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Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction Buffs’ Category

Last night, on a GORGEOUS Spring evening just before Mother’s Day, readers from Rhode Island gathered in Newport to hear about some superb new books to bring to the beaches this summer, and to give to moms on Mother’s Day.

The evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”.  This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, educators, librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles.

This time, we gathered for the first time ever outside our home state of Vermont at the Salvation Cafe in Newport. There we sipped drinks and turned pages, all with the goal of raising money for BabySteps, a Rhode Island based early childhood education center.  We focused on GREAT books for summer reading, because summer is just around the corner, and Newport is a great place to remember the pleasures of beaches.

Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their mother’s day shopping during the event, and most got a good start on stocking up on great summer reading.  We also raised around $600 for BabySteps, while increasing sales for a treasured independent bookstore – Island Books of Newport and Middletown, Rhode Island.
Since most of you could not join us in person, we now share the great titles discussed in Newport. This post lists all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. Each of their selections is linked to Island Books web site where you can learn more about the picks and order your selections. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier.  Have fun looking, and enjoy getting a head start on your summer of great reading.

Our SUPERB presenters included (and we truly thank them for their time and talents):

  • Ann Hood, Acclaimed Author – Ann is an avid knitter, a nomad, a book lover, and a writer. She travelled all the way from Providence for this event. She’s also a native Rhode Islander.
  • Linda Finn, Board Chair of BabySteps, an early childhood learning program – Linda is a first term, part-time State Representative for Middletown and Portsmouth. She also owns and operates Linda Finn Garden Design, a residential landscape design firm; is a founding member of RI Coalition Against Gun Violence; and, is the Board Chair of BabySteps.
  • Judy Crosby, Owner of Island Books – Judy is the owner of Island Books in Middletown and Newport. When not working at the stores you can find her at home in Portsmouth reading, cooking or gardening. With “Pages in the Pub”, she fulfills the longtime dream of having a book event at the Salvation Cafe thanks to owner Sue Lamond, champion of all things ‘local’ and great supporter of Island Books!

And representing the Book Jam:

  • Lisa Christie, Co-Founder of The Book Jam – Lisa is, among other things, the co-founder of the Book Jam and a nonprofit consultant. One of her best jobs was being the founder/first director of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a statewide literacy organization. And, while she loves living in Vermont, she was VERY excited to be in Newport for an evening.

 

 

Non-fiction or reference book – For people who like to ponder large tomes during summer vacations

  • Centrist Manifesto by Charles Whelan (2013). Selected by Lisa – Usual politics tiring? He proposes solutions.
  • The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2013). Selected by Linda – Friendship, politics, muckrakers. Facts like fiction!

Memoirs – For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories

Adult Fiction – For women who have time for the best fiction while at the beach

  • After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman (2014). Selected by Ann – Secrets, lies, disappearances, a tangled web!
  • Under the Wide & Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (2014). Selected by Ann – Improbable, impassioned, adventurous, unforgettable love story.
  • We Are Water by Wally Lamb (2013). Selected by Linda – Very modern, engaging, family drama.
  • The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (2014). Selected by Judy – Multi-layered coming-of-age. Keeps pages turning.


 

 

 

 

Adult fiction – For men who have enough camping equipment, but not enough good fiction

  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra (2014). Selected by Lisa – AMAZING writing. Chechnya conflict. Great characters.
  • Orfeo by Richard Powers (2014). Selected by Linda – Intrigue, internet, music fuel this mystery.                                 
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (2014). Selected by Judy – Mars Mission. Accident.  Man’s struggle to survive.

 

Cookbooks or coffee table books or reference books – For your favorite grad or dad

 

Books for summer campers/ young reader (ages 8-12) – books for those beyond tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics.

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (2014). Selected by Lisa – Lonely girl uncovers painting. Solves mystery.
  • Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody (2013). Selected by Lisa – How a boy inspired Robin Hood.

