Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Fiction of the Year (that You May have Missed)

Are you looking for a good read to enjoy through the holiday break? Here are some books that may have slipped under your radar, but are worth more than just a look. Check 'em out!
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryFor Adults:
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her. Meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, he tries to find peace and acceptance.  Joyce’s debut novel is a gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion.
Why We Broke UpFor Teens:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him and documents their relationship with items in an accompanying box. From bottle caps to a cookbook, the items foretell the end.  Handler, known mostly to the younger set as “Mr. Snicket, offers a heartbreaking, bittersweet, and compelling romance with a unique angle and flare.
WonderFor Kids:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan. He endures the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.  Few first novels pack more of a punch: it's a rare story with the power to open eyes—and hearts—to what it's like to be singled out for a difference you can't control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Songs Inspired by Books

Did you Know?

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon inspired "Whip It" by Devo?

Product DetailsIn case you don't spend your time researching the internet for the meaning behind Devo's hit, I'll tell you.  Devo member Jerry Casale wrote the lyrics to "Whip It" in one night, imitating Pynchon's parodies in Gravity's Rainbow.  Casale says, "[Pynchon] had parodied limericks and poems of kind of all-American, obsessive, cult of personality ideas like Horatio Alger and 'You're #1, there's nobody else like you' kind of poems that were very funny and very clver.  I thought, 'I'd like to do one like Thomas Pynchon.'"

1984 by George Orwell inspired “2+2=5″ by Radiohead?

Product DetailsIn addition to The Clash, Judas Priest, Stevie Wonder, Rage Against the Machine, Cheap Trick and many others, Orwell’s dystopia bible was a direct inspiration for Radiohead’s “2+2=5″ from Hail to the Thief. The song’s title is a reference to 1984‘s doublethink, in which logic does not matter as much as what authority tells you matters. Lyrics like “January has April’s showers” mirror the illogicality of Big Brother’s dictum. Bonus factoid: the alternate title for “2+2=5″ is “The Lukewarm,” a reference to the works of Dante, according to Thom Yorke.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot inspired “Afternoons And Coffeespoons” by Crash Test Dummies?

Product DetailsThe refrain of “Afternoons & Coffeespoons” is “Afternoons will be measured out, measured out, measured with coffeespoons and T.S. Elliot,” which, in addition to the name drop, refers to Prufrock in Eliot’s lines: “Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Further overlap: the song’s music video features lead singer Brad Roberts getting operated on, a reference to Eliot’s line “Like a patient etherized upon a table”; and the song’s repeated lyric “someday I’ll have a disappearing hairline,” calling to mind Prufrock’s thought about his thinning hair.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

At the Movies

Check out these books before they hit the big screen!
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z by Max Brooks

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Les Misérables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Life of Pi (Illustrated Edition)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Anna Karenina (Pevear/Volokhonsky Translation)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Staff Recommended Winter Reads

Little Women (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Little Women continues to be one of my favorite books and I think it’s perfect for winter reading 
- Cynthia


Nothing like a little mayhem and mystery to take you away from the Holiday rush. S.J. Parris has written  HERESY, the first book in a series. These stories bring the 16th Century to life. Giordano Bruno is a monk, poet, scientist and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition. He is recruited by Queen Elizabeth I to solve a crime in Oxford.  (The story continues with PROPHECY and SACRILEGE, with her 4th book TREACHERY to be published in May!) .  A definite page turned for historical fiction fans…and it is in a cold English winter!
- Nicola  

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant tells the story of a train that comes every December to bring gifts to the children of a very impoverished Appalacian village and of one of  the children who returns to the community as a grown up. 
- Maria

The Christmas Train

How about The Christmas Train by David Baldacci?
-Jean Malone

Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales

Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales by Owen Parry.  And for kids, The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (A Christmas-Hanukkah story.) & The Tree of Cranes by Allan Say
- Julia

The Catcher in the Rye

I love rereading The Catcher in the Rye this time of year, so I can join Holden Caulfield as he wanders around Manhattan during Christmastime.  With Holden, I enjoy the beautiful and snowy New York landmarks: Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Grand Central Station.  Together we contemplate the pain and beauty of being human, along with the eternal question of where those ducks go in the wintertime.
- Jen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Worst Reviews of Classic Books

There are some literary classics that are near unimpeachable. We’re thinking Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby: the best of the best. Except that they’re decidedly not unimpeachable — or at least they weren't when they first hit bookshelves. These books and many others that are now considered masterpieces got their fair share of scathing reviews when they first came out, and in reputable publications no less. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but we can’t help having this to say to these brutal reviewers: ha, ha. 

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"The final blow-up of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent." 
-The New Yorker, 1936, on Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

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"Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics."
-The London Critic, 1855, on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read." 
-James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, onWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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"An oxymoronic combination of the tough and tender, Of Mice and Men will appeal to sentimental cynics, cynical sentimentalists...Readers less easily thrown off their trolley will still prefer Hans Andersen." -Time, 1937, on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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"What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only..." -New York Herald Tribune, 1925, on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, December 03, 2012

Murder Under the Mistletoe

Measure equal portions of murder and mistletoe, add a dash of your favorite sleuths, and mix well to stir up a recipe for a crime-solving Christmas. Serve with egg nog.

Busy Body by M.C. Beaton

For the first time in her life, Agatha Raisin finds herself giving into the holiday cheer that has become infectious in the village of Carsely. However, Mr. John Sunday of the Health and Safety Board is determined to be a modern-day Scrooge. First, he declares the village shop must remove its historical wooden shelves; then he ban's the village's iconic Christmas tree. But when Sunday is found murdered shortly thereafter, Agatha finds herself with a whole slew of suspects.

A Killer's Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth Duncan

As the townsfolk of the Welsh valley town of Llanelen settle in for the snowiest winter in 25 years, an American stranger arrives. Harry Saunders charms the ladies and convinces Evelyn Lloyd, a wealthy widow, to invest money with him. When he goes missing with her money his body is soon discovered with a letter opener belonging to Mrs. Lloyd in his back. It's up to Penny Brannigan to prove her innocence.

Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Contains 3 novelettes. Hannah Swensen of the Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minn., discovers her neighbor's head bashed in; Jaine Austen's holiday stay at her parents' home in the Tampa Vistas retirement community is enlivened by the murder of an elderly lothario; and, Maine reporter Lucy Stone investigates a four-year-old boy's disappearance. Includes recipes.

A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry

Traveling up the Yorkshire coast with her husband and his acting troupe, Caroline, the mother of Charlotte Pitt, anticipates their arrival at the famed fishing village landing sight of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's tale and develops an awareness about inviting and disallowing evil.