A Picture Book Perfect for the Season

There's a new picture book in our collection that is just the thing for cozy family reading or a nice gift for a family with young children. That book is Winter Is the Warmest Season, written and illustrated by Lauren Stringer.
Maybe you're thinking this title doesn't work here in Michigan, but the book's large brilliant illustrations and clever text will convince you otherwise. "Cold jelly sandwiches turn into grilled cheeses" and pajamas "grow big warm feet."

For more books about the joys of winter, click here.

The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno

Everybody knows that the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown could solve every mystery they faced as kids, but what happened when they grew up? In The Boy Detective Fails, Joe Meno tells the story of grown up child sleuth Billy Argo who, at the age of 30, finds himself living in a halfway house, unable to deal with his sister's suicide and his crippling fear of failure. Billy's world is rainy and dreamlike, and you start to feel as though many of his adventures are only side-effects of his medication, but over the course of the book he accidentally solves the mystery surrounding his sister's death and comes to terms with the fact that not always knowing the answers is part of being an adult.

This book also gives the reader a chance to play detective, with a decoder ring tucked into the back cover to help decipher some secret messages that Billy receives, and a cryptogram that runs across the bottom of many of the pages.

A Memorable Book of 2006

I'm making my own personal favorite 2006 book list, checking it twice - and deciding that my list definitely includes Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. When she was in her early 30s, Gilbert moved to a big house with her husband with the plan of getting pregnant. The plan collapsed when Gilbert realized that not only did she not want a child, she didn't want to be married anymore. Her soul-searching travels through Italy (for pleasure), India (for prayer) and Indonesia (for balance) make extraordinarily good and amusing reading. One of her book's funniest lines is when she first tries to talk with God: "It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, 'I've always been a big fan of your work.'" In this book, Gilbert struck me as sort of a non-denominational Anne Lamott, with a keen eye, sharp wit, and a strong sense of the spiritual.

A romance in two voices

Calliope is tired of being dragged by her mother cross-country from one Renaissance Faire to another. Eliot longs for the day when his father used to sell swimming pools -- before he "found God," and subsequently founded the fat camp for Christian kids ("What would Jesus eat?"). When Cal and Eliot meet, there's instant chemistry -- literally and figuratively. Do they have a future? Or will Eliot's father and Cal's mother (and her jouster boyfriend) tear them apart? posted by Greg Leitich Smith

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight is a romantic comedy with an almost classic feel. Check out Cynsations to learn how co-authors Barkley and Hepler got together on this book.

NEW books - Spunky Princess

Way Fun! A spunky twist on the Cinderella Tale, in a chapter book for kids!! Read Bella at Midnight. There are even glass slippers, a fairy castle, and complex relations. Author Jane Yolen says "Bella has everything - magic, mystery, romance - that I want from a fairytale novel ... I read it in two big gulps and loved every bit of it." I agree. Enjoy!

Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (a Wonderful Christmas Read)

The seven-year-old Jesus relates his life in Alexandria and the return of his family to Nazareth. Spare and lean, lyrical and reverent, vivid and riveting, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is "a mystery story, of the child grappling to understand his miraculous gifts and numinous birth" (Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005).

Anne Rice's act of faith in writing this novel is detailed in her author's note where she describes her research and her journey back to the Catholic Church.

Kid Bits - Scrappy Lives

Kids with real troubles... The cool thing about these stories is no "magic", just "real". These authors are masters of humor, positivity, and poignant storytelling. The Higher Power Of Lucky, a child who worries that her legal guardian may abandon her and return home to France. Al Capone Does My Shirts, children of guards living on Alcatraz Island. Harry Sue... Her home situation is dire. Internal strength of character, and external network of friends, creates "home and security". In each case, the children discover their own strength and value, BECAUSE of those around them.

Small Gems

Just in time for short days and long to-do lists, these little books are great excuses to take a break and enjoy a bit of solitude, in the best company – yours.
They are quick reads – no more than 100 pages or so, and tuck nicely into your coat pocket. Next time you find yourself standing in line; or being put on hold, listening to elevator music, you will have the perfect distraction.

Mademoiselle Benoir by Christine Conrad.
May-Dec. romance in the French countryside sets off family wars across the Atlantic.

An Afternoon with Rock Hudson by Mercedes Deambrosis; translated from Spanish by Mike Mitchell.
Chance encounter between two old friends triggers off some self-destructive behavior, including anonymous sex with a man sitting at the next café table. Amusing.

Mercedes-Benz: From Letters to Hrabal by Paweł Huelle; translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.
Narrator Pawel tells of the driving lessons he took in the early 1990s around Gdansk, Poland, all the while entertaining his instructor Miss Ciwle with stories of his family’s ownership of Mercedes-Benz cars. Great storytelling.

The Bird is a Raven by Benjamin Lebert; translated from the original German by Peter Constantine.
Two strangers share a sleeping compartment on a night train bound for Berlin. Throughout the hours of darkness secrets are revealed and lives changed. You won't be able to put this one down!

Music from Big Pink: A Novella by John Niven.
Born in Scotland, John Niven toured and recorded as guitarist with The Wishing Stones, and co-wrote/directed the award winning (British) short film ‘Tethered’.
This tragic, beautiful… "factional book is a heartbroken rock'n'roll postcard from a past" where fictional characters rub shoulders with real people.

The Scent of Your Breath by Melissa P; translated from Italian by Shaun Whiteside.
A breathless autobiographical second novel by this bright young Sicilian writer - a smoldering tale of sexual obsession, plumbed deeply from the disturbing mind of a teenage girl terrorized by love.

Good Reads - some ideas

It's such a pleasure to find a new good read. With over 170,000 books being published yearly in the United States I feel it helps to get a recommendation.

Monday December 11th on NPR's "Fresh Air" NPR Maureen Corrigan recommends "The Year's Best Mystery and Nonfiction". This article also gives you access to several other lists of recommended Holiday books including recommendations by Ann Arbors own Karl Pohrt owner of Shaman Drum Books in Ann Arbor.

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