Books for your favorite High Schooler – “not required” reading for teens to ponder during the long hours of summer vacation

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (2002). Selected by Judy – Must-read (or re-read) for everyone before movie!

BONUS – PERFECT books for the moms in your life, or last minute gifts to ensure a Happy Mother’s Day

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Since in the very near future many, many people across the USA are heading to airports and getting in cars for April school vacations or for Seder and Easter dinners, we thought we would highlight a few great audio books for you to listen to during those long car rides, or to download to your devices for those plane trips. And since one of us always has young children in the mini-van making adult audio fare impractical for her, and the other Lisa’s work commute is too short for audio books these days, we also asked for help from two of our great local booksellers when we searched for audio-books intended for mostly adult audiences.

No matter where the road takes you, we truly hope you enjoy these picks. And yes, each of these picks is good in the printed form as well.

And, if you do not have a reason to listen to children’s literature, please skip to the end where there are picks just for you.

For families with pre-schoolers to 2nd graders in the car

Magic Tree House Series, by Mary Pope Osborne (assorted years) – Seriously, the phrases “Magic Tree House”, or “Jack and Annie”, are magic to the preschool set. These words are all you need to know to entertain pre-schoolers for hours. We promise. We have recommended these to hundreds of parents and grandparents and have yet to receive a complaint. OK we have heard one – the author, at a book a year, does not write and record fast enough. So now a synopsis of what causes all the fuss. In this series, siblings, named Jack and Annie, time travel in a magic treehouse that appears periodically in the woods near their home. While listening to these books, your kids learn a bit about all sorts of historical times and people, all while thinking they are part of an amazing adventure. You, as the adults in the car, get to know your children will not ask “are we there yet” as long as the audio-book is running. Bonus: The written versions make great early chapter books for emerging readers. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For families with elementary school aged children in tow (depending upon the kids, probably best for 2nd grade and up)

Same Sun Here by Silas HouseNeela VaswaniHilary Schenker (2012) – An interesting audio book with alternating narrators reading alternating chapters telling the story of two pen pals — one in NYC and one in rural KY — and the adventures they share via printed page and letters mailed through the US Postal service. Bonus: We know it is shocking that they used pen and paper even though email was available (the novel is set just after 9-11), but maybe you can discuss how you survived the “Olden Days” before email as you listen with children. ~ Lisa Christie


Frindle (1996) or No Talking (2007) by Andrew Clements – Mr. Clements is a former elementary school teacher and principal who truly seems to understand kids, and seems to have a special place in his heart for young troublemakers. Both of these books take place in a contemporary school setting where students cause a bit of a mess for themselves and/or the adults in their lives. Listen and enjoy the humor of elementary school aged students and the adults who work with them. Bonus: If you like these books, Mr. Clements has written many, many more, and someone has recorded them all for you to hear. ~ Lisa Christie

For families needing a good book to appeal to kids in 3rd to 12th grade

The Hobbit (1937) or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (1954) by JRR Tolkein - The “oh so British” narrator is superb. The content is both interesting enough for the teens in your car and adventurous enough for the elementary school aged. And since the only visuals are in their head, the plot is not too scary for most upper elementary aged kids. Bonus: You can cross some “classics” off your high schooler’s college prep reading lists. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For families with teens and above

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (2003) – The US President won a grammy for his reading of his autobiography.  You will win greater knowledge of his life. Pre-teens and teens can relate to his story of how hard his mother made him work at school.  Parents can ponder his comments about how parenting with his wife Michelle caused him to think hard about divisions of labor in households and the chores that typically fall on women, whether they work outside the home or not. Listen and have fun road-tripping with the President in your ear. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox (2002) – Yes, this choice may seem cheesy at first glance, but his life is full of ups and downs that make great stories (alcoholism, stardom, Parkinson’s). The book is well-written and funny. Yes, we said well-written; and yes, he admits he got some advice from his brother-in-law Michael Pollan. Bonus: Honestly, having his voice in your car is like a lovely conversation with a long lost friend or an intense introduction to someone you would like to know. ~ Lisa Christie

For times when mostly adults are listening


NOTE: These next choices are picked by our friends Liza Bernard and Carin Pratt of the Norwich Bookstore. Both have a long enough commutes to listen to numerous audio-books.

