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January 11, 2013

Mystery, adventure and more — Librarians recommend cold-weather reads

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Mystery, adventure and more  — Librarians recommend cold-weather reads
At the Eastpointe Memorial Library, Assistant Director Sue Todd and youth services librarian Abby Bond offer book suggestions for all ages and genres.

EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE —  They see them come and go, hear daily reviews and spoilers, and they have inside knowledge on many of them — librarians are the quintessential source on books, always ready with a recommendation.

And of recommendations, they have many. Drawing on popularity, reader feedback and their personal favorites, librarians from the Eastpointe Memorial Library and the Roseville Public Library offered a compilation of good reads for everyone. From picture books to best-selling novels, and from a cartoon squirrel to tales of dystopian futures, their recommendations span age groups and genres.

With a mix of heart-pounding adventure, puzzling mystery, love and the fantastically odd, these reads offer something for everyone to warm up to this winter.

Adults

“Currently the popular genres among our patrons, men and women, are thrillers and fantasy,” said Sue Todd, the assistant director at the Eastpointe Memorial Library. “The Alex Cross series by James Patterson is hugely popular. ‘Merry Christmas, Alex Cross’ is No. 4 on the bestsellers list right now.”

In “Merry Christmas, Alex Cross,” the main character, a homicide detective with a background in psychology, is confronted with a hostage situation and a terrorist act during the holidays.

“The Mitch Rapp series is also hugely popular right now,” Todd said of the series of espionage thrillers written by Vince Flynn. “All of his books are popular, but his most recent is the most popular right now because it just came out. There was a time when all of his books were checked out of the library, but I think most of the early ones are back in, now.”

But for Todd, the must-read book of the year isn’t part of a mystery series; it’s historical fiction and partially takes place in Michigan. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and the start of his career as a novelist.

“The reason I read it is because it was constantly being checked out, so when it finally made it to the shelves, I checked it out and I loved it,” Todd said. “So I made it a book club book for my group and they absolutely loved it, too. It was a part of Hemingway you didn’t actually know that much about.”

“It’s a page-turner, but not in the sense of a thriller,” Todd said. “I’m not a big historical fiction person, but I liked this one and it makes me want to read more, if they are all like this one.”

The book starts just after the war ended, and Hemingway is honeymooning with his first wife in Horton Bay, Mich. Shortly after the honeymoon, the couple moves to Paris, using the wife’s inheritance, so Hemingway can concentrate on writing. There, they spend their days with other great writers and artists, as Hemingway begins weaving his first novel.

“It was a fascinating read,” Todd said. “This was (McLain’s) first novel and it was a good one. The cover is geared towards women, but it’s a great read for men and women.”

Paul Konkolesky, the adult services librarian at the Roseville Public Library, agreed with Todd on the popularity of Patterson and other mystery/thriller series, but he said he’s also noticed a few lesser-known books getting great reviews from readers.

“‘The Light Between Oceans,’ by M. C. Steadman, is about an Australian couple who can’t have children, and then a child is delivered to them and they have to decide what to do with it,” Konkolesky said. “It’s geared more towards women readers, but it is getting great reviews.”

Also for women readers, Konkolesky recommended “Flight Behavior,” by Barbara Kingsolver, and “Where’d you go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple. “Flight Behavior” tells the story of a woman who discovers a huge field of butterflies and sets out to find out where they came from and what they mean for the ecology of the area.

“‘Where’d you go Bernadette?’ is about a 15-year-old girl whose mother goes missing,” Konkolesky said. “The mother is sort of brilliant but quirky, and the book is quite comedic.”

For men, Konkolesky recommended mystery thriller “Defending Jacob,” by William Landay, about an assistant district attorney whose son is accused of murder.

“I personally read this book and loved it,” Konkolesky said. “It has a killer ending.”

Todd and Konkolesky shared one recommendation in common — the bestselling mystery thriller “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn, about a man who’s suspected of murder after his wife goes missing on their fifth anniversary.

Teens

Youth Services Librarian Abby Bond, at the Eastpointe Memorial Library, said books about zombies and dystopian futures are the most popular among teen readers.

“Ever since ‘The Hunger Games,’ the teens have been checking out a lot of the dystopian-type books,” Bond said. “They are all somewhat about dystopic futures. Some of them might be more current, but basically something has gone wrong, and this is how people are surviving.”

