Staff Choices

Posted by jmurrow on 12/17/14
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When Brandon Stanton first began his project to take pictures of the various inhabitants of New York City, he thought that he might post some pictures on Facebook, maybe start a blog.  But what started as a weekend has become a New York Times best seller, and with good reason.  Humans of New York is visually arresting, deeply uplifting, and filled with a warm humor at the most surprising moments. 
 
From a Yugoslavian janitor who studied for 12 years to earn his classics degree to Muslims in prayer, adorable kids (who look better on their first day at school than I’ve ever looked in my life), crazy fashionistas, and young lovers, I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  Each picture is paired with a quote from the subjects themselves, revealing their hope, plans, and fears, as well as a depth of humanity that will bring a smile to your face (also: if you're doing any last minute gift shopping, this would make a great stocking stuffer)!  
 
Posted by Kelley M on 12/02/14
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Can a story about a teenage latrine cleaner be entertaining enough to read 387 pages?  Absolutely.  Nombeko, the main character of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is a self-educated girl from Soweto, who has the chance to save the king of Sweden & the world.  In the book, she claims that the probability of this happening is 1 in 45,766,212,810.  The book is about serious topics: discrimination, nuclear weapons, politics…  But, the book somehow manages to be light-hearted & comedic.  This author truly has a special talent for taking difficult topics & making them entertaining & accessible.  The story contains a unusual, eccentric group of characters.  Moral of the story?  No matter who you are, you might just have a major impact on humanity.
 
The Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson, is a best-selling author overseas.  This is his second novel.  His first novel was The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.
 
Fiction
Posted by jkadus on 12/02/14
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December is here and with it comes all the frenzy of activity.  Deck the halls, bake the cookies, buy the presents, wrap the gifts and then either host a holiday party or, if you're lucky, go to a few and just enjoy yourself.   Whew!  I'm exhausted just WRITING this and all I've done is put up the tree and a few decorations around the house.  While we can't physically be there to help you with all you have to do this month, we can provide you with some items from our collection to hopefully make your December a bit easier.  Happy Holidays to all and all the best for a wonderful 2015!
Posted by jdunc on 11/25/14
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The Possibilities, by Kaui Hart Hemmings, provides an intimate look at grief and the journey one must take to return to life after a tragedy. Sarah lost her 22-year-old son, Cully, in a tragic accident three months ago. She is attempting a return to work as a peppy television host on a program that showcases tourist spots in Breckenridge, Colorado, but just can’t seem to muster the resolve to paste on a fake smile. Sarah’s pain is palpable. In response to another mother who has suffered a similar loss Sarah narrates “While I seek common experiences, at the same time I hate it, how it weakens my own pain, which I cherish.”
 
She alternates between sorrow and anger which she takes out on her father and best friend. While the book has dark themes, it is interspersed with light-hearted moments especially with Sarah’s father, who has a QVC addiction, and her best friend Suzanne, who is in the midst of a divorce and as Sarah states“has enviable problems”. In the middle of this struggle, a young woman enters their lives and helps Sarah to heal and to see the possibility of life after the end of pain.
 
Hemmings is the author of the best-selling novel and Oscar winning movie, The Descendants. Like The Descendants, The Possibilities examines the secrets people keep and the aftermath of loss. Her writing is incredibly descriptive, not just of the emotions of the characters but of the setting. She describes in beautiful detail the tourist town of Breckenridge: the snow on the mountains, the tourists, the valets at the hotel, and the feel of the sun. The Possibilities shows that even in heartbreak there is still beauty.
 
The book has been optioned for a film by director Jason Reitman.
 
Grief
Posted by jmurrow on 11/22/14
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Tapping into her checkered (but legal) past and Minnesotan roots, Loran Landvik’s Best To Laugh is cheerfully outlandish, filled with ambition, love, and some really, really great one-liners.  Sometimes reading almost as an autobiography, Best to Laugh is the story of Candy, a young, twenty-something from Minneapolis who, as recent graduate from college in 1978, moves to Hollywood.  Once arrived, Candy works a series of increasingly odd jobs ranging from a temp job at a recording company to an establishment suspiciously like the Playboy Mansion (in a strictly a clerical position!), before realizing that she wants to go into comedy.  
 
Filled with colorful characters straight from central casting, historic lore from Hollywood’s golden age, and written with a razor sharp wit and awareness of how hard it can be for women to break into the comedy scene, Landvik’s homage to funny ladies everywhere is a brilliant, nostalgic, coming-of-age story that had me hooked from page one! 
 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 11/20/14
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Hilarious, heart-breaking and inspiring: The Birds of Pandemonium is the story of the Pandemonium Aviaries in Northern California. The founder, Michele Raffin, started by one act of kindness to an injured dove and ended up becoming one of the world’s leading experts on aviculture and the care and breeding of rare and exotic bird species.
 
