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BOOKS WE LOVE - Staff Picks

Elmet Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616208424
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - December 5th, 2017

Set in rural Yorkshire, Elmet is a noirish tale about a family of outsiders. Effeminate, teen-aged Daniel narrates the story of himself, his tomboy sister Cathy, and their giant of a father, John. After the mom disappears from the children's lives and Cathy has trouble with bullies at school, "Daddy" decides to give up his bare-knuckled fighting career and move the kids onto land that used to belong to their mother. It's here where they build their home by hand, live off the land and eke out a living through hunting and foraging. The conflict arises when the landowner, Mr.Price, wants to evict the family from their home and John organizes a resistance to fight back against Price and the other exploitative landlords of the area. What makes this book really stand out is Mozley's lyrical and atmospheric writing style which she uses here to touch on themes of poverty, class, gender roles, justice and revenge, as the plot builds up to a memorable and violent end.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062382801
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - June 27th, 2017

When I started reading this book, I almost gave up on it because Monty, the young, handsome, spoiled, amoral protagonist, is so insufferable. But that's kind of the point. I stuck with the book and got in on some great swashbuckling adventure, suspenseful romance, and fresh treatment of many issues we still face today. Here's the nutshell treatment: Monty, his friend Percy, and his sister Felicity are on their Grand Tour around Europe in the 1700's when Monty impulsively steals a cute little box. Turns out the box has a key inside it some people are willing to kill for because of what it unlocks. The trio's travels are complicated when they are forced to stow away at sea, are kidnapped by pirates, and must undertake a mission to a sinking island. This is a fun book full of derring-do that also handles a lot of important topics many books are afraid to touch. Monty gets lots of chances to grow up, too, and they're (realistically) horribly uncomfortable. Teenagers are this book's target audience, but followers of Regency romance or pirate stories or Gothic adventure stories may want to give it a try. There's plenty for a group to discuss, too.

Heart Berries: A Memoir Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781619023345
Published: Counterpoint - February 6th, 2018

Heart Berries is a powerful and unapologetic memoir in essays, chronicling a woman's coming-of-age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Mailhot writes with a unique and poetic voice as she navigates through her dysfunctional upbringing, continued struggles with PTSD and bipolar disorder, and her role as a Native woman. This isn't a chronological re-hashing of a victim story, but carefully arranged vignettes of a highly introspective journey through pain and abuse to find reconciliation, strength and identity.  Heart Berries is a slim volume of sparse prose where every single word has purpose. It can be read quickly, but I wouldn't recommend it. Though it be little, it be fierce.

Little Wolf's First Howling Cover Image
ISBN: 9780763689711
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick - April 11th, 2017

It's time for Little Wolf to learn to howl! He's so excited as he travels with his dad to the howling place. But when Little Wolf throws his head back and howls, what comes out isn't a simple "a-woooooo", but all kinds of sounds including "skibbidy skobbidy doo woo woooo!" At first Big Wolf despairs, but eventually the catchy rhythm gets to him, just like it'll get to you. Beware, for you may find yourself howling and jamming and toe-tapping as you go about your day after reading this book. The fun sounds and the humor in the story can be grasped by even a very little one--my 1&1/2 year old son loves this book! Very nice illustrations, too.

Fresh Complaint: Stories Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780374203061
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 3rd, 2017

Author Jeffrey Eugenides (of The Virgin Suicides and Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex fame) is finally out with new work, but not another novel.  Fresh Complaint is a collection of 10 short stories that were written throughout his career. Some of the stories are spin-offs of elements from his novels, some are funnier or more tragic than others, but all are chock full of failure.  Despite the well-meaning intentions of the flawed characters in each of these stories, the difficulties of humanity are just too overwhelming.  Nothing seems to turn out quite the way it was supposed to. Sounds depressing, right?  Yet I didn't come away from reading this collection feeling completely hopeless.  Instead, I felt as though I had been given some kind of gentle warning, wrapped up in a compassionate and humorous voice, telling me that we're all up...until we're down.

A Farmer's Alphabet Cover Image
By Mary Azarian, Mary Azarian (Illustrator)
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ISBN: 9780879233976
Published: David R. Godine Publisher - October 31st, 2012

What a beautiful book! Mary Azarian chronicles farm life in rural Vermont in this wonderful set of words and woodcut illustrations from Apple to Zinnia, with scenes in between of milking, winter sledding, neighbors chatting, and many other traditional activities you would just love to insert yourself into. It would be tempting to call this book "quaint" or say it's about a past way of life, but the truth is plenty of people still live this way, milking by hand, farming with draft horses, etc. It's a wonderful thing for kids and adults to see. I just had to buy this book as soon as it came in, because I'd never seen any children's book on farming this realistic and beautiful. Oh, and my little boy likes it, too.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250170972
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) - March 6th, 2018

Full disclosure: I have not yet finished this book. However, so far I am loving it. Zelie is a young girl living in a poor village that is ruled over by an cruel and oppressive monarch. She and her brother have been caring for their father since her mother was killed in the Raid, a violent attack on Orisha's own citizens. Zelie would be a maji, someone blessed with the power to wield a certain kind of magic, but magic was also destroyed during the raid. When she has the chance to return magic to the land, she must embark in a dangerous journey with an unlikely accomplice.
This book demonstrates everything I love about YA fantasy. The world is rich and vibrant, but the author doesn't spend a ton of time justifying the magic that she's created. I appreciate it when authors just focus on telling the story, rather than trying to convince me that this world where magic once reigned supreme and giant horned wildcats can be ridden like horses is somehow plausible. This is a great high fantasy adventure read with strong complex characters, a perfect summer read.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101911532
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - January 30th, 2018

In 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine and disappeared into the woods. He would not have another conversation with another person for the next 27 years. Christopher Knight had no real plan for living in the woods, he just wanted to be alone. But he found a secluded area where he could live and came up with ingenious ways to survive. He broke into nearby cottages for food, books and supplies; he took only what he needed, but caused unease in the community plagued by the mysterious burglaries.
The Strange in the Woods is a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way. This book compels the reader to re-examine their assumptions about what makes a good life. This is a great read!

Until We Meet Again Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781492638018
Published: Sourcebooks Fire - October 4th, 2016

Until We Meet Again is an amazing book! Set in the present day, it follows a girl named Cassandra as she spends the summer at a beach house in Massachusetts. Cassandra meets Lawrence on the house's private beach--except he claims that it is his private beach, and that the year is 1925! Cassandra soon finds that Lawrence's life is in danger. The book follows Cassandra as she tries to unravel the mysteries of Lawrence's life and death. Told in both Cassandra's and Lawrence's perspective, Until We Meet Again is a great romantic time travel mystery.