Staff Choices

Posted by mothic on 10/17/13
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Let me start by saying that I don’t like to be scared. I was 14 the last time I watched a horror movie and A Nightmare on Elm Street truly did give me nightmares for a week. So I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to the horror genre. Help for the Haunted, however, provided just the perfect level of creepy without venturing into Jason Vorhees jumping out of a closet territory.
 
In Help for the Haunted, Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence. And while the Mason’s story is firmly rooted in the supernatural world, this truly is a coming of age story.
 
Sylvie and Rose Mason are compelling characters whose struggles with finding their place in their family and in their world are written in an authentic and relatable way. From the moment Sylvie and Rose’s parents are killed, I was invested in this story. I felt like a detective who was finding clues and needed to keep going to help these two lost girls. Each new clue added layers that deepened the mystery and revealed the secrets that the family members had hidden away within themselves. While all of the clues didn’t add up perfectly, the story is eminently entertaining and readable with characters that you can’t help but root for. Don’t wait for Halloween! Read it now.
 
Posted by jfreier on 10/12/13
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Fans of William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor series will not be disappointed with the newest book in the series, Tamarack County. Cork is called to consult on the mysterious disappearance of the wife of a powerful judge. The missing woman at first seems unrelated to disturbing events that have recently happened to Cork's family and friends, but the more he investigates the woman's disappearance the more he thinks he could be wrong.
 
 
Cork's son and his girlfriend are run off the road by an unknown driver and then the dog of the girlfriend is found murdered at her house. More threats follow as Cork's family life becomes more chaotic. Cork is dealing with the sudden return of his eldest daughter Anne,who has left her order before becoming the nun that was her dream.
 
 
The threats against Corks' family escalate and Cork discovers a connection between the missing woman and a twenty year old cold case. This is a multi layered mystery which also combines the the struggle for Cork to keep his family together. William Kent Krueger gets better with every book.
Mystery
Posted by dnapravn on 10/09/13
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In Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog, (etc.), Delia Ephron writes a series of autobiographical essays about love, life, and family. I had never read anything by her before, although I will confess to having seen the movie You've Got Mail more than once. Okay...way more than once.
 
The essays range from funny to serious and introspective. They all feel very honest. In the emotional "Losing Nora", Ephron writes about the loss of her older sister, Nora Ephron. You can feel the pain of her loss as she writes about their complicated and loving relationship. In "If My Dad Could Tweet" she writes about how much her dad would have loved Twitter had he been alive to see it. Other essays have her confessing her love of bakeries and addressing the concept of "having it all", how overwhelming it can be to keep up with the updates on all of your devices, and a hilarious essay in which she vows to never order Christmas presents online again.
 
I found this book to be a quick read; mostly funny and often touching. I am glad I picked it up. Now excuse me while I go find my DVD copy of You've Got Mail.
Posted by annetteb on 10/07/13
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Have you ever wondered what happened to Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby and Jake Barnes from The Sun Also Rises? Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s protagonists unite in the era of McCarthyism, along with a host of recognizable characters in this delightful epistolary exchange. Authors Jonathan and Tad Richards paint a new story with Nick and Jake: An Epistolary Novel, situating them in a new era, and in a host of new and evocative dilemmas. If you enjoy classic texts, and a lighthearted teen-oriented interpretation, this epilogue is not to be missed.
Posted by Pam I am on 10/04/13
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Rachel's Holiday was recommended to me by a colleague as a "must read" in the chick lit genre. I am so glad I took her advice. Rachel's Holiday definitely touches on many elements of a great chick lit book:  dysfunction of families, maintaining friendships, finding love, and redemption. Marian Keyes captures the reader with her witty writing style and humor, but this book is not all fluff. This book confronts serious issues such as addiction and recovery.
 
Rachel Walsh is from an Irish family of five sisters, and she is living and working as a single girl in New York City. Rachel is living the dream until she is fired from her job and her boyfriend dumps her because of her addiction to drugs. She is sent by her family to a rehab facility in Ireland, but she is in serious denial of her problem. She is absolutely sure that her visit to rehab will be a "holiday" complete with movie stars, great food, and spa treatments. But, Rachel soon learns she must confront her addiction and embrace her new lease on life. Even though there are dark moments for Rachel the story unfolds with humor and there were many moments that I found myself laughing out loud.
 
This book is part of a series about the Walsh Family sisters:  Watermelon is about Clare, Anybody Out There is about Anna, Angels is about Margaret, and Mystery of Mercy Close is about Helen.  I will definitely be reading more about the Walsh sisters.
 
 
Chick Lit
Posted by crossin on 10/01/13
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October is my favorite month—the chilly weather, crunchy leaves and houses pimped out for Halloween just make me happy. It also puts me in the mood to snuggle in and watch a good horror flick. I’m not talking about one of the slasher films that seem to dominate theaters these days, but a movie that plays with your mind and creeps you out so much that you need to turn the lights on, like Rosemary’s Baby or Wait Until Dark.
 
Earlier this year, the folks at Entertainment Weekly posted a list of what they consider the twenty scariest movies of all time. It’s nice to see some of my favorites on it.
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 09/27/13
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The recent film World War Z brought zombies to the big screen.  But, the novel Zombie, Illinois shows that zombies have hit locally.  Author  Scott Kenemore is carving out a small niche for himself in the ever-growing zombie genre. His two previous books were: Zombie, Ohio:  A Tale of the Undead and Zombies Vs. Nazis: A Lost History of the Walking Dead.  Although this book is entitled Zombie, Illinois, it could have easily instead be called Zombie, Chicago.
 
