Book Buzz Episode 9 – Five Decembers & Both Can Be True

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Air date: Aug. 6, 2023

Check Out The Books

Five Decembers

Both Can Be True

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Hi, this is Jessica Russell. I’m the Assistant Director of Collection Services at Sno-Isle Libraries. And welcome to Book Buzz.

Today's reading recommendations explore themes of prejudice, love and acceptance, from very different perspectives.

First, we’re going to hear from Rebekah, library associate at the Camano Island Library, who will take us back in time to the 1940s. Over to you Rebekah.


“Five Decembers” by James Kestrel holds appeal for a wide variety of readers: want a noir-style page turner? Check! Love story? It’s got a couple of those! Do you prefer literary fiction with believable and layered characters and a powerful sense of time and place? Yep, yep and yep. Is a historical war epic more your jam? You’re in luck!

The book begins in the beauty and uncertainty of Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941, “Five Decembers” tells the story of young police detective Joe McGrady. McGrady is assigned to a grisly high-profile murder. This twisty case leads Joe across the Pacific Ocean and back again. Both help and treachery come from unexpected places — this novel keeps you on your toes.

Kestrel creates such an incredible sense of time and place that I felt as though I was transported in time 80 years ago: walking around a sunny street in Honolulu or a braving a snowy mountaintop in Japan. On a personal level: my beloved grandparents were young adults in the 1940s. They both passed fairly recently and reading this novel made me feel closer to them.

This adeptly layered novel confronts prejudice, explores the meanings of love, and forces the reader to consider the cost and complexity of war. With talent like this, it is little wonder that “Five Decembers” won the Edgar Award for best novel in 2022.


Thanks, Rebekah. If you want to learn more about the Hawaiian setting, you might also enjoy Detours: a Decolonial Guide to Hawaiʻi for native Hawaiian perspectives.

Next, let’s hear from Michael, library associate at the Mariner Library, for a story that could make you feel less alone. Go ahead, Michael.


Are you ready for a multi-genre middle-school romance? “Both Can Be True” by Jules Machias compellingly combines drama and comedic elements in an unconventional story. This book is relatable to kids who are struggling to find their identity. However, anyone with feelings will enjoy the journey through this heartwarming book.

“Both Can Be True” explores the power of friendship and acceptance in this dual-narrative story about two kids who join forces to save a dog, and ultimately, themselves. There is grief and heartbreak as the author examines how to make tough decisions. There is a lightheartedness, even in the most emotional moments, as the kids in the book have fun throughout.

I enjoyed this captivating story because it asks readers to put themselves into the roles of the kids as major events take place in their lives. The finale gently asks readers to think about what they would do in the shoes of the kids. The range of emotions that are explored keeps readers interested and eager to read the next chapter.

"Both Can Be True" is a diverse story about growing up and feeling comfortable in your body and reminds every child that they belong. I believe people of all ages will enjoy this book for the captivating nature of the protagonists, as well as the moving storyline and excitement about doing something wrong for the right reasons."


Thanks, Michael! This sounds like an affirming and uplifting read.

Our recommendations this week are: “Five Decembers” by James Kestrel and “Both Can Be True” by Jules Machias.

Join us next time, when we’ll explore more great reading recommendations – interesting books you can find at your favorite local bookstore or at your local library.

Until then, I’m Jessica Russell from Sno-Isle Libraries.

Thanks for joining us for Book Buzz on KSER.

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