31 Dec
2011

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

*Carly's Pick*

Have you ever loved a toy so much that you were sure that it must have a soul? Did you think that just maybe it had its own adventures when you weren't looking? This book is for anyone who has ever believed that imagining something with all your heart can make it come true. It's the tale of a charming, sensitive toy rabbit who wants more than anything to become real. It touches on the sometimes uncomfortable process of growing up, the magic of childhood, the transformative power of love, and what it truly means to be real--and it still manages to be a beautiful story, elegantly written and wonderfully illustrated. I return to this book again and again, just as I have since I was very little, and it makes my heart swell every time.

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30 Dec
2011

Happy Birthday, Dame Agatha!

Agatha Christie started me on my life long love affair with mysteries. I read my first one when I was 12, and just re-read the whole series this year. Her books are the perfect wholesome junk food (think granola bars) for the mind. They have everything: murderromanceintriguehigh societygoodevil!, plus, many of them feature two of the most iconic detectives in the history of mysteries, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple (no offense to Mr Holmes, and Lord Peter Wimsey).

Only the Bible has sold more copies (and the Guy who wrote that has a great PR department!)

Fun Fact: AC is one of the two best-selling authors of all time (and she is in exalted company, Willy Shakespeare is the other one)

I used to be all about Poirot, his quirks and affectations were easy to love. However, the fluffy old maid Miss Marple was less accessible and, in fact, I had never read any of the Miss Marple stories. Then , in 2007, I had one of my periodic bouts of completion-ism, and decided the time had come to read ALL the Agatha Christie books. Well, old Miss Jane became a particular friend of mine, maybe liking her comes with age. Speaking of age, it delights me that both of Christie's main sleuths are old. And I'm not talking 50ish. From the very first books M. Poirot and Miss Marple are described as elderly and infirm, and they frequently use this to their advantage, purposely appearing old and confused to trick a vital clue from a witness or trap a killer. Christie's detection is done in the mind, not searching out the fingerprint or cigar ash, but relying on brains and experience. The idea that the mind improves with age is a comforting and novel thought, especially in today's youth-obsessed culture.

This man is the definition of the word dapper.

Fun Fact: M. Poirot is the only fictional character to have been given an obituary in the New York Times.

I started with Death on the Nile, and recommend that's where you start too. Although, there is a vocal minority here at Kards Unlimited that votes for Murder on the Orient Express (I just really like the movie, that's all! - Chris). Death on the Nile wins my vote because of its rich cast of "characters" in the truest sense (some of these people are odd, no doubt about it!) In fact, one of the best things about AC's books is her speedy, but thorough character development. And of course, that the killer is almost always a surprise. Sometimes shockingly so. Although AC is no longer my favorite English mystery writer, (that would have to beDorothy Sayers, her literary creation Lord Peter Wimsey is my true love) she remains my go-to girl for the times I want to kick back and turn off my brain, without the unpleasant aftertaste that so much popular fiction leaves.

Read on for a list of my Agatha Christie faves:

Poirot:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Peril at End House, Murder on the Orient Express, Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile, An Appointment with Death, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Five Little Pigs, Cat Among the Pigeons (not much Poirot in this last one, but lots of political intrigue)

Miss Marple:

Oh you saucy, saucy minx!

The Body in the Library, The Moving Finger, A Murder is Announced, 4.50 from Paddington, At Bertram's Hotel

Final Fun Fact: Did you know that the honorific "Dame" is the female version of "Sir", meaning that the recipient has been admitted into knighthood? So, AGATHA CHRISTIE WAS A KNIGHT!!

"I was a knight? That's really cool! Thank you, Wikipedia!"

 

30 Dec
2011

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

*Henry's Pick*

There is nothing more thrilling to me than a great young adult series and this one has me riveted.These books are so much fun that I was shouting and pumping my fist in the air as I read them alone in my house. Suzanne Collins has mixed 1984, Battle Royale, Twilight, and Project Runway into a thrilling series that reminds you of all of those elements, and none of them at the same time. She matches a gripping, well-crafted story with a contemporary eye for political allegory that most of today’s authors have neglected. These are the exciting kind of books where you cant put down the one you are reading, and can't wait to pick up the next one.

30 Dec
2011

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

*Ryan’s Pick*

Standing outside the courthouse with a roll of toilet paper and a marker Eliot tears off a square and hands it to each person that happens by. On each square are these words: “I love you.” And he means it. Eliot Rosewater is either the greatest philanthropist or the craziest man-child to ever live in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s fantastic mirror of Earth.  With a multi-million dollar bank account and an open heart, Eliot Rosewater (reprising a small role from Vonnegut’s acclaimed Breakfast of Champions) manages the hardships of the people of Rosewater County, Indiana with the gusto and comic timing that only Vonnegut can produce. Despite a severe drinking problem and what appears to be an unstable mind, Elliot wins over the hearts of complete strangers  while losing the respect and friendship of his father, wife, and friends.
Other than his first novel (Slaughterhouse V) Vonnegut professed God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater to be his favorite of all the books he wrote. If you want science fiction don’t buy this book. If you want to meet the most intriguing and complex characters ever created then there is no better way to spend the weekend than by curling up with this novel of human compassion, misunderstanding, and unreserved love – done only the way Vonnegut can.

30 Dec
2011

Beauty by Robin McKinley

*Kristen's Pick*

I read Beauty when I was in eighth grade, and have read it at least once a year since then.  This book taught me about romance.  The romance of language, and that love can come in very unexpected forms.  It also introduced me, (in a very non-threatening way) to authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Sir Walter Scott and Edmond Spenser.  Beautifully and elegantly written, this is a book for people who have poetry in their souls.

30 Dec
2011

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

*Marlie’s Pick*

Shel Silverstein’s classic is a simple yet incredibly touching tale. This has been my favorite story since childhood and continues to be so today.  It constantly amazes me that Silverstein can use so few words and simple black line drawings to provoke so many emotions - I cry every single time I read this book!  This classic is all about the ‘gift of giving‘ - how truly content it makes the tree to see the boy happy.  Reading The Giving Tree is like the joy it brings to watch someone open the perfect Christmas gift! (and the beauty is you don’t have to wait until December!)

30 Dec
2011

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

*Customer Pick: Lauren*

The Time Traveler's Wife is the best love story I have ever read.  It is also the only book  I have ever reread in it's entirety immediately upon finishing it. While I reread books all the time, of course, this is the only one I have ever needed to devour again as quickly as possible. The love story is neither hokey nor sappy at all and the characters got so deeply under my skin that I couldn't shake them for months. I wanted to know them, or I guess, to be them. I will not reveal much about the plot here because it'll sound impossibly gimmicky, I will assure you instead, that the author handles her premise with so much astonishing intelligence that you will go back and forth many times to try to string it all together. In fact, you may want to buy 2 copies: 1 to read and 1 to cut and paste in linear chronological order. Or, for now, just buy one. I envy anyone who has not read this book and still has it to look forward to.

30 Dec
2011

Scruples by Judith Krantz

*Kristen's Pick*

This was the first adult (and then some) book I read.  Adult themes, adult language ,and very adult situations.  Larger then life (well my life, anyway) fascinating characters, and a riveting dual storyline that will suck you in from page 1, Scruples is the consummate trashy beach read.  (Even if your beach is at Sandcastle).