Bookloft's blog

Herberg Middle School's Book Club Reviews

    Not too long ago, we were awarded a grant by James Patterson's Saving Bookstores, Saving Lives program. We've been putting it to good use by starting up programs to promote literacy and a love of reading among kids (read more about them here!).
    But this post isn't about us—it's about the awesome bunch of 8th graders over at Herberg Middle School who devoured the books we presented them with back in November and are now working their way through the latest batch we dropped off in April when we visited their classroom again to talk about books and reading. Want to find out what they thought of them? Read a selection of their great reviews below... and stop in to check out these great books for yourself if you find them convincing!

Heir Apparent by Vivian Van Velde
Reviewed by Abbie Catalano

I really liked how in the book they make the video game seem real but also subtly remind you that it's a game. I like that they give the characters personalities and give you enough information about them that you get attached to them. I kept forgetting while I was reading that the game wasn't real. I also liked when they give the updates on the game damage and the solutions. I was also trying to think of things that she could do instead but sometimes the opposite of what I thought would happen. I would definitely recommend the book to my friends.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Review by Abbie Catalano


If you like magic/fantasy books, you would love this book. Rithmatists are people who can draw with chalk and it “comes to life”. Joel always wanted to be a Rithmatist but he was not chosen. The school he goes to is one of the best schools in the Isles. All the United States had to be flooded to keep the chalkings away. After a new professor comes to the campus kids start to disappear. Joel tries to find out who is responsible. This is a great book, I recommend this book to anyone that likes this type of book. It is one of my favorites.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Review by Mary Howe


I loved this book! Its kind of set up like the game CLUE, full of mystery, suspense, laughter, and skeptism. Its about these 16 people who come together to solve one big mystery: who killed Samual Westing?! And if you enjoy unpredictable books, then this is the book for you because it keeps you guessing until the end.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Review by Matthew North


I was amazed at how much I enjoyed this novel. The concept of the character Christopher was amazing. Also the uniqueness of it all was really cool. For example, how the chapters were numbered by every prime number. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books that make you think!

The Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Review by Trista Dearstyne


            From the first sentence to the last you won’t stop wanting more. In less than two weeks, my friends and I were ready to read the sequel. With every chapter the main character, Tally, faces a new conflict, decision, or meets a new character. The book is on self-image in a destopian futuristic setting that makes you question, “What makes someone pretty?” Once you start it… you won’t stop.

 

The Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Review by Grace Cohan


            I read this book with my friends and we all finished it in about 2 weeks. This book takes place in the future and once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. The society consists of two main groups – the uglies and the pretties and the main character is Tally. She is considering following her new friend Shay to a place beyond the city. Will she go or will she stay to become pretty? It is a great balance between a friendship between two girls with lots of ups and downs including opinions, relationships, and life changing choices and a future world that might not be exactly what you think it would be.

The Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Review by Elise Wellman

            Uglies by Scott Westerfield is an amazing book. Tally Youngblood, the main character, goes through drastic changes about her self esteem. This captivating book makes you want to read on. I finished it in only two weeks; an amazing book start to finish. Not only does this make you feel all different types of emotions it makes you question your perspective. In Tally’s society there are two, very different social groups. Today our definition of pretty isn't nearly the same as theirs.

Escape from Memory By Margaret Peterson Haddix
Reviewed by Olivia Murphy
 
"The main character was hypnotized and remembers a different past than she thought she had. Her mother doesn't act like other mothers. She never talks to her, never drives her anywhere, just sits in the background and watches, and is always nervous. A woman takes Kira to where Kira thinks she belongs but there are so many lies, so many secrets that Kira doesn't know who is her real family, where home is, or how to save everyone she loves. This is a great book. It is written really well and will keep you captivated the whole time. There are so many plot twists that it is so hard to explain. I could not put the book down; I read for seven hours straight and was so happy that I decided to read this book."

 

Dining at Downton Abbey

Recently, one of our number attended a talk given by Francine Segan, a well-known food historian and author. Not only was the talk filled with fascinating research, but Ms. Segan herself was also an animated and engaging speaker. She took the audience on a tour of English culinary history and culture from 1912 to the 1920s—a time recently popularized by the PBS Masterpiece Classics show, Downton Abbey. From champagne de-bubblers, absinthe spoons, and pies with live birds to a brief history of the development of tea time, salads, and canned foods and descriptions of elaborate picnic and breakfast-in-bed practices, it was a very informative and enjoyable evening!

