Tag Archives: young adult books

I Absolutely Didn’t Hate The Haters

After my soapbox-declaring love for Jesse Andrews’ debut novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, let’s just say I was eagerly awaiting his followup, The Haters.

Best friends Wes and Corey love hating on everything, even the stuff they love. When we find them at the novel’s beginning at a super-competitive jazz camp filled with really intense campers they start hating on it immediately. But, as the great philosopher Swift once said, “haters gonna hate” and Wes and Corey find a likeminded hater in Ash, seemingly the only girl at camp. After bonding over their mutual hateship, the trio ditch camp, form their own band and go on tour, which turns out exactly like you’d expect a tour planned by pre-college teenagers to turn out.

bookcoverMe and Earl and the Dying Girl was a fairly mature young adult novel, what with (spoiler alert) one of the title characters (spoiler alert) dying from (spoiler alert) cancer, but with The Haters Andrews has doubled-down on the young adult experience, including all the ridiculosity and awkwardness that comes with it. Not to give too much away, it’s a much less sad book, but no less realistic. From Corey defying his parents for the first time to Wes’ first time having sex—in a scene that so closely resembles my own first time that I’m half-convinced Andrews was hiding in my closet—The Haters will undoubtedly have something in it to which you can relate, and it rewarded my eager anticipation in spades.

Similar to Wes and Corey, I was in jazz and concert band in high school, but I didn’t hate on it. As my classmates listened to the whispers of the Ying Yang Twins, Kelly Clarkson‘s complain about her career in optometry and the Black Eyed Peas sing about camels, I was plugged into my portable CD player (remember those?) listening for countermelodies, harmonies and other musical flourishes on the first CD I ever bought—the Jurassic Park soundtrack. Yes, I was that band geek.

Maybe it’s cliché to describe writing like this as “real,” but I can think of no better term. Andrews imbues his characters with a penchant for self-deprecation and I absolutely love that, mostly because I’m the mayor of self-deprecating humor. If you ever see me on the street, ask me to tell you about my one pickup line that involves me carrying a microscope around a bar. My friends get a kick out of it. Anyway, when Andrews uses this humor it adds a natural level of realism to his writing and it makes the characters feel like friends I haven’t met yet. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the world of The Haters and couldn’t stop myself from reading, even though I dreaded what I’d do with my life when I finished. I considered being an alpaca farmer a few times.

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“When I leave, alpaca this book.”
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While Andrews obviously excels at capturing teen angst and awkwardness, I’d love to see him branch out to more adult novels. I’m not asking for Fifty Shades of Grey written by Jesse Andrews (but now that I’ve typed those words I want nothing more), but I’m eager to see him tackle a different genre. For example, Matthew Quick maintains his style in both adult and young adult books, and although I’ve never read anything by James Patterson, I’m pretty sure he’s written books for every reading audience. He even wrote a book for zoo animals.

Wes, Corey and Ash might not be the most likeable characters in the beginning, but that could be the point. Do you remember what you were like as a teenager? Besides a lot more acne, you probably weren’t the pleasant bouquet of posies you are today. You most likely changed, as does our trio. Likewise, your opinion of them may change. No matter what flaws readers may perceive in The Haters, I’ll definitely be in line for whatever Andrews writes next. He wrote the screenplay for the movie version of Me and Earl and the Dying Girlwhich I also loved—so maybe an film adaption of The Haters is right around the corner …

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Shredfest!
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Part Scott Pilgrim with shades of a Monty Python sketch plus a lot of heart,  you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason to hate on The Haters.

–Ross

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We all have flaws

I just recently finished a book called Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. According to the book jacket, Ahern is the author of P.S. I Love You & Love, Rosie, and they were both made into films. This is Ahern’s first young adult novel. The book’s cover is what garnered my attention. It’s very simple, but the big F and a circle around it is hard to miss.

bookcoverThe novel’s protagonist is Celestine North, and she’s the quintessential perfect teenage girl. She gets good grades, has good looks, is polite and never gets in trouble. She also has the perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Art. Celestine lives in a society where everyone is supposed to be perfect. If you do something morally or ethically wrong, then you are deemed Flawed. They have to go to trial, which is run by an organization called the Guild, lead by Art’s father, Judge Crevan. After you’re deemed Flawed, you get branded. There are 5 places on your body where you can be branded:  your temple, the palm of your hand, your foot, your chest and your tongue.

