New releases to lose sleep over

Holidays are great aren’t they? Not only do we get to buy books for our loved ones but people give us books! And certificates for books! And money to buy MORE books! It’s the best time of the year.

Here are a few upcoming releases to be excited about this holiday season and save some of that cash for.

           To be released: December 2, 2014

Haruki Murakami will be releasing “The Strange Library” next week and if you’re a bookworm – be really excited. Book nerds like us adore authors who write about their love of literature or set their stories in a place of books. Shadow of the Wind? Dash and Lily? Ex-Libris? So many great novels revolve around books within books. “The Strange Library” is about a boy and a girl who try to escape a dark and mystical library full of nightmarish things. SO EXCITED! Who doesn’t want to read about being trapped in a dark, surreal library? It’s a dream come true.

 

 To be released: January 6, 2015

SO YOU THOUGHT FLAVIA WAS GONE? Think again. Flavia may have been packed up to be sent away from Bradshaw at the end of the last book, but her new adventures will occur in the super secret boarding school for spies. New mysteries to solve, new murders to stumble upon. And all with fellow children her age who are uncannily intelligent! It’s a whole new world and I can’t wait to see what Flavia will get tangled up in next.

 

To be released: February 17, 2015

I can only imagine this will be yet another rollicking adventure with our favorite couple, Sherlock Holmes and his badass wife Mary Russell. They are on their way to California (always an excellent choice) and decide to stop by Japan on the way over. The mystery begins aboard their steamer and continues round the world, from Tokyo to Oxford.

                  To be released: December 23, 2014

I have not actually read Sundquists’s other book but I’ve read great reviews on it and this one sounds really funny too. I’m looking forward to checking out this author and seeing if he’s worth his salt! “We should hang out sometime” is Josh humorously investigating why he can’t seem to get a girlfriend. He has many adventures and mishaps and it promises to be an amusing trip into his world.

 

I’m sure there are many more upcoming. What are some of the books you’re excited for?

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

A plane crashes into the audience at a small town air show and two children are buried beneath the rubble. Ava and her best friend, Walsh, are stuck under the remains of the silo as her father, Macon, scrambles to save them. Unable to do so because of the instability of the structure, Macon watches as Walsh bleeds and fades before his very eyes, sure to die trapped beneath the ruins with his daughter.

Until Ava reaches out, lays her hands over Walsh’s injury and heals him.

This wonderful possibility, a child having the ability to heal and save her friend, quickly takes a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, Macon is not the only one who sees her heal Walsh. There are pictures, witnesses, and suddenly their small town is the center of a human maelstrom swirling with desperation, need, guilt and religion.

People travel from all over the world to converge on the town to see the miracle girl. Reporters swarm outside her home, outside her father’s work, her friend’s house and her doctor’s house. Preachers, nut jobs and desperate individuals come from all over to touch her, see her and demand for her to heal them too. In the face of one miracle blooms unrelenting blind hope for every dying, sick soul in the world. And the world seems to forget that all of this is being laid at the feet of a small, helpless, 13-year-old child. And no one, even her father, seems to notice what healing does to Ava herself.

With each healing Ava becomes weaker. She slowly loses weight, is wracked with chills, gains a cough and even goes blind temporarily. Her father struggles with the question of whether her gift automatically ensures an obligation to others or not. He is torn between keeping everyone at bay and asking Ava to help others. He doesn’t realize that as Ava heals, she pays the price of her own life.

To make matters worse, and better, each time Ava heals, she experiences a memory of her late mother, Heather. Memories of roaming in the forest together, going to the carnival, out on the road and just everyday mother-daughter moments. As Ava lets go of herself with each healing, she regains all the pieces of her mom that she didn’t realize she had lost.

“The Wonder of All Things” is a novel about humanity. It explores how the best parts of people – love, hope, compassion – can drive them to do horrible deeds. How people can get caught up in an idea and lose their capacity for basic human goodness while in pursuit of something they justify as more important. How we can all be blind to a truth right in front of us, if it’s a painful truth we aren’t ready to face.

This novel is beautifully written and despite the subject matter seeming to be a little – been there, done that – it is original and touching. The strongest part of the story is Ava and Walsh’s friendship. It becomes the one real thing for her to hold onto as she loses everything else. Their sweet, humorous connection brightens a deadly serious story that evolves around the seemingly simple but inevitably complicated question of what is right and what is wrong.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

“Maybe I am fated to always be alone, Tsukuru found himself thinking. People came to him, but in the end they always left. They came, seeking something, but either they couldn’t find it, or were unhappy with what they found (or else they were disappointed or angry), and then they left. One day, without warning, they vanished, with no explanation, no word of farewell. Like a silent hatchet had sliced the ties between them, ties through which warm blood still flowed, along with a quiet pulse.”

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends in high school, all of whose names had a color inside them. He always felt that he didn’t quite fit with them because his name did not, but they were close despite what he felt was his colorlessness. Four friends who did everything together, an inseparable group that seemed to be balanced perfectly between each personality. Until the day they were gone.

