Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
Set during World War I as Sioux City prepares for the holidays, Stacy Henrie's kisses-only novella is perfect for those looking for a quick, uplifting Christmas read.
Maria, although heartbroken over the recent marriage of her first love, refuses to allow anything to bring her down. Headstrong and capable, she's found happiness in her position as a clerk at a local bank. However, her new, ornery boss, Dale, challenges this happiness. A veteran of World War I, Dale's dreams of being a surgeon were crushed when he was injured in battle, and he is less than enthused about taking over his uncle's bank. Yet despite their seemingly opposite temperaments, Maria and Dale find themselves drawn to each other. As the Christmas season approaches, it seems possible that they will both find the gift of true love.
The feel of Dale’s gloved hands within hers made her glance up, startled. Here was a man who she sensed had the ability to see right into her heart. The realization both frightened and intrigued her. Not only because Dale was her boss, but because she felt certain he hid his own wounds as cleverly as she did hers.
“Mind if I tag along?” he said, linking their joined hands.
Maria smiled. “Not as all.” She turned her head slightly to see how might be behind them as she continued to skate backward. “Isn’t it a glorious day?”
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
In only a few weeks, the American Library Association names the winners of its Youth Media Awards! In the spirit of the season, here are my predictions for the two biggest young adult (YA) lit awards, the Michael L. Printz Award and the William C. Morris YA Debut Award.
The Printz Award recognizes each year's best book written for teen readers, based entirely on literary merit. Up to four second-place Honor books can also be named. Established in 2000 to help bring legitimacy and visibility to books for teens, it's the highest award in YA lit.
What I think will win: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.
BookPage loved this monochromatic graphic novel about happenings large and small in the beachfront town where teenage Rose and her parents spend every summer. Reviewer Molly Horan writes that the story "perfectly captures . . . the dawning realization that no matter how static a place may stay, the process of growing up forces a change in feelings and perceptions."
On School Library Journal's award speculation blog Someday My Printz Will Come, librarian Sarah Couri has also tagged This One Summer as a good Printz candidate, and I completely agree with her reasons:
To these reasons I'd add two of my own. At the risk of getting too academic, children's and young adult literature is traditionally defined by its lack of authenticity. Although it's written for young readers, it's written by adults. But occasionally an authentic piece of childhood culture will creep into an adult-authored piece, as when Rose and her friend Windy play the aspirational pencil-and-paper game M.A.S.H. (Mansion Apartment Shed House). Lots of preteens (or readers who were once preteens) will recognize this game, but many won't have seen it mentioned in a book before.
And, as discussed on this blog last month, narrator Rose's age is never actually stated. This intentional lack of information forces readers to actively engage with the text (and the illustrations) to figure out for themselves Rose's place among the other characters. In scholarly parlance, this facilitates active, participatory meaningmaking.
So far, Printz medals have always been won by single authors (although author Daniel Handler and illustrator Maira Kalman shared a Printz Honor for Why We Broke Up in 2012). Maybe the time has come for a creative team—like cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki—to take home the gold. And since a graphic novel has won the Printz Award before (American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang in 2007), the committee may be open to naming another sequential art winner.
Can I pick another? I'm doing it anyway . . . but this one's more of an outside contender: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn.
Speaking of authentic preteen pasttimes, Kuehn's books are like those origami fortune tellers you might have made in middle school (or might have read about in the middle grade hit The Secret of the Fortune Wookie: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger). Each flap unfolds to reveal something interesting, until one final unfolding turns the entire structure inside out.
Complicit, a suspenseful psychological thriller about a teen investigating a fire set by his sister, features an unreliable narrator with unusual psychosomatic symptoms and a past speckled with violence and loss. It stands out, even in a year with other strong unreliable narrators (like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson), and holds its own in comparison to older, similar works like Invisible by Pete Hautman. And even though I suspected that, like Kuehn's 2013 Morris Award-winning Charm & Strange, Complicit would have a twist at the end, I still finished the story feeling turned inside out . . . in a good way.
A relative newcomer to the scene (it was first awarded in 2009), the Morris Award honors YA debuts. Unlike the Printz, the Morris Award publishes a list of five finalists each year during the first week of December.
