Beth Reynolds has been a bookseller for 20-plus years, 12 of them at the Norwich Bookstore. She spends her weeks in the children's section of the Norwich Public Library, but on Saturdays you can find her here, helping a child find the perfect birthday present or recommending books to adults looking to get lost in a good read.
Starting out with Schneider’s latest I was instantly engrossed. But then I got about midway and it started to feel all “Fault in Our Starsish”-- which I believe is the technical term -- and I wondered if I could handle that again. All that weeping and the prolonged sadness that lasts long after you finish the book. But then I realized it was too late, I was already invested and I couldn’t just disengage from these characters. Perhaps reading is a little like life that way, if you try and avoid the messy bits, then really what’s left? Should you really sterilize your life; is that possible? Which in a way is the theme of Lane and Sadie’s time in the institution. There they are trying to lay low and heal, but Sadie shows him how to break the rules. They figure out how to beat the system and make it into town as if they are normal kids. I felt like they were the kids I see at Starbucks in Hanover and as I read I imagined passing them on the street and waving hello. This sadness and poignancy in YA literature has become a fascination of mine, but it’s really the characters I cling to. Lane and Sadie made me see the world a little differently. Reading Extraordinary Means was definitely worth all the tears.
Alexander’s book is all about the loss of her husband at the age of 50 and how she and her boys were able to keep living in spite of their sadness. She is eloquent in her desperation and her grief as she illuminates for us the ways in which she kept moving on. I found her words to be honest, heartfelt, and stripped of sentimentality. I don’t think she didn’t set out to write a how-to guide book for survival, rather what she created is an outpouring of feeling and emotions expressed in the way of a poet. Reading her prose was unlike anything I had experienced before, as if there was an undercurrent of music between the lines. Only musical terms like crescendo, adagio and allegra would do a description justice. Requiem never entered my mind. As she relates these events to us, we see firsthand the meaning of bittersweet.
This second novel in Smiley’s epic trilogy follows the Langdon family for several more decades, from the 50s up to the 80s. We have new generations to learn about and the family tree has a few more branches. With each new chapter, you can tell Smiley cares about her characters. She gives intimate details -- not just the shiny and sparkly ones -- but the joy and the grit in equal measure. The family has spread out now and we see the Iowa farm is faring as well as the homes of those living on each coast. It is such a gift to follow some of these characters from their birth all the way to their death, all the while marveling at the way in which paths cross and lives intersect. Yet in the end we are left wanting the third and final installment. None of us sure if we want to come to the final last page but needing to know how the days and years play out for these characters we have come to know and love. I’ll be counting down the days until book three is released in October.
It may not be pretty, it may not be glamorous, but the honest truth of it is this: Sarah Dessen delivers solid books you can count on. She honors her readers with compelling stories of teens in realistic situations. While reading about a character who acts like a friend or a classmate one can discover their human foibles and personality flaws, because Sarah breathes life into the characters she creates. Too often we read for the Who or the What, Sarah gives us the full-throated, big-hearted Why. She digs in deep to give us believable characters we come to know and love. Spend some time with Syndey, get to know her and the life she's living. It will raise your bar for great teen lit.
I’m so pleased and excited for Tara's latest offering, that I want everyone to take it home and have this same experience in their own kitchens. You may ask why you might need yet another cookbook, but take one look at it and you may ask: How could I not? And all of the interactions that come after: the cooking, the baking, the eating with family and friends, will make you happy that you did.
I have been a faithful reader of Tara’s blog for many years now. Her family recipes have inspired my own cooking in a variety of ways. I’ve got a notebook full of print outs they are stained with ingredients from being well used and well loved. Some of them – both savory and sweet – have become my go-to's. I love the way Tara breathes life into her words, somehow taking on a conversational and instructional tone. She is both friend and teacher, and very talented. The pictures that often accompany her essays give me an instant craving for whatever she is cooking.
Arnold, who often writes for an older audience, totally captures the anguish of losing a friend and leaving your home. Iris has left California for the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Soon after her family settles in, she starts a new school and unexpectedly meets Boris. Their’s is not your typical like-at-first-sight friendship. He’s a bit of a know-it-all who loves to play Magic the Gathering. In spite of Iris’s protests, learning to play the game is the focus of their afternoons. When she discovers he was a “miracle” baby, their bond deepens. In return, she teaches him how to soften a bit and how to meet friends. This is a story of loss, starting over, making peace with the past but most importantly a book that celebrates friendship and family. It’s refreshing to see Iris interact with her less than perfect parents, the nicknames and rituals special to any family. I adored her hairless cat, Charles, who finally becomes happy with a knitted coat. Somehow, in Oregon, Iris learns to dance in the rain and embrace the life in front of her instead of worrying about the way her life could have been.
