding.
At Westish College in Wisconsin, the baseball team is hoping to capture a national championship. Henry Skrimshander and Mike Schwartz, idolized by the younger players, bring their enormous talent to the field along with their personal hopes and expectations. With Zen-like meditations on the art of baseball, complex interpersonal relationships, and unexpected slumps, this novel covers the full range of what can happen in life -- and baseball.

Lupica, Mike. Wild Pitch.One of the great things about baseball is that eventually, a player gets a second chance. When "Showtime" Charlie Stoddard's second chance finds him, he's a washed-up, girl-chasing boozehound who signs baseball cards for kids who ask him who he used to be. With the help of an unorthodox therapist named Chang, Charlie believes he may have his pitching arm back, and what a coincidence! The Red Sox need a pitcher! Charlie hopes to turn his life around, get back with his ex-wife, reconnect with his son, who will not acknowledge Charlie's existence, and, maybe, earn a berth at Cooperstown.

Parker, Robert B. Double Play.The Grand Master of Mystery turns his attention to his lifelong love of baseball in a tense novel about Jackie Robinson's first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dodger manager Branch Rickey knows history is unfolding, but he's more interested in keeping Robinson healthy enough to take the field. Rickey hires WWI veteran Joseph Burke to guard Robinson, and the two men find themselves involved in a plot to assassinate them both. Robinson has more to protect than his life — he has a career and family. Burke has lost the only thing he cares about and his life is secondary. Full of colorful supporting characters, both fictitious and real, rapid dialogue, and a suspenseful pace, Parker inserts himself into the story by recalling the summer of 1947 and the impact this historic athletic moment had on his own life.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Debut Mondays: A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are heading for the ancient city of Kashgar on the Silk Road, to help establish a Christian mission. Lizzie, on fire with her religious calling and traveling with her new Leica camera, is in awe of their charismatic and imperturbable leader, Millicent. Eva's motives for signing on to the missionary life are not quite as noble, but with her glorious green bicycle to ride on, and a commission to write A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar in her suitcase, she is ready for adventure.

In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and pillow and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and a beautiful drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some beautiful Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar explores the fault lines that appear when traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalized world crash into each other. Beautifully written and peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters (not to mention an owl), the novel interweaves the stories of Frieda and Eva, gradually revealing the links between them, and the ways in which they each challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard won way towards home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in an elegant town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl flees for solace to the parlor of a table-turning medium.

But when her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange young woman, Sibyl turns for help to psychology professor Benton Derby, despite the unspoken tensions of their shared past. As Benton and Sibyl work together to solve a harrowing mystery, their long-simmering spark flares to life, and they realize that there may be something even more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass.

From the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown to the opulent salons of high society, from the back alleys of colonial Shanghai to the decks of the Titanic, The House of Velvet and Glass weaves together meticulous period detail, intoxicating romance, and a final shocking twist that will leave readers breathless.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Debut Mondays: Red Cell by Mark Henshaw


After her first assignment in Venezuela goes disastrously awry, rookie case officer Kyra Stryker is brought back to Langley to work in the Red Cell, the CIA’s out-of-the-box think tank. There she’s paired with Jonathan Burke, a straitlaced analyst who has alienated his colleagues with his unorthodox methods and a knack for always being right, political consequences be damned.

When a raid on Chinese spies in Taiwan ends in a shoot-out and the release of a deadly chemical, CIA director Kathy Cooke turns to the Red Cell to figure out why China is ready to invade the island nation without any fear of reprisal from the US Navy. Stryker and Burke’s only lead is the top CIA asset in China, code named Pioneer. But when Pioneer reports that Chinese security has him under surveillance, Stryker is offered a chance for redemption with a highly dangerous mission: extract Pioneer from China before he’s arrested and executed. The answers he holds could mean the difference between peace in the Pacific or another world war.

From CIA headquarters to the White House to a Navy carrier in the South China Sea and the dark alleyways of Beijing, Red Cell takes readers on a whirlwind race against time as Stryker and Burke work to save Pioneer and discover the hidden threat to America’s power: China’s top-secret weapon.

