Best book lists rule this time of year, so here’s our list of lists!

Man, Thanksgiving hit, and all my book-related newsletters and websites have been filled with “Best of 2018” and other types of end-of-year book lists. My first response was “Can you not wait until the end of the year? What if the best book of the year gets released in December?!”

But alas, the lists have not slowed down and there are so many of them I don’t know where to start or how to decide which ones I should choose books from! In other words, all these lists have me a little paralyzed. Kind of. I mean, now that I’ve looked at so many lists of what are supposed to be the best books of the year, I have no idea how to manage my to-read list, because now I want to read everything.Image result for choose a book

So, to help you build a TBR (to be read) pile for 2019, here is a Top 10 of the lists we’ve found, from the traditional, to the not-so-traditional.

    1. Image result for new york times book reviewFrom The New York Times Book Review, here’s a list of the 10 best fiction and nonfiction titles chosen by the paper’s book editors.
  1. Here’s a list from Literary Hub billed as the “Ultimate Best Books of 2018 List.” The titles were culled from 52 best-of lists and the titles that appeared most often on those lists show up here.
  2. Here’s a list from Digg that used a similar tactic to review lots of lists  and come up with the Top 10 for 2018.
  3. This Washington Post Book World Top 10 list includes not just the 10 books that caught the editors’ attention, but lots more lists, including the 10 best graphic novels and the best children’s books.
  4. Is any Top 10 list complete without a list from a publishing publication? We think not, so here’s a list of Publisher Weekly‘s Top 10 from 2018.
  5. GQ chose its list of 9 favorites, then each of those authors also chose a favorite, for a list of 17 recommended books for 2018.Goodreads Choice Awards
  6. Goodreads (you are on Goodreads now, aren’t you?!) has its users vote for their favorite books in an end-of-year poll, for a crowd-sourced list.
  7. Another best-of list from Literary Hub is its list of the best-reviewed books from its companion site Book Marks.
  8. Book Riot has a list that is a little different take, and is guaranteed to have some titles that aren’t included on the lists above. It’s a list of 50 must-read books that you likely missed this past year.
  9. And the final list I want to share with you is one of my favorites, and it’s not technically a traditional list. NPR’s Book Concierge is a fun way to find new books that appeal to you, as you can sort using filters (and can combine filters). In addition, NPR makes its Book Concierges from 2008-2017 available as well!

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What’s Ashley Reading?: Time’s Convert

The last several months have been filled with the project of weeding and shelf reading the juvenile non-fiction books.  This is quite a daunting task since there are TONS of books!  I was ready to take on the challenge though.  As I have been working my way through the Dewey decimal system I have found some very interesting books.  Even though they are titles geared towards children there is so much good information to be found here.  And the fact that kids LOVE to check these out is wonderful!  If you have not browsed our children’s non-fiction titles you definitely should.

I am someone who likes to learn a little bit while I read.  Before I started working at the library I read mainly historical fiction.  I love learning about the history of people and places.  Deborah Harkness’s newest book, Time’s Convert, is my latest historical fiction but with a fantasy twist.

*May contain spoilers if you have not read the All Souls Trilogy!*

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

First line: On her last night as a warmblood, Phoebe Taylor had been a good daughter.

 Summary: In continuation of her best-selling series, Deborah Harkness takes us on an adventure spanning from the American Revolution to modern day as we follow the early days of vampires, Phoebe Taylor and Marcus MacNeil.  Marcus grew up in time of great change.  He saw the birth of a new country but when he meets Matthew de Claremont on the fields of battle his life was changed forever.  Phoebe, an art dealer and Marcus’s fiancé, has made the decision to become a vampire.  In the early days after her rebirth, she learns that her journey to immortality is not any easier than it was for Marcus.

 Highlights: I love Harkness and her writing.  It is immediately engaging.  I read the All Souls Trilogy several years ago which made the details of the story a little fuzzy.  However, as I started this newest installment she gave tidbits that helped me remember more of the previous novels storyline.  I was worried that in this new book I would not get to revisit characters like Matthew and Diana because the story focused on Marcus and Phoebe but Harkness must have known I would always want more of them.  She alternates her chapters between the characters and plot lines.  We jump from eighteenth century to the twenty-first and back again.

