Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fantastic Finds

After my small binge on old Newbery books, it was time to get back to books published during this century.  Luckily, I had the good fortune to pick up two fantastic reads:

I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, but I realize that it's not for everyone, especially YA readers. That's why I was super excited to find that Wonder Show was as unique and engrossing as the book's premise promised it would be. Fourteen year old Portia is on the run from the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls, where she was dumped by her aunt after her father abandoned her.  Clinging to the belief that her father left her to join the circus, Portia joins a third-rate traveling circus and side show/freak show. Although she is, at first, bewildered by the people involved with the side show, she forms meaningful relationships with several performers, including the non-albino daughter in a family of albinos.  Set during 1939, this is a moving and provocative look at not only the exploitation of side show performers, but also their humanity and dignity that they strove to maintain in the face of public gawking and distrust.

I have to confess that I'm not a big fan of books about books, bookstores, libraries (except for Dewey), etc. Truthfully, they bore me. Which is why I went into The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap with low expectations.  I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a funny, endearing, and moving story about a couple who, against all advice and expectations, opened a bookstore in Big Stone Gap, VA. The Appalachian town of Big Stone Gap had never, as far as anyone and records could confirm, had a bookstore.  Longtime residents were used to yuppies opening up niche stores in their community and then abandoning them a year or so later; combined with the assumption that the community didn't have enough readers to support a bookstore, expectations were quite low, to say the least.  Despite several significant roadblocks and missteps, Wendy Welch and her husband, Jack Beck, persevered and made their bookstore into a successful community gathering place for the small town.  In between funny and heartrending anecdotes about customers, Welch honestly offers lessons learned throughout her years of operating a bookstore, as well as her thoughts on ereaders and the future of bookselling.  If you're looking for a heartwarming (but not twee and overly sentimental) read this holiday season, this is definitely one to pick up.

This will be my last post until after Thanksgiving; happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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