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Into the Woods...

Into the Woods...

posted by:
May 2, 2012 - 1:02am

Baby Bear Sees BlueMy Bear GrizA House in the Woods

Take a break from technology with three charming stories full of simple, yet wonderful elements, where kids are encouraged to experience nature and explore their imaginations.

 

In Baby Bear Sees Blue, a curious bear cub and his mother spend the day from morning to night, exploring nature and its many colors. The rustic, brightly colored images have a vintage feel and beautiful details. Similar to woodcuts, the illustrations are made from images carved on linoleum blocks, then black ink applied to print outlines of scenes. The outlines are then hand-colored with watercolor. The simple, yet lyrical, language leads the reader through Baby Bear’s world as he experiences the warmth of the yellow sun, the tickle of an orange butterfly, the delicious smell of red strawberries, and the boom of gray thunder, ending in a beautiful, colorful surprise. This book is a nice way to learn about colors and nature together.

 

Remember your imaginary friend?  Billy loves bears, especially his enormous friend, My Bear Griz. Griz is, of course, short for grizzly bear, and the two explore the simple joys of childhood – playing hide and seek, looking at stars, sharing secrets, and more. The story develops slowly through homey, unaffected line drawings using biro (the commonly used British term for pen) and watercolor. Short, simple, wording and white space allows imagination to blossom and fill in the pages with new adventures and ideas.

 

Soft, muted earth colors and gentle illustrations of pencil, pastel, and wash, draw the reader into A House in the Woods, a whimsical story of two little pigs who each build a special home in the forest.  While the pigs are out for a walk, Moose and Bear move in. Unfortunately, they are a bit too large and the houses are a bit too small, so the little pigs’ creations are accidentally destroyed. Back to square one, these four unique friends decide to build a new, much bigger home together. They hire a ready team of Beaver Builders, who cheerfully request to be paid in peanut butter sandwiches. Readers can share the process of building the animals’ new forest home and learn about teamwork and the fun of having different kinds of friends.

 

 

Andrea

 
 

Evil Lurks in the Darkness

Evil Lurks in the Darkness

posted by:
May 1, 2012 - 8:22am

The Night She Disappeared"It should have been me."  Gabie is shocked when her coworker Kayla vanishes one night while performing a routine pizza delivery.  However, her fear intensifies when Gabie discovers that the man who ordered the pizzas asked if she was on delivery duty that night.  So begins The Night She Disappeared by April Henry.

 

Kayla’s abandoned car is found along an isolated road.  Nearby, a bloody rock is discovered beside the river.  Many people in the community, including the police, believe Kayla is dead. Her family even brings in a psychic who agrees with this conclusion. Only Gabie seems to believe Kayla is still alive and she becomes obsessed with proving this is true.  She finds assistance with this task, and some much needed companionship, from another Pete’s Pizza employee named Drew. Drew took the pizza order that led to Kayla’s disappearance, and being unable to help the police with any details about the caller’s identity, struggles with feelings of guilt and helplessness.

 

The story is told from multiple different perspectives: Kayla, Gabie, Drew, and "John Robertson", the alias used by the abductor. The reader experiences each day of the kidnapping from these character’s viewpoints, and with each passing day, the terror builds.  Gabie’s anxiety grows as she becomes more convinced that she is targeted to be the mysterious kidnapper’s next victim. Kayla is certain her time is running out. John Robertson is preparing to make his next move. 

 

Will Gabie be grabbed next? What will happen to Kayla? Can John Robertson be stopped before he completes his evil plans?  Read this exciting novel, and find out!

Jeanne

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A Whole Lot of Southern Fried Fun

A Teeny Bit of troubleCharleston pastry chef Teeny Templeton is back and once again finds herself caught up in the crazy in A Teeny Bit of Trouble. Small in stature but big in personality, Teeny is a lovable, quirky heroine who gets embroiled with nutty characters and wacky adventures.  As she says, “It's not every day that I bake a dozen Red Velvet cakes, learn my boyfriend may have a love child, and witness a murder.”

 

Teeny’s relationship with fiancé Cooper Miller is threatened when his high school sweetheart (and mean girl to Teeny), Barb Philpot tells Teeny their flame has been rekindled.  Of course Teeny resorts to surveillance, but her plan goes awry when she thinks that she witnesses Barb being strangled to death by a man wearing a Bill Clinton mask.  On top of that, before her untimely death Barb had ditched her ten-year-old daughter Emerson on Cooper . . . who may be Emerson’s father.

 

Teeny is charged with bringing Emerson back to her legal father in Teeny's hometown of Bonaventure, Georgia.  Once back home, Teeny is faced with bad memories, coded messages from the grave, and a possible black market of human parts.  West's second mystery has all the elements of a madcap Southern comedy sprinkled with deadly secrets and a lovely romance.  Readers who fell in love with Teeny in Gone With a Handsomer Man will be delighted with her continued escapades.  Newcomers will be running back to the first book to catch up. 