I have been fascinated with the American Revolution since middle school.  I was pleased that Marcus’s story took us back to the American colonies and the fight for liberty.  I enjoyed reading as Marcus met famous people of the time including the Marquis de Lafayette.  After seeing Harkness at a Watermark event a few years back, I learned that her focus of study is on the history of science.  It really comes through during this time when Marcus, as well as the nation, is dealing with a small pox epidemic.  The history of inoculations for the disease was fascinating and fit perfectly into the story.  I am so glad that small pox is not something that we have to worry about now because it looks truly frightening!

Phoebe is a character that I vaguely remember from the trilogy but I cannot say that I felt too strongly about her.  In this book, she has a fascinating story.  I loved seeing her progress as she fought her urges and dealt with the new strengths.  Her first night out in the world interesting.  In addition, her preference for the blood of middle-aged white women definitely made me laugh aloud!

Matthew and Diana’s twins were probably my favorite part of the story.  Each of them have their own traits from both their mother and father.  Watching their parents try to figure out how to deal with a daughter who drinks blood and son who can weave spells was entertaining.  I do not want to give too much away but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 Lowlights: I wish I could get more Gallowglass!  He makes a few appearances but not enough for me.  Maybe the next book?!  Please Deborah!!

 FYI: Lots of blood, violence, magic and some sexual situations.

*I do not think it is a must but I would recommend reading her All Souls Trilogy, starting with A Discovery of Witches before picking this one up.*

Late September new releases

The first few weeks of school are out of the way, the mornings are a little cooler, and we can always find more excuses reasons to read, right? There are some books that look like they will be great reading as fall makes its way to Kansas. So take a look at a few books we think are worth noticing as the pumpkins start to ripen.

Click on the title to go to the library catalog where you can see if the book is available and put it on hold. Grab your favorite hot drink, find a comfy chair and sit and read for a while!

Sept. 19: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Jane was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, a deep sea photographer and adjunct professor. But now Jane is a year out of high school and Aunt Magnolia got lost during an expedition to Antarctica a few months ago. Jane is now obsessed with the umbrellas that reflect her dreams. When she is invited to a gala at the island mansion Magnolia told her to absolutely go to if she ever got the chance, Jane goes. What Jane doesn’t know yet is that every choice made in the mansion comes with a reward, or a price.

Cover of The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Meet Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, owner of a fishing boat that may be making a trek to Cuba to recover $60,000,000 hidden during the Cuban revolution.

Sept. 19: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan during his 5-year stint as an infantry officer. Now he owns a 42-foot charter fishing boat and is sitting in a bar waiting to hear why he should take a $2,000,000 fare to Cuba. After hearing Sara’s story of the $60,000,000 her grandfather hid during the revolution, he knows that he’ll either come away from this job rich, or he won’t come back at all.

Sept. 26: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Cover of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
Stephen King co-authored “Sleeping Beauties” with his son Owen King.

This father-and-son collaboration explores the question of what might happen if the women of the world disappeared. From Goodreads: “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.”

Sept. 26: The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (non-fiction)
If you have been to Asheville, North Carolina, and visited the Biltmore Estate, or if you’ve never been to North Carolina and only seen pictures of the Biltmore Estate, this book tells the magnificent story of how the country’s grandest residence was built. However, the book is more than just the story of how a 175,000-square-foot home was built. You’ll also learn the story of George Vanderbilt and Edith Stuyvessant Dresser.

Cover of Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
This book for middle grade readers is a wonderful story about relationships.

Sept. 26: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (for young readers)
From Goodreads: “Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood ‘wishtree’—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this ‘wishtree’ watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever. “

Early June new releases

Aaahhhh. Summer is finally here! The kids are out of school, the pools are open and the sun is (we hope!) shining. Summer just screams at me to pick up a new book — or several! — and climb into the hammock under the tree and ignore everything else for a while as I lose myself in the pages. When I was a teenager, we lived just a couple blocks from the local public library, so I would ride my bike over, pick up a few novels, come home and jump in the hammock to read. My family always knew where to find me in the backyard.

And now that I am, well, let’s just say not a teenager any longer, and my summers aren’t nearly as free as they were when I was 14, my heart still yearns for the hammock, a light breeze and a stack of good books. Luckily, with all the new releases to look forward to this month, my stack will stay nice and tall.

Here are a few titles we are looking forward to that will be released the first couple of weeks of June.