Things are going great in Celestine’s life until their neighbor and Celestine’s piano teacher, Angelina Tinder, is accused of being Flawed and taken into custody. Angelina is later deemed Flawed. Celestine starts to question the system because she’s known Angelina practically her whole life and never saw a Flawed quality in her.

One day Celestine, Art and Celestine’s sister, Juniper, are on the bus on their way home from school. To give some background, on the bus there’s a special section of seats on the front of the bus for the Flawed and all of the other seats are for everyone else. This bus ride will change Celestine’s life forever. Anyway, two ladies who aren’t Flawed are sitting in the Flawed seats having a conversation, one of whom has a broken leg. A Flawed elderly man gets on the bus and he can’t sit down because of the ladies sitting in the Flawed seats. Suddenly, the man starts to have a coughing fit. Celestine sees what’s going on and has to decide whether she is going to help the man or not because if she helps him that’s considered aiding a Flawed and that’s against the law.

So, Celestine decides to ask the ladies to move so the old man can sit down. They refuse and act like the old man doesn’t even exist. Celestine helps the man into a seat and then is taken into custody. Judge Crevan wants Celestine to lie and say that she didn’t help the old man. If she does this, she would only serve two years in prison. Otherwise she will be deemed Flawed.

Initially, she does lie, but in the end she tells the truth, much to the anger of Judge Crevan. He makes her get 5 brands, the most ever. Crevan is so angry that he ends up secretly putting a 6th brand on Celestine’s spine. If anyone finds out that he did this, Crevan would be ruined. He’s so desperate to maintain his power that he’s prepared to do anything to keep it a secret.

The experience drastically changes Celestine. Now on the other side of society, people look at her differently. Juniper is afraid that Celestine is angry with her because she doesn’t speak up for her. Celestine’s relationship with Art is pretty much over because Judge Crevan doesn’t want her anywhere near his son. She is ostracized at school because she’s the only Flawed student, and some teachers even refuse to teach her.

Here’s an interview with Cecila Ahern talking about what her inspiration was to write Flawed.

There were some quotes in the novel that struck me. One was when Celestine said:

-have found that it is their right to express their opinion of me freely, as though it can’t hurt or alter me. It’s the branding that does that. And I know it. It dehumanizes me in a way to others. I’m to be stared at and talked about as if I’m not here.

To feel invisible or inhuman and to have people treat you with no respect just because you made one mistake has got to hurt. Personally, I wouldn’t consider what Celestine did a mistake. She was trying to help an elderly man who was in need.

Another quote that struck me was:

Good. You remember that. It’s easy to forget sometimes. Though criminals get better treatment than us. As soon as they serve their time, they’re out. We’re like this forever.

This quote was interesting because in our society criminals are reminded of what they did every day and find it hard to go back to their lives before they went to prison. Meanwhile, in this novel criminals are treated better than the Flawed, and that’s crazy to think about.

The last interesting quote was:

Everything has been given a soul in advertising. Yet the soul is being taken from people. Humanizing objects, dehumanizing people.

Sadly, I’m sure that we can think of plenty of characters from commercials that are given human qualities. Meanwhile, there are actual humans who aren’t treated with any respect because of who they love, what they believe in, the color of their skin, etc.

This book was very interesting to me, and along Celestine’s journey she goes through a lot and finds it hard to trust anybody except for her parents. The ending leaves it open for a sequel which commonly happens with young adult novels these days. Flawed  is available in our catalog. Does Celestine’s world sound similar to ours? What do you think of the flawed society? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

 

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Sarah J. Maas’s World of Assassins

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I read an article a couple of weeks ago announcing that an adult coloring book based on the Throne of Glass series would be released. It will be released on September 6th, the same day as Empire of Stormsthe latest book in the series. I started reading Throne of Glass months ago, but put it down to read other things. The article made me wanna go back to it.