CIA analyst Mark Henshaw infuses expert knowledge of the intelligence world into a pulse-pounding plot to create a fascinating, authentic, and unforgettable read.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Friday Five: Remembering Maurice Sendak

This week we've selected five quotes to honor the legendary author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.

On writing for children vs. adults

"I don't believe that there's a demarcation. 'Oh, you mustn't tell them that. You mustn't tell them that.' You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it's true. If it's true, you tell them."
-From the documentary "Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak"


"I believe there is no part of our lives, our adult as well as child life, when we're not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young. Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do."
-From "Questions to an Artist Who Is Also an Author: A Conversation between Maurice Sendak and Virginia Haviland" by Virginia Haviland, published in 1972

What's important

"There must be more to life than having everything!"
-from "Higglety Pigglety Pop!"


"Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren't. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they're really protecting themselves. Besides, you can't protect children. They know everything."
-from "The Paternal Pride of Maurice Sendak" by Bernard Holland, The New York Times, Nov. 8, 1987

The highest compliment

"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters, sometimes very hastily, but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother, and she said, 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Coming Soon! Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin

The latest offering from the authors of the international bestseller The Nanny Diaries

What happens when you are followed by millions . . . and loved by none?

Twenty-seven-year-old Logan Wade is trying to build a life for herself far from her unhappy childhood in Oklahoma. Until she gets the call that her famous cousin needs a new assistant— an offer she can’t refuse.
Logan hasn’t seen Kelsey in person since their parents separated them as kids; in the meantime, Kelsey Wade has grown into Fortune Magazine’s most powerful celebrity. But their reunion is quickly overshadowed by the toxic dynamic between Kelsey and her parents as Logan discovers that, beneath the glossy fa├žade, the wounds that caused them to be wrenched apart so many years ago have insidiously warped into a show-stopping family business.

As Kelsey tries desperately to break away and grasp at a “real” life, beyond the influence of her parents and managers, she makes one catastrophic misstep after another, and Logan must question if their childhood has left them both too broken to succeed. Logan risks everything to hold on, but when Kelsey unravels in the most horribly public way, Logan finds that she will ultimately have to choose between rescuing the girl she has always protected . . . and saving herself.

Available in June!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, passed away today at age 83.  He will live forever through his beautiful and groundbreaking children's books.

Happy Birthday, Thomas Pynchon

U.S. writer Thomas Pynchon got started in the early 1970s, when the Cold War made the threat of Armageddon omnipresent. This is reflected in his post-modernistic writing style as well as his themes and characterization. Pynchon employs multiple perspectives to tell the stories in vivid bursts. Snippets of poetry alternate with long, incredibly detailed passages and introspective stream-of-consciousness narratives; he often throws in complex, seemingly interminable puns and detailed, if hard-to-parse, historical accounts. The total effect gives his prose a dramatic, often shocking quality, sometimes increased by scatalogical references to the human body.
Pynchon's first novel, V. (1963) is an absurd tale that juxtaposes scenes of 1950s hipster life with symbolic images of the entire century. The idea of conspiracy is central to The Crying of Lot 49 and his masterpiece, Gravity's Rainbow, a moving novel about the end of World War II. He has lived in hiding or incognito for years, refusing to grant interviews or be photographed.

Rumored to live in California, Mexico, and most recently, New York City, Pynchon has remained reclusive and largely unknown, but his reputation as a significant American writer is assured.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Debut Mondays: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The legend begins in

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Friday Five: To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes

To celebrate Harper Lee's birthday last week, we'll be using five quotes from the classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”
"Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy... but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

From the author of the acclaimed bestseller Sister comes a gripping, thrilling story of a mother who will do anything to protect her child. The school was on fire, and Grace's last memory is of trying to reach her daughter, Jenny, trapped inside the inferno. While their burned bodies are frantically cared for by doctors, Grace and Jenny awaken in the hospital in a strange in-between state. When they learn that someone purposefully set the fire, and Jenny may still be in grave danger from someone who wants her dead, Grace realizes she may be the only one who can discover who might be responsible. The police are looking at Adam, Jenny's younger brother, who is struck mute by the horror he witnessed and can't defend himself when he is accused of the arson.

Try if you like: fast-paced, psychological thrillers that are compelling and atmospheric. 
For Fans of: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.