Staff Choices

Posted by Uncle Will on 01/21/14
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Who's excited? I'm excited! Found a new suspense/mystery/thriller author. His name's Dan Smith and all four of his published books will soon be available for checkout in our catalog: Dry Season; Dark Horizons; Red Winter; and The Child Thief (which is the subject of this review). 
The setting is a remote valley, in the Ukraine, post WWII. The narrator is Luka, a darkened veteran of many Russian armies and many more bloody battles. What made him a survivor was the dream of returning to his hidden home, his enduring wife and the three children he's not seen in years. 
It's hard times indeed in his small rural community. The elements are brutal and the food scarce. Firearms were banned by the new ruling class; however, Luka was able to smuggle home his beloved rifle, which is the main tool he uses to put food in the stomachs of his loved ones. Everyone in his community lives in daily fear that they will be discovered by the Stalinists and placed in forced labor camps. 
While out hunting with his twin sons, Luka discovers a man, near-death, pulling a sled carrying two dead children. Common sense says why buy trouble...leave the man and the children to the wolves. But Luka is a humanitarian and brings the dying stranger into his home to heal him. When the community leaders learn that the dead-sled-children were abused, tortured, and likely used for feeding, they go on a killing frenzy themselves. Shortly thereafter, Luka's niece is kidnapped. It becomes clear to Luka that there's a stalking demon nearby and this steely soldier swears to track and rescue the child...but at what cost?
This book has a real feel to it.  The narrative is strong and the characters believable. It transported me to the frozen tundra where I did not want to leave until scores were settled.
Posted by bweiner on 01/16/14
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If you enjoy adventures into the afterlife, and if you like your humor dark, check out the latest entry in Chuck Palahniuk's crazy literary world, Doomed (2013).
Madison Spencer is the occasionally charming, unconventional thirteen year old heroine of this follow-up to 2011's Damned. But don't worry if you have not read the first book; I have not, and I had no trouble following our intrepid heroine as she finds herself trapped in Purgatory, which turns out to be nothing more than Earth. Her ghostlike form conceals her presence, as Madison unearths Satan's diabolical plan for the eternal damnation of humankind.
Chuck Palahniuk delivers a heroine who is smart, sassy, and exceedingly self-absorbed. This book is great fun to read, but it is also full of the deliciously shocking and irreverent moments that characterize his works. Nothing is off limits: religion, parenting, adolescence, social etiquette.
Let Chuck Palahniuk take you to hell and back in this entertaining, satirical and devilish novel.
Posted by crossin on 01/07/14
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It’s that time again…another new year, another opportunity to become a better you.
If one of your goals for 2014 is to get in shape, look no further than the library. AHML has hundreds of exercise DVDs.  Whether you want to lose a few pounds, increase your flexibility or learn tai chi, you’re sure to find a DVD to get started.
Posted by mothic-res on 01/03/14
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While I read many excellent books this year these five stand out as the most interesting and memorable.
5. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Night Film is a must read second book from the author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. This non-stop story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the death of the daughter of a reclusive filmmaker will have you on the edge of your seat. It felt like reading a Hitchcock story with a bit of Stephen King mixed in.
4. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Set in Tokyo during World War Two, you will be rooting throughout this epic novel for its 15 year old protagonist, Yoshi Kobayashi.  Yoshi and five different characters experience a harsh journey through the time surrounding the firebombing of Japan in 1945.  The beautifully developed characters and the far reaching impact their decisions have on each other’s lives will stay with you long after you have set this book aside.
3. Tenth of December : Stories by George Saunders
George Saunders’ collection of short stories has a real-life quality to its story telling. Each one pulls you in and gives a small glimpse of a seemingly ordinary moment, which, after further reflection, reveals itself to hold much greater importance.  I am normally not a fan of the short story format but this collection was an exceptional example of the genre.
2. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable
When Ben Constable receives a letter from his best friend, Tomomi “Butterfly” Ishikawa, telling him that by the time he reads it she will be dead, it is just the beginning of a string of clues to an intricate scavenger hunt from Paris to New York. As Ben works his way through the many puzzles, he begins to question how well he actually knew his friend and what type of illicit activities she might have been involved in.  This is a completely unique story that you will want to go back and start again as soon as you finish reading the last page.
1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
This story of two doctors trying to save a little girl takes place in a small Chechnyan village over the course of five days. It is hard to believe that this is Anthony Marra’s first novel. It is a heart-wrenching and poignant story written with exquisite prose. I was constantly stopping to mark phrases that beautifully conveyed the emotion of the moment so I could read them aloud to my husband.  It is the story I loved more than any other this year with characters that are bound to stay with me for a long time to come. Be sure to pick it up in the New Year if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
Posted by jfreier on 01/02/14
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5.) English Girl by Daniel Silva
The latest in the series featuring Mossad agent Gabriel Allon. Gabriel is brought back to work to help with the kidnapping of the mistress of the British Prime Minister. Enjoyable thriller by a great author.
4.) Ask Not by Max Allan Collins
An historical mystery with Nathan Heller, a Chicago P.I. working on the fallout of the J.F.K assassination, filled with real figures, such as Bobby Kennedy, Carlos Marcello and many more.