I’m glad that I did, because the book was so great! Throne of Glass follows Celaena Sardothien, an assassin from a land called Terrasen. She was brought to the land of Adarlan by the Crown Prince, Dorian Havilliard, to compete in a contest to become the King’s Champion. Before that, Celaena was a slave in the mines of Endovier. For the sake of the competition, only a few people know Celaena’s real identity, and they are Crown Prince Dorian; the king; and Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Guard.

Celaena is underestimated throughout the competition by just about everyone because she’s a girl. Chaol is mistrustful of her throughout most of the book because of who she really is. Meanwhile, Dorian finds himself falling for her and she likes him too, even though she doesn’t want to admit it at first. As the competition goes on, contestants start to die. Celaena begins to look into why it’s happening, and she becomes skeptical of the people around her. Although Celaena finds that most people either don’t like her or are intimidated by her skills, she makes a friend in Nehemia, a princess who is visiting from Eyllwe.

Celaena is a strong, multi-dimensional female character that you can root for. I’m excited to continue on with this series. Throne of Glass is available in print, audio and e-book format in our catalog.

Have you read Throne of Glass? If so, what did you think of it? Read anything similar to it? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

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A Tangled Web of Crazy

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The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas is one of the best books that I’ve read in a long time. It’s a young adult book, but it reads like an adult thriller. One of the aspects of the novel that drew me to it was the setting. It’s set in Fayette County, PA, which is where my mother and her sisters grew up. Pittsburgh is even mentioned in the novel a few times.

The story centers around Tessa Lowell, who left Fayette County 10 years ago to live with her grandmother in Florida. She comes back to visit her father who is dying in prison. She left Fayette after she helped put Wyatt Stokes in prison for the murder of Lori Cawley, her friend Callie Greenwood’s cousin. Cawley was visiting for the summer from college. Tessa and Callie hadn’t spoken to each other since the trial, and Callie wasn’t happy to see Tessa, especially since she would be staying with the Greenwoods for the duration of her visit.

As the book goes on, readers learn that Tessa and Callie lied about seeing Stokes the night that Lori Cawley was murdered. Tessa and Callie go on a wild goose chase throughout the novel to discover the real killer. One of their childhood friends, Ariel Kouchinsky, is murdered and they try to find her killer as well for most of the book. As the novel goes on, Tessa discovers secrets about her family, former friends and even her own origin.

In addition to trying to find Ariel & Lori’s killer, Tessa is trying to find her mother, Annette, and her sister, Joslin, who ran away when she was a teenager after a fight with their mother. It’s a novel full of twists and turns. Every time, I thought that I had figured out who the killer was another plot twist was thrown my way. It’s an excellent book and is definitely worth reading. The Darkest Corners is available to request in our catalog in print format only. It will be released on April 19th. Happy reading!

~Kayla

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The YA Controversy

Occasionally when I know that I should write a blog, I struggle to come up with something to write about. When that happens, I go to GoodReads and look at my list of books that I’ve read to try and scrounge up some ideas or themes. Occasionally even when I go to the site, I still struggle to come up with an idea.

That’s what happened this time around, so I decided to just Google some favorite categories. For example, the always changing border of adult and young adult fiction. The idea that sometimes “kids books” are really excellent books for adults and sometimes “adult” books are really good books for young adults. The problem with this border is that the age range for young adult books is in flux. Depending on who you talk to, the age range can be from 13-25, 13-40, or 13-17. It just depends. I was looking for more books that I could recommend that was on the border when I happened upon this article.

I have heard that this article is “old news” now, but it still made me think about a couple of things and made me frustrated with the notion that ANYONE should be embarrassed about what they read, and that anyone should be able to tell someone that what they are reading is wrong/inappropriate/not literary enough. The article also made me think about the labels of books in general. I feel as though I have read books that should belong in young adult fiction but have been labeled as adult fiction instead and vice versa.

