Blogging since 2007! Lots of children's/YA, with adult fiction/nonfiction reviews thrown in from time to time. All books discussed are available through the Fauquier County Public Library. Your comments are welcome!
Although the holiday season can be a time of high-stress and
activity, it’s also an ideal time to get lost in a great read. Sure, you can’t
go wrong with reading or rereading A Christmas Carol, but what if you’re
wanting something with more contemporary humor or romance? What if a Christmas
murder mystery is more your style, or if you want to share a Christmas story
with a young child (or read a sweet children’s Christmas story for yourself? As
someone who regularly rereads one or two children’s Christmas books every year,
I’m all for adults reading children’s books!)? Each year brings an explosion of
new Christmas books, from basic board books, romance novels, mysteries, and
more. Consider these titles when you’re ready to slow down and savor the
If your idea of a great Christmas read involves a warm
blanket, your hot beverage of choice, and an endearing read, then you have an
embarrassment of riches from which to choose.
‘”Christmas won’t be
Christmas without any presents,’ ” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug” is one of the
most famous opening lines in American literature. With 2018 being the 150th
anniversary of the publication of “Little Women”, why not rediscover Louisa May
Although “Ramona and Her Father” isn’t the first children’s
book people think of when they think “Christmas classic,” this heartwarming and
witty 1978 Newbery Honor book by Beverly Cleary remains a relevant look at a
family dealing with a parent’s unemployment during the holidays.
“Too Many Tamales” by Gary Soto is a gorgeous reminder to not forgo picture
books once a child can read independently, as he/she might miss out on some
outstanding picture book stories for the elementary school set. Maria must face
the consequences of wearing her mother’s ring without permission when it gets
lost while making tamales; will it ruin the family’s Christmas dinner? This is
a joyous and very relatable story that imparts a message without being overly
obvious about it.
“The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood” by
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve is one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories.
Based on the author’s childhood recollections growing up as the daughter of an
Episcopal priest and never being able to pick first from the donation boxes
sent to the Rosebud Reservation, this is a meaningful and memorable tale about
community, selflessness, and unexpected rewards. Although the community is
obviously impoverished, it is not a focal point; rather, the emphasis is on
family/tribal pride and togetherness.
Do you love to cry over a good story? Have the tissue box
handy when you read these titles:
If you want a dash of realism in your Christmas stories,
don’t miss “Christmas Bells” by Jennifer Chiaverini. Alternating between a
grieving Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as he writes a Christmas poem and a music
teacher preparing her students for a Christmas concert while facing budget
cuts, this is an engaging story of faith, hope, and the power of community.
“Silver Packages” is another outstanding picture book to share
with elementary school students, as long as you can read the last scene without
choking up! (It’s a happy scene, don’t worry.) A young boy fervently hopes to
catch a doctor’s kit when the Christmas train runs through his Appalachian
community, but each year brings a different gift. Based on author Cynthia
Rylant’s childhood experiences, this is an emotional and eye-opening story with
a joyful “circle of life” feel that will give you goosebumps.
Have you ever ugly cried over a children’s picture book? You
just might if you read Susan Wojciechowki’s “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.” No one can match Jonathan Toomey’s woodcarvings, but his gruff
mannerisms are off-putting to the other villagers. When a widow and her young
son ask him to carve figurines of the Holy Family for their crèche, they
unexpectedly assist him in his devastating grief. Not only are the illustrations breathtaking,
but the story is sensitively told without becoming maudlin.
Want some escapism and happy endings in your Christmas
reading? These stories will set your heart a-fluttering:
Bruce W. Cameron continues his line of wildly popular dog
stories (A Dog’s Purpose) with Dogs of Christmas. Josh is not prepared when a
dog and her puppies shows up in his life, much less when he falls for the
adoption coordinator helping him to get the dogs ready for their new home. Will
Josh be able to part with the dogs when it’s time for adoption? This sweet
story is perfect for dog lovers and romance readers alike.
If you’d prefer to stay in this century, pick up “Christmas Camp” by Karen Schaler. Haley Hanson is rising fast in her advertising career,
and is ready to snatch a prestigious Christmas toy company’s account to further
her aspirations. Although she’s not keen on her boss sending her to a Christmas
Camp, she learns the benefit of rediscovering Christmas, as well as meeting the
dashing son of the camp’s owner.