For no reason that he can fathom, his friends cut him off with no explanation. They don’t answer his calls, avoid him when he’s home and he doesn’t see them again for many years. From that day forward, Tazaki is lost. He seems unable to connect to other people, gaining no more close friends and engaging in no close relationships. He attends college, gets a job and moves on with his life physically in Tokyo, but his spirit is still stuck in his past. He almost doesn’t survive the loss, as their absence from his life sends him into a deep and almost irreversible depression.

Then he meets Sara. A lovely woman who attracts him and who he can actually see, possibly, spending the rest of his life with. She presses him to find out what happened, insisting that they won’t be able to move forward until he fixes his shattered past because some part of him will always be holding back. Always waiting for his friends to return.

Tazaki embarks upon trips to confront and speak with each person in his old quartet to figure out what happened and why.

And what he finds is deeply disturbing.

Murakami is as always, mystical, enthralling and personal. He delves into his characters unabashedly, showing you their strange nightmares and weird urges along with their softer inclinations and goodness. Tazaki sees himself as a boring person and much of the book feels muted because of how he describes himself, his past and his thoughts. He seems almost detached from the innermost self he lays bare for us; the same detachment he battles with in his relationships with other people. His despair in being colorless permeates his entire story and how it unfolds.

Though this wasn’t my favorite Murakami, it was definitely a worthwhile read. For those that may have struggled with 1Q84, this is completely the opposite – in length, size and design.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” is a pocket-sized story packed with emotional resonance and atmospheric storytelling. Tazaki will give you hope that even those who are lost for a long time, can find their way back to who they were meant to be.

Top Ten Books Whose Titles Or Covers Made Me Buy It

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke And The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books whose titles or covers made me buy it.

I admit it, I’m a sucker for a good cover or brilliant design, so I roamed a bit about my shelves and found these which I think the cover or name contributed a lot too.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Part of what hooked me in the bookstore to buy this in hardback was the beautiful cover. You can’t tell from the image here, but its a white iridescence type of material that is shimmery. The fact that it was also an awesome read, was icing on the very pretty cake.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

I love books about books, especially when they are well written. I had heard this book was excellent and when I found it, the adorable cover with the books, lamp and colors was irresistible. I bought it immediately. It is also, btw, definitely worth reading.

  The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steve Galloway

I love small books. I know this sounds weird, but sometimes when you find that tiny little book squished between all those huge stacks of new hardcover fiction and bestsellers, it feels a little bit like a miracle to find a tiny, lovely book where you didn’t expect it. I also loved the name and the cover. This book lived up to its design, it is a gem of a book, beautiful and moving.

Who the hell is Pansy O’Hara? The Facinating Stories behind 50 of the world’s best loved books by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy

This book is definitely not one that wins for its cover, a bit unattractive with the yellow and pile of books. Seems like very little effort was put into it, but the title is different. I was really captured by the title and wanted to read the stories behind the books I knew so well already.

The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart

The name of the book really entranced me, a zoo, a tortoise and a tower? It sounded fanciful and fun. The writing itself is very good also and lives up to the whimsy of the name.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I loved the cute cover and the name of this book, the description also, that two kids were leaving clues for each other in a book in bookstores in New York, really hooked me. It was a great book and I wasn’t sorry to be entranced by the cover/title.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

This awesome cover made me interested in a book I had never noticed before. Its very visual, being in black and white and of a graphic nature. I loved this design and it made me buy the book without much thought.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

A beautiful cover for a beautiful book. A very sad story about love, loss, family, concentration camps and finding hope even when you lose everything you know or love in your life. The cover and title definitely does the story justice.

The Master by Colm Toibin

A stunning cover for a riveting book. The Master is about a man who is born into an intellectual family and moves to Paris, Rome, Venice and London to live among artists and other writers. It is emotional and riveting, much like the cover itself.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

  “Continue your quest by taking the test. Yes, but what test? What test was I supposed to take? The Kobayashi Maru? The Pepsi Challenge? Could the clue have been any more vague?

Ready Player One is an 80s geek child’s dream book. If you love Atari, pop culture, 80s movies and music, then you will love the hours of geeking out this book provides. The story opens in the not so distant future where global warming has increased exponentially and the recession has deepened into a depression, making it a bleak and poverty ridden place to exist. Thankfully, there is an alternative, a Virtual Reality world called OASIS created by a very talented game designer named James Halliday. OASIS provides a whole universe where education is free, entertainment abounds, thousands of worlds exist for gamers to explore, quests to beat and even the ability to build and live in homes there. Everyone on earth buys a pair of gloves, a visor and plugs in to this virtual world to ignore the decay and destruction of earth. Halliday, already rich, becomes the richest man on the planet. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind no heirs, so he makes a video which introduces a grand game. The game starts with a riddle, which leads to the first of three keys. Each key will open gates that have challenges the searcher must beat. The entire quest ends in finding an egg which gives the winner Halliday’s entire fortune and control of OASIS.