I'm rooting for The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos. Told in the form of a college admission essay, it's the story of a teen boy falling in love with music and finding himself after trauma. The book, inspired by the author's own experience touring with a band, is set in the 1980s—which means lots of pop culture references (and no cell phones!). Even in a year where high-profile titles like Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle also address friendship among boys, Vlahos' treatment of the topic still stands out.
What YA books would you love to see recognized by these, or other, YA lit awards? Let us know in the comments!
To keep up with YA news and reviews, sign up for our new YA e-newsletter, Yay! YA, coming in 2015!
Anita Diamant's latest novel, The Boston Girl, is our December Fiction Top Pick. It tells the life story of Addie, who was born in 1900 to immigrant parents. Our reviewer writes, "Fiercely independent, frequently awkward and quite witty, Addie is simply fun to hang out with, in a literary sense. Her journey through the 20th century is one readers will relish." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Diamant has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
For the most part, I read contemporary novels based on the recommendation of friends. So after the fifth person told me how much they enjoyed Americanah, I bought a copy and was happily hooked from the first page. The protagonist, Ifemelu, is a young Nigerian woman who writes a successful blog about her experiences of race in America, a minefield that Adichie travels with wisdom, humor and honesty. The book chronicles Ifemelu’s childhood in Nigeria, and her experiences in the United States as a college student, nanny and writer. We get to know her lovers (white, black and the One True) friends (Nigerian and American) and—very eloquently—her hair.
I keep at least one book of Billy Collins poems handy at all times: on the nightstand at home, in the vacation cottage, loaded on my tablet and laptop. I read poetry at bedtime to slow my overactive, over-stimulated brain. You can’t skim a poem and expect to get much from it; poems need to be read word-by-word, line-by-line. Collins’ poems are full of sweet-tart images about the precarious beauty of life, but without the gloom or doom. He shows you a world worthy of attention and love, “The clean white shirt, the hot evening shower, the highway that cuts across Florida.” Even a bar of soap, “so patient and soluble.”
When asked about his use of humor, Collins said, “Humor is simply an ingredient . . . I don’t see why it needs to be questioned. You could just as easily ask why is there so much seriousness in poetry?”
Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher (1908-1992) is often cited as one of America’s first “food writers.” She produced 26 books about food and eating and this volume contains five of them: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me and An Alphabet for Gourmets. The titles are a tip-off: Although recipes are scattered here and there, her true subject was the human heart.
When asked why she wrote about food rather than loftier topics, Fisher responded, “It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.” I re-read Fisher every few years not only because of her intelligence and insight, but also for the pleasure of her style. W.H. Auden said it best, “I do not know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose.”
Thank you, Anita! See any books you're apt to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Gretje Fergeson)
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Lydia Millet’s satirical tale of a honeymoon that takes an unexpected twist is perhaps the funniest novel you’ll read this year. Humorous fiction doesn’t always get the literary credit it deserves, so it’s important to note that, while nearly every page is likely to inspire a chuckle if not an outright guffaw, it’s equally likely to contain an illuminating turn of phrase or expertly tuned metaphor.
Celebrities seem to get a free pass to the book world. You've got your Steve Martins, who surprise you with their talent and successfully remake themselves as Renaissance Persons (bonus points for banjo). You've got your Tina Feys and Amy Poehlers, who should write a million more books, please, oh please. You've got your James Francos, who would keep doing what they're doing regardless of what we think of them. You've got your Macaulay Culkins, who we just wish would stop.
And then there's David Duchovny, aka Fox Mulder from "The X-Files," who wrote a cow novel.
Coming in February from FSG, Holy Cow is a "dairy tale," a "cow-based theological odyssey" narrated by Elsie Bovary, a cow who understands texting, wears mascara and uses phrases like "cray cray."
One night, when Elsie and her BFF Mallory sneak out of their pasture, Elsie finds herself drawn to the farmhouse, where the TV—"Box God"—reveals what goes on at a terrible place called an "industrial meat farm." Elsie, along with a Jewish pig and a suave turkey, makes a daring escape and heads to the airport. Their grand adventure will inadvertently unite Israelis and Palestinians.
