DONOVAN: "This novel is sometimes spicy and sometimes sweet, but always well-done. Requisite food pun aside, Stradal crafts an array of characters that are vividly real and human and petty and just flat-out fun to read more and more about as the pages blow by...This is one of the most natural and fluid and evocative narratives I’ve read in a long time, and it far surpasses any simple plot summarization. This book is for anyone that enjoys the power of good writing and great story-telling..."
AMANDA:"Stradal’s debut shines like a beacon of warm-hearted hope. Kitchens is the tale of Eva Thorvald, a young woman with a prodigious talent and otherwordly palate. We watch Eva grow from a girl who cultivates chocolate habanero peppers in her closet to the architect of the most exclusive pop-up dining experience in the world. A different character and a different dish narrate each chapter, and we are left with a beautiful image of food, culture, and family. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the book I’ve been looking for."
STEFANI: "What Donavan and Amanda said. I just make the peanut butter bars…..and they are FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!"
Recommended by NANCY: "Less than one hundred and fifty years ago, the prevailing scientists and explorers of the day believed that there was likely a polar sea at the top of the world. Many believed that once there, they would discover warm currents, new forms of marine life, and perhaps even human beings never encountered before. The challenge was to break through the seemingly impenetrable ice that formed a circle around this sea. In the Kingdom of Ice recounts the voyage of one ship and the thirty-three men aboard as they attempt to find a passage to the North Pole. It is a gripping tale of daring and survival, and a book that I could not put down for two rainy days in July. If you enjoy historical non-fiction that celebrates the human spirit of exploration, you need to read this book!"
Recommended by DONOVAN: "Quite simply, this collection reminds you just how jaw-droppingly awesome the short story form can be. From realism to hyperrealism to post-modernism to post-post-modernism to so-far-after-modernism-that-we-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-it-anymore-modernism. Everything in this anthology is pulsing and alive, and there’s not a story in here that won’t stick with you in the days to follow despite your best attempts to shake it off. Marcus does a phenomenal job finding the very best and stylistically diverse writers working today, and if you’re at all interested in where fiction’s going and just what amazing, weird, crazy awesome things it’s doing right now, then you have to read this book."
Recommended by STEFANI: "Ian the Goldfish - narrator of this unique novel - is about to take a plunge from his “watery prison” on the 27th floor balcony of an apartment complex. The Seville on Roxy houses a cross section of humanity that includes a pregnant lady on bed rest fantasizing about ice cream sandwiches, a homeschooled boy who thinks he’s a time traveler and a shut in with a penchant for quiche and dirty talk. If you loved Garth Stein's Art of Racing in the Rain you will fall in love with Ian. He's able to move unobtrusively through his neighbor’s apartments telling their stories and ultimately helping them take risks beyond their wildest dreams. Do not be fooled by the cover (looks a little like a kids' book) or my inability to express how a goldfish can tell a GREAT story. TWO FINS WAY UP!"
Recommended by AMANDA: "This stunning novel falls into the category of "so tragically sad but so true and beautiful that everyone ought to read it," kind of like Little Bee or What is the What. It's story of seven-year-old Elijah who, after being taken from his Nigerian immigrant mother, bounces around London from foster home to foster home. When he lands with Nikki and Obi, a couple deeply committed to being Elijah's forever family, things seem hopeful. But as they delve further into Elijah's troubled past, and into the deeply rooted beliefs his mother has left him with, the success of the match and the safety of the family falls into question. Watson gracefully walks the line between storytelling and tackling the difficult issues, and while she never comes off as preachy you walk away from this book with a deeper understanding of culture, race, and their possible implications on adoption."
Recommended by STEFANI: "Resnick, a former writer for Late Night with David Letterman is anti-social and proud of it. These stories explain in hilarious detail “the who, what, when and how” he came to be the funny man that hates parties and small talk. I read this one out loud to anyone that would listen and laughed myself silly. A memoir without pretense or self-congratulation. Just honest straight-up true stories of the dysfunction that shapes us all. You want a funny book? Read this."
Recommended by DONOVAN: "A collection of stories at once understated and aggressive, subtle yet shouting to be heard. Holmes traces a set of people similarly lost—romantically, financially, maternally—at a similar stage in life (generally between college grad and actual adulthood). These stories offer multiple vantages to the problems we all have or will someday face, illuminating possible paths in some instances while muddying the waters even further in others...And she does so with an array of characters as diverse as they are tangible and breathing. Holmes is a great new writer who will likely be heard from again and again in the years to follow."
Recommended by AMANDA: "It takes a special talent to have a reader truly suspend disbelief, but Pulley succeeds spectacularly well in this debut. In 1880s London, Thaniel Steepleton is a telegraphist whose life is saved by a very timely pocket watch. When he meets its maker, Keita Mori, his entire life is upended and made more beautiful -- and dangerous. The clock is ticking on this new friendship, and Thaniel must use his ingenuity and previously untapped bravery to save Keita's life and his own future. Fans of David Mitchell and Erin Morgenstern will be intrigued, and I think it's safe to say that we can expect great things from Pulley.”
Recommended by AMANDA: "There's something so perfectly universal about a novel about family, and Let Me Explain You is no different. Stavros Stavros Mavrakis - Greek immigrant, father of three, proprietor of the Gala Diner - believes that he will be dead in ten days. With this in mind, he writes an e-mail to his estranged ex-wife and three grown daughters, telling them exactly how they should "fix" their lives. His family writes off the e-mail as a cry for attention, but when Stavros goes missing they begin to reevaluate their own lives and his place in them. This is a hilarious and tender novel about fathers and daughters, love, loss, and the impact our decisions have on those we love. You'll laugh, you'll cry -- it's a veritable Greek tragicomedy!"
Recommended by STEFANI: "A funny and poignant teenage love story that is smarter than the average YA novel. Alsaid doesn't takes sides with the popular or unpopular students of this high school. Dave and Julia consider themselves outsiders and don't mind not fitting in, but when they make a pact to do all ten things on their "Never List" during their Senior year, they find out just how much in common they have with every other teenager on the road to adulthood. Take it from a middle-aged lady with the heart of a lovesick teenager: it’s a good read."
Recommended by AMANDA: "Angus Cairns has recently celebrated his 150th birthday, and that's when everything goes wrong.He's a brownie - an elvish being from the Enchanted Realm, dedicated to good housekeeping and mischief - bound by a curse to serve the family McGonagall. When his mistress and friend Sarah dies he learns he is to be passed on to the youngest girl in her line: in America! Angus is beholden to Alex, a sweet young girl with the filithiest room he's ever seen, but her slovenly ways will be the least of his worries, as he unknowingly carries with him a second, potentially disastrous, curse. Told in journal entries from Alex and Angus, as well as pages from the Enchanted Realm's encyclopedia, this is a fun and hilarious story you'll smile your way through."