The story takes places entirely in Chicago, on the night that zombies literally hit the beach.  It is told in alternating first-person narratives from the perspective of the three main characters: Ben Bennington, Pastor Leopold Mack and Maria Ramirez. Ben is a reporter for "Brain's Chicago Business." He's a lonely, out of shape, middle-age hack that is always on the hunt for that one big scoop that will launch his stagnant career.  Pastor Mack heads the congregation of "The Church of Heaven's God in Christ Lord Jesus." Though the church's name is more than a mouthful, Mack has the undying respect of his flock and some deep-hidden skeletons stashed in his closet. Maria's closet also contains some dark secrets, but what you see is mostly what you get.  She is the drummer for a female Chicago-based rock band that is moderately popular.  Can she help it that her old man is a former wife-beater and child-abuser who has transformed himself into a prominent city alderman?
 
The plot is simplistic: Zombies arrive and begin to eat their way through the city while the graveyards expel tons of reinforcements. The corrupt city leaders choose sides and try to use this apocalyptic catastrophe to position themselves into power. Our three reluctant heroes join forces and for selfish reasons try to save themselves and their city.
 

From chapter to chapter it becomes obvious that Kenemore cannot be a Chicago native. His jaded view of our city seems to rise at times to comic proportions. Poetic license forces one to give him credit where credit may or may not be due, although the many references to Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods, on the most part, remain accurate. The narrative style makes it refreshingly different for a zombie novel.  I will not spoil the story by disclosing whether the zombies are fast-moving or operate in slow-motion.  Sorry, you'll have to read the book.

 
Posted by jfreier on 09/26/13
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A great inside look at the 1992 legendary Olympic dream team, probably the greatest team assembled in any team sport. McCallum was a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and had unlimited access to the team both on and off the court.
 
The off court exploits of Jordan, Barkley, Magic, Bird, Malone and the rest of the Dream Team is like hanging out with the Beatles and the Stones. Their late night card games, golfing, drinking and trash talking are legendary. The author also got to watch a scrimmage which some called the greatest pick-up game ever and also the greatest exhibition of trash talking fueled by a team led by Jordan against another led by Magic.
 
A great sports book, but fun and engaging for anyone.
Posted by Trixie on 09/24/13
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I am the second Antone Bazil Coutts, but I’d fight anyone who put a junior in the back of my name. Or a number. Or called me Bazil. I’d decided I was Joe when I was six. When I was eight, I realized that I’d chosen the name of my great-grandfather, Joseph. I knew him mainly as the author of inscriptions in books with amber pages and dry leather bindings. He’d passed down several shelves of these antiquities. I resented the fact that I didn’t have a brand-new name to distinguish me from the tedious Coutts line – responsible, upright, even offhandedly heroic men who drank quietly, smoked an occasional cigar, drove a sensible car, and only showed their mettle by marrying smarter women. I saw myself as different, though I didn’t know how yet.

Louise Erdrich’s The Round House tells the story of a Native American family living on a North Dakota reservation and their coping with the aftermath of trauma. Thirteen-year-old Joe narrates the events following the attack of his mother. The details of the attack are slow to emerge due to the stress his mother has endured and her unwillingness to reveal her attacker out of fear and complex circumstances uncovered throughout the novel. Joe and his crew of friends work to solve the mystery of who attacked his mother and why, hoping to feel a sense of justice and bring normalcy back to the Coutts family.

The Round House can be read in different ways. On the surface, it’s a page-turner about a terrible crime: sorting out the turn of events and uncovering evidence, identifying the criminal and bringing him to justice. It also provides insight into Native American reservation life. It highlights the strife between the Ojibwe and the surrounding white residents as well as the often unjust outcome of crimes that occur on reservation land due to jurisdictional confusion. Lastly, it’s a coming-of-age story. Joe is thirteen and is suddenly thrust into the adult world. Through his narration, readers experience his struggle with grownup issues like assault, criminal justice, and rebuilding after trauma while exploring the bonds of friendship, sense of self, sexuality, and experimentation with alcohol. Erdrich crafts a superb cast of characters, a rich cultural history, and colorful imagery to deliver a riveting tale. Those with a faint heart, beware. There is graphic content in this National Book Award and YALSA Alex Award winner.
Posted by bweiner on 09/18/13
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Take a step, if you dare, into the wild and wonderful world of author Margo Lanagan in her 2013 book of short fiction, Yellowcake. These absorbing stories allow you to keep one foot in the real world while you dangle precariously in the eerie, fantastical worlds she creates.
 
The people who inhabit her domain will look vaguely familiar; they could be anyone from your family. The circumstances of these stories are wildly unique, but the characters are all searching for the same connection and fulfillment in their relationships as anyone else. Some of the stories are dreamlike and surreal, while others are disturbing and unexpectedly tangible. The titles are enough to entice your curiosity: The Point of Roses, The Golden Shroud, and Catastrophic Disruption of the Head...
 
Short stories are a great approach to finding new authors without making a lengthy time commitment. Open yourself to the short story experience as you feel the passion and fervor from this gifted Australian writer.

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