The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise - Julia Stuart

The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stewart is a truly charming read. Balthazar Jones, a Beefeater living and working at the Tower of London, is charged with taking care of the menagerie of animals given as gifts to the Queen of England. Hijinks, involving both animals and humans, ensue. Stewart deftly weaves together several threads: the comedy of keeping the zoo, the tale of a soft spoken reverend with a literary secret and the bizarre world of the London Tube Lost Property Office. Scenes between Balthazar and his wife anchor the story with real emotional weight. Like a piece of treacle cake, The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise is the perfect companion for a quiet afternoon and a cup of tea.

Love, Mom - Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose

Mothers. They gave us life and continue to give us support, praise, advice and, sometimes, criticism—with that distinct "I'm saying this because I'm your mother and I love you" inflection. With the advent of new technology, these messages—often hilarious, always warm—can go viral. Love, Mom is an entertaining collection of these modern mom-missives collected by authors Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose, who realized that this type of communication was universal and started a blog called “postcardsfromyomomma.com.” They received thousands of submissions from loved children all over the world: e-mails on housekeeping and technology, instant messages on dating and pop culture, comments on blog posts and chatty updates from home. This selection, equal parts wise and whimsical, is the perfect gift for any mom (or anyone with a mom) in your life.

Aurorarama - Jean-Christophe Valtat

Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat is a weird book. Not in the playground taunt sense of the word, but according to the strict dictionary definition sense: Aurorarama is magical, spooky, otherworldly. The city Valtat creates, New Venice (“The Pearl of the Arctic”) is at once archaic (dog sleds, gas lamps) and utterly modern (political turmoil, drugs), and its denizens are absolutely sui generis. The novel creates a world that is completely realized, beautiful, ornate and treacherous. I picked up the book knowing very little about it and found myself quickly and happily immersed in Valtat’s world. If you are in the mood for a sophisticated literary adventure then wrap yourself in furs, hop on a sled and enjoy.

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