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson and read by Bill Bryson (2013) – Humorist Bill Bryson, tackles the events of 1927 in his latest book. The players include Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone. The New York Times review declares this book “a wonderful romp.” Carin’s review of the audio-book, “well done”. ~ picked by Carin 

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (2013) – Carin says, this novel is “one of the best I have read this year. And, the audio version is well read.”  Both Lisas of the Book Jam loved this book about the Chechnya Conflict as well, and will review it in a post soon. ~ Picked by Carin

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibon (2013) – Katie Kitchel, another great Norwich Bookstore Bookseller, picked this novel as her staff pick recently.  To quote her – “Don’t let the slim size of this novel deceive you. It is full of haunting questions, powerful imagery, and the emotion of a mother who has lost a son. This novel seeks to remind us, that first and foremost, Mary was a mother.” Liza is now recommending the audio-book. Since it is read by Meryl Streep, we have no trouble imagining why. ~ Picked by Liza

Department Q Detective series by Jussi Adler-Olsen (assorted dates) – We have sung the praises of this Danish series in its written form. Now Carin, a very well-read woman, has told us they are delightful in their audio-book form, especially the voice of Assad, the main detective’s trusted assistant. ~ Picked by Carin

Jack Reacher Mysteries by Lee Childs (assorted dates) – “Fun, well-plotted mysteries that are well narrated in the audio form.”  Never Go Back is most recent. ~ Picked by Liza

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The Book Jam is of two minds about African-American history month.  On the one hand, any excuse to delve further into books by amazing authors who are African-American (see Toni Morrison) is a reason to rejoice.  On the other hand, we do not want to seem belittling by focusing on African-American history just because it is February.  And, since one of our sons (who technically is Latino) is identifying as a Black boy, we are especially cognizant of the complicated issues this month brings to light.

Martin Luther King Jr.Civil Rights MovementBlack History FactsAfrican-American Soldiers in the Civil WarHarriet TubmanMarch on WashingtonFreedom Rides

We also recognize that as white women, we can not ever know what it is like to be Black in the USA.  However, we believe as recent well-publicized research about reading has shown, good fiction has the power to transform and teach.  So in that light, and, since The Book Jam often features books by or about African-Americans and/or Africa, we are choosing to look at February as another excuse to highlight more great fiction and nonfiction options by and about African-Americans. May we all learn something. 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid (2014) – I sincerely hope any Oprah nay-sayers are ready to overlook her pick of this book for her book club.  If you dismiss this novel just because she chose it, you will miss out on a great story. Besides, we honestly believe that any book that helps you understand the day-to-day plight of African-American slaves and the forming of two important American abolitionists is worth your precious reading time.  The narration mostly takes place in Charleston, SC and alternates between the voices of a young woman slave owner and of her young slave.  The prose by the best selling author of The Secret Life of Bees keeps you turning the pages, the characters are interesting, and few of the relationships are simple – which makes you think.  What I most loved about this book — both of the narrators are based upon actual people from history. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (2013) – Yes, that John Lewis, the Congressman and the man who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., has (with two collaborators) written a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. Told in flashback as a story relayed to two young constituents who came to visit his Capital Hill offices on the morning of Barack Obama’s first inauguration, this book begins with his childhood in rural Alabama and follows Mr. Lewis through meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. and into his student activist days in Nashville.  The pictures perfectly explore how his life must have felt at the time.  The prose explains what he was thinking as each of the momentous moments of his life unfolds.  According to the authors, the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was inspirational to Mr. Lewis and other student activists.  We hope March proves as inspiring to future leaders.  We are so glad we found this book (thanks to our town’s children’s librarian), and are truly looking forward to Book Two. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations Edited by Retha Powers and Henry Louis Gates (2013) – Perfect for anyone interested in history, famous individuals or words of wisdom.  Five thousand (although we took the editors’ word for that number and did not count them) quotes are pulled — covering such diverse time frames as Ancient Egypt, American slavery, the Civil Rights Era, Apartheid, and today. With a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and passages from authors, artists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, activists, politicians, this volume places quotes from Aesop’s Fables and the Holy Bible beside the words of Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Jay-Z. How many books can claim that? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And yes, we reviewed these last year, but we believe they are worth mentioning again -

