Flying High by Julian Edelman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A football loving squirrel learns how much hard work it takes to play the game.

What made me pick it up: I have a coworker who is obsessed with the Patriots and Edelman (the Patriots wide receiver) and when he started publicizing this book she contacted everyone she knew in the Boston area to acquire a copy. Then, thankfully, she shared it with me.

My favorite things: This a fun book with cute illustrations all involving animals. It throws a lot of shade at other NFL teams, and has plenty of in-jokes for Patriots fans. But it also has a great work hard to achieve your goals theme.

Who it’s great for: Kids who love football. Patriots fans. Anyone who has ever been told they can’t, especially if they later proved the haters wrong.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A badass librarian has to stop her evil nemesis before he destroys the library.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of this fantasy series. It is extremely entertaining and has a great set of characters. I’ve read every book in the series and I look forward to more in the future.

My favorite things: This is was as fun as the first two! I enjoy the author’s imagination within the world she has built. I also am endlessly entertained by the characters as well as engaged by the relationships unfolding between them. And let’s be honest, I am jazzed about a book with an empowered female librarian for a main character.

Who it’s great for: Fantasy fans. Librarians. Steampunk enthusiasts. Library lovers. Admirers of strong female leads.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Lohman identifies eight flavors that she believes are integral to and representative of American cuisine and explains the history behind each.

What made me pick it up: I was browsing new books just before lunch and something about food sounded appealing.

My favorite things: I found it interesting to read the reasons behind each flavor’s inclusion. Lohman does a good job of providing historical context for each and discussing the impact of immigration on cuisine. She also visits a variety of production facilities and it’s kind of cool to get a peek into how the different flavors are cultivated. Plus, there are recipes included for each flavor if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Who it’s great for: Fans and readers of culinary history. Cooks and food lovers interested in the story behind the flavors they enjoy.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A blind teen boy gets the opportunity to gain sight thanks to a new medical procedure and how it changes his life for better and worse.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Josh’s. His memoir We Should Hang Out Sometime was such a heartfelt, engaging read (or listen, I guess, since I listened to it). And he does these awesome videos on the interwebs. Plus he’s from Virginia, where I now live, so heyyyy! Also, this cover is so engaging. I’d heard about this book ages ago and when I saw a reminder about it at the end of one of his videos I went online and checked it right out. Thanks, OverDrive!

My favorite things: This is Sundquist’s debut novel which makes it all the more impressive. It is top notch YA and I really enjoyed the John Green-ness of everything about this book. It’s got lovable misfits that find each other in the abyss of high school, an impromptu road trip, a truly lovely confusing crush/friend situation, and a health related element that is strongly reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars (although not as sad, I promise!). I appreciated the supportive but still annoying parent relationship and the tough but supportive teacher relationships the main character has. It is such an interesting take on what makes us different makes us beautiful.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who feels other or invisible, especially in high school. Readers who want to be uplifted by a great story. Fans of John Green because I can’t say enough that this is an excellent read alike for Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines or that other one I already mentioned. Really, just read them all. All of the books.

What else it reminded me of: Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark and the movie Shallow Hal.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A socially inept, recently single woman in her sixties tries to find purpose something to do where people are so she won’t die alone and not be discovered for a week.

What made me pick it up: I loved loved loved Backman’s debut so I placed a hold on all his recent and upcoming releases. As I listened to that, and highly enjoyed it, I sought the audio for this as well (and I again recommend it).

My favorite things: I’m consistently amazed at this author’s ability to write curmudgeonly characters with grace and humor. The humanity he imparts makes it feel like someone in your community or family for that matter. Britt-Marie is marvelous but so is the supporting cast in this small town novel. While not as funny as A Man Called Ove, this certainly has its moments. I also enjoyed the running thread of soccer as metaphor. As a lifelong soccer player this spoke to me as much as any character. The ending is a bit more ambiguous than Ove but if you liked how that played out, with the character coming to a realization, then you will like this as well.

Who it’s great for: Those who want to read about simple, sweet characters and relationships as they go through real life situations. Readers who enjoy everyday warmth in their stories. Fans of Fredrik Backman.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalists

Toward the end of every year, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) releases a shortlist of titles for the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The winner is announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards in January. This year’s winner was John Lewis’ March:Book Three. Here’s a quick rundown of the other titles that made the list of finalists.

What made me pick them up: Each year I try to read all of the finalists before the winner is announced, but this year I’m running a little behind.

Hillary Rodham Clinton:  A Woman Living History by Karen Blumenthal

What it’s about: This book follows Hillary Clinton’s life and political career through the beginning of her 2016 Presidential campaign.

My favorite things: I appreciated that the author didn’t shy away from the controversies that have popped up throughout her life and career. Blumenthal effectively explains many of the difficulties and criticisms Clinton has faced throughout her career and how she has worked to overcome them.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults who want to know more about Clinton’s life and career leading up to her history making campagin as the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.

Abby’s rating:  four-shells

In the Shadow of Liberty:  The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis

What it’s about: Davis presents the lives of five enslaved people and the four presidents who counted them as property.

My favorite things: There’s a very powerful section at the beginning where Davis names several beloved founding fathers and their contributions to the nation, and then lists how many enslaved people they owned. He does an incredible job throughout the book of highlighting the complexities of slavery in early American history and pointing out the inconsistencies in the words and actions of the men who designed the nation.

Who it’s good for:  Teens interested in concrete examples of the contradictions between the rhetoric of liberty and the reality of slavery during the early days of the United States.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Samurai Rising:  The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune  by Pamela S. Turner.  

What it’s about: This traces the early years of samurai rule in Japan by following the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune.

My favorite things: This is a really fun, and often funny, look into the history of samurai rule in Japan. Turner blends storytelling and historical accounts for an exciting peek into the life of a Japanese legend: Minamoto Yoshitsune, the “ultimate samurai”.

Who it’s good for: Teens interested in learning about Japanese history and samurai culture. Reluctant nonfiction readers who need an action packed story to maintain interest.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

This Land is Our Land:  A History of American Immigration  by Linda Barrett Osborne

What it’s about: A concise history of immigration into the United States.

My favorite things: Osborne looks at more than immigration statistics. She considers the lived experience of immigrating to the United States by examining the restrictions and hostile attitudes that have targeted various immigrant groups throughout the nation’s history.

Who it’s good for: Teens and adults who want to understand the history of immigration policies and why it is such a divisive issue.

Abby’s rating: four-shells