Here the artistry happens at the level of the sentence. Julavits gives us the convention of a diary, but the daily entries but not chronological. We see her life in Maine and New York, interactions as a parent a spouse a friend, teacher, daughter--all the roles one might play in the course of a life. Taken together, each day adds to the mosaic of a year, forming a complete picture of her activities, intentions, secret thoughts and desires. She says in an early passage that the real trick is getting the hand to write. Emotions flow through the pen and make their way to us, the reader. I love Heidi and have read almost everything she's written, including the fabulous Women in Clothes. When I heard about this latest book, I was gleeful, and then was so pleased to see her talismans grace the cover of the NYT book review. If you were intrigued or interested to discover more about the inner workings of a writer, let this review bring you closer to picking it up and losing yourself in the days.
Mousataki’s latest work is hard to categorize; the back of the book is blurb by two animal people, and inaugural poet, a memoirist and a fiction writer. There’s so much emotion here-- for her grandfather, her birds… All of it leading up to the painful honesty of her addiction to alcohol. Her writing is heartfelt, yet I did not feel burdened by her remembrances; it wasn't just dumping information and standing back to say “There you go, Reader”. Nikki has written 25 books on the care of exotic birds, which is a method by which she shares all of the information she has accumulated over the years. Perhaps writing this memoir was a way to examine what's happened in her life and to make a connection, a chance perhaps for a reader to identify or be inspired. Not just overcoming a substance abuse problem, but learning how to deal with obstacles we all face. I picked it up because of my love of Paris and discovered so much more than I expected. I seem to be in the mood for memoirs and if this is your choice of genre, you won't be disappointed. There is a real sincerity in the way she crafts her sentences and conveys these emotionally wrought experiences of growing up in Florida, losing her home, relatives passing and making her way through school and hitting rock bottom. Here you will find love, loss, the power of a natural world connection, and how family can give us the foundation on which to stand.
There are countless books written each year told from one character's point of view. Often we are left wondering just what goes on inside another character's head. What motivates them, how do they see the world? Joyce's second novel takes us back to England at the time of our beloved Harold Fry's pilgrimage, but this time we get the backstory of his relationship with Queenie. And more importantly we get insight into the life of David, his son. Not every story an author writes needs to be revisited, but Joyce shows true compassion for our hospital bound Queenie, showing us her life with Harold and the years after when she lived by the sea and spent her days creating a garden. As we become witness to the end of her life, the other patients in the hospital slowly evolve into living, breathing personalities that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. (Finty is my girl!) Not every journey one embarks on involves leaving home or setting out on foot. Queenie never leaves her bed, yet she is able to take us on a different kind of pilgrimage; with exhilarating highs and lows of deepest desperation -- all within the pages of a book. This novel is one that is meant to be admired and savored -- with a box of tissues within reach.
I got in the car the other day and Peter Gabriel was singing, it sounded like these words were meant for me. 'Grab your things I've come to take you home.' Whether it's a city or country or a state of mind, we all have these places that feel like home to us. Sometimes a song can wrap us in a blanket of belonging. Even books can welcome us with open arms when we crack open the cover and start to turn the pages. With exquisite artwork and carefully rendered drawings of diverse environments, Carson even gives us a glimpse into her own surroundings. Each delightful spread is filled with detailed artwork -- the more you look, the more you see. She gives us examples of real and imagined places one might live, expanding our children's mind on the concept of where one might exist and broadening their concept of what is required to make one feel as if they are home. A charming look at where we belong and poses questions that linger, perfect for family discussions about where and how we live.
In the words of Alice Sebold, 'these stories come alive, put on zoot suits and wrestle you to the ground.' Audrey Niffenegger, Michael Chabon, Lev Grossman and Neil Gaiman admire her immensely, and with good reason. She takes a familiar element like potential adoptive parents, a young woman choosing a boyfriend, or another woman writing a Dear John letter and spins it on its head. It reminds me of those Spin Art kits for kids. We could all plop in the same drops of paint, turn it on and wait to see what happens, but Kelly's will surely turn out to be a unique masterpiece. I urge you to pick up one of her stories and try a few paragraphs, then see if you don't agree that shes one of the most original and talented writers around.