Here are two books, that I believe truly blur the lines of young adult and adult fiction. One has been categorized as adult fiction and one is young adult. Can you tell the difference? Is it obvious which is which? Oh! And no cheating!

queen of tearlingThe Queen of Tearling is about a girl who must learn how to become a queen. When her mother dies, Kelsea must learn about her past and the past of the country she will eventually come to rule. Facing sorcery and other dangers, she must battle for the light in a land full of dark.

divinersThe Diviners tells the story of a couple of characters who live in New York. There seems to be something in the air, because several begin to discover and become more accustomed to their secret powers.

I hope you enjoy the books, or don’t but either way it’s your choice.

Abbey

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The Untraditional Summer Reading List

Recently I’ve seen a lot of blogs about cheery/easy/uplifting summer reads. I get it, I understand why so many people like those types of books for over the summer. They are traveling and going to beaches and want a book that goes along with the freedom and joy of summer. However, occasionally I find that this is exactly the time to read sad/serious/scary books, because when you are done with the story you are able to look up and see a beautiful view and remind yourself that it’s just a book. Hopefully.

After the endAfter the End by Amy Plum

This is the first book in the series, and unfortunately the second one isn’t due out until spring of next year. However, it is still a book worthy of a read. Juneau, a young girl that lives in the Alaskan wilderness, is forced to go on a hunt to find her family, that she believes has been kidnapped. During her hunt, she discovers that what she believes (that the world ended in 1984) is not true, and people have been existing and creating for the past 30 years. This book is fascinating and adventuresome, and forces the reader to ask a couple of questions about survival.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Most of this book takes place at a lake house during the summer. Many people would think that would make this book a traditional summer read, but pick it up and you will discover that it is not as close to a summer read as one would hope. The story is from the point of view of a young girl whose family is owns an island that she gets to visit every summer. And then one summer she meets and falls in love with a boy. What happens afterward is capable of wrenching every reader’s heart strings.

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay is the story about a young girl that has a very important and life or death decision to make. That may seem drastic, but that is what the tale is about. Although sad, this book is capable of making the reader think about what there is beyond what we see and deal with on a daily basis.

I hope that you take a chance and read at least one of these books.

Abbey

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Stacking ‘Em Up: Our Favorite Reads From 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a library blog in possession of a good staff must be in want of a best books post. Library workers are frequently their own best customers, passing titles back and forth with reckless abandon, buttonholing colleagues in stairwells to insist they check out the book that kept us up late swooning (or shivering). Nothing brings us more joy, however, than turning those efforts outward and sharing our favorites with you.

The Eleventh Stack team consumed a mountain of reading this year (probably taller than Richard, and he’s pretty tall). Here are some of the ones we enjoyed most.

Maria:

turncoatThe Turncoat by Donna Thorland

Though labeled historical fiction, this book has a passionate and sizzling romance at its heart, so I would call it historical romance as well. The first book in the Renegades of the Revolution series, I loved this dangerous romance set amid the intrigues of Revolutionary War Philadelphia. Quaker country-girl-turned-rebel-spy Kate Grey falls for British officer Peter Tremayne despite their opposing allegiances. I especially enjoyed its life meets fiction aspect as George Washington, John Andre, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen all make appearances here. I look forward to reading more in the series from this debut author. Thorland, who is also a filmmaker, made a fascinating book trailer; I think it would make a great movie.

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Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

My poor hometown. Native metro-Detroiter and award-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff writes a raw and thoroughly readable portrait of the Motor City’s state of emergency, from its abandoned neighborhoods, horrible city services, double-digit unemployment rates, and rampant crime to the die-hard residents who refuse to give up. A moving and frightening account of the decline of a great American city.

Melissa F.

