A Beautiful Mess

Those of you familiar with the popular style and craft blog A Beautiful Mess will be delighted with this new book, A beautiful mess happy handmade home: Painting, crafting, and decorating a cheerful, more inspiring space. And for those of you not familiar with such messes… Welcome to a beautiful mess!

The book features home décor inspiration and has 90 DIY projects. If you’re looking for home and decorating ideas, look here.

AADL also has many other new craft and design books in the catalog if you’re interested!

NPR’s Books to Read, Books to Give

It’s that time of year when all the “best of” lists start popping up. NPR always puts together a nice, categorized list of recommended books called the Book Concierge. This year is no exception.

The site features NPR staff and critics guide to 2014’s great reads, and is easily filtered into categories for easy browsing, and you can choose more than one category. Want adult fiction AND a love story AND a short read – you can easily pluck it out using the filters! The lists include adult, young adult and children’s books. Give it a whirl and see what books you missed this year. Choosing new books was never so easy!

New Picture Book Roundup

Are you searching for something fun and new to read during Winter Break? Look no further than our great new picture books! We just got a bunch in and they are all wonderful. Here are some of my favorites:

Naptime: This fun book by Iris De Moüy will be a hit for anyone dealing with a reluctant napper. Through beautiful illustrations and snappy text, a whole herd of jungle animals list their extensive reasons for why they can’t nap. But have no fear! By the end of the book, all of the animals have learned how to take a proper nap.

A Library Book for Bear: Bear has seven books: three about kings and queens, three about honeybees, and one about pickles. He sees no need for any more books, but his friend Mouse is determined to show him the library. At first, Bear thinks all of the books at the library are terribly unnecessary, but a great storytime wins him over. Written by Bonny Becker, with lovely illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton, this book will delight your little library lover.

Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go: This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen this year. Compiled by the French design firm Crushiform, this book compares the speed of different animals, airships, boats, and more. The illustrations are simply gorgeous and the book is filled with facts. For example, did you know that an Indo-Pacific Sailfish is as fast as a Cheetah? Or that a Sphinx moth is faster than a racehorse? Learn all this and more when you check out this book!

A Possum's Tail: By Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow, this adorable book follows a young child named Sam as he goes to the London Zoo and picks up a group of possum friends. The illustrations are detailed and the rhymes in the story reminded me of Madeline. Children will be sure to enjoy this sweet story.

New Years' Intention

Truth be told, I’m not big on New Years Resolutions. The holiday hype and excitement tend to make me feel exhausted and inadequate before February finishes. Instead, I prefer to set an intention for the year, as I have found that this is a much more successful and forgiving way to make long term and consistent improvements. Like many, my intention for this next year is to eat better. More specifically, my goal is to learn how to nourish myself rather than just feed myself, and examine how certain foods add or detract from my well being. Ayurveda is the foundation of this type of thought.

Ayurveda is the ancient yogic study of the effect of food on your physical constitution, while factoring in one’s emotional nature and individual spiritual outlook. Sanskrit texts dating back 5,000 years teach of the three body types, or “doshas,” and how to best balance your whole being. One good place to start is with Suhas Kshirsagar’s “Hot Belly Diet”. Here you’ll learn the basics on how to determine your dosha, and create the optimum diet to improve overall health, balance hormone levels, and kick start your digestive ‘fire.’ Whether you suffer from chronic disease or acute ailments, deciphering your own ‘diet code’ is crucial to creating a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Girls Like Us: Great for Group Discussions and Teen Book Clubs!

Gail Giles's new teen novel, Girls Like Us, weaves the heart-wrenching tales of two young women thrown together by what at first seems like bad luck. Quincy and Biddy were in the special education program together in high school, and they were anything but friends. Biddy had a reputation with the boys and Quincy was well-known for her mean streak. When they learned they'd be living together cooperatively, they thought life couldn't get any worse.

Told from the alternating perspective of each woman, "Girls Like Us" slowly reveals abusive childhoods and cruel experiences that have shaped who they are today. Everywhere they go they carry the insults slung at them like parasites, the words so deeply ingrained that they are accepted as truth. Although much of the intertwined tale of Biddy and Quincy is an unflinching look at human cruelty, the heart-warming moments of gradual friendship make this novel worth the emotional toll. It both empowers readers and inspires reflection on memory, change, hope, friendship, and family.

Gail Giles has written several books for teens, including What Happened to Cass McBride? and Playing in Traffic. "Girls Like Us" appeared on the longlist for the 2014 National Book Award in Young People's Literature, and was inspired by several previous students in Giles' 20 years of teaching special education classes.

Herman and Rosie

The new book Herman and Rosie brought tears to my eyes when I opened it earlier this week. At once a celebration of individuality and a story of finding someone who truly understands you, this uniquely illustrated book is a story for all ages. It is obvious to readers from the beginning that Herman, an oboe-playing crocodile and Rosie, a jazz-singing doe, are meant to be together. Living in New York City, both enjoy the hustle and bustle of their busy lives, but sometimes find themselves lonely amidst the crowds. Ultimately, their lives must go through many twists and turns before their paths finally cross.

Author Gus Gordon does an amazing job of making this children’s book applicable to the young people it is geared towards but also engaging and adorable for older readers. I loved Herman and Rosie so much that I immediately bought a copy… and it’s not too late for you to add this to your holiday wish list, too!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #501 - “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.

2 UK debuts. 2 young women rising out of bleak adolescence to realize the individuals they are meant to be.

British cultural critic Caitlin Moran follows up her 2012 New York Times bestselling memoir How To Be a Woman with a debut novel - How to Build a Girl * * that draws from her own experience, having joined the music weekly Melody Maker at an very young age before becoming a prize-winning columnist at the London Times.