She recommended “Monument 14,” by Emmy Laybourne, which tells the story of a reality TV show that pits contestants against more and more dangerous scenarios until, eventually, they are fighting for their survival. She also recommended  “Rash,” by Pete Hautman, which tells the story of a teen boy who is sent to a pizza-making work camp under the strict anti-danger laws of the futuristic United Safer States of America, where even track-and-field runners are required to wear helmets and body pads.

“So you have prison, you have football, and he makes a computer AI, artificial intelligence type of thing, that becomes self-aware, and all of this is happening all together, so there is a lot of the stuff teenage boys tend to like,” Bond said of the book.

Roseville Librarian Jason Novetsky recommends “The Diviners,” by Libba Bray, “Seraphina,” by Rachel Hartman, and “The Future of Us,” by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

In the “The Diviners,” a teenage girl is living with her uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, in 1920s New York City, when a murder, which could have to do with the occult, takes place.

“‘The Diviners’ would be interesting to a broad audience, due to its melding of genres and elements: mystery, supernatural, historical fiction,” Novetsky said. “Libba Bray is one of those authors who never writes the same book twice.”

“The Future of Us” takes place in 1996 and is about two friends who discover their Facebook profiles from 15 years in the future. Novetsky said some older readers might even like this one, with all the ’90s nostalgia.

“Seraphina” is recommended for fantasy fans and tells the story of the Kingdom of Goredd, a world where humans and dragons live together in “uneasy peace.”

Children

The comedic styling and fun format of “The True Meaning of Smekday,” by Adam Rex, was applauded and enjoyed by all the upper elementary and middle school kids in one of Bond’s book clubs.

“It’s very odd, but it’s really funny and the kids all love it,” Bond said of the story about a runaway pre-teen girl who teams up with an outcast alien to save the planet after Earth is invaded by another species of aliens.

“It’s very funny and it has little comic book sections, and part of it is told from the alien’s point of view, so there is a lot of humor in it,” Bond said.

For younger readers and pre-readers, Bond recommended  “Scaredy Squirrel,” by Melanie Watt, and “Robot Zot,” by John Scieszka.

The popularity of “Scaredy Squirrel” has launched it from a single book to a series, in which a lovable but scared squirrel ventures out of his tree and discovers the world might not be so scary after all.

“Robot Zot” is about a tiny alien who comes to Earth and falls in love with a little girl’s toy and devises a plan to rescue her from the giants, or dolls, that are holding her prisoner.

“All of Sciezska’s books tend to have unexpected humor, so when I do them for story times, I’ll have the parents laughing, too,” Bond said.

Recommended by Roseville’s Assistant Library Director Annamarie Lindstrom, “A Ball for Daisy,” by Chris Raschka, tells a story without words, about a pet dog’s favorite toy ball.

“It’s clear he loves his ball and is heartbroken when it is damaged,” Lindstrom said. “Not to worry, as there is a happy ending. Wordless books are fun to ‘read’ with pre-readers.”

Lindstrom also recommended “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes,” by Eric Litwin, a story about the ever-positive Pete the Cat, who never lets anything get him down, even when his favorite white shoes turn brown, and “Snowmen at Night,” by Caralyn Buehner, which takes place when the narrator wakes to discover the snowmen he built the day before aren’t looking quite the same.

“It’s an imaginative story that describes the secret lives of snowmen, and the artist has hidden little pictures on the pages for you to find,” Lindstrom said.

Both libraries feature a plethora of books in every genre, and for those who aren’t sure what they are looking for, librarians have access to databases that can recommend books based on previously enjoyed reads and topics.

The Eastpointe Memorial Library, located at 15875 Oak Ave., holds a book discussion group on the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. February’s book is “The Shoemaker’s Wife,” by Adriana Trigiani, about two abandoned brothers raised at a convent in Italy, who go their separate ways as adults. Extra copies are available in multiple formats at the circulation desk. Registration is not required.

The Roseville Public Library, located at 29777 Gratiot, has Booked for the Evening, a discussion group, on the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. The February book is “Macbeth,” the classic play by William Shakespeare. Registration is not required.

For more information on the Eastpointe Memorial Library, call (586) 445-5095. For more information on the Roseville Public Library, call (586) 445-5407.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.