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – As the author himself facetiously writes, please read this as part of your preparation for African-American history month activities. Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston makes readers think hard about their own racist tendencies.  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. Bonus – it makes you laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (2011) – A book for children and the adults in their lives.  In this book, three young slaves, two of them President Jefferson’s own children fathered with his slave Sally Hemings, tell their stories of life at Monticello.  Their voices highlight the contradiction between slavery and freedom, and illustrate the USA’s struggles while the Founding Fathers still lived and worked.  As such, the USA’s history unfolds from a typically unseen perspective. ~ Lisa Christie

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Luckily for anyone still looking for great books to give to friends and family this holiday season, our 2013 holiday gift themed Pages in the Pubs continued in Hardwick, Vermont on December 3rd.

Once again, our goals were to uncover great gifts for our readers, raise money for libraries (this time, Jeudevine Memorial Library), increase sales for superb independent bookstores (Galaxy Bookshop), and gather a community of book-lovers together, bringing business to a local restaurant (Claire’s). Once again, the list the presenters came up with is eclectic, and full of superb ideas for giving.

This post lists all 21 books that at least one of the four Hardwick presenters picked as a superb holiday gift. Each has a special six word review written by the presenter.  Their selections are linked to the Galaxy Bookshop’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. Our Hardwick presenters included:

  • Jerry Schneider – Jerry was born and raised a few miles from “Winesburg”, Ohio and taught English a few years before heading to Montana. He is a children’s librarian/educator in schools. In summers does nature programs in libraries. He is working on a YA novel about a father, son, and baseball.
  • Lisa Sammet – Lisa is the Library Director at the Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick. She’s been a librarian, youth librarian, English teacher, farmer, and Peace Corps volunteer. She also has been a professional storyteller performing in schools and libraries for over 30 years.
  • Linda Ramsdell  – Linda opened The Galaxy Bookshop in 1988 and has enjoyed opening boxes of books and putting them in the hands of readers ever since. Linda considers herself extraordinarily fortunate to have spent half of her life in a place where books, people, ideas and imagination meet.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog.  In previous times, she was the founder and Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works as a non-profit consultant/independent bookseller.

Have fun looking at the selections. We truly hope you enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone (you can download from the link), or from an in-person visit to your local independent bookstore. Enjoy!

MEMOIR FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHERS’ EXPERIENCES

End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. Selected by Lisa S. – As mother dies, she and son read.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

   

Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Lisa C. – The world unfolds through fun illustrations.

Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by D. J. Brown. Selected by Linda – Gripping and inspiring window to a world and time.

50 Foods by Edward Behr. Selected by Linda – Opinionated culinary guide with fun illustrations.

 

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH TOYS BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Selected by Jerry – Classic glimpses of small town lives.

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Selected by Lisa S. – Two friends. Iraq War. Poetic. Tragic.

Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver. Selected by Jerry – Shows why Carver is the best!

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION

  

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  Selected by Lisa S. – Follows friends from camp. They mature.                        

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Selected by Lisa C. – Not Eat Pray Love. Just great fiction.

Bitter Almonds by Cosse. Selected by Lisa C. – French woman tutors. Immigrant teaches. Sparse.

ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE

  

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Selected by Jerry – Can Jake alter events around JFK?         

Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Linda – Spectacular storytelling, expansive scope, real and imagined.

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. Selected by Linda – Pure laugh out loud fun.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION: FOR TEENS & TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM

 

The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier. Selected by Lisa S – Time Travel, Mystery, Adventure and romance.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Selected by Jerry – Can classmates get beyond extraordinary face?

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS: THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES, BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS

 

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill. Selected by Lisa C. – For Little House Fans. Gold Rush.

True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Selected by Linda – Heartwarming, historic, memorable characters & mystery.

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

 

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert. Selected by Linda – Horses! Reindeer! Travel with Anja. Magical.           

Journey by Aaron Becker. Selected by Jerry – Red marker, imagination, & her spectacular journey!

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Tom LichtenheldSelected by Lisa S. – For littles who love machines & need sleep!                    

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Lisa C. – Crayons protest. Readers laugh. Great gift!

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On a chilly November evening one week before Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, readers from Norwich, Vermont gathered to hear about some superb new books to give this holiday season (even if only to give to oneself).

This evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”.  This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, public librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles. This time, we gathered at the Norwich Inn, sipped drinks, and turned pages, all with the goal of raising money for the Norwich Public Library.  This time we focused on GREAT books for holiday gift giving.  Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their holiday shopping during the event, and most got a good start on checking off their lists.  And, we raised over $1,000 for our superb local library while increasing sales for our treasured independent bookstore.
This post lists all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter.  (Yes, we again limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room in this post, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each of their selections is linked to the Norwich Bookstore’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier.  Have fun looking, and enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished early from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone.

Our superb presenters included:

  • Lucinda WalkerLucinda has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library for 11 ½ happy years.  Her journey to librarianship began at the Windsor Public Library, where she spent many a long Saturday afternoon in their children’s room. When she’s not wrangling 7th graders at NPL, she loves skiing, making chocolate chip cookies and dancing with her family.
  • Penny McConnel – Penny has been selling books for 30 years and cannot imagine doing anything else.  She lives in Norwich with her husband Jim, a retired dentist.  When not reading or selling books, Penny can be found cooking, in her garden, singing and for two months in the winter enjoying life with Jim in California.
  • Stephanie McCaull – Stephanie’s most recent reincarnation is a book-devouring, nature-loving, dinner-making, stay-at-home, but rarely-at-home-mom to two kids and two dogs, but with a husband Philip to help. She lives in Norwich and loves daily crosswords, monitoring peregrine falcons and endless walks in the woods.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog.  Previously, she was the Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and Everybody Wins! USA, literacy programs that help children love books.  She currently works as a blogger, non-profit consultant and occasional bookseller. She lives in Norwich with her husband Chris, two sons & a very large dog.
  • Lisa Cadow – Lisa, co-founder and co-blogger of The Book Jam was our emcee for the evening. She is also the founder of Vermont Crepe & Waffle and the food blog Fork on the Road. She works as a health coach for Dartmouth Health Connect. She lives in Norwich with her husband, three teens, three cats and an energetic border collie.

COOKBOOKS: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO COOK UP A CULINARY SNOW STORM

 

Dinner: A love story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Selected by Stephanie – “Go-to” recipes +humorous narration = family winner.

Notes From The Larder by Nigel Slater. Selected by Penny – Readable Cook Drool Eat Classy Creative.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

  

   

Reader’s Book of Days by Tom Nissley. Selected by Lucinda – An essential for all book lovers.

One Summer, America 1927 by Bill Bryson. Selected by Penny – Aviation, Politics, Baseball, Weather, History, Geology.

Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Penny – Beautiful. Children, adults explore illustrated geography.

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. Selected by Stephanie – Poetry. Dogs. Love. Perfect for gifting.

Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil MacGregor. Selected by Lisa – Museum Director explains Elizabethan objects. Insightful.

