Emma’s Top 10 of 2013

1. Tenth of December by George Saunders This collection of short stories by MacArthur genius grant winner, Saunders, has really polarized opinion. People either love it or hate it and I am one of the former. The seeming simplicity of Saunder’s writing belies an ability to make the reader empathize with the downtrodden and disenfranchised and to find hope and humanity in the most desperate of situations. The title story of a young misfit who encounters a cancer patient intent on suicide on a frozen pond will stay with you long after the final page has been turned.

2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Fans of Donna Tartt (including me) have waited 11 years for this novel and it does not disappoint. Tartt is a master and her genius lies in writing novels that are simultaneously dense in their description and tense page turners at the same time, such a combination is a rarity. The Goldfinch tells the tale of Theo, who accidentally steals a masterpiece in the most dire of circumstances, and follows his adventures while meditating on life, obsession, love and the transformative power of art.

3. Locke and Key by Joe Hill
The Locke and Key series of graphic novels is not for the weak stomached and definitely fixed in the Gothic horror genre. The Locke family move back to their family home after a tragedy and discover the house has many secrets to be unlocked.

4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Another recipient of the MacArthur genius grant, this is Russell’s second collection of short stories. From enslaved women who grow silk in their bellies like silkworms, a teenage boy who is given talismans by a seagull and a masseuse who discovers she can heal the psychic scars of a war vet, these stories are magical and strange and always original.

5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Possibly his most personal novel to date, The Ocean at the End of the Lane tells the story, in flashback, of a young boy’s trauma at the hands of an au pair who usurps his mother and his friendship with a girl down the road, Lettie Hempstock, who may or may not be a witch. A fairytale for grown-ups, many are saying this is Gaiman’s best work yet.

6. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Irreverent, provocative and shocking, Moran weaves hilarious observations from her own life with a call to arms to modern feminists.

7. Glossolalia by David Jauss A
master of his craft, it is hard to believe that these stories are written by the same man. Glossolalia literally means “speaking in tongues,” and Jauss’ work spans the breadth of humanity: male and female, young and old, from cultures as disparate as a Catholic priest among Mayans to a Dominican baseball player far away from home to a Russian hunchback humiliated by his employer. Comparisons to Chekhov are justified.

8. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
The sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor continues the story of Karou and Akiva on opposing sides of an ancient war between angels and monsters. One of the most original fantasy (and YA) series out there.

9. The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf An unusual historical novel set in the Enlightenment, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones tells the tale of Tristan Hart, a brilliant young doctor, sadist and madman. Unexpectedly funny, and at heart, a love story, this novel juxtaposes the language of the time with more modern attitudes.

10. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Pessl’s second novel after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Night Film is a dark and unsettling novel that follows a disgraced journalist as he investigates the death of Ashley Cordova and its links with her father, the reclusive Stanislas Cordova, cult film director. Pessl is so successful at world building and creating mood in this novel that you will be half convinced that Cordova and his films actually exist.

Lynne’s Top 5 of 2013

1. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

4. Ben Behind his Voices by Ranye Kaye

5. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Julie’s Top 5 of 2013


1. Locke and Key By Joe Hill

A series of graphic novels about siblings overcoming tragedies in a very weird house!

2. Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Continuing Kate Daniels’ story in the magic-plagued city of Atlanta.  Kate is a very strong character and I love to read how she saves the world!

3. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

A scary book that is difficult to read but not the way you are thinking!

4. Jack Reacher (the movie starring Tom Cruise)

5. Poppet by Mo Hayder

Her books scare me but I absolutely love to read about DI Jack Caffery and Flea.  She seems to put a little otherworldliness in a world where you wish that was the explanation.

Patron Reviews

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder by Mariah Bruehl
Review by Monique Marchilli-Barker

Mariah Bruehl is a parent with over a decade of experience in the field of education.  After making the decision to leave her job and stay home, she set out to supplement her daughter’s education by providing meaningful experiences that nurtured their sense of wonder.  Mariah gathered these experiences that she developed with and for her children and began the award-winning Playful Learning website as a resource for parents.  Now these activities are beautifully presented in her book Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder.

This book is well organized and offers simple, inspiring, and engaging activities for children ages 4-8.  The activities are organized by subject matter and each section begins with an overview of children’s developmental stages for that particular discipline.  You will find suggestions for staying “one step ahead”, resources for supporting and expanding the activities, and free printables.  There are also tips on organizing materials and creating inviting playful spaces.

If you are looking for ways to connect with your child, nurture your child’s natural curiosity, or to provide meaningful learning experiences, you will find this book to be a valuable resource!

Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias by Jane Velez-Mitchell
Review by Beverly Fox Martin Velez-Mitchell’s non-fictional book details the relationship of Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander gone horrifically awry. It puts every piece of this tragic puzzle in place, chronologically, and adds all the missing pieces as well. It succinctly explains to the reader the childhood backgrounds, the needs, the deeds and misdeeds, the yearnings, and motivations of two young adults and, most importantly, why they clicked, fell apart, yet continued to interact well past their “spoil date.” Travis met a gruesome and undeserved death at the hands of Jodi. Yet, he had signed his own death certificate – in multiples….How did that happen? How could he fail to see his demise pending? Why and how could Jodi justify taking his life? Ms. Velez-Mitchell explains it all in her detailed recounting. The reader need not buy any other book about this crime. Hopefully, tragedies such as this one can be averted by knowing oneself and also by discerning others’ inclinations and capabilities….

The Banned Book I Bought at the Book Sale by Emma

Today I went to the Friends of Topsham Public Library’s book sale and bought a banned book! I purchased Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak for my niece and nephew. It was banned in many places but went on to win many awards including the Caldecott Medal. There have been many criticisms leveled at the book: that it is too dark and frightening, that it promotes witchcraft and elements of the supernatural, that it glorifies Max’s anger and ‘inappropriate’ behavior, that depriving a child food as punishment could scare a child, one psychologist even went as far to say that it would psychologically damage children. Sendak portrayed children as they are: mischievous and sulky and angry and scared and sometimes alone, and for this his books have been embraced by generations. I am also a big fan of the novel adaptation by Dave Eggers and the movie (directed by Spike Jonze) that inspired it, which I think are more aimed at adults who loved the book as children.

The most frequently challenged book of the decade by Lynne

It’s amazing to me that the most frequently challenged book(s) of the last decade was the Harry Potter series. The complaints ranged from it being anti-family and violent to accusations of occultism and Satanism. I’m not usually a series person, but this is one of the few that I read to the end. What was great about this series is that I started by reading this to my kids and by the end of the series, they were reading it to me! Many educators have noted that this page-turning series increased literacy among children and adults, and some studies showed that it had a positive effect on kids’ moral values–that Harry Potter taught them about valuing their friendships and doing the right thing.

My Favorite Banned Book by Dale

My favorite banned book is Cujo by Stephen King. Not only do I like dogs, but I also love a good horror book.  Cujo manages to be realistic and terrifying. Stephen King’s books are often banned or challenged for explicit language and violence, but I firmly believe that I should have the freedom to choose my own reading material.