Books to Keep You Warm
A fresh start, a time to regroup and reflect – January is always a month of potential. As a store, we were closed January 6th and 7th for our annual refresh, inventory, and training. Reflecting on the end of 2019, we couldn't be happier to report that we received Giving Tree donations to provide holiday gifts for 296 local children and to fund 15 Giving Tree First Libraries this past holiday season.
These programs and their success would be impossible without your support and generosity, so thank YOU!
January, however, can also be a cold and gray time of year. Luckily, books have the power to warm us up and add some vibrancy to our lives! This newsletter has some great reading and activity recommendations to do just that. What books do you lean on to get through the winter? We love to hear so please let us know!
Audrie: Audrie has been a bookseller at Eight Cousins for about two years and is an avid Young Adult and True Crime reader. When asked about a book that she turns to as a comfort read, Audrie recommends Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas. Audrie has been reading the series since the first installment, Throne of Glass, came out in 2012 and she raves that Kingdom of Ash is "one of those books I can read over and over again . . . this one is one of my favorites because it has all of my favorite characters!" For more of Audrie's reading recommendations, take a look here.
What We're Recommending . . .
I have always been a mystery reader. I remember early on reading the Freddie the Detective books, then graduating to Nancy Drew. I could happily spend a Saturday consuming one of Nancy’s adventures; I traded my copies with friends and even had some of the old Nancy Drew books my mother had saved from her childhood.
This “guilty pleasure” has followed me into adulthood – although I’m not the least bit guilty about enjoying a well-written mystery. I tend to shy away from police procedurals, however I follow the dark Scandinavians as well as authors such as Martin Walker and his character Bruno, the only police presence in a French village. One of our customers recommended Donna Leon to me, cautioning that it’s best to follow her mysteries in the order they were written as the characters age and change over the course of the series.
So I decided to plunge right in – and I’m so glad I did. Leon’s beautifully written mysteries are my go-to reading when I want an escape. Her main character, Commissario Guido Brunetti (described in an article in The Guardian as "cultured, shrewd, honest and fit"), is a policeman in Venice who is happily married with two children. Leon has said that she wanted her main character to be someone she would like, and indeed Guido is extremely likable. His aristocratic wife Paola is a good, Italian cook – the descriptions of their meals make me want to try my hand at some basic recipes. Both Guido and Paolo are avid readers, she a fan of Henry James while he navigates toward ancient Greeks and Romans.
Sitting comfortably at home, I am able to travel the canals of Venice with Guido, learning about the city’s history, art, and culture. What a pleasure and a diversion from daily life! I wholeheartedly recommend Donna Leon’s series, not only to mystery readers but to armchair travelers. Start with Death at La Fenice where Brunetti solves the mysterious death of the opera house's conductor.
In Children's Books
Debut author Janae Marks is a spectacular new voice in middle grade fiction. Her first novel From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a fun, fresh story about family, friends, and baking. On Zoe's 12th birthday, she receives a card from her father. Unsure why he's writing her now after all these years of silence, Zoe begins a tentative correspondence. Her dad, Marcus, claims to have been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. And he hasn't been silent. He's been reaching out to Zoe for years. Zoe starts to do her own investigation, talking to her grandmother, reading about racial injustice and the prison system. With the help of her former friend – if they can sort out that mix-up! – Zoe is determined to uncover the truth all while working on the next best cupcake recipe for a junior chef contest. Readers will fall in love with Zoe and her whole family. One reader from one of our local school book clubs even wrote in a review that From the Desk of Zoe Washington "may have the potential for being the Next Big Thing."
In line with our Books Build Conversations theme for the year, From the Desk of Zoe Washington includes some great conversation starters. Talk about family secrets. Share your favorite hobbies and passions. Read Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy – there is a young reader's edition for middle schoolers! Talk about friendships and misunderstandings. Talk about the lengths families will go to protect each other. Talk about the discipline of writing your first novel. Ask everyone at dinner to share stories, book ideas, film plots, poems, plays, etc. they’ve ever considered writing.
Big Lies in a Small Town begins with Morgan Christopher, a character in jail for a DUI accident in 2018, being visited by two women who have a plan for her release and, hopefully, her rehabilitation. A mediocre art student before the accident, Morgan has been named in a deceased artist’s will to restore a 1940's WPA mural and hang it in a new gallery. Why was Morgan chosen? She knows the artist’s work but had never met him before his death. The book alternates between 1940, when Anna Dale was painting the mural, and 2018, when Morgan is trying to start a new life with this daunting task. I greatly enjoyed reading about these characters and the stories of the two artists.
Puzzle season is in full swing. Visit us to use our new puzzle table!
January forecast: A wintery mix of fun things . . . puzzles, games, activities, and soft buddies for cozy cuddles.
Colorful crafts for gray days!