Throughout the narration, the personalities of the individual birds shine through. They are delightful “people” with rich relationships with each other and the humans in their lives. The tales of the challenges to the safety of birds caused by environmental issues, abuse, neglect and harm caused by human ignorance are eye-opening. I never thought about the fate of the white doves released at many wedding ceremonies. They are bred to be pure white, but that makes them more noticeable to predators, not to mention that they are not prepared for life in the wild.
 
Raffin’s enjoyable prose reads like a chat with a friend rather than a preachy book about the importance of protecting endangered species. The photos of the birds are fantastic. It makes it all come alive. This is a great choice for animal lovers and memoir readers.
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/19/14
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When Generation War, a German TV mini-series, first aired in Europe in 2013 it had over 7 million viewers a night.  It was originally titled:  Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter (Our Mothers, Our Fathers). The mini-series, comprised of three 1.5 hours teleplays, was written by Stefan Kolditz and directed by Philipp Kadelbach.  So far it has been nominated for 23 film awards and has won 13 awards, including Best Television Mini Series in 2013. What makes this series standout is the excellent production quality. Its film editing, acting, and script are all top-shelf.
 
The story begins in Berlin in 1942. Five friends, all in their early 20's, have one last blast before they journey on life's path. Wilhelm and Friedhelm are brothers who are being sent to the Russian front. Wilhelm is hard-nosed and his younger brother is idealistic. Charlotte, a nurse, is in love with Wilhelm, but has never proclaimed those feelings. She too is being sent to Russia. Greta wants to be the next Marlene Dietrich. She will stop at nothing to further her career.  She's in love with a Jewish tailor, Viktor, whose parents are, like many Jews, still living in Germany . . . they refuse to leave their home and their country.
 
Critics have heralded the fact that this film presents a war story with a twist . . . its women characters are just as important or more so than the mens'.  This DVD is in German with English subtitles.   
 
Posted by dnapravn on 11/18/14
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Thanksgiving is almost here and families are getting ready to gather. On a recent pass through The Marketplace I came across a real gem in the parenting section called Before We Say "Goodnight": How to Tell Bedtime Stories About Your Life and Family by Hank Frazee. In it he shares a concept so brilliant yet so simple that it made me wonder why I didn't think of it years ago, or at least before my kids entered their twenties!
 
The author has turned bedtime story time into a time to share stories from your own life.Let's face it, your children love hearing about who you were before they were born. Everyone has a story to tell and the author helps you choose moments from both your and your relatives' lives and turn them into simple stories perfect for telling at bedtime or anytime. Frazee shares a simple three step method to turn real life experiences into great stories without notes or memorization. He even provides story prompters so you can easily come up with events in your life than can be turned into a story. The book is filled with example stories, such as "Grandpa and the Pig" and "Magic Fingers", that will convince you that you too, whether you are a parent, grandparent, or beloved aunt or uncle, can share stories in an entertaining way.
 
So this Thanksgiving why not start a tradition of sharing your oral history. It will put smiles on faces, deepen relationships, and probably provide a few laughs. Your family will thank you. 
Posted by lsears on 11/11/14
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It is May 1911 in Paris, France. Eva Gouel is a young woman who sets off for Paris leaving her parents and their restrictive, old-fashioned ideas behind. Renaming herself Marcelle Humbert, she finds a job as a seamstress for the performers at the Moulin Rouge.  She meets Pablo Picasso and falls under his spell and he under hers, changing her world dramatically.
 
The book is a love story and depicts a time that was prudish yet pushed limits with new avant-garde art, dance and literature. Relationships with luminaries of the day, Georges Braque, Gertrude Stein, and Guillaume Apollinaire fuel Picasso’s creative expression. His volatile temperament is calmed by Eva and Picasso shows a side of himself that is generous and kind.
 
In writing this work of historical fiction, author Anne Girard cannot know the entire dialog that went on between people, so liberties are taken in the telling, but the facts remain. The people, events and places described are all real, even the accusation of Picasso participating in the theft of the Mona Lisa.  This short-lived period of time when Eva and Picasso are together reveal a talent driven by tragic experiences and ambition and a woman devoted and strengthened by her love for Picasso.
 
Posted by jfreier on 11/07/14
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Truly a book from today's headlines, Sting of the Drone is a fictional account of the American drone program and the men and woman who implement it. The drone strikes have been wreaking havoc on the terrorists and a criminal drug cartel run by the Quazzani clan in Pakistan. The crime cartel enlists the best hackers from Russia and the Ukraine to shoot down and eventually steal drones to use on Americans.
 
The agency in charge called the kill committee based in an air force base outside Las Vegas is shocked that any of their drones were vulnerable. They seek to turn the tables on the cartel and lure them into a counter attack. The Kill committee and the President also begin to question the morality of the use of the drone program.
 
A well written novel by Richard A. Clarke who served under three presidents and was in charge of the beginning of the drone program brings insider knowledge and insight to the program and it's necessity.
Spy, Thriller
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