3.)Highway by C.J.Box
A very intense and often disturbing mystery about missing persons and long haul truckers. Fast paced, a true page turner.

2.) Kings of Cool by Don Winslow
The prequel to the best selling Savages. This book tells the reason of how Ben, Chon and Ophelia become a threat to the Mexican drug cartel. Action packed, violent , funny even, with great characters.

1.)Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
Interesting novel about the explosion of people being born with special talents known as the gifted. A look at how a special government agency lead by a gifted agent struggles to deal with a growing group who are having a huge impact on society.

Posted by jdunc on 12/30/13
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I spent a lot of time in the car in 2013 and am always on the look out for great audiobooks to hold my attention. Since I tend to get bored easily, I look for audiobooks that are shorter in length. All of these made my commute fly by!
I first read this book in 2011 when it was originally released. The audiobook seems to have made a resurgence this year with Mindy Kaling’s growing popularity. I decided to revisit the book in audio form and I was not disappointed. Read by Mindy Kaling with her unmistakable voice and humor. Mindy discusses always being chubby, growing up an awkward child, dating, and Hollywood. If you are a fan of The Mindy Project, definitely check out this audiobook.
#4. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
The best way to describe this compilation of short stories is gritty. The stories range from funny, to disturbing, and to heartbreaking. Read by the critically acclaimed author, you will feel like you are a part of Yunior’s life in New Jersey as a young immigrant and as he grows into adulthood. At the heart of every story is love and all of its messiness.
Who can resist a good laugh? A portion of the book is Billy Crystal cracking jokes about getting older. However, some of the some of the more interesting stories look back at his childhood, career and love for his family. I really enjoyed the personal stories about Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. Read by Billy Crystal, some chapters are performed in front of an audience, which makes you feel like you are at a stand up show.
#2 Astray by Emma Donoghue (Read by Khristine Hvam, James Langton, Robert Petkoff, Dion Graham, and Suzanne Toren)
This audiobook was released late in 2012 and was one of the first I listened to this year. It is a compilation of short stories, interwoven with historical events. The stories are heart wrenching and memorable. Spanning Victorian England to the Civil War, Donoghue uses fictionalized accounts of real life events to bring history to life. Following each story, Donoghue explains the inspiration for the story (a letter, diary, newspaper article).
#1 The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver (Read by Rebecca Lowman and Amanda Carlin)
This is the last audiobook that I listened to this year and was one of the best. The debut novel by Elizabeth Silver keeps you guessing until the end. Noa P. Singleton is on death row, after being convicted of killing her father’s pregnant girlfriend. The story unravels as Rebecca Lowman narrates as Noa P. Singleton in a cool and arrogant tone. You learn about Noa's life and the events leading up the the murder, but it is not clear until the final pages the true events of that day.
Posted by bpardue on 12/27/13
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If it's December, it's list-making time!  Here are some of the cool things I found through the library in 2013.   Some are from this year, some I was a little slower in getting to, but they were all 2013 experiences for me.  Although they're 5 through 1, I honestly feel I could have put them in almost any order.  Enjoy!
5) Mental Floss magazine (also available online through Zinio)
A bi-monthly overview of popular culture, trends and just plain odd stuff.  It's the kind of magazine where you spend a couple of hours just hopping around, absorbing tidbits here and there.
4) Orr: My Story by Bobby Orr
Orr was my childhood sports hero, a blend of seemingly superhuman talent and genuine humility. At long last he's written an autobiography. It's respectful (no tell-all scandals here!), straightforward and a pretty darn good read--just what you'd expect, I guess.
3) Just to Feel Anything by Emeralds
Blissfully spaced-out music.  Lots of pulsing synthesizers, fuzzed guitars and a general sense of floating through the universe. The kind of album Tangerine Dream has refused to make since 1977.
2) You Were Never in Chicago by Neil Steinberg
Not quite a history nor a memoir, this is Sun-Times columnist Steinberg's exploration of what it means to be "a Chicagoan" and what it means to have the job of covering the city for a living. Along the way, Steinberg gives lots of interesting glimpses into otherwise unnoticed people and places and demonstrates a true love for his adopted home.
The late Conny Plank was a critical figure in the 70s "krautrock" scene, having worked as a producer/collaborator with bands like Kraftwerk, Neu! and Cluster.  He later went on to work with new wave bands like Ultravox, Devo and Eurythmics.  This 4-CD set gives a broad sampling of his studio work (with some unfortunate omissions), some great live recordings and handful of moderately successful recent remixes.
