Note to Shelf: Holiday Edition

The air is nippy, the leaves are gone, and it’s beginning to really feel like winter. It’s that time of year where you just want to cozy up at home and hibernate with a good book. Lucky for you, there are a ton of new releases coming out during the next few weeks that will have you enjoying these long winter nights. In addition, you might want to check out the wonderful suggestions from our librarians which you’ll find below.

November also ushers in the holiday season with family and friends coming to visit. Why not reserve a pass to the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art? With our pass, you can treat up to five adults and allows entrance to the museum one hour before it opens to the public.

Now on to our reviews...

Ann

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland begins as the Feldman family take a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate Grandma Annette's seventieth birthday. Annette and her husband, David, do not see their grown children, Elise and Freddy, very often. The Feldmans are estranged for various reasons and Annette thinks this birthday cruise will bring the family together. Although Annette has a secret herself, she doesn’t realize the entire family holds a myriad of secrets they can’t wait to reveal on the trip.

The Feldmans are all enjoyable characters that will make you smile, laugh, cringe, and cheer for their happiness. This is a well-written, fun novel about people's hopes and dreams for their futures and the futures of those they love.

Babs

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is a moving historical fiction novel about a young woman finding her way in NYC during the 1940s.

As the book begins, we meet wayward Vivian who has been shipped to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. Peg, a brilliant and generous woman, owns a rundown theater with a ragtag group of actors, showgirls, and writers that cater to New York’s working class. Vivian endears herself to the group by becoming invaluable as the official seamstress for the theater. She is “adopted” as an official showgirl and starts living their scandalous lifestyle. All the while, Peg, who never had lofty ambitions for her small theater, has the opportunity to create a show, City of Girls, that will become the darling of Broadway. Fame and fortune goes to everyone’s head and soon a scandal lands Vivian in the hot seat and brings an abrupt end to Peg’s success.

Gilbert brings to life a cast of characters so real that you can see the faded glory of the theater, smell the sweat of the actors, and hear their rambunctious music. It is an engaging, sometimes steamy, and charming novel that brings to life the glory of the 1940s NYC theater scene.

Jill

Christy Lefteri, the child of Cypriot refugees, has provided us with a remarkable debut novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo. The storyline grew out the author’s personal experience while working as a volunteer at a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Athens and offers the reader an eye-opening perspective into the turmoil families must face when unwittingly caught in the Middle East conflicts. Nuri, a Syrian beekeeper with a thriving business, is forced to relocate when threats to his family’s well-being becomes too great.

The story follows Nuri and his wife Afra, an artist, from their comfortable family life in Syria through Turkey, Greece, and then across to Europe. The reader is drawn into multiple emotionally charged situations as the family seeks asylum in the UK. This simple yet exquisite story opens up a world unknown by most of us. Filled with sadness and hope, strength, undying courage and determination, this is one of the most moving novels I have read in recent years. Well worth reading!

Barbara M.

I love Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, so it was with trepidation that I watched the television adaptation based on her first book My Brilliant Friend. I was worried that the DVD wouldn’t capture the details and atmosphere of the book. The story is about the deep friendship and rivalry between two girls, Elena and Lila, growing up in a rundown suburb of Naples in the 1950s.

The adaptation captures Ferrante’s detailed description of Naples through its beautiful cinematography and settings. The casting of the two girls was perfect (it was exactly as I had imagined them), and their acting was superb. I highly recommend this series.

Jeanne

Dave Eggers’ new novel, The Parade, takes place in an unnamed, third world country that has just concluded a ravaging civil war. To celebrate the war’s end, a paved road (an anomaly in this place) is being built to connect the rural south to the urban north. The two foreign contractors charged with paving this road are also unnamed, calling each other simply “Four” and “Nine.” They are presumably Western, and they are different as night and day in all things. Four is a Company man, with extremely scrupulous, by-the-book behavior, while Nine is more free-spirited and interested in experiencing the local culture… especially the women. The mystery of where they are and the lack of labels actually adds to the depth of the story.

Eggers’ writing is spare and the story moves quickly, but the impact of the characters’ actions and consequences is intense and disturbing. This is an excellent audiobook read by Dion Graham.

Note to Shelf, Jr.

Mia

One of my favorite graphic novels from this year, and a perfect book for the fall, is This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews. Every year on the autumnal equinox a town gathers to float paper lanterns down their river. This year, Ben and his friends decide that it’s their mission to find out exactly where those lanterns wind up, and of course, any good mission comes with a pact.

Their pact has two rules: no one turns for home, and no one looks back. As the night wears on, the group thins out until Ben is left with Nathaniel – the “nerdy” boy that Ben has been trying to avoid. The two boys follow the lanterns further than anyone has before. The further from home they travel, the more they encounter magical new friends and obstacles. There are talking bears, a witch who crafts potions and her map-making crow. It is a warm, whimsical tale of friendship and adventure. You won’t be able to put it down!

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