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Best Books of 2016 - Children's

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The Night GardnerTHE NIGHT GARDENER
by Terry and Eric Fan
(2016)

This book was SO CLOSE to being added to our best books of the year list. It is one of my favorite books from the year. In fact, if you want to know just how much I love this book; take a look at my blog post from it back in March of 2016. It is about a boy who notices a gardener who trims trees at night—which cause quite the response the next day since the trees turn into owls, dragons, and other fun creatures. The story is good, but the pictures are amazing! The subtle changes from what the street feels and looks like before the night gardener comes to afterward is just amazing—to the point that by the end it is hard to think that life wasn’t so bright and happy throughout the whole book. Honestly, this is one book that will not soon be forgotten, and it is one that almost (ALMOST!) made it onto my best books list this past year. If I could have added one more picture book, this would have been it! 

 

Alamo All StarsNATHAN HALE’S HAZARDOUS TALES: ALAMO ALL-STARS
by Nathan Hale
(2016)

I love the Hazardous Tales graphic novels! They are clever, full of fun facts, and well done. The only reason that this did not make the list is that it is the 6th book in the series. I figured that many people already knew about the Hazardous Tales (and how amazing they are). So this almost made the list…but I opted to add the new graphic novels that were the first in a series instead. So this particular tale tells about the heroes that lived and died at the Alamo (and those who escaped or fought against the Alamo which is why we know so much about that event). There are bits of backstory mingled with humor and jokes (and readers can still laugh at the Provost and the Hangman). Seriously, such great non-fiction put together in one happy package. ALAMO ALL-STARS, if I had one more spot you would have been on the best books list! 

 

When the Sea Turned to SilverWHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER
By Grace Lin
(2016)

I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. The reason this book did not make our final list is because there were just too many exceptional middle grade novels this year (as if there can ever ACTUALLY be too many). This is the story of the Storyteller’s granddaughter – Pinmei. After the Tiger Emperor kidnaps her grandmother, Pinmei must journey to find the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night – the only thing that might persuade the Emperor to change his mind and release his prisoner. When the Sea Turned to Silver is the third installment in a story that began with WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON but can easily stand alone.  This is not usually the type of book that I would choose for myself - I was definitely reading out of my comfort zone – but I loved this beautiful story even more because of it! I fell in love with the magical and yet familiar world that was crafted in this novel and the way the story weaved together and revealed itself at the end. This book is for everyone to read and enjoy while it warms you like a fuzzy blanket. Too many good books is a problem I like to have but, unfortunately, it means this book just barely missed our best books list. 

 

Animals by the NumbersANIMALS BY THE NUMBERS: A BOOK OF ANIMAL INFOGRAPHICS
By Steve Jenkins
(2016)

When I was a kid, I don’t remember that there were an excess of really well done informational books. So, I was as surprised as anyone to realize how tight the competition for best non-fiction would be this year. Let me just say, leaving this book off my final list was not a decision I came to easily. ANIMALS BY THE NUMBERS graphically shares all kinds of interesting facts and figures about all kinds of different animals. This book is seriously informative with very simple, straightforward, “good to know” infographics. The minimalist illustrations make the book even more user friendly and they are, frankly, unbelievably striking. If I had space for anymore informational books, this one would be included – no doubt. In the end, ANNIMALS BY THE NUMBERS was beaten out by some very stiff competition. 

 

The Thank You BookTHE THANK YOU BOOK
By Mo Willems
(2016)

Easy Readers have come a long way recently, mostly thanks to Mo Willems. So, Mo, THANK YOU! This book was left off the final list in part because this is the last in a series and I was hoping that everyone would already know and love Elephant & Piggie. Unfortunately, this book was nudged off the list is because even though it is Mo Willems being excellent, it is not quite as excellent as Mo Willems can be. (We hold him to his own standard). Elephant Gerald & Piggie say goodbye and thank you to their friends, the reader, and each other in this very sweet book that fans of the series will love. If our list for best books could be even one book longer, THE THANK YOU BOOK would be a part of it! 

 

 

Best Books of 2016 (YA) - The One(s) That Got Away

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Each of us has read dozens of teen books in the last year in preparation to share the Best Young Adult Books of 2016. Not everything we read was a contender L. In the end, we along with two other colleagues have compiled our 50 favorite teen reads. Here are five books that ALMOST made the cut, but not quite.