Emma Hooper has given me everything I love in a novel: letters, lyrical prose, and parallel storylines--both present day and past. I saw her author photo, read her bio and thought “We could be friends.” I love the story that Hooper conjured up surrounding Etta; her journey on foot, fueled by her longing to see the ocean. And all the while, Otto is home baking and working on paper mache creatures. I wanted to be able to sit and chat with him, eat some cinnamon rolls and marvel over his accidental masterpieces. But the story isn't all sweetness and charm. The backstory of the war grounds their tales in a harsh reality, bringing to light everyone's resilience, including dear Russell. And James is a quirky addition to the story, demonstrating Etta's compassion and her need to be with and care for others. Fully imagined and realized, Hooper's debut novel is the beginning of a long and amazing career, filled with characters I can't wait to meet.
An historical whodunit that intertwines the magician's story and her arrest for a murder in 1805. Reading this tale of love and betrayal I couldn't help but conjure up memories of watching “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige.” Speaking as someone who adores anything to do with magic, I kept reading to see if Macallister could actually pull off this daring feat of prestidigitation. She is a playwright, a poet and a suspenseful storyteller -- all her talents are on display here.
Bergman's research is beyond compare and her excitement in reimagining scenes for these woman compels you to keep reading. Each story is a gem, sparkling with humor and clear insight into the essence of what made these women shine in their everyday lives, even if they were soon to be forgotten. Bergman breathes life into these women and makes us want to be more observant of those kick-ass women we see everyday. Finishing this collection gives you an appreciation for the way they dealt with their less than stellar circumstances -- with moxie, gumption and joie de vivre.
Niven combines the strong characterization of Eleanor & Park and The Fault in Our Stars with the raw reality of 13 Reason Why. Her writing is achingly exquisite, capturing the essence of two teens in need of support and acceptance, In looking through my marked up copy I came across passage after passage that made me shiver when I read them through again. I found unforgettable sentences on pages 97, 103, 135, 168, 190, 201, 215, 222, 228, 255, 265. For teens and adults alike, for anyone who loves reading about characters so real they could walk off the page or writers who look for beautiful passages and hold them close. But don't take my word for it: All The Bright Places was a number one Indie pick; booksellers all over the country have fallen in love with Violet and Finch.
Farizan brings the all the emotion, insecurities and unsuredness of high school to her latest novel. Leila does her best to navigate through the world of friendships, homework and crushes as she continues to feel like an outsider. She announces her true feelings to the reader, but not to her friends, and we become co-conspirators in her daily life. So much feels intimately familiar. Who hasn't felt the pain of waking early to get ready for school, the lie of trying to remain friends and nothing more or walking around in a crush-filled haze? It's these details and the universality of Leila's experiences that transcends the story and connects with readers no matter their gender or partner preference.
Still Writing follows in a long, proud lineage of how-to books from some trusted and revered authors: Stephen King, Anne Lamott, and Annie Dillard. So, too, does her collection of essays feel like having a conversation with a friend, and that writing something of your own is actually possible. Organized in three sections—Beginnings, Middles and Ends—Shapiro presents a copious amount of information in a small amount of space. Her advice is instructive, insightful and pulled from her own hard-won experiences. She has dedicated the book to her mentor Grace Paley. Reading about their time together made me miss Grace all over again, which is it's own source of inspiration. I’m on my third time through Still Writing and each time I find a little nugget of truth to hold onto, something to fuel the fires and keep writing when putting down the pen seems the easier option.
Dr Thomas Eapen isn’t performing surgery at the hospital anymore, instead he’s at home trying to talk to his dead son. Called back to New Mexico to help with the latest family crisis, Amina leaves her life as a photographer behind to try and discover what’s going on with her father. While dealing with her own devastating loss, she meets up with the boy she used to love-- complicating everything. Life in America isn’t quite what anyone had expected it would be, but the ways in which the Eapens deal with heartbreak and happiness makes this tale of familial love truly stand out. Jacob’s debut of immigrant life shimmers as it shows all the ways in which we hang on to the past. This debut novel takes us through decades and across continents. Lyrical passages, tempered with the reality of the sandwich generation, illustrates this truth: You can’t outrun the past—or your parents.
I love this little librarian, her recommendations and her adorable storytimes. I wish I could be more like her when I grow up and that I had a few owls for assistants. This is a book I would happily read upon request no matter how often the little person wanted to hear it: at bedtime or naptime or just because it’s Thursday.
A high-contrast, but simple palette provides the perfect backdrop for this endearing story. It turns out libraries--and bookstores--offer more than just books. (But of course, you probably already knew that.)