June 6: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
This, the 13th novel from Sarah Dessen, takes place in the world of wedding planning, so a crisis is just about guaranteed. Louna is the daughter of a famous wedding planner, so she has seen weddings at beaches, hotels, and fancy clubs. After her first love ended tragically, Louna is pretty cynical about happy endings. So when she meets Ambrose, she works to keep her distance. However, now that he’s met a girl he really wants, Ambrose is hard to discourage.

“The Alice Network” is the newest historical novel by Kate Quinn.

June 6: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
This new historical novel by Kate Quinn brings together the stories of a 1915 woman, Eve Gardiner, recruited as a spy in France, and a 1947 unconventional American socialite, Charlie St. Clair.  Charlie is sent to Europe to have a “little problem” taken care of, but while there she goes on the hunt for her cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war. There, Charlie meets Eve, who, desperate to fight against the Germans, is trained by the “Queen of Spies” and sent into enemy-occupied France during the World War I.

June 6: Camino Island by John Grisham
A daring heist from a vault deep below an Ivy League university’s library. A dealer in rare books, who also occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts. A young female novelist who goes undercover. Eventually, people learn too much. Suspense as only Grisham can deliver.

June 13: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
From the author of Bad Feminist comes an emotionally raw memoir of food, weight, self-image, and self-care. From Goodreads: “As a woman who describes her own body as ‘wildly undisciplined,’ Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.”

Take a trip to Old Hollywood in this story of one actress’s story of her life, secrets, and all seven husbands.

June 13: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo, one of the most glamorous actresses of Old Hollywood, has decided the time has come to tell her story, and the truth, about her scandalous life. To do so, she chooses unknown magazine report Monique Gray, who is not exactly at the top of her own world, but is determined to use this chance to jump start her career. As Evelyn’s life unfolds, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s surprisingly in tragic and irreversible ways.

June 13: The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor
Kristoff, an apprentice stamp engraver in Austria, is forced to work for the Germans after his teacher, a master stamp engraver, disappears during the Kristallnacht. Fifty years later, Katie Nelson discovers a stamp collection of her father’s, which includes an unusual stamp from World War II Austria. The discovery leads Katie and Benjamin, an appraiser, on a journey to find the origins of the stamp.

Summer reading for grown-ups!

If you are a parent, you may be familiar with summer reading programs for kids. You know, you come into the library, sign your child(ren) up, and then spend the summer convincing them to spend time with books to log all their minutes reading or being read to, and hope that the weather in the last couple weeks before school starts is nice enough to use your free passes to the water park. It’s fun. No, really, it is! But admittedly, it can be a little bit exhausting.

Even if you don’t have children, you may think that summer reading programs are only for kids. And our summer reading program for kids is super awesome, but it’s not the only summer reading program we have.

We have a summer reading program for you! Yes, every single person who loves to read and is 18 or older can enroll in our adult summer reading program. Registration for the adult summer reading program opens at 9 a.m., Tuesday, May 30. You can register and track your books online or you can come in to the library and pick up a paper log. All books must be logged by 5 p.m. July 23.

Oh, and let’s talk about the prizes! We love to give away prizes! Each week, anyone who has read at least 4 books will be entered in a drawing for a library tote loaded with books and swag. Tuesday, July 25, we’ll draw three names to win grand prizes — a Kindle Fire HD and $50 Amazon gift card — from all participants who have logged at least four books . All prize winners will be drawn at random. 

The theme for all our summer reading programs is the same this year: Build a Better World. So help us build a better world this summer by participating in our adult summer reading program. And tell us in the comments below how reading helps build a better world for you!

Book Clubs at the library

Did you know that we have three book clubs at the library? Each of the book clubs has its own focus, and each one works just a little differently from the others. However, all adults are welcome at every book club. Here’s a little information about each book club, including when they meet.

Joyful Page Turners

This was the first book club at the library, and started almost 17 years ago.

“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles was a recent selection for Joyful Page Turners.

It was originally planned to be a 4-month summer program, meeting in May, June, July and August of 2000. The members of the club enjoyed it so much that they decided to continue and are still meeting today. The club doesn’t limit itself to any specific genre of literature, having read non-fiction, children’s literature and more along with its more usual fare of general adult fiction. Linda Voth manages this book club.

Joyful Page Turners meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month, except in November, when it meets on the third Thursday. The club does take June, July and December off. The members of the book club take turns leading the discussions, and the member who is leading that month also chooses the book that will be read and discussed. They try to have the year’s titles chosen by February or March.