Darcy Swipes LeftDARCY SWIPES LEFT
by Courtney Carbone
(2016)

Jane Austen meets the smart phone in this fun, modern telling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Told via text messages, emoticons, emails, and more; I really enjoyed this version of the classic. The book was fast paced and less detailed than the original, but the story line was still true to the characters that generations have come to love. In the end, I found that there were just a few other books that I wanted to talk about more than this one.

 

 

TruthwitchTRUTHWITCH
by Susan Dennard
(2016)

This book is loaded with political intrigue, magic, thrilling fight scenes, mythical creatures, and romance.   Two best friends, both gifted with special magical abilities, are faced with a world on the verge of war.  TRUTHWITCH just barely missed our top 50 list.  The political intrigue and complicated plot (that many people will love) didn’t work for me quite as much as I wanted and other standout novels were able to slide this exciting adventure out of my ‘best of the best’ list.

 

 

 

Tell Me Something RealTELL ME SOMETHING REAL 
by Calla Devlin
(2016)

When the three Babcock sisters learn something that makes them question everything their tight-knit family is founded on, they all have to come to terms with things in their own way. To be honest, I liked this book better than some of the other books I’m going to talk about at Best Books. It kept me guessing all the way through, the writing was beautiful, and I thought it was really well done.  The thing that held me back from showcasing this one is the setting.  Set in 1976, this book is a little too contemporary for me to classify as historical fiction, but the world has changed a lot since then.  Although I think teens will enjoy this book, it feels more like a book written to appeal to adults who read YA, rather than to teens themselves.

 

This Adventure EndsTHIS ADVENTURE ENDS 
by Emma Mills
(2016)

Emma Mills got a lot of praise for her 2015 book, FIRST & THEN, which I haven’t read.  I need to fix this problem immediately, however, because I read THIS ADVENTURE ENDS in almost one sitting.  This book, about a group of friends all dealing with the changes that being a senior in high school brings, was so fun!  I loved how real the characters felt, but they didn’t take themselves too seriously.  It even has a Nicholas Sparks-like character that loses his motivation to write, and finds it again by writing what is basically Vampire Academy fanfiction.  At the end of the day, I had to choose, and I felt like some of the award winners I’d read should be showcased more than this one despite my love for it.

 

Holding Up the Universe   Blog SizeHOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE 
by Jennifer Niven
(2016)

Jennifer Niven’s books are always well written with great characters and emotional complexity. She doesn’t shy away from harsh topics and this book is no exception. Libby Strout is overweight, but that seems to be the only thing people know or want to know about her. Jack Masselin is a confident boy despite the fact that he is unable to recognize faces. Jack and Libby are not in the same social class at school, yet the more they get to know each other the more they recognize their similarities rather than their differences. Since we recommended Niven’s ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES last year, we decided to give another author some recognition this year.

 

 To see what we did make the cut, join us for The Best Books of 2016 on February 22nd!

 

 

Best Books of 2016 - Adult

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On Wednesday, February 22nd we will present our annual Best Books event!  This consists of three presentations (though participants only have time to visit two) on the best children’s, teen, and adult books our librarians read in 2016.  We’ve been reading furiously all year to compile our lists and are so excited to talk about them.

For the next few days we will be giving you a little preview. Below is a list of five books that ALMOST made it into my best adult books of 2016.  Last year I read over 100 books and so many of them were amazing.  These five books were great….just not as great as the 20 I will be talking about on the 22nd.

The DollhouseTHE DOLLHOUSE 
by Fiona Davis
(2016)

I love books that weave stories from history with those in present times.  THE DOLLHOUSE is a wonderful example of this popular writing style.  Here a journalist becomes obsessed with the life of a neighbor in her rent controlled New York apartment building. The more she learns about the building, its history, and its tenants, the more desperate she becomes for more and more personal details.  The mystery, drama, and history of the story kept me reading to the last surprising twist.

 

 

Curious Charms

CURIOUS CHARMS OF ARTHUR PEPPER
by Phaedra Patrcik 
(2016)

Arthur Pepper’s life is precisely orchestrated just as it was before his wife Miriam died. However, on the one-year anniversary of her death, Arthur discovers a charm bracelet he’s never seen before and begins a journey of hope and healing.  This is a great choice for those who loved THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY and A MAN CALLED OVE.