Kids' faces are sure to light up as they make their own discoveries in this artfully rendered picture book. Harkening back to a simpler time, the striking color palette makes the book truly stand out and promises to be incredibly engaging and interactive. Thoughtfully created and beautifully crafted, this is the way a picture book experience was meant to be. Give this as a gift and you'll be the coolest grown-up around. Sit with a child as they turn the pages and they'll want you to stay forever.
If I could have any fictional friend come over for an afternoon it would have to be Will (aka Wildcat) Silver. It would take me a "handful of ands"' to describe all of the trouble we would get into. With her tomboyish ways and her engaging manner, Wilhelmina Silver is going to be quite the spritely mover this season. No sooner will she be in your store, then she'll be on her way home ready to make a believer out of anyone who pokes their nose into these pages. Here's the opportunity for all of your spirited readers to cartwheel, flip and dance for joy at the chance to read an unconventional and utterly delightful story.
From the very first sentence you suddenly find yourself sucked in--you need to know who did it and exactly how did it happen. But then you keep reading and you realize that Theresa is a really likeable character, someone you might be friends with. And after a bit you glance up at the clock and wonder where exactly the time has gone? But then decision-making time arrives--do you choose to keep going or do you close the book and save it for another day? If you say A well then congratulations you've won the race to the finish, but if you said B then you'll be well-rested enough to try and figure out the end of the book before you get there. Either way, a nap when you've finished will be well-earned. And you'll have the satisfaction of knowing if Theresa was able to save her brother from spending the rest of his life locked up for Kim's murder.
If you had the chance to go back and revisit a time in your life, back to a crucial fork in the road, would you make the same choices or different one? It’s a quirky rabbit hole we've fallen down as Georgie and Seth try to make their TV show a hit. We head back to college with them, back to the beginning of it all, when Georgie first finds love. It turns out that everybody has a backstory, and it’s a crazy cast of characters: Georgie’s mom, her very young step-father, the pugs, and Georgie’s sister ordering too many pizzas. The question remains, if Georgie messes up the past, will it screw up her future? Funny and sweet, I hesitate to say Eleanor and Park for the older crowd (because that would be setting the bar skyscraper high,) but Rowell creates a couple you'll root for both in the past and present.
It's amazing how having the simplest of tools can change one's life amidst tragedy and destruction. In Pinkney's lyrical novel-in-verse, Amira's desire for school, books and a world beyond her own lifts her arduous journey off of the page. Our hopes ignite as we cheer her on, applauding the courage and
perseverance that eventually bring her to a new future -- one filled with possibility and promise. Reluctant readers who look for a book with white space throughout will find themselves caring for a Sudanese girl and a little red pencil.
Westerfeld's new novel is all about connections: Lizzie and Yama, this world and the flipside, Darcy and the other debut novelists, author and reader, reader and story. It takes a talented writer to pull off two
compelling stories: one written as a teen author and one that subtly pokes fun at the whole YA publishing world. Before you know it, the intertwining tales draw you in and suddenly you are third strand that completes the literary braid. It's the type of book that will have you making excuses to friends so you can stay home and read until the wee hours of the morning.
Paige takes a beloved literary/cinematic icon and turns the whole story on its head. Literally. In this new version of Oz, everything as we know is upside down and right side up. Dorothy has become a little too obsessed with her new found power and must be stopped. Everyone thinks our new little heroine, Amy, is just right for the job. But who should she trust; is everyone she thought to be evil really on her side? This is one of those books that must have originated from a curious author asking, "But what if?" It's fun, sassy and even though it's written for teens you won't want to let this good time pass you by. If you've always had a soft spot for those flying monkeys, this book's for you.
Hard to imagine how its even possible to create such beautiful writing from such a devastating tragedy. McKeon's debut novel glitters and sparkles like something elusive and wild; you can't help but chase after it in the hopes of catching it and keeping it for your very own. His writing makes me want to take back everything I've said about other novels. If I were a gambler, I'd put all my money on this one. If I could I'd rent one of those billboards at a football game to proclaim how amazing this story is. I want you to look past the obvious sadness and sorrow, and trust me when I say its worth it. This is the novel you really must read. It gets under your skin and somehow transforms you quietly from the inside out.
Some books are the gateway to another world: a few pages in and you lose yourself entirely. Shipstead has worked her magic here in her sophomore novel. Somehow she managed to unlock the backstage door and is quickly ushering us inside. From the behind-the-scenes vantage point, we witness the dancers in their entirety: their lives in front of the stage lights and under the street lights. Their persona for the audience and the stripping away of the costumes and make-up, to the person hidden underneath. Come spend some time--as they say in "A Chorus Line"-- At. The. Ballet.