If you want to dive into a slew of Christmas
novels, you can’t go wrong with the ruler of Christmas romance, Debbie
Macomber. Her latest, “Alaskan Holiday,” is already a New York Times
Craving a whodunit this holiday season? These stories bring
murder, mayhem, and even some merriness:
Joanne Fluke’s “Christmas Cake Murder” is the latest in her
long-running Hannah Swensen series; Hannah’s dream of becoming the top baker in
town is complicated when she becomes entangled in a customer’s murder mystery
story that suddenly becomes all too real.
Vicki Delany’s “Year-Round Christmas” series features Merry
Wilkinson, the owner of a sweet little Christmas shop. When her best friend is
suspected of a murder (by poisoned gingerbread cookie), she must spring into
action before it’s too late.
Why not relax with a fat book of Christmas crime stories,
penned by some of the genre’s greats? "The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries",
edited by Otto Penzler, is crammed with mysteries that will meet with the
approval of even the most discerning mystery reader.
Isis Crawford’s “Mystery With Recipes” series is delicious
reading for armchair sleuths any time of the year, but fans will definitely
devour “A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange,” which features a very competitive
Christmas cookie competition that unexpectedly turns deadly.
Finally, don’t miss the monarch of Christmas mysteries, Anne
Perry; her latest Christmas murder, “A Christmas Revelation,” is eagerly
awaited by her many fans.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian
I don't know about you, but I *love* reading books about the performing arts and sports. If you feel the same way, you're in luck; we have a bunch of new books that you should grab for holiday travel or for putting on your wish list:
Music and Dance:
During the summer, my husband I and I enjoy going to concerts at a winery near our home; the bands are often tribute bands dedicated to a certain artist/group/genre. When the (awesome) 80s tribute band belted out, "YOU GOTTA FIGHT! FOR YOUR RIGHT! TO PAAAAAAATAAAY!" I'm not going to lie--I felt a little like Marcel Proust biting into a madeleine (the rest of the audience must have felt the same way, because the reaction was intense!). My sister and I *loved* the Beastie Boys and our parents *hated* them. Although the angst and rebellion in their music was different (and more playful) from the angst and rebellion in the 90s alternative music that was coming down the pike, their songs were definitely distinct from the other pop music of their era (of course, some songs are definitely cringeworthy!). Beastie Boys Book is a monster of a book and defies categorization--part cookbook, part graphic memoir, but definitely one for anyone who is/was a fan.
By the time 'NSYNC came along, I was over the whole boy band deal (Backstreet Boys was really the last boy band that I loved). However, if you memorized the dance moves to "Pop" and "No Strings" and if Justin and Britney were the power couple of your youth, you'll be thrilled to know that Justin Timberlake has created a new memoir of sorts (Hindsight). If not, then this is probably not the book for you.
Oh, where has Josephine Baker's Last Dance been all my life? Her life story is begging for a rich historical novel (and movie!). Waiting impatiently for this, even though I have a stack of books to get through.
Turn, Turn, Turn: Popular Songs Inspired by the Bible examines 100 songs from the 1930s-present that were inspired by Bible verses or events. I'm familiar with The Byrds's song of the same name, and that Bob Dylan used Biblical influences from time to time, but not much more beyond that. Putting this on my list.
I've been looking for an updated look at women rock/pop musicians, so I was super excited to find Women Who Rock. This includes a broad range of women, ranging from Mahalia Jackson, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, The Go-Gos, k.d. lang, Selena, Dixie Chicks, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and much more.
TV and Movies:
Baby boomers, get ready: not only is 2019 the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, but it's also the 50th anniversary of Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Monty Python's Flying Circus. I'll admit that I never really got into Monty Python (my sister was/is a huge fan), but plenty of Fauquier patrons are, as this has been a popular choice since we received it. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life sounds hugely entertaining and has already appeared on several "Best of 2018" book lists, so this is on my list.
If "Must See TV" means anything to you, then you are the audience for I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends. I'm trying to get through somewhat more weightier history/biography books before I grab this one, but I am super stoked to read it. Not only is it a historical look at the show, but it also reexamines dated storylines/jokes that might make you cringe if you watch reruns. (Ardent fans will get the subtitle reference. If you're not: each episode was titled "The One About --" in reference to that episode's storyline.)
Sally Field's new memoir, In Pieces, is a besteller and has appeared on numerous "Best of 2018" book lists. She writes candidly about her movie career, her triumphs, and her personal struggles.