 

 

City of Mirrors

CITY OF MIRRORS
by Justin Cronin
(2016)

This is the last volume in THE PASSAGE trilogy.  I have loved every installment of this epic post-apocalyptic horror series.  The final volume was an exciting and satisfying conclusion.  Since I already talked about this series in previous years’ Best Books events, I decided to leave it off this year to be able to highlight other stellar 2016 publications.  But for horror readers, this really was a standout conclusion and shouldn’t be missed.

 

Lab GirlLABGIRL
by Hope Jahren 
(2016)

I agonized over not including this specific title in my list because it really is a wonderfully written memoir.  Jahren tells about her adventures as a female scientist in a very male dominated academic environment.  She talks about her special friendship and collaborative relationship with lab partner, Bill.  Add to that an amazingly honest and revealing description of her struggles with mental illness and you begin to see why this is such a special book.  Maybe I should swap it out on my list….ahhhh, I can’t decide!!

 

Frontier GritFRONTIER GRIT: THE UNLIKELY TRUE STORIES OF DARING PIONEER WOMEN
by Marianne Monson 
(2016)

Twelve amazing women who helped to settle the west are spotlighted in this cumulative biography.  Two of my favorite sketches were about Nellie Cashman who, in her 80s, mushed a dog sled 750 miles in seventeen days and Martha Hughes Cannon who became the first female State Senator in the United States, defeating her own husband who was also on the ballot.  These women are inspiring and I loved reading about their nonconventional lives and pioneering spirits.  

  

It is so hard to pick favorites with so many talented writers supplying us amazing books for every taste.  Hopefully you can join us on the 22nd to see our complete lists.  We will have delicious cupcakes and exciting door prizes as well, so bring a friend or two!

 

 

Best Love Stories

best love stories

 

So, after Christmas, the next holiday stores go gaga for is Valentine’s Day. Patrons start seeing everything from chocolate to obnoxiously stuffed teddy bears with satin hearts attached to them. Sadly none of this ties back to the myth behind one of the original St. Valentines; it is not well documented which St. Valentines was the original. But one of the myths behind this holiday according to history.com is that during the third century, the Roman emperor Claudius II decided that unmarried men made better soldiers than men with wives and children. So he banned all marriages for young men.  The story goes that even though it was illegal and eventually cost Valentine his life he continued after the edict to marry the young couples in love. Read story here

In honor of all those lovers who got to be united in matrimony all those centuries ago, I and some of my co-workers have compiled a list of some of our favorite love stories captured by books. This is by no means a complete list but hopefully it gives some amazing stories for you to consider reading this upcoming Valentines season.

Benedict & Beatrice
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
by William Shakespeare
1600

I love the relationship between these two. Confirmed bachelor and bachelorette who hate each other end up finding something to love about the other after their friends set them up. This is my favorite Shakespearian comedy.

Anne & Gilbert
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
by L.M. Montgomery
1908

Proof relationships aren’t always about first impressions. My favorite memory will always be Anne smashing her tablet over Gilbert’s head. As time passes she eventually forgives him for humiliating her in class. I love watching the dynamic develop between these two as they grow up and mature into adults. This is an amazing series with beautiful scenes all throughout the books.

Wesley & Buttercup
PRINCESS BRIDE
by William Goldman
1973

Relationships start with someone being kind. I love how they show that it takes work to not only begin a relationship but it takes fighting for what you want and sacrifice, to keep a relationship going. Not to mention this book is dripping with humor and hilarious situations, which makes it an all-around amazing read.

Hazel & Gus
FAULT IN OUR STARS
by John Green
2012

Love can make a difference even if only around for a short time.  I like this love story because it is so much more real than the immature Romeo and Juliet where they promise to commit suicide together and then never get to actually know what love is like because they are dead. There are so many things wrong with Romeo and Juliet I won’t get started. What I love about Gus and Hazel is that they do make a difference in each other’s lives. They are there for each other even when life is knocking them upside the head and they don’t feel like being strong anymore. 

Jane & Mr. Rochester
JANE EYRE
by Charlotte Bronte
1847

Everyone deserves a chance at true love even if you didn’t know what you were doing the first time around. I have heard a lot of people give Mr. Rochester grief because he was hiding his first wife in his attic. Which okay, taken in or out of context is not an honest thing to do.  But I love how this story allows for second chances and for there to be growth and a happy ending even if things go terribly the first time around.

 

 

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