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylander. Selected by Lisa – Great illustrations. Funny, yet reverent. Gift!

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION  

 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Selected by Lucinda – She’s born. Lives. Dies. Lives. Ectera.

Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth GIlbert. Selected by Penny – Desire, Adventure, Compelling, Botany, 18th Century.

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH, BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

  

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Selected by Lucinda – Suspenseful mystery surrounds a reclusive director.

Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd. Selected by Lisa – It’s Bond. Read it. Have Fun.                                         

Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Penny – Historic fiction. Ireland. Didn’t want to end.

ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE 

   

Benediction by Kent Haruf. Selected by Lisa – Slow-paced. Gorgeous prose. Great characters.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Selected by Stephanie – Lagos-NJ-London. Savvy immigrant perspective. Surprising. Engrossing.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. Selected by Lucinda – Coming-of-age & quirky. Highly entertaining!

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Stephanie – Crayons creatively air grievances. Giggles abound.

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS (AGES 8-12): THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS      

Wonder by RJ Palacio. Selected by Stephanie – Ordinary inside/extraordinary outside. Inspiring. Real.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION — FOR TEENS /TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM      

                             

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Selected by Lucinda – It’s 1986. Misfits, comics & love.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Selected by Lisa – WWII Women Pilots. Concentration Camp. Important.

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On one day each year in the United States we honor and remember the soldiers who have died fighting in this nation’s many wars.  So today, on this Memorial Day holiday, we expand the honors and recognize fallen soldiers and sailors, as well as men and women currently serving in armed services throughout the world.
We salute them with books that honor the work that they do each day — often far, far from home — on behalf of each of us.  We remember them with books that offer insight into conflict and resolution, victory and loss, good and evil – with the hope that they inspire and offer insight into achieving a more peaceful future. And while war provides plot lines for many great novels, in the interest of time and space, we only selected a few titles for today’s recommendations.

9780399157769City of Women by David Gillham (2012, paperback 2013). This story often reads like a Hollywood thriller, with staccato dialogue punctuating its pages bringing to life a wartime Berlin. I appreciated the perspective offered by new author Gillham of a once great European city in 1943 inhabited primarily by women as all of the men had gone off to fight for Hitler’s army. There is intrigue and espionage, sex and illicit affairs, and a reluctant heroine who starts to fight for the resistance.  This is one of those books that helps the reader to perhaps better understand the psyche of the German people who became participants in an unfortunate war. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see this book appearing soon as a movie in a theater near you. ~Lisa Cadow 

Transatlantic by Colum McCann (June 2013) – When the National Book Award winning author of one of my favorite books  – Let the Great World Spin – writes a new book, I am very happy.  When the book is superb, I am even happier.  Transatlantic takes three stories: 1) two British WWI veterans who are the first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, 2) Frederick Douglass and his fundraising trip to Ireland, and 3) Senator George Mitchell’s journey as he brokered peace in Northern Ireland.  He then uses the lives of three generations of very strong women to tie these three seemingly disparate events together.   How does this book fit in today’s blog theme?  Well, each of the characters in it is significantly affected by their history with war — be it WWI, The Civil War, or the Irish conflicts.  But beyond this fit, I loved the well-picked prose, and I truly enjoyed the company of each of the memorable (historic or otherwise) characters in this novel.  I was also intrigued to read in the acknowledgements that Mr. McCann spent time with Senator Mitchell to talk about what brokering peace entailed and meant.  It is truly a gorgeous novel. ~ Lisa Christie 

A Few From Year’s Past:

FC9780452295292City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008). A looter named Lev and deserter Kolya are cellmates in prison tasked to find a dozen eggs in a wartime St. Petersburg  for a Soviet colonel who needs them for his daughter’s wedding cake. This unlikely pair brave frigid temperatures, hunger, danger, and despair to try and deliver this most ridiculous imperative. One of the most endearing, brilliant, WWII books I have read yet. ~Lisa Cadow