It's Saturday Morning! Celebrating the Golden Age of Cartoons is for the adults who grew up slurping down a bowl of cereal while watching Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, or Animaniacs (depending on your era). If that's not enough to jumpstart your nostalgia, would retrospectives of the commercials that ran between the shows entice you?
Whoa, mama! Springfield Confidential has been consistently checked out since we received it. This isn't a history of the show; rather, it's an insight into how the writers create episodes, how the songs are written, and much more.
Arthur Ashe is high on my to-be-read list (sooo much to get through before I can check out any more!). This biography of the Richmond native, tennis pioneer, and civil rights advocate for African-Americans and people with HIV/AIDS is one I've had my eye on for months.
Published in connection with the ESPN documentary series of the same name, Basketball: A Love Story highlights the sport's history and legacy as a barrier-breaking sport through interviews with the sport's greatest players, coaches, and other officials.
Babe Ruth was one of the first modern sports superstars, and his 60th home run and cross-country tour helped to create his stardom and legacy. The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created has received outstanding reviews and inclusion on several "Best of 2018" lists.
Racing to the Finish is #88's memoir of his last year of professional racing, which forced him into early retirement due to concussion-related injuries. Jr. (as he's called by racing fans) kept detailed notes on his worsening condition while he kept up a demanding competitive career. With the increasing knowledge of the effects of concussions, Earnhart wanted to write this to raise awareness and so that others wouldn't suffer in silence.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian
Following Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds may have replaced the old recipe box crammed with magazine clippings, but if the holds for our new and upcoming cookbooks are any indication, print cookbooks are here to stay. Recently, I wanted to expand and diversify our cookbook collection, so I did some hunting through review journals and online sources; I was thrilled when the hold requests started to pour in! If you're looking for some inspiration in the kitchen, try out some recipes from these new and forthcoming books:
I had a feeling that All-Time Best Dinners for Two (from Cook's Illustrated) would be a big hit, and I was right! If you're an empty nester, a couple without children, or living with college roommates, recipes that serve 4-6 people can result in wasted food or improperly prepared food (or constantly buying microwave meals/prepared foods), not to mention leftover fatigue. Not only does this include recipes, but it also gives smart advice on how to shop for a small household.
Carla Hall's Soul Food is also a must-read for the food history fan. Hall put her own unique adjustments to classic soul food dishes, and emphasizes vegetable dishes that tend to be overlooked when people think of soul food.
Appliance cookbooks are usually a safe bet for our collection; apparently, our patrons want new ideas for their Dutch oven! As someone who received a Dutch oven from her wonderful coworkers, I am definitely coveting Cook It in Your Dutch Oven as well. Patrons know that a cookbook from America's Test Kitchen will be top-notch! We also have their All-Time Best Holiday Entertaining cookbook.
f you're familiar with Cooking Light, you know their recipes are carefully detailed and are great variations of calorie-filled dishes. While Everyday Slow Cooker is designed specifically for slow cookers, many recipes include instructions for multicookers.
One of the most accessible (and fun!) ways to learn about cultures is through food. Flavors of Africa features Evi Aki's Nigerian family recipes (with her own spin), as well as recipes that reflect other African cultures. If the cover is any indication, the photography alone will inspire your taste buds!
When I saw Homefront Cooking: Recipes, Wit, and Wisdom From American Veterans and Their Loved Ones, I thought it would be a terrific addition to our Veterans Day book displays. It was an immediate hit once it hit our shelves; family stories, recipes, and military traditions from the Civil War to present-day conflicts round out this unique cookbook. The organization of the recipes makes browsing easy and fun ("Things That Can be Made in a Hurry," ""Healthy Choices," "Budget-Minded Meals and Stories," "Dishes Meant to be Shared," and "What Gets Us Through Difficult Times," among others).
One of the most eagerly anticipated cookbooks by our patrons (and me!) is undoubtedly the new Red Truck Bakery cookbook. Brian Noyes's beautifully designed cookbook includes recipes from the bakery's most popular treats (as well as some of his favorite recipes from home), and short introductions for each recipe. While he does make some very specific recommendations for ingredients that might require some hunting, he does recommend substitutions and easily attainable ingredients for most recipes (and helpful hints).
