The Best of 2013 and Holiday Picks

Need some ideas?

You can always count on the New York Times for an inspired and thorough job in its annual Holiday Gift Guide, whether it be books, music, movies or games. And just released is the list of The 10 Best Books of 2013.

The LA Times has its finger on the pulse when it comes to great holiday book gifts. This year's list is chuck-full of smart and winsome picks for every genre, taste and demographics. Narrowing down your choices might be the biggest problem.

NPR Best Books 2013 is a list of 200 standout titles selected by NPR staff and critics.

Confounded by too many choices? Take a look at USA Today Critics' pick Top 10 must-read books of 2013. Every one a sure bet.

Library Journal's Top Ten is a solid mix of fiction and nonfiction chosen by the review editors. Don't miss out on the rest of the Best of 2013, as well as the Best in Genre Fiction and Core Nonfiction. I am delighted with their choices for the Best YA Lit for Adults and Graphic Novels for the hard-to-please on my list.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #440 - "There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted" ~ Henry David Thoreau

Ewart Hutton's debut Good People * * is one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Fiction Book of 2013, and shortlisted for the 2012 British Crime Writers' Association New Blood Dagger for best first novel.

In this "atmospheric, criminally smart" new police procedural, award-winning playwright (BBC Radio) introduces Detective Sergeant Glyn Capaldi. Disgraced and banished from Cardiff to the Welsh countryside, Capaldi (half-Welsh, half-Italian) investigates the disappearance of a van packed with young men after a night of rugby and hard drinking. Those who turn up could not explain why one of the men and the only woman in the group are missing.

In the face of opposition from the local constabulary and his superior, Capaldi delves deeper when one of the men is found hanged, and uncover a network of conflicts, betrayals, and depravity that resonates below the outwardly calm surface of rural respectability.

"(A) stunningly dark debut. The first-person narrative keeps it personal, making the detective's vulnerabilities that much more intense."

"...the plot twists are cunning, and Glyn Capaldi is the most appealing antihero this side of Ian Rankins' John Rebus."

Readers who enjoyed Peter May's The Blackhouse would not want to miss this one. (See previous FFF blog).

* * = 2 starred reviews

The Historical House Series

If you have a young reader in your life who loves historical fiction, check out The Historical House Series. Written by Adèle Geras, Ann Turnbull and Linda Newbery, this unique series follows the lives and times of young women who live in the same house in London over a period of 200 years. Follow along as the young women meet famous people the likes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, join in the fight with suffragettes to allow women the right to vote and watch the first moon landing! Each book is written from the perspective of the young girls and captures the enchanting stories of their dreams and determination, all while set in the colorful world of London.
Polly’s March by Linda Newbery
Lizzie’s Wish by Adèle Geras
Mary Ann & Miss Mozart by Ann Turnball
Andie’s Moon by Linda Newbery

Pope Francis, the first Pope from the Americas, is Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Pope Francis, one of the Catholic Church's most popular pope's, was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year this morning on NBC's Today Show..

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina almost 77 years ago (December 17th is the Pontiff's birthday), was elected Bishop of Rome and absolute sovereign of Vatican City on March 13th of this year. He is a Pope of many firsts, including he is the first Jesuit priest to become a Pope and the first one born in the Americas.

In his nine short months as the 266th Pope (the anti-Popes are excluded), he has rocked the globe with his humility and his rejection of the opulent trappings of the papacy (from garments to living quarters to transportation). But it his public walking of the talk of the Gospels that has galvanized peoples of all faiths and nationalities. Pope Francis focuses a light on the need to help the poor, feed the hunger, and heal the sick through social action. He urges the Church to be pragmatic in its priorities -- he views the intense focus on gay marriage, abortion, and the "tyranny of unfettered capitalism" as impediments to the important work that needs to be done to restore compassion worldwide and renewed efforts to bridge differences that block the way to world peace.

Social media went into overdrive this summer when it was reported that Pope Francis said even atheists can go to heaven. That's not exactly what he said in response to an open letter written by a well-respected atheist and published in La Repubblica. This translation gets close to the heart of the matter: "First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that—and this is fundamental—God's mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart -- the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience."

Pope Francis has enchanted the world by his embrace of social media. In addition to being a presence on Facebook, the Pope can be found on Twitter at @Pontifex. At last count, he was up to 3,349,929 followers.

To learn more about his approach to life and religion, read his latest book, published earlier this year -- On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the 21st Century.

Pirate Stories

Ahoy there, me hearties! Arrrrrgh! Perhaps you visited a preschool storytime recently where pirates stories were featured and are looking for more swashbuckling fun? AADL has a slew of picture books featuring pirates on grand adventures. Here are a few to set sail with:

Pirate Nap by Danna Smith
Shiver Me Letters by June Sobel
Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal

High Interest/Low Reading Level Fiction

If you, or someone you know, are an English Language Learner looking for higher level reading materials to increase your vocabulary, here’s a cool way to find them on aadl.org. Go to the Catalog tab and enter Lang-Learn-Fiction RL-2 into the search box. RL stands for Reading Level. To search for a different reading level, simply type in a different number after RL. Once your search results come up, you can refine your search to find the titles that interest you the most. These high interest, low level readers, sometimes called HiLo books, are also great for adults who are learning to read.

Radiant Orchid

When Pantone announced that their color of 2014 would be radiant orchid, all I saw in my mind were children's books. That's one of the side effects of working in a library, I suppose.

Harold and the Purple Crayon was the first book that came to mind.

Next up on my list of purple oriented kids' books was Purplicious. Purplicious, of course, wasn't the author's first foray into colors. That honor goes to Pinkalicious.

Then there was Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, which not only tempts us with the color purple, but with alliteration. No, none of these books are radiant orchid, but they do give us the excuse to think about our favorite purple books.

What are yours?

Juicy Eighteenth Century Biographies

Gossip about the rich and famous was just as popular in the 18th century as it is now. The library has a great collection of biographies and movies about this period and the fascinating people who lived in it. In Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 author Stella Tillyard carefully documents the lives of four sisters via the thousands of letters they left to posterity. Descended from royalty, one sister almost became queen when she attracted the love of then Prince of Wales, while three sisters defied convention and married for love. You’ll be impressed by how modern excerpts of their letters sound! There is also a BBC miniseries based on the books.

In The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce covers the divorce trial of Lady Worsley, who ruined her husband’s reputation as well as her own by exposing the scandalous details of her married life to the public.

You’ve probably heard about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, a contemporary of the Lennox sisters and ancestor of the late Princess Diana and whose biography sparked the 2008 film The Duchess. But did you know that she had a sister? Harriet Spencer lived just as glamorous and scandalous a life as her more famous sibling, having affairs and even kissing voters on the campaign trail to help her favorite Whig candidates win elections!

Even kings and queens had shocking secrets that they would have liked to have kept hidden. A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings discusses the lives of the British monarch’s younger siblings, including Prince William who married secretly for love, and Princess Caroline, who married the mad Danish King Christian and ruled Denmark for a time with her lover, a German physician. Her story has been fictionalized in both the 2012 film A Royal Affair and the 2001 book The Royal Physician’s Visit.

Not even the king's children were free from controversy. In Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III author Flora Fraser recounts the lives of the king's beloved daughters who were kept hidden away during the American Revolution and the the turbulent years of the king's madness in the 1780s.

Ernest & Rebecca: Can a girl and a microbe be best friends?

Prepare to be charmed by an adorable little girl and her germy friend!

Rebecca has a weak immune system and gets sick often, so she has to spend most of her time indoors, or bundled up tightly if she goes outside, or paying visits to her obnoxious doctor. Her big sister is too busy with teenage 'rebellious phase' things, and her parents are constantly yelling at each other and ready to split up. Life is rough and lonely for Rebecca... until she catches the germ Ernest and befriends him! Shapeshifting, fun-loving Ernest is going to teach Rebecca how to be the best microbe ever AND help her get her parents back together.

Don't miss this adorable comic that's both funny and heartwarming!

Volume 1: My Best Friend is a Germ
Volume 2: Sam the Repulsive
Volume 3: Grandpa Bug
Volume 4: The Land of Walking Stones

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