I spent most of 2013 hanging out with some questionable, unreliable, but incredibly memorable characters from the Gilded Age.  You don’t get much more eyebrow-raising than Odalie from The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell’s debut that has been described as “part Hitchcock, part Patricia Highsmith, and part Gatsby.” It’s a phenomenal, can’t-put-down read that I’ve been recommending all year long.  Also of note is The Virgin Cure , Ami McKay’s historical fiction story of a twelve year old orphan in 1870s New York that is based on the true story of one of her relatives.  

The OrchardistAnd then there was benevolent Talmadge from The Orchardist. I adored Amanda Coplin’s luminous debut novel with its grand, overlapping themes of morality and religion, of being one with the earth and the eternal struggle of good versus evil. It’s been compared to The Grapes of Wrath (this one is way better). Like Steinbeck, Amanda Coplin joins the list of authors who have given us a true American classic.

(Other highly recommended books in case the Gilded Age isn’t your thing: Tenth of December and In Persuasion Nation, both by George Saunders; Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan; Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, The Bird Saviors, by William J. Cobb, When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald!), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon and Dog Years by Mark Doty (listen to the audio version); Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon, and Songdogs, by Colum McCann.)

What can I say? In the words of Sinatra, it was a very good year.

JessBurial Rites, Hannah Kent

If you’ve had good experiences with Alice Hoffman and Geraldine Brooks (Kent even gives a shout out to Brooks as a mentor in her acknowledgements), then this is for you.

In rural Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir has been tried and accused of murder – and now must await execution in her home district. No prison means she’s forced upon a family who obviously wants nothing to do with her. Over the next months, Agnes is put to work on the farm. She slowly begins to open up about her messy past to a young priest, chosen for a long ago kindness, and to the wife of the household, who begins to see a Agnes as woman who has been worn down by a harsh life. Based on true story of one of the last two executions in Iceland, Kent deftly blends some amazing research with strong prose to weave a story about woman who was truly a victim of her circumstances.

SuzyTraveling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker. Suzy really enjoyed this book a lot, but is not here to tell us about it because she is off riding her bike someplace not currently buried under several feet of snow. We are extremely jealous of very happy for Suzy, and hope she comes home soon to tell us more about the book.

Leigh Anne

Much to my surprise, the two books I’ve enjoyed most this year were both set during World War II. I’ve never been much of a war buff, but that’s a testament to how the power of good fiction can make you more interested in history. In this case, the novels were Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.

Life After Life –the tale of an Englishwoman who keeps reincarnating as herself and trying to kill lifeafterlifeHitler–has cropped up on a number of best/notable lists this year, including the New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and I’ve already reviewed it earlier this year, so let me just say this: what an ending. When I read the last few sentences, and the light bulb over my head finally went on, I was amazed at how cleverly Atkinson had made her point: no matter how hard we strive as individuals, we can never act out of context. We always need other people to help us achieve our objectives, even if we are strong and clever.

verityCode Name Verity takes us behind enemy lines as Verity the spy and Maddie the pilot tell their stories in alternating sections. The crux of this novel–which I also reviewed earlier this year–is truth: who’s telling it, who’s hiding it, and how flexible it can be depending on how high the stakes are. For Maddie and Verity, the stakes are very high, indeed, and I loved that the book, while intended for a teen audience, didn’t shy away from the horrors of war…or deliver a tidy happy ending. If you want a great portrait of what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII, pick up this novel….but be prepared to have All Of The Feelings. If you adore Wein as much as I do after you’re done, you’ll want to move on to her 2013 release, Rose Under Fire, in which pilot Rose Justice is captured and sent to the concentration camp Ravensbruck.