When I originally ordered Sister Pie, I think I only ordered one copy; I wasn't sure how interested people would be in a cookbook featuring a bakery in Detroit. I should have known that any kind of baking cookbook goes over pretty well here, and that the message of community and inclusiveness would resonate. This is definitely for serious pie makers; entire chapters on the art of crust, crust design, pies divided by seasons, and other non-pie desserts.
If museum cafes are known for anything, they're mostly known for serving overpriced food that's "okay" at best. The cafes at the Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture are another story; reflecting the cultures celebrated in their museums, the cafes were designed to serve authentically inspired dishes, use locally-sourced food, and have becomes destination dining in their own right. Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook: A Celebration of African-American Cooking includes recipes from the NMAAHC's cafe and showcase the variety of African-American cuisine.
If you're celebrating with your family of choice, or if you plain just want some new ideas for your Thanksgiving feast, check out Friendsgiving. This fun cookbook has been quite popular with our patrons, including themed recipes for a Cuban feast, a Southern-inspired spread, and more. It also includes music playlist suggestions and ideas for games.
If you're expecting vegetarian visitors, or just want to offer healthier party food without sacrificing on taste, try Ready to Eat Vegetarian Party Food. Everything from dips to finger food is included, with a substantial section on vegan treats.
I am enormously pleased (and a little surprised!) that Vegan Christmas has proven to be a hit with patrons. I think most people are comfortable with offering vegetarian options, especially with the semi-vegetarian/"Meatless Monday" trends that have been popular for years, but trying to accomodate vegan guests can definitely be intimidating! Either many Fauquier patrons are expecting vegan friends and family this holiday, are vegans themselves, or (perhaps more likely) want to diversify and offer lighter/healthier options this Christmas. Recipes for Christmas morning and full vegan meal plans for Christmas are included (including dessert!).
Finally--the multicultural aspect of Winter: Warm Recipes For Cold Nights caught my attention; when I quickly glanced through this gorgeous cookbook before it hit our shelves, I was struck by the beautiful design and the amazing-sounding recipes for stews, soups, meat dishes, and desserts. This is definitely not designed for quick or healthy cooking; rather, this is full-blown "stick-to-your-ribs" kind of cooking. Already super popular with our patrons.
Want more titles? Check out Wowbrary, your guide to the latest titles ordered and added by Fauquier County Public Library.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library
Do you love a good scare? Does the anticipation of Halloween make you giddy? With 2018 being the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Frankenstein”, there’s no better time to revisit old classics and discover some new reads that will keep you up long past your bedtime.
What exactly is a horror novel? Some think of classic monsters such as “Dracula”, Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic short stories, or the modern master of horror, Stephen King. Some might remember childhood favorites, such as R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series. The Horror Writers Association defines horror as “… not only blood and gore, but psychological horror, suspense, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, supernatural terror, and so much more…[I]t simply needs to elicit fear or dread in the reader.”
Mary Downing Hahn is the queen of children’s scary stories; she remains active at the age of 80! While you can start with any title, All The Lovely Bad Ones is one of her most popular ones. Two siblings decide to play pranks in their grandmother’s haunted inn, which awakens young ghosts.
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh is one of my favorite creepy reads in years. Twelve year old Mary is excited to finally be adopted, until she learns that her new mother is actually the notorious and fearful Baba Yaga, the legendary Russian witch. If you’re into scrumptious descriptions of feasts with a Russian flair (or think you might be), you’ll love this one.
Does a supernatural story set in the Caribbean entice you? The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste features a brave eleven year old girl as she attempts to save her community from a devious spirit.
Scholastic Inc’s “Branches” line is one of the best things to happen to beginning chapter books in some years; as finding “scary stories” for newly independent readers can be tough, the Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings brings some welcomed relief. Alexander’s new school is not like any other school—for one thing, it’s located in a hospital morgue, where he finds a notebook filled with information about monsters. Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol is another fun supernatural series for newly independent readers; written by Andres Miedoso, it follows eight year old Desmond as he investigates ghosts and monsters in his neighborhood.
If you want some hardcore, knock-your-socks out, make you scared to go to bed reads, try Kendare Blake’s Anna series or anything by Darren Shan. Beginning with Anna Dressed in Blood, Blake introduces readers to Cas, who is following in his father’s footsteps of ridding the world of the murderous undead; although Anna has killed anyone who dares to enter her old home, she decides to save Cas, leading to devastating consequences. This contains violence and mature language, as does Darren Shan’s tales of gruesome zombies.