Posted by dnapravn on 12/26/13
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I have read some wonderful books this year. Listed below are my top five fictional choices of 2013. Happy New Year!
#5 - The Dinner by Herman Koch
A dark novel showing how far people are sometimes willing to go to protect the ones they love. Two couples meet at a restaurant in Amsterdam for dinner and conversation. As the meal progresses tension builds. We learn of their fifteen-year-old sons and come to the realization that much is being left unsaid.
#4 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This updated version of a classic folktale takes place in the Alaskan wilderness. A childless couple makes a girl out of snow only to glimpse a real girl playing among the trees the next morning. This is a magical story that pulled at my heartstrings.
#3 - The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
This page-turner told by a less than reliable narrator takes place during the Prohibition era. Rose, a straight-laced typist for a New York police precinct falls under the spell of new girl, Odalie, and finds both her life and her version of the truth spinning out of control.
#2 - The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is a feel good story of a brilliant but socially awkward professor of genetics and his plan to find a wife. When he meets bartender, Rosie, he knows without a doubt that she is not what he is looking for. A touching romantic comedy that I would love to see made into a movie.
#1 - Benediction by Kent Haruf
A poignant novel written in Haruf's lyrical style, Benediction is the story of a man nearing the end of his life and the family and community that rally around him. This is a beautiful reflection on a man's life and my top choice for 2013.
Posted by Trixie on 12/25/13
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Looking for a good book to keep you company while waiting to ring in the new year? Here's my top five for 2013 - all are great picks for teens and adults. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while you snuggle up with any of these reads! 
Set in a world where dragons and humans live in harmony, Serphina finds herself in the middle of a mystery that threatens their coexistence. It starts out kind of slow, but persevere. It’s well worth it!
In Sussex, England, a middle-aged man returns to the town that he grew up in and is flooded by dark and mysterious memories from his childhood. Beautifully written and a magical, fantastical story - love Neil Gaiman and LOVED this book!
Juxtaposing the lives and backgrounds of silent movie star Louise Brooks and Cora Carlisle, her chaperone on a trip from Wichita to New York, it examines the characters' sense of self - how their experiences and actions shaped their outcome. Well written and researched, I highly recommend it!
This book explores the tension between new technology and old, digital versus print, working out a problem longhand instead of relying on computer assistance. Clay, his friends, and Google through employee Kat try to help Mr. Penumbra solve an age-old mystery using modern technology. This is a quick read, definitely worth checking out…AND the cover glows in the dark!
An expressive novel set during World War II, Verity a secret agent is captured by the Gestapo and “convinced” to reveal her mission. As her intricate story unfolds, readers are left to wonder whether her detailed confession will be enough to save her life. Wein weaves a beautiful tale of desperation, courage, and friendship. The novel is written in journal-style from Verity’s and her pilot friend Kittyhawk’s points of view. Through these characters’ perilous journeys, readers experience the heartache and anxiety of friends and family separated during wartime.
Posted by Pam I am on 12/24/13
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My list of "Top 5 Books" represents my varied taste in fiction.  All of these books kept me hooked from cover to cover for different reasons.
#5:  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
This book could be classified as a love story, but it is actually so much more.  There is a depth to the characters and Jojo Moyes addresses deep issues.  This book had me laughing and crying.
#4:  And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I anticipated the release of  And The Mountains Echoed  after loving Hosseini's previous novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  Once again, Hosseini transports the reader to Afghanistan through decades of conflict.  But, deeper stories of family, betrayal and love are woven into a multi-generational tale.
#3:  Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Alice Howland is diagnosed with early-onset alzheimer's disease at age 50.  Still Alice ingeniously details her descent into her disease told from Alice's point of view. 
#2:  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The lives of two teenagers, both named Will Grayson, intersect through random coincidence.  This book is told from alternating "Will Grayson" points of view.  Ultimately a story of love and friendship with tons of humor mixed in.
#1:  Where'd You go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Hysterically funny, but also insightful and moving.  This book made me want to be friends with Bernadette.
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