Feeling inspired yourself? Check out FrancineSegan.com to learn when her next speaking engagements are, and browse her wonderful books:

Or check out some more excellent books that are Donwton Abbey themed:

Our Recent Community Outreach

The Bookloft is one of the lucky Independent Bookstores who have received a grant through James Patterson’s “Saving Bookstores, Saving Lives” grant program.  This no-strings attached grant to encourage young people to read has given us the opportunity to imagine new pathways to our front door, where we read, critique and promote the best books for young people.

Our first project to leap off the starting blocks was a monthly story hour at Sunshine Preschool at Berkshire South, just up the street from us.  Each visit, Lauren brings a new book and songs and poems to share with the dozen or so 3-5 year olds and we have a grand good time: hauling up the huge carrot we plant when we read about seeds, feeling around in the bag (eyes closed now!) while we imagine being blind like the mice who find the elephants at their waterhole, and dancing like snowflakes as we await winter – it’s coming, it’s coming!

For the second project we enlisted the help of the Fairview Hospital Maternity Unit.  Every baby born at the hospital will receive a board book in either English or Spanish, to take home with them as they start their reading life.  The titles range from classics such as A You’re Adorable to Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes.  Each book sports a sticker: For a Lifetime of Reading!  The program is off and running with two new babies born the very first day.

Our third program involved a group of eighth graders at Herberg Middle School.  Zazu and Lauren visited their after-school program with a set of ten titles ranging from Shusterman’s Full Tilt to Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to present and then give to the students to keep and read.  We tossed the discussion back and forth, so that by the end of the hour when we invited the students to select a book, every set of hands had grabbed a book in under thirty seconds!  We left samples of our own “Staff Pick” reviews, encouraged them to let us know what they personally felt about the books, and promised to post their own reviews on our website (so stay tuned for those!!).

Now, this is not the end of the story. We're still working on dreaming up new ways to interact with the young people of the Berkshires to help promote a love of reading forever! If you work for a school, library, or any kind of organization that could benefit from our services, please get in touch with your idea! We've had a great time so far, and are excited to keep putting James Patterson's grant to good use in our community.

Introducing Wish Lists!

This holiday season, take the frustrating guesswork out of gift shopping! Have your friends and family (and you too!) come in and fill out a Wish List at The Bookloft! We’ll keep track of your wished-for books and products, so anyone can ask for your Wish List and know exactly what to get you. We’ll also make sure to cross off items as they are purchased, so you don’t end up with doubles.

 

 

It’s handy for the holiday season, but don’t forget birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays and events, too! Keep adding to your Wish List and checking on your friends’ year-round. Have an anxious child in tow? Let them keep track of books they want on their Wish List for their next birthday or holiday.

Have out-of state family members who can’t come into the store? Have them call or email to find out what you want; or shop online with us! Here on our website, you can choose to add books to an online wishlist (or straight into your shopping cart!) and email that list of books to anyone. And, don't forget, there's always free shipping on orders over $25.

2014 Book Awards

Don't you love it when a book you adore gets some well deserved recognition? Well, with the recent announcement of the National Book Awards finalists, we've been getting some gratification out of seeing some of our Staff Picks (Redeployment, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, and All the Light We Cannot See) make the list!

The National Book Awards is given to writers by writers in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. As their mission states, the awards serve to "celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America". They also help advance the careers of both emerging and established writers.

 

And while we're at it, the winner of the Man Booker Prize has also just been announced! The Man Booker prize is given for the best novel of the year, as the changing members of the judging panel choose. While both prizes have been around for quite some time (64 and 45 years of National Book Awards and the Booker, respectively), The Booker only awards fiction and employs people of all careers to be judges, as opposed to the all-writer panels the National Book Award puts together every year.

So, do you see any of your favorite books from this past year? If not, give some of these a try... and maybe they'll soon become your favorites!

 

Really? You're Not in a Book Group?

Being in a book group is a surprisingly satisfying endeavor for people of all ages and backgrounds. As New York Times writer James Atlas observed earlier this year, "book groups are about community... We spend our days at airports or commuting to work; our children come and go; our friends climb up and down the social ladder; we change jobs and move house. No one knows their neighbor. But a lot of us are reading The Goldfinch."

