Great Winter Reads from the November LibraryReads List

LibraryReads is a nation-wide list is comprised of books read, reviewed, and voted on by librarians.  The November list is filled with some reads that are perfect for all-day reading sessions on cold, long weekends.  Here are some of my favorites from this month’s picks:

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia MilletMermaids in Paradise
“This delightful book starts out as almost chick-lit, turns into a fantasy adventure, then leads into an underdog heist. The tone reminds me of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, with just enough absurdity in a tropical location to keep you on your toes. Protagonist Deb’s husband, Chip, is a total babe (in a nerdy way) and her BFF, Gina, is the best kind of snarky. A highly entertaining read!” – Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie BarronJane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
“Jane, her sister Cassandra, and her mother are spending Christmas with her brother’s family at Steventon Parsonage. They’re invited to visit the Vyne, where the weather and then a murder (or two) keep them houseguests. Jane’s personality and all of those around her shine throughout this story. I’m now planning to start back at the beginning of the series.” – Kim Storbeck, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA

Us by David NichollsUS
“Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that makes you wish you could meet the characters in real life. This is the case with Us, the poignant story of a middle-of-the-road British family spiraling out of control, and one man’s attempt to win back their love. Quirky, delightful and unpredictable, the novel delves into what makes a marriage, and what tears it apart.” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes In the Company of Sherlock Holmesedited by Leslie S. Klinger and
Laurie R. King
“A unique, engaging collection of short stories written in honor of Sherlock Holmes. It’s wonderful reading all of the different styles with twists on the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tales, such as a Facebook-type narrative and a story written from the point of view of a horse. Sherlock aficionados will appreciate the whispers of the great detective on every page.” – Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

You can find the whole November list at the LibraryReads website!


The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Impossible Knife of MemoryFirst Impressions
I pay attention each year to teen books that have award “buzz”: books that others in the library and publishing world are talking about as exceptionally good and/or unique. This novel by the author of the teen classic Speak has been getting some very good reviews, so I gave it a listen.

Drive-By Summary
Hayley and her decorated, war-hero, war-damaged father have spent the last five years driving a semi around the country, avoiding the memories and demons chasing them. Trying to find a “normal” life, they settle into Andy’s childhood home and Hayley enrolls in high school. But the demons follow close on their heels: memories, delusions and alcohol-induced rages that threaten to destroy not only their normalcy, but their lives.

Sound Bite
Readers, Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels, make Hayley’s world come alive and Whelan, particularly, gives Hayley an air of authenticity.  You can listen to a brief audio preview here:

My Favorite Character
I really enjoyed Hayley’s love interest Finn, who is fascinated by her, but struggling with his own family issues.

Words to Live By
People who have to announce that they are trustworthy deserve to be lied to.

Recommended For
Adults and teens who like real-life fiction and character-driven tales of family conflict, struggle and perseverance.

Final Say
This book is a great choice for readers who are looking to delve into the dark reality of PTSD and its effects on children and relationships will find a moving, sometimes harrowing, occasionally wryly funny story of trying to keep a life fractured by war from falling completely apart.

You can pick up The Impossible Knife of Memory at your local Bellingham Public Library location!

- Jennifer

Good in the Sack: Creative Lunches for All Ages

If you’re like me, by the time November rolls around you’re starting to run out of fresh ideas for your kids’ lunch sacks, as well as your own. But don’t fret! Lunch is about to become everyone’s favorite meal of the day, because the library is here to help take your lunch-packing skills to a whole new level. There are options here for everyone! And even a book of patterns for crafting a fancy handmade lunch sack to carry your new tasty lunches in.

First of all, it’s a good idea to invest in some re-usable lunchware. Taking a cue from traditional Japanese bento boxes, there are some great stackable containers with partitions for those folks in your house who don’t like their food items rubbing up against each other. There are many affordable options, including glass containers with rubber lids as well as metal containers, if you are seeking to avoid plastic.

Secondly, don’t be boxed in by your old ideas of what a lunch box should contain! You are in control of your daily food adventures, so why suffer repetition and boredom?

Thirdly, get your hands on one or more of these titles, stock your pantry accordingly, and get ready to get creative. Also, don’t forget muffin, wrap and salad cookbooks, as well as cookbooks featuring recipes for picnickers and backpackers. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you for the variety!

  1. Lunch Bags! Handmade Sacks and Wraps to Sew Today by Design Collective (2010)
  2. Beating the Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsch (2013)
  3. Best Lunch Box Ever by Katie Sullivan Morford (2013)
  4. The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go by Makiko Itoh (2010)
  5. 501 Bento Box Lunches by Mari Baker (2009)
  6. Vegan Lunch Box Around the World by Jennifer McCann (2009)
  7. Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box by Catherine McCord (2013)
  8. And for any finicky young eaters in your house, I recommend Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (1964). Though it’s not a cookbook, the lunches that Frances’ friend Albert brings to school have stayed fresh in my mind since I first read it over 30 years ago!