Have a reader obsessed with zombies? Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation should be on your list. Set in Baltimore County in the days of the Civil War, where young people train to become Attendants to kill the dead, this has received outstanding reviews.
I was in high school when I read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart” for the first time, and it’s remained one of the most vivid and freaky short stories I’ve ever read. If a thick book of Poe’s stories and poems is intimidating, try Gareth Hinds’s Poe Stories and Poems, a masterful graphic novel adaptation of Poe’s classics.
Looking for something totally unique? Pick up Ying Chang Compestine's collection of ghost stories, A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts. Not only are these spine-tingling ghost stories, but each one incorporates Chinese food, history, and culture (so perhaps don’t read when you are hungry!)
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal turns vampire fiction on its head: what if vampires were the elite of society (rather than being chased by townspeople clutching torches)? When the first “Gloaming” runs for governor, the world is upended like it’s never been before.
In the southwestern town of Night Vale, ghosts, aliens, and conspiracies are not extraordinary. A young pawn shop owner is focused on solving the mystery of a man in a tan suit who handed her a piece of paper that only read “KING CITY.“ Her quest to discover his identity and what “KING CITY” means launches an offbeat and unique paranormal series by Joseph Fink, launching with Welcome to Night Vale.
In the mood for a supernatural read, but not one that will give you nightmares? Consider Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane Austen’s beloved heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, fights zombies, but will the dashing Mr. Darcy distract her? Grahame-Smith “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is in the same vein, as is “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” by Ben H. Winters. If zombies are your thing, but you want something that will raise goosebumps, Max Brooks’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War might be for you.
Flight or Fright, a new compilation of horror tales edited by Stephen King, might not be something you pack in your carry-on case for your upcoming holiday travels. King has collected tales (previously published and original) about the nightmares of flying….and I don’t mean delayed flights or cramped cabin space.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library
In the months prior to my September 29th wedding, my regular reading crawled to a stop. No matter what book I had been eagerly waiting for, my attention span was nil for paying attention to anything other than a chapter book or two. I reasoned that once life settled down a bit (after moving to a new house, getting married, and going on our honeymoon), I would find interest in reading again. Yes--thankfully--I have--and just in time for some amazing fall titles.
I am reading/planning to read a bunch of history/biography/memoir/historical fiction books for an upcoming project, and had read great reviews of All You Can Ever Know. This is an open, honest, loving, and occasionally heartbreaking story of transracial adoption (Chung is Korean-American, was adopted by Caucasian parents, and grew up in a community in which she was usually the only Asian-American around; this was also during the time in which teaching a child about his/her cultural heritage as an adoptee was not a common thing).
I took Crazy Rich Asians for my airport/airplane read. Now, some people will not allow themselves to see a movie before reading the book upon which it was based; I am not one of those people (I also don't believe that "the book is always better"--I can think of several instances in which I prefer the movie--exhibit #1 here, as well as Forrest Gump--and movies that, although quite different from the book, bring a unique perspective to the story, such as The Wizard of Oz and the A Little Princess adaptation in the late 90s). . Confession: I liked the movie much more than the book, although I was thoroughly entertained by the story (I really enjoyed the many footnotes provided by the author), and am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Although there have been a number of books written about the opiod crisis, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America caught my interest because 1) it's written by one of the best nonfiction authors currently writing and 2) the focus is on the crisis as experienced in Virginia. This is not an easy read, although it's deeply engrossing and intimate; it's shocking, infuriating, and tragic, but definitely one to read if you want to understand the epidemic a bit further.
OK, so I'm just a little over 100 pages into The Library Book, but I'm telling you that this is a must read. I've been waiting for this book ever since it was announced shortly after the publication of Rin Tin Tin in 2011, so this has been a project long in the making. If you're familiar with Susan Orlean's work, you know that she immerses herself in the subject at hand: although the basis of this is the (still unsolved) 1986 Central Library fire in Los Angeles, it's about much more than that: memory, what happens when it's gone (her mother's dementia figures into the story), the ever-changing world of libraries and librarianship, the history of book burning and destruction of libraries, and so much more. A new book by Orlean is a big deal, and this almost never came to pass; above all, it's a deeply felt love letter to libraries, librarians, and the work that they do, the difficulties that they face, and the importance of libraries as community centers as well as the keepers of that community's culture.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library