Submitted by bookshelf on Fri, 04/11/2014 - 6:46pm
I managed to tackle eight books this month, which may, in fact, be a personal record. And I found myself exploring all kinds of genres: middle reader, memoir, short story. I may have covered it all this month, and the good news for you? Most of them are well worth your time, too.
Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.
I already devoted an entire blog post to my love for the first book in Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society, but it's worth mentioning again. So many middle readers come in looking for this series, and now I understand why. Parents, this would be such a fun book to read aloud with your young readers, and it's safe for them to read all by themselves, too. The books have a slight other-worldly feel to them, but they're not quite as intense as the Harry Potter series (of which I am an unabashed fan). Unlike a lot of middle reader's novels, I found this one completely readable as an adult; I bet you will too.
One More Thing by B.J. Novak. A lot of customers shy away from short stories, and I get it. So often, short stories are done poorly, and many times, readers are looking for a world they can get swept away in; it's hard to experience that with a short story. But this month, I picked up B.J. Novak's new collection on whim -- I'd seen him on The Office, and I couldn't wait to see if his clever writing translated to the page. It did. It really did. I absolutely loved this book. I loved it so much, I bought a copy (!). One More Thing may not be for everyone; it's smart and a little snarky, but you can't deny Novak is talented. I'd recommend this one for any 20 or 30-something, though I think older readers might enjoy some of his offerings too. That's the beauty of a short story collection; you can skip over the stories that don't immediately catch you.
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. Mother's Day is coming up, and I've got you covered. This memoir would make the perfect Mother's Day gift; I read my copy, then quickly shipped it off as part of a "Sisterhood of the Traveling Book" some friends and I have started this spring. Kelly Corrigan writes about her time spent as a nanny in Australia, where she was looking for adventure but instead discovered one major truth: She was becoming her mother. The story is funny and bittersweet; it had me laughing and tearing up. I've recommended this to friends and customers, and it's gotten positve reviews from all of the above. This one would be a fun book club pick for May.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.I have no idea why I'm late to the train on this one. So many customers have recommended Liane Moriarty, but the cover just read "chick lit" to me, so I waited until I knew I needed something light and fluffy for a weekend. Here's the thing, though: Moriarty's book is a page-turner, and at times it's light and funny. But it's so much more than that. Chick lit sometimes gets a bad rap -- maybe deservedly so, sometimes -- but this? This is just a good book. Alice comes to one morning at the gym, only to discover she's experienced a nasty fall -- and she's lost ten years of her memory. She woke up thinking she was nearing 30, only to discover she's a few weeks out from her 40th birthday. I adored this book, in part because I, too, am approaching 30, and it's amazing to me how we grow and change as people in ten years. What Alice Forgot is funny, but thought-provoking; clever, and truth-telling.
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern.This is the only book on my March reading list that has yet to be released to the public; The Meaning of Maggie comes out the first week in May, and I'll spend all summer recommending it to our middle readers. And you know what? I'll probably recommend it to some grown-up customers too. It's rare, I think, to find a middle reader book that an adult can relate to and enjoy (it's why The Mysterious Benedict Society is so special), but first-time novelist Megan Sovern has done an excellent job. Maggie reminds me so much of myself; when I closed the book, I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. Eleven-year-old Maggie has big plans -- becoming President of the United States, for example -- but there are important things happening on her homefront. Her dad's in a wheelchair, and her sisters are driving her crazy. I don't the last time I've seen a book that has so accurately portrayed those awkward first years of middle school. I love this book.
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick. I started my ARC of The Good Luck of Right Now way back last summer, and for some reason found it sitting dusty on my shelf this month. I was able to pick right back up where I started, and I'm glad. The story is a quirky one -- there's really no other way to explain it -- narrated by a nearly 40-year-old man who has spent most of his life caring for (and being cared for by) his mother. His mother had an unbridled passion for famous actor Richard Gere, so that's who the narrator begins directing his story to. The book is humorous and heartbreaking, filled with a cast of unique, charismatic characters. It's really a book about finding your family where you least expect it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox. Of all the books I've read this month, this is the one I'd recommend you get from the library (or from our sales rack, where a copy currently resides for 50% off!). It's not that the story isn't well-written -- in fact, Amanda Knox serves as a fairly competent narrator, and the subject matter is compelling. It's just not necessarily a book that absolutely needs to be on your shelves. Knox's story is one we've heard, especially if we've been watching The Today Show for years. I've followed along here and there, but it was far more interesting to finally get her whole story in her words. After reading, I've reached my own conclusions about Knox's account; I think you will too.
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. How did I never read Sisterhood Everlasting? I grew up on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series -- a great series for young adult (and adult!) readers -- but had never read the conclusion, never even knew it existed! But working in a bookstore does all kinds of magic, and last month, we did a lot of shelf-straightening, where I found this gem tucked away. If you're a fan of the sisterhood, you'll enjoy this final chapter -- and it won't matter if it's been years since you've read the others. It's charming and sweet, sad and realistic; the story picks up when the girls are approaching 30, and to see them as adults makes all kinds of bittersweet sense. Recommended, of course, for women like me who have long loved and known the sisterhood and the girls that make it up.
Submitted by bookshelf on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:03pm
One of the most difficult parts of the job (besides paying bills in the middle of January!) is finding books I think customers will like to read. Reading is such a personal thing, and it's sometimes a challenge to determine which people will like which books. Our toughest crowd by far? Those middle readers -- too old for picture books, but often too young (and maybe too discerning?) for those dark, romantic young adult books.
Emma is my husband Jordan's cousin. She's exactly at that middle reader age -- 12 -- and she's a pretty critical reader. If I can find a book Emma enjoys, I know I've done my job, because she doesn't make it easy. She doesn't do fantasy, and her parents like age-appropriate books. Emma wants books that feel real, characters who remind her of friends and the people she knows. She likes mysteries -- but please, no witches or ghosts! -- and suspense, so you can see... I've got my work cut out for me.
The truth is, of course, that most middle readers are a lot like Emma. They know exactly what they want to be reading, but they're discovering those books are tough to find.
Why not, then, put a middle reader on the job? Each month, Emma will be reviewing a middle reader book or two on our store blog -- some books she'll love, some books she'll loathe -- but I'm counting on her to be honest. We'll stock her recommendations so your own middle readers can find new books to love.
Here, then, is the first installment of "Emma Approved."
I don't love all books, and I am very picky about the books I read. I will always be honest in my book reviews so I can help y'all find the right book. My first pick? The Christy Miller series.
Christy Miller is a 14 year old girl who has a dream summer ahead of her. She is staying with her rich aunt and uncle in their beautiful California beach home. Christy experiences many new things in California: makeup, boys, expensive clothes, and freedom. While in California, Christy makes many friends that care about her and teach her to see life with an eternal perspective.
Christy gets exciting news when she learns her family is moving to Escondido, California. Once they arrive in Escondido, she makes friends very quickly. But once Christy gets to know them, she realizes some of them are not what they seem. Christy’s vacation turns into a nightmare when one of her “friends” gets Christy into trouble with the law.
Christy returns to the beach to visit her aunt and uncle and is reunited with her friend Todd, who she really likes. Christy gets really close to him, and they begin to love each other. Christy has to face many trials along the way. Todd or Rick? Does he like me, or are we just friends?
This book is actually a collection of three Christy Miller stories, and it's perfect for spring and summertime reading.
About Emma: Emma is in the sixth grade at Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama. She's involved in many extracurricular activities include singing, guitar, and volleyball. She's a self-described "picky reader" who's making it her goal to be honest in her book reviews to help fellow readers find the right book.