 

Michael Lee West lives on a farm in Lebanon, Tennessee which helps explain her ability to give readers such vibrant Southern settings in her novels.  She loves animals and also enjoys cooking, tablescaping, and interior design.  Foodies and decorating fans should check out her blog http://www.designsbygollum.blogspot.com/ where she offers “recipes and design for exhausted people” and every Friday is Foodie Friday.

Maureen

 
 

A 5-foot-tall Metal Chicken Named Beyoncé and Other Adventures

Let's Pretend This Never HappenedPopular blogger Jenny Lawson has written a new memoir that will appeal to fans of David Sedaris, Laurie Notaro, and Chelsea Handler.  In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), Lawson’s writing is hilarious, honest, and often profane. 

 

Lawson begins by taking readers through her delightfully weird childhood and upbringing in rural Texas.  Like many people, Lawson says her life and family are crazy, but she is certain that her family is crazier than yours!  Her father is a taxidermist, a profession which brought about some bizarre situations in Lawson’s life like the night he created a dead-squirrel hand puppet named Stanley to show his young daughters. 

 

She goes on to tell readers about her life now with her long-suffering husband Victor and their daughter.  Readers will laugh out loud while reading Lawson’s stories about a scorpion infestation in her house, her time working in human resources, and her misadventures with a 5-foot-tall metal chicken named Beyonce. 

 

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened also has some brutally honest moments.  Lawson opens up about her heartbreaking miscarriages, and her ongoing struggle with anxiety disorder.  In the end, she faces serious challenges along with the absurdities in life and manages to comes out laughing.

 

Lawson’s award-winning blog, thebloggess.com, also reflects warped sense of humor and ongoing love of strange taxidermy.  Lawson’s irreverent writing style is not for the easily offended, but her skewed sense of humor and sardonic wit will bring readers back for more.

Beth

 
 

The King Has Gone to the Village

King PeggyLife changes in unimaginable ways when Peggielene Bartels, a naturalized U.S. citizen and embassy secretary in Washington D.C., learns she has been elected the new king of a poor coastal fishing village in Ghana. She shares her engaging story in King Peggy: an American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village, coauthored with Eleanor Herman.

 

Bartels' improbable journey begins in 2008 with a 4 a.m. wake up call from a tribal elder. The current king of Otuam and Bartels’ uncle "will not be coming back from the village” anytime soon, an African euphemism for "he is dead."

 

Maintaining her American base while fulfilling royal duties a continent away presents an uphill challenge for Bartels, who takes her new role seriously. She frequently seeks spiritual guidance to know how she can make a difference. She finds the village of 7,000 people rife with corruption, discrimination and alcohol abuse, while at the same time lacking basic educational opportunities, clean water and health care. There is also the matter of keeping long dead ancestors happy. Fortunately (but not always) for King Peggy, she has a bevy of relatives ready to lend a hand, if not some comic relief. Her job is a big one.

 

This pithy, fast paced account is narrated in the third person and is rich with African symbolism, rituals, and humorous head scratching situations. Just like traditional Ghanaian kenté cloth (the patterns of which symbolize one's true nature) King Peggy's loyalty to family, feisty determination, and power of forgiveness represent the best efforts of one woman to make a difference one day at a time.

Cynthia

 
 

A Wall Street Love Story

A Wall Street Love Story

posted by:
April 30, 2012 - 1:01am

Bond GirlErin Duffy’s debut novel Bond Girl takes chick lit to Wall Street.  Bond Girl gives readers a sense of the pressure and atmosphere of working on Wall Street. This funny, fast-paced novel is a new spin on traditional chick lit that will leave readers wanting more.

 

Alex Garrett takes an entry-level bond sales position in world of “The Street,” which Duffy portrays as part high stress job and part frat house.  When Alex begins working at Cromwell Pierce, the all-male group that she works with dubs her Girlie, and she has to earn her place by starting as the team’s errand-girl. They definitely work hard and play hard.  One-upmanship is endless.  Hijinks include nonstop practical jokes, an errand to the Bronx for a $985 wheel of cheese, and the infamous $28,000 vending machine bet.  Alex’s life becomes a blur of work, office social engagements, and a disastrous secret office romance until the economic crisis brings her world crashing down. 

 

After Duffy lost her job at Merrill Lynch in 2008, she decided to pursue writing, and Bond Girl was the result.  Circumstances were sometimes exaggerated and names were changed to protect the innocent (or guilty), but many of the events in the book are based on things that Duffy saw and heard about in her time on Wall Street. Duffy is already working on her second novel, which will leave both the city and the world of finance behind. 

Beth

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Families: Lost and Found

Families: Lost and Found

posted by:
April 30, 2012 - 1:00am

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea Lost Saints of TennesseeGirlchild Every family has a story.  Three recent debut novels explore the unraveling of fragile families and the ever-present need for human connection.  In Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers, twelve-year-old Florine is growing up in a small Maine coastal town when her mother mysteriously disappears.  The disappearance has profound effects on Florine and her father and shapes the course of each of their lives.  Beautiful and tragic, Rogers provides a realistic look at small town life and independent people who must regroup and forgive if they are to build anything. 

