Fabulous Fiction Firsts #503 - “Letter writing is the only device combining solitude with good company.” ~ George Gordon Byron

For many of us who travel over the break, it is crucial to have the company of a good audio book. Here are some tried-and-true winners that take the form of epistolary novels and will keep you engaged and entertained.

I just returned That Part Was True (2014) by Deborah McKinlay. Charming and delightful, with mouth-watering recipes. Highly recommended.

"Spinsterly" (self-described) 46 year-old Brit. Eve Petworth is long-divorced, privileged and painfully shy. Then uncharacteristically she strikes up a pen pal friendship with successful American novelist Jackson Cooper (think Robert Parker) through their mutual love of food and fine cooking. Over time, they support each other through challenges (hers, a bridezilla daughter and his, writer's block) and personal relationship dramas before Jackson suggests they meet for a culinary rendezvous in Paris.

Attachments (2011) by Rainbow Rowell
Gossiping and sharing their personal secrets on e-mail in spite of their company's online monitoring practices, Beth and Jennifer unwittingly amuse Internet security officer Lincoln, who unexpectedly falls for Beth while reading their correspondence.

Frances and Bernard (2013) by Carlene Bauer (FFF, a Fabulous Fiction Firsts)
It is not love at first sight for Frances and Bernard. She finds him faintly ridiculous while he sees her as aloof. But after that first meeting, Bernard writes Frances a letter which changes everything and soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can alter the course of lives.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer (a FFF)
In 1946, writer Juliet Ashton finds inspiration for her next book in her correspondence with a native of Guernsey, who tells her about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club born as an alibi during German occupation.

Letters from Skye (2013) by Jessica Brockmole (a FFF)
A love story told in letters spans two world wars and follows the correspondence between a poet on the Scottish Isle of Skye and an American volunteer ambulance driver for the French Army, an affair that is discovered years later when the poet disappears.

Safe travels.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #502 - "Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.” ~ Mitch Albom

In A Song for Issy Bradley * debut novelist Carys Bray, "(w)ith courage, warmth, and intelligence...sweetly and subtly breaks your heart", as the Bradleys come to terms with grief, each in his or her own way.

A man of strong faith and even stronger sense of duty, Ian Bradley, math teacher and Mormon bishop in a secular British neighborhood, embraces his calling often at the expense of his family's needs. His wife Claire (a convert upon marriage to Ian) feels overwhelmed and lonely in caring for their large family - Zippy and Al, teenagers who endure and rebel in equal measures; 7 year-old Jacob, sensitive and wise-beyond-his years, is the one who tries to hold the family together when 4-year-old Issy dies of meningitis.

"In this wry, original, generous-spirited debut novel, members of a family come to terms with grief...They wrestle with belief and disillusionment, desire and hopelessness, pervasive sorrow and moments of transcendent joy. The result is riveting, powerful, and quietly devastating." It will appeal to fans of Me Before You; Little Bee; and Tell the Wolves I'm Home.

A much anticipated debut this December is The Bishop's Wife * * * by Teen author Mette Ivie Harrison, her first try at adult fiction, inspired by an actual crime.

Unlike Claire Bradley, Linda, the mother of five grown boys and the wife to Mormon bishop Kurt Wallheim of Draper (UT), embraces the duties and challenges of being the bishop's wife, having been raised a Mormon herself. But Linda is increasingly troubled by the church's patriarchal structure and secrecy, especially when a neighbor, Jared Helm, appears on the Wallheims' doorstep with his 5-year-old daughter, claiming that his wife, Carrie, disappeared in the middle of the night. Carrie's worried parents present quite a different image of the Helm household. The more Linda learns about the curious circumstances at the Helms' residence, the more she suspects Jared is responsible for his wife's disappearance.

When Tobias Torstensen, another member of the church becomes gravely ill, Linda tries to provide support for his wife Anna, who helped raise Tobais' sons after the death of his first wife, a mystery that begins to unfold as Linda finds an unlikely item hidden in their barn. Despite Kurt's entreaties to leave these problems alone, Linda is driven to investigate. The discovery of two bodies produces devastating revelations for the close-knit community, but Linda never thinks of giving up her search for the painful truth. For those who enjoyed Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Both Bray and Harrison were raised in strict Mormon households. Their unique perspectives and candor lend authenticity to these debuts.

* = starred review
* * * = 3 starred reviews

Beary Good Stories

This week at preschool storytime Ms. Amanda told bear stories about all sorts of bears off on different adventures. We met a bear who had a little problem in “I Have A Little Problem,” said the bear and no one would listen to him. We also met a baby bear who liked to count all the new animal sounds he encountered as winter approached in Baby Bear Counts One. And we tiptoed around in Tiptoe Joe as we met a new tiny little bear cub. The library has so many wonderful bear picture books, and they are perfect for this time of year as you snuggle up with a good, warm book.

Waiting (Not So) Patiently for The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant?

Anita Diamant’s novel The Boston Girl is described as “a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.” Diamant is known for developing strong female characters, and Addie Baum is a perfect example, set against the background of an immigrant family and in a rapidly changing society, she combats adversity with intelligence, determination, and a sense of humor.

Below is a list of other titles that might appeal to those awaiting The Boston Girl. Some of these titles feature a historical setting, many explore the immigrant experience, and all of them introduce a resolute female character who face their challenges head on.

- Away by Amy Bloom - A Russian immigrant leaves the life she has built in 1920s New York to trek across the country in the hope of reuniting with her lost daughter.

- Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok - This modern day coming-of-age and coming-to-America story is fueled by determined and brilliant daughter Kimberley’s close relationship with her hard-working mother.

- The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell - Rose is a police typist in Prohibition New York who doesn’t realize her own naivete until she becomes influenced and infatuated with her new colleague, Odalie.

- The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston - This story of an ambitious young woman who follows her dreams to 1920s Paris, only to find the love of her life back in her own small town, is told using text amidst a scrapbook of letters, photos, postcards and other charming, everyday 20th century ephemera.

- Transatlantic by Colum McCann - A beautifully written multi-generational epic unfolds against the backdrop of three transatlantic voyages between Ireland and New York, moving between 1843, 1919, and 1991.

Gravity Falls

If you haven’t seen Disney’s animated series Gravity Falls, drop everything you are doing and put a hold on a copy RIGHT NOW!

Inquisitive twelve-year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to spend the summer with their great-uncle (“Grunkle”) Stan, who runs a tourist trap attraction called The Mystery Shack. While the curmudgeonly, greedy, but strangely loveable Grunkle Stan hawks his phony-baloney “mysteries” to gullible tourists, Dipper and Mabel discover real mysteries and elements of the supernatural in the surrounding Pacific Northwest woods and the strange little town of Gravity Falls.

Full of adventure and humor and creepiness and silliness and homages to such disparate things as Twin Peaks and Street Fighter, Gravity Falls is sheer genius and a show that both kids and adults will like. If you like cryptography, don’t miss the ciphers included at the end of every episode during the credits!

Adult fans of Adventure Time and Regular Show looking for new animated series should give this a try.

Jim Henson's Enchanted Sisters

Say Jim Henson’s name and what comes to mind? For some, it may be the loveable and prolific Muppets, who have starred in many movies and TV shows since their introduction in the 1950s. For others, it may be fond memories of watching Fraggle Rock or Sesame Street before school every morning. Cult film aficionados may think of the highly imaginative The Dark Crystal, or Labyrinth with the endlessly charismatic Goblin King. Wherever thoughts of Jim Henson may take you, there’s no denying that he and his company, The Jim Henson Company, has left an indelible mark on pop culture.

One of the more recent offerings from The Jim Henson Company is a chapter book series called Enchanted Sisters. It features four characters (Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer) who each have their own book and who are known as the Sparkle Sisters: daughters of Mother Nature who are responsible for the four seasons in the human (our) world. This girl-centric series is about friendship, adventure, and creativity--fans of Sofia the First and Disney Fairies should give this a try! So far only two books have been released. Look for Spring and Summer books next, well, spring and summer!

Abilities over Disabilities - PreK - 7th grade

There are many "human ability" stories and exercises that deserve to be shared and discussed with kids.
People request "stories for kids" especially when issues arise in school or family life.
Here are two public lists especially for kids through elementary school ages.
There are stories of real people who have lost abilities many take for granted.
These are stories of surprise, determination and success.
Some include simple life-style enhancements such as ... eyeglasses and good friends.
Others explain trained animal assistants, braille, prosthetics, insight ... and also humor.

This list is dedicated to stories of Autism, and Aspergergers spectrum disorders
Autism and Aspergers - Grades K - 6

This list spans as many abilities as possible, yet includes some stories from Autism spectrum too.
Abilities over Abilities - Grades PreK - 7

Drop-in For Wintry Art Tools Crafts At The Downtown Library

Visit the Downtown library anytime through early January to create your own winter papercrafts. We're supplying the same die-cutting machines that you can borrow from our new Art Tools collection, along with every winter-themed die we could get our hands on including snowmen, penguins, snowflakes, ornaments, sleighs, greeting cards, paper villages, embossing folders & more.

Die-cutting works by placing the material to be cut or embossed, like paper, cardstock or craft metal on top of a die that contains safety foam and a blade, which you run through a roller press to cut or emboss your design. We're supplying scrap paper for you to try it out, but If you want to get super fancy or make something in large quantities then you're welcome to bring in your own decorative paper and supplies. Hollander's is just a quick walk down 4th Ave!

Look for the Art Tools craft table near the desk on the 1st floor at the Downtown library.

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!

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