Whether it's the hefty new Donna Tartt novel (The Goldfinch), a thin volume of surreal and haunting prose by Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane), a fresh take on a heavily trodden nonfiction theme (The Girls of Atomic City), or an old classic recently resurfaced into the public eye (Stoner), books give a group of people something to gossip about, something to learn from, and something to share.

From "Happiness Is..." by Lisa Swerling

 

Here at The Bookloft we've been hosting book groups for well over a decade, and we're about to start a new group. Come join us on Wednesday, October 15th at 5:45 pm for the first meeting of the new group! RSVP by calling, emailing, or telling us when you next stop in. Didn't RSVP? No problem, come anyway!

Book groups meet once a month on a regular day (say, every third Wednesday of each month) to discuss a book usually chosen democratically. It's up to the members of each book group to decide on how they want to choose each month's book, but we are happy to help you with great book club recommendations- and a 10% discount to all who choose to buy the book with us!

See you soon!

CAUTION - Books May Contain Traces of Information

 

 

 

  “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

-Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

 

 

 

 

Along with the rest of the nation, we are dedicating a week to pondering the issues of censorship in our beloved field of literature. Banned Books Week has been going strong since 1982, when the United States experienced a sudden upswing of book-challenging, but attempted book censorship has been going on for much longer, and continues into the present day. U.S. District Court judge Joseph L. Tauro, when faced with ruling to uphold or strike down a school book ban, wisely stated that "the most effective antidote to the poison of mindless orthodoxy is ready access to a broad sweep of ideas and philosophies. There is no danger from such exposure. The danger is mind control."

Challenged Books

According the the  American Library Association, "a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection." Often cited reasons for challenging a book's presence include violence, offensive language, homosexuality, religious viewpoints, satanic themes, sexual explicitness, and inappropriateness for age group. Some recent examples of most challenged books are respesented below (and are, of course, available for purchase here at The Bookloft!).

Banned Books

Unfortunately, some challenges do work, ending in the book being banned, in a particular school, for instance, or even a whole city, state or country. Below are a few examples of books that have been banned within the United States, but thanks in great part to many first amendement court cases, these bans have since been overthrown.

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To read the sources of the information discussed above, and to learn more, visit www.bannedbooksweek.org and www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek

 

Tales for the Wanderer

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Every year around this time, we get to play host to a large (well, larger than usual) number of hikers, as thru-hikers find themselves trekking the Appalachian Trail portion that runs through Great Barrington. We love to see the hikers go out of their way to stop in here and pick up a good book for the journey! Whether you’re hiking or not, we’ve got more than a few ideas of great books to put you in the mood for some good old fashioned wandering…

 
 
 
 
 
 
       
 
     
       
 
 
   
 
 

 

Summer Reading For Kids

It’s August! What? How did that happen?? That means there’s only a month left to get your kids’ to read their summer reading assignments! Hopefully, this isn’t a problem (everyone loves reading… right?), but it’s always worth going the extra mile to make sure a child chooses a book that will really interest them. The better they like this book the more they’ll look forward to the next!

So stop by and take a look at the bookshelf we’ve set up exclusively comprising of children’s summer reading books. Included are books that are on local school lists- required and recommended. Plus, some of our booksellers' favorites from our own school days…! Can’t figure out what to pick? Just ask! We love helping you and yours find just the right book.

Here are just a few recommended summer reads that also happen to be Staff Picks!

 

 

 

My Month with Middlemarch

Don’t expect any staff picks from me this month: I’m 200 pages into Middlemarch and predict that it will take me another couple of weeks to finish. People are put off by the length of this book; we’re just not in the habit of reading lots and lots of words in what is sometimes a reiterative style. It helps to remember that the book was published in installments and that the author got paid by the word.  Eliot uses all those words to build her characters and her story really does flow once you get the rhythm.

If you don’t, however, want to join me in reading Middlemarch, you might want to try Marine Park: Stories due out July 29th. I read it as an advance and was wowed by this 23-year-old’s acuity. I guess I lied: I do have a staff pick for July and I think you’ll love these stories. If you are unfamiliar with this neighborhood on the edge of Brooklyn, you’ll...Hey, I’m not getting paid by the word!

Ellyne

 

 

 

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