 

In another book about familial relationships, The Lost Saints of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis follows a Tennessee family from the 1940s to the 1980s.  The main character, Zeke, is still haunted by the drowning which claimed his twin brother over a decade prior.  Faced with divorce and strained relationships with other family members, he impulsively leaves town.  His time away allows him to reflect and he eventually faces both the flaws and strengths of the family that shaped his life.

 

The most tragic and hardscrabble of the three novels is Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild. Hassman presents the dangerous and lost world of a Nevada trailer park through the eyes of one fractured family.  Rory Dawn Hendrix is seen by her family as their only hope.  She is smart, resourceful, and insightful, a change from the previous generations of Hendrix women.  Yet she is also still just a young girl, and the dangers of the community and its members threaten to engulf her and her plans for the future. 

 

Any of these three books would be good to take along on a vacation or for discussion at book clubs.  Enjoy, and look for more books from these authors in the future!

Melanie

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“Family, dogs, land, woods…

The World As We Know Itrivers, fish, fire, words.”  These are the choices of author Joseph Monninger when asked to describe his life in eight words.  These same words all figure prominently in Monninger’s newest novel The World as We Know It.  The story opens as brothers Ed and Allard Keer, young teens living along the Baker River in New Hampshire, rescue Sarah Patrick after she has fallen through the ice in the river; Sarah, in turn, saves Allard as he nearly drowns underneath the ice during the same rescue.  The trio becomes inseparable and the family theme is evident as Monninger explores the sibling, friendship, and romantic aspects of their relationships.

 

This quiet book is beautifully written.  Its style is reminiscent of Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety or Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River for both the almost reverent approach to nature writing as well as the keen examination of close relationships. The landscape descriptions are evocative and nature becomes not just the backdrop for the story but an omnipresent fourth character exerting its influence over the brothers and Sarah.  An environmentalist bent is evident but not at all strident as arctic ice melt, homing pigeons, fly fishing, and animal cruelty are touched upon.  Just as an accident on the river serves to bring the three children together, another clash with nature acts as the catalyst to break them apart as adults.  The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of tragedy and the process of grieving and its impact on longstanding familial and romantic ties.  A lovely piece of fiction, The World as We Know It is an insightful, interesting story and would serve as an excellent book club selection. 

Lori

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Up the Down Staircase

Up the Down Staircase

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:05am

The Maid of Fairbourne HallFor Downton Abbey fans looking for a fix until the new season starts, try The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen. Meet Margaret Macy who learns what life is like at both ends of the staircase.   Fleeing her stepfather who is trying to gain control of her money, Margaret abandons her pampered upper-class world when she is pressured to marry a man she does not love or respect.  With little money, a wig and glasses for disguise, and help from her own maid, she ends up as a housemaid at Fairbourne Hall.  Unfortunately, Fairbourne is owned by Nathaniel Upchurch, a gentleman who Margaret once spurned in hopes of winning his flashier brother. 

  

Once at Fairbourne, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life.  She learns the maid’s brushes, sweeps hearths, and empties chamber pots.  She has never been so exhausted, but if she can last until her next birthday she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt.  The money will be welcome and it will also ensure her independence.  But a year is a long time and her hopes of remaining hidden seem slim with so many prying eyes visiting Fairbourne Hall.  As a servant who is invisible to her employers, she is able to observe both brothers without their societal masks, and quickly realizes she may have misjudged Nathaniel.  And when one of the family is nearly killed, danger threatens to upset the tranquility of the Hall.

 

The dynamic of the separation between the titled and serving classes adds a strong element to this Regency historical.  Christy Award winner and RITA nominee Klassen delivers another perfect romance with a hint of suspense that is rich in fascinating details about life both upstairs and downstairs in a country estate.  

Maureen

 
 

Summer Lovin'

Summer Lovin'

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:01am

Somebody to LoveUp-and-coming Contemporary romance author Kristan Higgins has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years.  Her new novel Somebody to Love is a hilarious, sweet page-turner that will catapult her onto many romance readers’ must-read lists.

 

Parker Welles learns that her father has been charged with insider-trading and that he emptied the family trust funds to cover his losses.  The only asset that she has left is a house that a distant relative bequeathed to her, so she goes to Gideon’s Cove, Maine for the summer to flip the house.  Unfortunately, the house turns out to be a rundown beach shack, and she finds that her Aunt Julia was a hoarder.  Parker needs help rehabbing the house.  The only volunteer is James Cahill, her father’s right hand man who she has always called Thing One.   As they spend more time together, the situation between Parker and James begins to heat up and things get a little complicated.

 

This novel is a real treat for Higgins fans.  Somebody to Love revisits favorite characters from previous novels.  Parker made her first appearance in The Next Best Thing, and several other characters from that novel appear in this one.  The book is also set in Gideon’s Cove, so readers will get to revisit that charming small town and the characters that they know from Catch of the Day.

 

Fans of writers like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie will find a lot to love here.

Beth

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