Staff Choices

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
Posted by bweiner on 11/05/14
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He may be physically gone from this world, but Kurt Vonnegut left us with a legacy of wit and wisdom that will tickle the funny bones of generations to come.

If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young, is classic Vonnegut. This collection of graduation speeches is witty, intelligent, absurd,expressive, concise, and supremely charming.

These are not the same old tired speeches about "going forth into the world and making your mark". Vonnegut does remind us to be blissful and celebratory about the small moments and the people who support us.

This modest book is also bursting with sage advice like:

 
"There's bad news and good news tonight, my friends. The bad news is the Martians have landed in New York City and are staying at the Waldorf-Astoria.
The good news is they only eat homeless people and they pee gasoline."

See? Where else can you get advice like that?

Posted by Trixie on 11/04/14
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“I’m a gamer and I kick arse. No, seriously. I organize a guild online and I’m looking for a few of you chickens to join me.”
 
In Real Life is a coming-of-age graphic novel that opens with Anda’s birthday. She’s a gamer girl who just moved to a new town and is trying to figure out where she fits in. Enter Liza McCombs – she heads an all-girl guild in Coarsegold Online, a massive multiplayer roleplaying game. Not only does the game provide a place for Anda to explore her identity, but it also allows her to investigate socioeconomic issues around the world and close to home.
 
Cory Doctorow knocks it out of the park in his debut graphic novel! He highlights complex topics like gold farming, economic inequality, and labor rights all with a feminist message.
 
Jen Wang’s illustrations are stunning. Real life characters are juxtaposed with their online avatars and in some panels the lines are blurred. The characters’ expressions are exquisite – they convey feeling and humanize the drawings. Her art is dynamic with perfect coloring.
 
I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. It’s a page turner and will pique interest in “real-life” issues.
 
Posted by crossin on 11/04/14
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The holiday chaos is in full swing. Now that many retailers put out Christmas displays well before Halloween, it feels like Thanksgiving gets lost. I miss the days when stores waited until after Thanksgiving to deck the halls, and people spent turkey day with their families doing activities other than planning their Black Friday shopping. Instead of clipping coupons and heading out after dinner to stand in line at the mall, relax and watch one of these Thanksgiving-themed movies—it might make you realize your family’s not so dysfunctional after all. Happy Thanksgiving!
 
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