Bemused Bibliophiles

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead was recently read by Bemused Bibliophiles. It has garnered a lot of recognition recently.

Bemused Bibliophiles is the one book club that meets during the day at the library. Dawn Best, adult programming coordinator, leads this book group. Reading choices for this group tend to literary fiction, especially the hot and popular titles that generate a lot of buzz in the literary community.

Bemused Bibliophiles meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. Titles for this book club are chosen 4 months at a time, and discussions are lead by Dawn.

Hauntingly Good Reads
Hauntingly Good Reads is for anyone who likes a touch of the paranormal, supernatural or just a little twist of the unusual in their reading. You may run across zombies, or witches, or vampires in the books for this book club, or there may just be hints that something is not quite what you might expect it to be.

“Stoker’s Manuscript” by Royce Prouty was enjoyed by the members of Hauntingly Good Reads.

Hauntingly Good Reads meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. This book club is the most loosely structured of the book clubs with the selections coming from suggestions of the members of the club, and discussions are lively and organic.

If you are interested in attending any of the book clubs at the library, you can learn what books they’re reading in several ways: check the online events calendar at our website, pick up the monthly brochure for adult programming, or follow our events on Facebook. You can also ask at the front desk. We hope to see you soon!

Book Review: The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen

The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen

First line:  “Pho is so elemental to Vietnamese culture that people talk about it in terms of romantic relationships.”

Summary: Vietnam’s most beloved culinary export pho is now within the reach of any home cook.
Andrea Nguyen first tasted pho in Saigon as a child, sitting at a street stall with her parents. That experience sparked a lifelong love of the iconic noodle soup, and here she dives deep into pho’s lively past, visiting its birthplace and then teaching how to successfully make it. Options range from quick weeknight cheats to 5-hour weekend feasts with broth and condiments from scratch, as well as other pho rice noodle favorites. Over fifty versatile recipes, including snacks, salads, companion dishes, and vegetarian and gluten-free options, welcome everyone to the pho table. With a thoughtful guide on ingredients and techniques, plus evocative location photography and deep historical knowledge, “The Pho Cookbook “enables anyone to cook this comforting classic.

Highlights: I LOVE PHO, and this beautiful book gave me so many new ideas to try. If you are a Pho lover like I am it will inspire you to get in the kitchen and prepare one of the amazing recipes ASAP!

Lowlights (or what could have been better): I think in an effort to make this book pop out from the others of its kind, the author put more of the same recipes (with little tweaks)  in than were actually needed and they became a bit redundant.

FYI: Since this book features several exotic ingredients it probably isn’t for the shy, first-time cook.

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Book Review: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners by Therese Oneill

First Line: Thank you for coming.

Summary: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a woman in Victorian England? Therese Oneill brings the clothes, lifestyle and manners of the 1800s to us in an easy and funny guide of the day to day lives of women in one of the most romanticized times in history. Pictures of the time are combined with tidbits of information about fashion, married life and medical knowledge. This is a laugh out loud book that will make you want to reread your favorite Jane Austen with a new understanding.

Highlights: The cover! It is beautiful and draws the eye. The humor is undeniable. I laughed very hard throughout the book. The little captions of the photos would leave tears in my eyes. Very serious subjects were made much more enjoyable by the added humor comparing the 1800s to now. But it was still informative and gave a look into a time that has continued to be popular among authors and movie makers alike.

Lowlights: The only complaint I would have is that some sections were a little longer than were needed.

FYI: There is a little language and crude humor.

Star Wars!

I was really excited to read The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. I grew up with Star Wars thanks to my dad and am really excited for the upcoming movies! I have never read any of Carrie Fisher’s other books but I think I will now. She is witty and smart and likes to ramble which is great for a laugh. Reading about her time on the set of Star Wars was fascinating. Seeing the making of such an iconic movie through the eyes of one its stars is wonderful. I cannot imagine being 19, starring in a movie and becoming an instant star. She describes the 3-month time on set through her poetry and journal entries. It was fun to get some insight into who she is, was and what it’s like to be a celebrity in a world that is once again obsessed with Star Wars. I like that she has insecurities like most people and seems down to earth. I am looking forward to seeing where she and her alter ego, Princess Leia, go in episodes VIII and IX. Thanks for the entertaining read Carrie!

Reserve a copy of The Princess Diarist today!