Since Halliday was an 80s teen and a gamer, all the challenges have to do with 80s music, video games, pop culture or gaming. The world becomes obsessed with that decade and an 80s revival occurs as everyone studies up to find the first key. Years pass, no one find anything, the hunt dies down except for the hardcore egg hunters, ‘gunters’ for short. Here is where our hero comes into the picture. A young man in high school, exceptionally smart (and geeky) living in a trailer park with his abusive aunt in one of the many slums on earth. He has been studying and searching for the first key for five years with the rest of the world, but then, suddenly, he actually finds it. And now, the adventure begins.

I admit, as a 80s baby I have always loved the 80s. It is my belief that all us 80s children miss the 80s and everyone who wasn’t born in the 80s, just wishes they were. The fashionable socks, the ridiculous hair styles, the jammin’ tunes and most of all.. the awesome movie montages. Growing up with The Goblin King, Ferris Buller, Claire Standish, Marty McFly, Peter Venkman, Atreyu, The Three Amigos, Tootsie, The Terminator, E.T., The Dread Pirate Roberts, Indiana Jones, Officer John McClane and so many more made me a hardcore lover of all things 80s. As I got older, my love of 80s movies morphed into an all compassing love of the decade to include original Atari games and 80s jams. My little sister still gives me weird looks when Tears for Fears blasts out of my iPod, but then, she was born in 1987 and never embraced that decade as I felt she rightfully should.

This book, for me, was page after page of just plain fun. Who doesn’t want to experience a world where you can buy and restore a DeLorean? Model your home after those in the classic 80s tv shows? Experience your favorite Atari games from inside the game itself?

Not only is this book brain candy for anyone who is a geek, but the story itself is fast paced and engaging. I was fully invested in the characters, the game, OASIS and every moment of every plot twist. Regardless of whether you are an 80s fanatic wearing high tops, a trench coat and holding your boom box outside of your girlfriends room to play ‘In Your Eyes’, or just someone who loves books, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this adventure.

But I do recommend wearing high tops anyway, they’re just so darn stylish.

Top Ten Underrated Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke And The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Underrated Books

I’m not sure how underrated these books are in the book community, maybe you’ve all read them and love them. But I feel like I often get the question of “what? who?” when I talk about them. So here goes, my list of possibly underrated books that I’d like others to read so they can exclaim with me over their amazingness.

1.   Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll

Or really anything he has written. I remember loving these books when I read them and being unable to put them down. Disturbing, beautiful, haunting, twisted. They were always unexpected.

2.   Anything by Barabara Kingsolver that ISN’T The Poisonwood Bible 

So maybe I’ll talk a little bit about overrated books too? I didn’t enjoy The Poisonwood Bible. Not sure why, I just couldn’t get into it. But I did love (love love love!) all her other books. So, I usually try to get people to branch out into her other novels. I swear, they are completely worth it.

3.   Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Anyone who goes to read Murakami always seems to leap for his The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which again, was not my favorite. I’ve read most of Murakami’s books and loved them. Out of all his books, this one has really stuck with me. Maybe because it was my first Murakami, maybe not. Either way, I wish more people had read this one too.

4.   Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

This is an awesome book with amazing reviews. Somehow though, most people I’ve talked too have never heard of it. So here I am doing my part, read this book! Whether you love to run or not, if you love to read, I think you’ll enjoy it.

5.    Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

When I began to read this book I didn’t have any idea what the Iditarod was or that it even existed. Once I read this book, I knew it would stick with me for the rest of my life. The Iditarod is the world’s largest sled race in Alaska. People endure days of racing over dangerous mountains and valleys, extreme cold, lack of food, frostbite, injuries and sometimes even death to run this race. Paulsen gives his first hand account of training and running it for the first time. He is funny, intelligent and engaging. I loved this book.

6.   84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I know I’ve put this book on lists before but I’m going to say it again. If you are a book lover, you must read this book. You will cherish it.

7.   The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

An adorable little novella about the Queen of England discovering a love for reading and putting off running the country to read books.

8.   Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Everyone has read (or heard of) The Five People You’ve Met in Heaven. Well let me gesture wildly as I point out, Albom has other books! This is yet another I-enjoyed-this-book-more-than-the-one-he-is-famous-for book. Have a Little Faith is a smart, touching and well written book. I am not religious in the least and I enjoyed this book immensely. Its all about love, understanding and respecting the belief’s of others.

9.   The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery   

This book is about a concierge in a building in Paris. Though she may come off as cranky and uneducated when interacting with the rich people in her building, secretly she is sophisticated, intelligent and lovely. She begins to interact with a new tenant and show her true self through his kindness and kinship.

10.   Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars by Ray Bradbury

So you’ve read his famous novels, but have you read this collection of personal essays? If you haven’t, you must! Bradbury fans will enjoy this intimate peek into Bradbury’s life and thoughts. I really loved learning more about one of my favorite authors.