It was really hard to pick my favorites from what turned out to be an amazing run of excellent reading this year. Some other books I devoured include Letters From Skye (historical romance), Longbourn (historical fiction), and The Son (epic southwestern family saga). And now I must stop, before I blog your ear off…

bookcover Joelle 

I do love fantasy books! My favorites for this year were The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Both of these books have already achieved positive critical acclaim, but I will add mine:

The Golem is created by a mysterious and mischievous Rabbi as a bride for a young man who is set to travel to New York from Poland. The Jinni had been trapped for centuries in a lamp which also made its way to New York City. They both try to fit in to society with their separate supernatural talents, but recognize each other as different right away. It is interesting to see these magical beings from two different cultures coming together. The author creates characters with unusual and distinctive personalities.

ocean Neil Gaiman is the master of creating fantasy worlds that do not follow any specific cultural tradition, yet are somehow universal. A man journeys back to his old home town, and is drawn to a place only half remembered. The reader is transported to the mind of a seven year old, a time in a person’s life when one is very vulnerable, and when one can accept magic as a matter of fact.
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Holly
Nestled behind the International Poetry Room on CLP-Main’s second floor, you’ll find one of my favorite places in the Library.  The Oversize Book Room is home to volume upon volume of giant, gorgeous books. These are books that are graphic-heavy, photo-heavy, and often really heavy in weight, and therefore they do not fit on our regular book shelves/make great impromptu weapons.  Fashion, art, landscape photography, crafts and home repair are some of the subjects that you can find here.   One day while helping a patron find another book in this section, I stumbled upon the splendid  Jack London, Photographer. This is my favorite book of 2013 because it exemplifies what I love most about the Library and the serendipity that lives here.  I had no idea that Jack London was a photographer, and a talented one at that!  This gem contains somewhat disparate, at least in terms of location, photo collections.  They are a fascinating  look at early 20th century history through the eyes of a classic author.  Chapters have titles like ” The People of the Abyss,”  which is a stark look at impoverished Londoners in 1902. Battlefields are a subject as well, such as  those of  the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and the Mexican Revolution of 1914.  I loved this book because it was a rejuvenating break from my usual reading of text-heavy new fiction and new nonfiction.

Don

For me this was an unusual year, and my reading reflected all the strangeness. I found myself reading old (Kim by Rudyard Kipling), new (A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki), rereads (The Final Solution by Michael Chabon and The Fall by Albert Camus), pastiche (The Mandela of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu), Buddhist fiction (Buddha Da by Anne Donovan), science fiction (Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian MacDonald), and the truly, wonderfully bizarre (Duplex by Kathryn Davis).

Part of the unusual nature of all this is the fact that, thematically, there is a great deal these books have in common. There are all kinds of connections between them, come to think of it. And really, there is not a book listed above that you can go wrong with, but, since we are picking favorites, here we go…

My favorite book of the year turns out to be a tie between the first two listed: A Tale for the Time Being, and that hoary old chestnut, Kim. Both of these books surprised, in different ways. I was frankly stunned by how good Kim (and Rudyard Kipling) is. I’d always thought of Kipling as just another dead old white guy, with a penchant for British colonialism and simplistic stories, who might easily be ignored for, oh, 50-plus years or so. And was, by me.

It really is delightful to wake up every day and realize how very, very wrong you can be.

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Ozeki’s book is difficult to describe, so I’ll let the author speak for herself (from her website):

A Tale for the Time Being is a powerful story about the ways in which reading and writing connect two people who will never meet. Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary, washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Kim is part quest–for self and for meaning–, part old-fashioned adventure via the time-honored motif of the journey, and, consistently, a fine, penetrating story on what it means to be human.

Yes indeed, how very good it is to wake up each and every day.

Melissa M.

5In5Of course my favorite book this year was a cookbook, specifically Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. I’ve watched this man on television so many times now that as I was reading the recipes I could hear them, inside my head, being read to me in his voice. Now, Michael does cheat the five ingredients rule a little because he uses items from his pantry that are not part of that total number. The first section of the book, after the introduction, is a list of what items should be in your pantry at all times. These include things like extra virgin olive oil, a variety of vinegars, pasta, canned beans, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and other spices. You probably already have most of those in your kitchen cupboards, so no worries there. The recipes are not complicated; most have only 3-4 steps. This is food you could cook on a weeknight and would want to eat. Plus, who wouldn’t love a cookbook with a chapter called “On a Stick”? Foods on a stick rule!

There you have it! Your turn. What were your favorite reads of 2013, whether new finds or old favorites?

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