What do you think, readers? Plan to check out Holy Cow?
Margarita Carrillo Arronte presents more than 600 tantalizing recipes from each distinct culinary region of her country in Mexico: The Cookbook. Ever wondered about the secret to the perfect bowl of guacamole? Arronte shares her fool-proof recipe below.
Region: All regions
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Put the tomatoes, if using, onions, chiles, lime juice and cilantro (coriander)into a bowl, stir well to mix, and season with salt. Gently fold in the avocado, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the olive oil and mix. Serve with tortilla chips.
Note: It is best to prepare guacamole minutes before serving to avoid discoloration. Instead of incorporating the chopped tomato you can use it as a garnish, arranging it around the edge of the serving bowl.
Romance author Terry Spear continues her Heart of the Wolf series with a holiday twist in A Highland Wolf Christmas. In this guest post, Terry Spear talks about holiday traditions—both for her family and for her wolfpack!
In my newest paranormal romance, A Highland Wolf Christmas, the wolves find their Christmas traditions changing with the changing dynamics of the pack, just as they are in my family. We always open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve and have a nice dinner of some sort—usually a roast. When the kids were little, we either spent Christmas at home or visited one set of grandparents. Now my kids live far away from me, and while they're both married, one of them still comes home to visit both her in-laws and me during the holidays. My son, however, is in the Air Force and has had to fly missions the last two Christmases, so we celebrated Christmas early at Thanksgiving last year. This year, my son and his wife are coming to visit, and we'll celebrate Christmas early again.
So you see, family is still very important, but because of jobs and where everyone lives, traditions are always changing. But the one thing I still am able to do with my daughter and son-in-law is have a turkey and all the fixings, open Christmas presents on Christmas Day, play games and watch Christmas movies. Then they’re off to visit the son-in-law’s family for even more Christmas presents and food.
We had a really small family growing up—no cousins, no family to speak of—just Mom, Dad, my sister and me. So we never went anywhere for Christmas; we just stayed home and celebrated with the family. One year, to change things up, we opened all of our Christmas presents Christmas Eve. The next day, getting up to stare at the bare floor around the tree, was a total anticlimax. From then on, we always opened one present on Christmas Eve and saved all the rest for Christmas Day.
Just like with the wolf pack in the Highlands, traditions have evolved as well. Americans have brought some new traditions to the Highland wolf pack, and the Highland wolves have shared some of their interesting customs. The one I loved most was the burning of the Christmas lists in the fire, the smoke going up the chimney and carrying the list to Lapland and Santa. Because of the botanist in the family, the wolves also started a new tradition of putting up a real Christmas tree. And they've started a Christmas bazaar, which has brought the pack together in a fun way. Learning new traditions and keeping the old can be enjoyable and add a spark to holiday celebrations. The key is to share the enjoyment with friends and family!
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
How does a Southern Baptist boy from Blowing Rock, North Carolina, become an enthusiastic proponent of LSD and the countercultural voice of the 1970s? Tom Robbins connects the psychedelic dots in a mind-blowing memoir that reminds us why we love his hilarious, colorful and utterly unique voice.
A young woman tries to reconcile her childhood in wartorn Croatia with her comfortable American college life in Sara Nović's smart and insightful debut, which will please fans of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena or the essays of Aleksander Hemon. Ana is just 10 years old when Croatia declares independence from Yugoslavia, and at first war feels like a game. But when her baby sister becomes ill, her parents are forced into a risky decision that changes everything. The novel cuts between Zagreb in 1991 and New York City in 2001, as Ana tries to reconcile her past with her present.
Although Nović was younger than her protagonist during the Croatian War of Independence, she ably conveys Ana's plight, torn between two cultures and unable to feel at home in either one. Ana struggles to explain her history to well-meaning Americans who inquire about it. Eventually, she stops trying.
Their musings about how and why people stayed in a country under such terrible conditions were what I hated most. I knew it was ignorance, not insight, that prompted these questions. They asked because they hadn’t smelled the air raid smoke or the scent of singed flesh on their own balconies; they couldn’t fathom that such a dangerous place could still harbor all the feelings of home.
What are you reading this week?