- Jenni

Not Just for Teens! Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

RipperFirst Impressions
I am obsessed with tales of Jack the Ripper because no one really knows who he was. [Editor’s note: It looks like they might have?!]  This book, the first in a series, offers an alternate history of Jack’s reign of terror.

Drive-by Summary
Arabella Sharpe, orphaned and at the mercy of her grandmother, is finding life within the stifling cage of social propriety boring and unfulfilling. Her grandmother has decided to “toughen” Arabella’s character by sending her to Whitechapel to volunteer at a woman’s hospital. Life there is rough and dark, but Arabella has resolved to stay and help no matter what the cost. She is soon a first-hand witness to the dilemma of the poor and unwanted when things take an even worse turn.  Aided by her “visions”, Arabella gets deeply involved with a secret society bent on catching a monster. She quickly becomes instrumental in solving the gruesome clues left by a deadly serial killer as she follows “him” through London’s East End.  This book is definitely a page-turner with a twist on a story that has been told and retold.  You will not be disappointed with this series.

My Favorite Character
I love Arabella’s character and the strength it takes for her not to turn and run away.  She does not settle into a life of comfort and makes her own decisions to be an active member of a society that sees her as a mere object.

Words to Live By
At the beginning of each chapter, there are quotes from Jane Eyre which remind us of how women were regarded during the Victorian era:

“I was weary of an existence all passive.”

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow minded… to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to play on the piano and embroidering bags.”

Recommended For
This is a young adult book, however, the story kept my adult-self intrigued to the last page and have now moved on to the next book in the series.  Also, this series is the author’s debut novel.  She has a PhD in Nineteenth Century British Literature which gives this series the realistic edge that conveys the social conformities and how, during that time, things had to change.

Final Say
It is not often that I come across a well-written and pragmatic mediation on the purpose of life in a novel.  This series will teach and leave the reader with a sense of curiosity about the indignations of how people regard one another according to the social norms of the time.

You can check out Ripper today!


Short, Scary Reads

Scary Short Stories

Who remembers this inexplicably terrifying read?

How do you get prepared for Halloween?  Design costumes?  Decorate?  Watch a million scary movies?

I prefer, not surprisingly, to read – because there is nothing like a really scary book to keep you up all night with the lights on.  But it is sometimes hard to devote yourself to a full-length Stephen King thriller when you are working, partaking in Doctober or Fire Drink with Me,  and working on your way-rad Halloween costume.  This is why story stories are the bomb.  They give you a quick, powerful punch of horror that will keep you thinking (and worrying!) for days.

So, I was totally going to make my own list of favorite scary short stories for you, but Flavorwire has beaten me to the punch.  They have a list of the 50 Scariest Short Stories that includes some classic favorites (Lovecraft, Bradbury) and some new talent (Russell, Gaitskill) that are sure to get your blood pumping.  It is a comprehensive, frightening list despite the fact that my two all-time favorites, All Summer in a Day and The End of the Party, were not included.

What is your favorite scary story?  Leave a comment below!

A Fine Romance by Susan Branch

A Fine RomanceThe Hook
What? A love affair with nature and in a country where gardens rule. Exactly what I like!

Tell Me More
I love art and journaling.  Susan Branch has an exceptional talent with watercolors and expresses everyday things into a joyful cacophony of delight. This book is a day-by-day account of the author’s trip through England aboard the Queen Mary 2.  It is luxuriously written and each chapter covers the must-see places that are close to Susan’s heart: the cottage where Beatrix Potter lived her final years, the Sissinghurst gardens, Jane Austen’s home, and so many other historical gardens thorough-out the English country side.


A Fine Romance !

Inspiration: Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.

Recommended For
Those who would love to travel, love gardens, and, of course, the artist in us all.

Final Say
I have purchased this book due to the details of the walking paths in the Cotswold and other little places along the way. It is a virtual journey one can live and relive without ever getting tired of visiting.

Grab A Fine Romance today!

– Keyla

Interesting New Titles from October’s LibraryReads List

The October LibraryReads list is here!   This nation-wide list is comprised of books read, reviewed, and voted on by librarians.  And there are some intriguing books coming out in October.  Here are the highlights:

A Sudden Light by Garth SteinA Sudden Light

“Garth Stein has given us a masterpiece. This beautiful story takes readers on a thrilling exploration of a family estate brimming with generations of riveting Riddell family ghosts and secrets. This is a true exploratory novel, taking readers through secret passageways, hidden rooms, and darkened corridors that engage all of the senses.” – Whitney Gayle, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT


As you wishAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden

“Even if you don’t have a crush on Cary Elwes, you’ll enjoy this vivid behind-the-scenes account of the making of The Princess Bride. His stories, especially those involving Andre the Giant, will leave you in stitches. Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal, and others also recount their experiences. An amusing account of a group of performers who came together to make a heartfelt film that is loved by many.” – Emily Weiss, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH


Malice by Keigo HigashinoMalice

“Detective Kaga is investigating the murder of best-selling author Kunihiko Hidaka. Hidaka’s wife and best friend both have rock-solid alibis, but Kaga discovers that the friendship might not have been what it seemed. A classic cat-and-mouse game with twists that keep the pages turning.” – Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA