Waiting (not so) patiently for The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters?

British author Sarah Waters is beloved for skillfully incorporating suspense, illicit attractions, and even supernatural elements, into her atmospheric historical fiction novels. The Paying Guests takes place in the upper class home of the Wrays, a mother and daughter who have fallen on hard times after WWI and make ends meet by taking in “paying guests.” The addition of a working class couple to the family dynamic initiates a series of changes, not least of which is daughter Frances’ attraction to her new boarder.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt - Byatt’s historical fiction/family saga explores privileged, artistic families in pre-WWI Britain, and the darkness and social struggles that lie beneath the surface.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton long-simmering secrets come to light when a filmmaker comes to fact-check details of a 1924 event with a now-elderly maidservant, who recounts the loves, rivalries, and secrets of the family she served.

The Lodger by Louise Treger - Against the background of the British suffragette movement, Dorothy Richardson’s life takes a turn for the unconventional when she begins an affair with a friend’s husband, only to have her attractions shift when a new woman moves into her boarding house.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters - The story follows four Londoners during and after WWII who are recovering their senses, trying to restart their lives, and guarding their secrets now that the blackouts are over and the fighting is done.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones - Enjoying Downton Abbey-style luxury while teetering on the edge of debt, a Torrington-Jones family gathering at their estate unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary for survivors of a nearby railway accident, but the circumstances become murkier as constructs of class and society fall away.

Waiting (not so) patiently for The Rosie Effect

Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Effect will be released on December 30, and fans of Simsion’s hilariously charming first novel The Rosie Project, cannot wait.

In The Rosie Project, genetics professor and master of regimented routines and social missteps, Don Tillman, strikes out in search of a romantic partner, and instead gets entangled in determined grad student/bartender Rosie’s scheme to identify the father she never knew through genetic testing. Hijinks ensue, and the bumpy road of life and love continues straight through The Rosie Effect.

To tide you over while you wait for The Rosie Effect to be released, here are a few titles that share some elements with Simsion’s quirky but lovable stories.

- How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer - alternate reality scientific endeavors and comedy come together in this love story of two scientists who were secretly groomed by their astrologist mothers to be soulmates.

- The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls - light-hearted love story with quirks galore, about falling for someone who doesn’t exactly add up to your ideal partner.

- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - British author Moyes brings great humor and humanity to the story of an angry quadriplegic and the big-hearted, well-meaning, accident-prone, insecure woman who becomes his caretaker.

- The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart - Stuart's historical fiction/mystery/romance is populated with a cast of eccentrics including an Indian princess, a cycling-obsessed doctor, and a maid with unusually large feet, centered around Queen Victoria's haunted Hampton Court, where impoverished aristocrats go to live out their last complaint-filled years. The plot is sprawling, the characters are ridiculous, and the conclusion packs a heartfelt wallop.

- Something Missing by Matthew Dicks - Martin, an OCD thief with an eye for order and a penchant for routine, makes his living stealing minor things from his “clients” and will go to great lengths to keep their lives - and his invisible role in them - unchanged.

Two New, Amazingly Illustrated Picture Books for All Ages!

Two beautifully illustrated picture books have just been added to the library collection.

Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui is a wordless book that depicts amazing, related images on each of its pages. On one of the first pages is a drawing of a flower bud and on the opposite page, the beautiful daisy is in bloom. Later in the book, you see a coffee plant, and turn the page to see a steaming cup of coffee itself. I particularly enjoy the humor that subtly permeates this book. For example, on one page there is the image of an egg and on the opposite, the image of a chicken. When readers turn the page, they first see the image of the chicken, and on the opposite page the image of the egg. This is a stunning book and truly worth a perusal by readers of all types.

Telephone, by Mac Barnett and Jen Corace is a hilarious and wonderfully illustrated book about birds sitting on a telephone wire…playing Telephone. When mother mourning dove tells cardinal to “Tell Peter: fly home for dinner,” things get immediately jumbled when baseball-playing cardinal tells goose, “Tell Peter: hit pop flies and homers.” Things only get more confusing from there. I loved the individual personalities of the birds in this book, conveyed so well through Corace’s drawings. This is definitely a fun read!

The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2014

The New York Times released its list of 100 Notable Books for 2014, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

A few of my favorites on this list are:

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson - The complexity of the story told in this debut novel is just awe-inspiring - from the caught-in-the-crosshairs social worker to the twitchy madman in the woods, and the threads that connect them. Henderson's striking portrait of life in rural Montana reminded me of, Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, a stark look at desperate lives in Appalachia that will stick with the reader the same way Fourth of July Creek does.

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart - Shteyngart manages to make the story of his sickly childhood, traumatic emigration and resettlement, and complicated, painful relationship with his parents not just often humorous, but also somehow, even relatable. I marveled at the author's honesty and strong sense of self to be able to look at himself and his life and give such a thorough and intelligent account of it.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan - I have a weakness for the Booker Prize, their winners and shortlists have led me to many excellent books and introduced me to many excellent authors. This title, the 2014 Booker Prize winner, is epic in its scope, love story, and the trials and tribulations of the main character.

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Mac­intyre - It's not easy to tell the story of a life, let alone the life of a spy, let alone a spy who concealed his twisted loyalties decade after decade, promotion after promotion, but Macintyre does an admirable job. Kim Philby is one of the most famous double agents in history and this carefully constructed book lays out as much of the story as we may ever know. If you enjoy a good spy novel, John Le Carre, Alan Furst, Charles Cumming, etc., you can't go wrong with a Ben Macintyre book. I was utterly absorbed by Operation Mincemeat and Double Cross as well.

Here are the books President Obama bought with his daughters on Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday, which occurred this past Saturday, November 29, is a day created in celebration of small, local businesses and to mitigate the large amount of shopping that takes place at large corporations on Black Friday. People are encouraged to patronize small businesses in their area, and President Obama and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, did just that. At the independent bookstore Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., Obama and his two teenagers purchased 17 books spanning all age ranges and genres.

On the list were the Man Booker Prize-winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan, National Book Award-winner Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos, and the classic Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.

The Obamas also purchased three books from the Redwall series, several Junie B. Jones books, Nuts to You, by Lynne Rae Perkins, and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell.

You can see the full list of the books the first family purchased here.

Michigan Author Jerry Dennis: A Daybreak Handbook

Monday January 26, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event will be recorded

Author Jerry Dennis, best known as an award-winning nature writer, has branched out in two new directions: poetry and publishing. Jerry's first book of poems, A Daybreak Handbook, was published in 2014. Also in 2014, Jerry, his wife Gail, and illustrator Glenn Wolff established Big Maple Press, a small press dedicated to producing special editions exclusively available for sale through independent booksellers.

Dennis will discuss these new avenues in his career as well as his ongoing work with the Great Lakes. Dennis' book The Living Great Lakes was the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads selection in 2010. A selection of Dennis' books will be available for sale and signing at the event.

Colorful Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Illustrating Children’s Books

Lois Ehlert, the well-known children’s book author and illustrator, has recently released The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, an illustrated autobiography giving us a sneak peek into her creative process. Ehlert, whose picture books include Growing Vegetable Soup, Eating the Alphabet, and Planting a Rainbow, is known for her collage style, which mixes colored paper with everyday objects like leaves, plastic lids and even vegetables! Fans of Ehlert’s books will enjoy not only learning the stories behind some of her well-known illustrations but also hearing stories of Ehlert’s childhood and her encouraging words to future artists.

Looking for more fantastic picture-book biographies? Also check out these titles:

Balloons Over Broadway chronicles the life of Tony Sarg, the man who created the first balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

What to do about Alice? offers an energetic and insightful story about Teddy Roosevelt's oldest daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

The Tree Lady tells the story of Kate Sessions, a turn-of-the-century schoolteacher who started a movement to plant trees throughout San Diego.

Renowned author P.D. James, died at 94


P.D. James was well-known for her Adam Dalgleish mysteries, but film buffs will also recognize her work from the 2006 film Children of Men, which was adapted from her novel of the same name. She passed away yesterday at age 94, and in her obituary she is hailed as a "grande dame of mystery" and as a successor to Agatha Christie's title of "Queen of Crime." Her good friend and fellow crime author Val McDermid has published a short remembrance of James.

James' detective Adam Dalgleish is a great example of a "gentleman detective" and his quiet, unassuming persona resonates with readers. Fans of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache may enjoy Dalgleish, who is similiarly thoughtful and artistically-inclined. The Dalgleish mysteries have also all been adapted into television series, and fans of Inspector Morse may find some of his appeal in the portrayal of Dalgleish.

The Best of 2014 (Suggestions to get a jumpstart on Black Friday)

Library Journal's The Best of 2014 is a mix of the Top Ten of the year and the best of this year' s genre fiction, graphic novels, business, consumer health, craft & DIY, memoirs, and science.

Titles on the LibraryReads Top Ten Favorites that public library staff most enjoyed recommending in 2014 are no strangers. They are sure bets!

I quite like the list of 30 Books You NEED To Read In 2014 posted by The Huffington Post. Some of them might have been flying under the media radar this past year but everyone of them is an exceptional read. Definitely for the adventurous literary reader.

School Library Journal's Best Books of 2014. These 70 books distinguish themselves with excellence in writing, art, design, storytelling, originality, and appeal. From picture books to nonfiction, for lap-sharing and independent readers.

For the visual readers of all ages, check out the New York Times Best Illustrated Books Awards. The 2014 winners are a feast for the senses.

Alright... you are twisting my arm. If you must (toys, I mean), here are some suggestions you can count on...

Parents Magazine rated this year's best toys for every age, starting with baby and ending with big kids! These 58 winners (at all price points, I might add) would bring you kisses and hugs. There is even a list of toys for kids with special needs.

Stunning Debut Fiction: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper, is described as “a gorgeous literary debut about an elderly woman’s last great adventure walking across Canada. A beautiful novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of a talking coyote called James, of unlikely heroes and hundreds of papier-mâché animals….”

Elderly Otto wakes up one morning to find his eighty-two-year-old wife gone from their bed. Upon walking into the kitchen of their home, he finds a carefully penned note from her saying that she has set off on a walk to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing the ocean, and that she’ll try to remember to come back home. The only problem: the ocean is 2008 miles away from the couple’s home in Saskatchewan.

Otto surprisingly doesn’t pursue his beloved wife, but instead keeps himself busy and his worries at bay by carefully crafting hundreds of papier-mâché animals and writing Etta long letters that he does not know where to send. Otto’s close friend Russell, who has loved Etta from afar for decades, insists on finding Etta, however. He leaves his farm for the first time in his life determined to pursue her and bring her home safely.

Etta, meanwhile, steadfastly continues her journey to the ocean accompanied by a friendly coyote named James, and as her trip goes on the lines between memory, illusion and reality become increasingly blurry. The book itself is a mixture of memory and reality, too; it’s not told in chronological order, but rather blends emotions and experiences in the present with those from the past.

The stunning descriptions of Canada are a wonderful backdrop to this novel that “reminds us that it’s never too late to see the things you’ve longed to see, or say the things you’ve longed to say.”

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