 A Century of November by WD Wetherell (2005) – Years ago when my father-in-law, a retired Marine Corp Colonel and a retired high school history teacher, called this the best book about war that he has read, I listened. Bonus, the author lives so close to us that The Book Jam can visit him. ~ Lisa Christie

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imgres-3In just a few more turns of the page it will be here:  Sunday, May 12th, 2013, Mother’s Day. This occasion offers an opportunity to honor your own mom and the other special maternal influences in your life.  It is a day for breakfast in bed, a family walk through the springtime landscape, presents, dinner out at the local inn – and if a mother is really, really lucky, some time to curl up quietly with a good book.

For some the stress of finding just the right gift is too much.  For others the pressure of creating the perfect experience for mom brings out cold sweat.

So, may we suggest a hand-made card tucked into one of these special titles, and a the gift of an hour of uninterrupted reading time. And if you are a mother, consider picking out one out  of these for yourself – you deserve it.  (Don’t worry Dads – your turn will come in June, and we promise good books for you too.)imgres

Our 2013 Mother’s Day selection includes:

 The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013) – This engrossing, entertaining story follows a group of friends from the moment they meet at summer camp.  It then chronicles their lives as they go to separate colleges, get married – sometimes to each other, try to live on entry-level salaries, find and lose success, become parents, face an assortment of crisis points and well, just live their lives.  Told from the perspective of Jules Jacobson, a girl from the suburbs who infiltrates a group of sophisticated young Manhattanites when sent to their camp on a scholarship, this novel is populated by complex, and well “interesting”  characters who come together and apart as their lives and their interpretations of New York City change.  In fact, “the City” itself is a character changing as mayors come and go, crime increases/decreases, AIDS epidemic enters, finances collapse and twin towers fall.  The Interestings explores friendship, how to make a life, and what to do with your talents and dreams.  Perfect for moms who attended summer camps, lived in the 70s or 80s or 90s, ever had a life-long group of friends, and for anyone – mom or not – looking for a page-turning saga. ~ Lisa Christie

9780316175678The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (2012). I was immediately drawn into to this stark, beautiful novel, a tale set in Alaska in the 1920’s.  Older homesteaders Jack and Mabel have left behind their life in the eastern United States to carve out a farm on the frontier, an existence which has proven starker and more difficult than they had imagined, leaving their finances strained and their spirits dwindling.  One night, during the first snowfall of the winter, they build a snow girl together and by the next morning a real little girl has taken its place – filling Jack and Mabel’s life full of wonder, hope, and uncertainty.  This book introduces the reader to strong characters, weaves in traditional fable and fairy tale, creates a sense of magical realism, all while  drawing a portrait of a very real and particular time and place in America’s history.  It seems an apt choice for a mother’s day post as it tells the story of a couple who have long wished for a family and then parenthood – along with its challenges, love, and learnings – finds them when they least expect it.  Recently named as a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. ~Lisa Cadow

 Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith (2013) – The power of stories, the power of trains to make strangers friends, and the power of love come together in this brief gem of a book.  Four strangers sit next to each other on a train from Edinburgh to London: a female and three males.  Two are young (20s), two older (let’s say past 40).  One man opens up with a story of why they are on the train – a new job, but tied to a girl.  The others follow with their own stories (of their parents’ lives in the Australian Outback, of forbidden love of their youth, of the importance of trust in a relationship).  By the time they part in London, you know something about each from their stories and their reactions to the stories of the others.  You also know a bit more about yourself.  A must-read for any mom in your life who ever traveled by train. This book will help them remember all the people they opened up to for a few hours in a railroad car and may lead to a few new stories, you never know. ~ Lisa Christie (Oops – we just realized that this is not available until June 11th, but we think Moms will like it so much we kept it in this post. This way you can pre-order it today, and extend Mom’s Day into June.)

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