14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, the product of a large dysfunctional council-flat welfare family in the West Midlands, decides to remake herself after an embarrassing appearance on national TV. Almost overnight, the freaky fat girl who is at once "endearing, ­hilarious, pathetic, and wise" becomes the feared music reviewer Dolly Wilde (named after Oscar's niece - "this amazing alcoholic lesbian who was dead scandalous"), drinking regularly, having lots of sex, and writing acidulous reviews of rock bands. But it that enough?

"Moran's coming-of-age debut novel is both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, a treat for young adults as well as those who remember the era (1990s) and its music."

In Making Marion : where's Robin Hood when you need him? * * by Beth Moran, Marion Miller leaves behind her job as a library assistant, a doctor-fiance and a childhood of neglect and abuse in Ballydown, a hamlet in Northern Ireland for Nottinghamshire, to uncover her father's secret past.

Searching for Sherwood Forest Visitor Center lands her at the Peace and Pigs campsite, an impromptu job offer, and a place to call home. Though hard work and the determination to overcoming her shyness earn her friendship and acceptance, the locals refuse to talk when shown the photograph of her father as a young man, dressed as Robin Hood. Only Reuben, heir to Hatherstone Hall is willing to come to her aid, motivated by a connection to his family history.

"Roaming pigs, food fights, and conspiring chickens add flavor to this delightful debut, which also touches on mother-daughter relationships, family secrets, and finding love, and yourself."

"One of the best inspirational novels of the season", it will appeal to fans of Jane Green, Marian Keyes, and Jill Mansell.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Newbery News

The Newbery Medal is given to the most distinguished work of children's literature every year, and is announced in January. Though the real candidates are kept secret, here are some books that are getting lots of Newbery buzz on a few different mock Newbery blogs. Will one of them be the big winner? Do you have any recent books you've read that you would love to see get the Newbery medal?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (who also wrote After Tupac and D Foster) is a lovely autobiographical book of poems chronicling her early life.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza is the last of five books about Joey Pigza (of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key fame) by author Jack Gantos. Will Joey win the hearts and minds of the Newbery committee?

For nonfiction, people are talking about The family Romanov : murder, rebellion & the fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. A nonfiction book hasn't won the Newbery in a long time- could this be the year?

Last, but certainly not least, is The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis. Curtis already won the Newbery Honor for 2007's Elijah of Buxton. This book is a companion to Elijah of Buxton, and tells the story of two boys who encounter a mysterious man in the woods.

Happy reading!

Animalium

If you have not yet seen this giant beauty resting on the new youth nonfiction shelf, please allow me to draw your attention to it. I know I will forever be indebted to the person who first showed Animalium to me. It is one of those rare books that is both captivating to look at and to read. Maybe I should make myself clear here, it is captivating if you enjoy learning about animals and reading facts about them. If you are expecting a great fictional story, then perhaps it would be best if you check this out for the sole purpose of enjoying the pictures. Furthermore, please don't dismiss this book because it is intended for youth, I choose to believe "youth" really just stands for "youthful" and there really is no age restriction when it comes to appreciating beautiful illustrations of wildlife.

The large colorful illustrations are wonderfully detailed and the shadowing and chosen colors give the pictures great depth. Being an amphibian girl myself, I was particularly drawn to the page including the the Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) which has "an oversize vocal sac in which it rears its young." Little tadpoles in a frog's throat never looked so pretty.

Be warned though, when I say "giant beauty" I mean bring a sturdy bag because this is no pocket book.

You may also want to check out Welcome to Mamoko or Maps, both published by Big Picture Press and with equally fascinating pictures and intriguing concepts. Or maybe this has piqued your interest about animals and now you want to learn more. Great! Here is a list of other Awesome Animal books that may help you with your research.

Small Gems (and Fabulous Fiction Firsts #500)

It's that time again. As we approach winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and we are getting into high gear for the holidays, don't despair. Here are some suggestions for SHORT titles that you could curl up with.

46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day, great reads under 200 pages. Mostly.

From GoodRead: Popular Under 200 Pages Books - wonderful time to catch up on some classics and new award winners. The Huffington Post also jumps on the bandwagon with their thoughtful and inspired reading list. Here is a list for nonfiction readers.

My personal find this year?

Our Lady of the Nile (in French) by Scholastique Mukasonga, winner of the 2012 Renaudot Prize and the Ahamadou Kourouma Prize - a moving and nuanced portrait of violence and survival; a debut novel of "rugged beauty and unbearable suspense".

The conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority is expressed through the microcosm of Our Lady of the Nile, a Catholic boarding school for wealthy and influential young ladies in Rwanda. Virginia and Veronica are two Tutsi girls in the lycee because of quotas, and they are keenly aware of the dangers they face as ethnic minority. When Gloriosa, the daughter of a Hutu politician, starts telling lies about being attacked by Tutsis, the retaliatory violence costs Veronica her life and Virginia her education.

Born in Rwanda in 1956, the author experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of ethnic conflicts. In 1973, she was forced to flee to Burundi and settled in France in 1992. Two year later, she lost 27 members of her family to the genocide of the Tutsi.

Slightly longer but spectacular in every way is Lily King's Euphoria * * *, a thinly-veiled account of the love affair between Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, her third husband while she was married to Reo Fortune as they were conducting anthropological research in the remote territories of New Guinea. (Readers curious as to the accuracy of the storyline might want to check out this article called "Mead's Folly").

"A taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace—a love triangle in extremis… The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic…King is brilliant.”

Little wonder that it has been named winner of this year's Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the New England Book Award. New York Times, as well as Time Magazine, and NPR named it one of the 10 Best Fiction of 2014. I promise you that it is well worth the wait.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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