Staff Choices

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.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 09/16/13
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In this allegorical novel by Nobel Prize Winner, J.M. Coetzee, a six-year-old boy called, David, and a man of nondescript age called, Simon, are brought together as refugees on a ship sailing to a new life. They are greeted with bland "goodwill" from just about everyone they meet. They are assigned their new names and given an allowance and an apartment. Simon finds work as a stevedore even though he is much older than the other workers. He feels inadequate to the task, at first, but the others accept him and his slowness and frailty with "goodwill". Simon is frequently frustrated with the lack of passion in everyone around him.
 
Simon feels compelled to find David's "real mother" by which he means, not the woman who gave birth to him, but the woman who is destined to nurture him. He picks Ines, a thirtyish, spoiled woman who spends her days playing tennis and lounging. Surprisingly, Ines accepts David as her son. She and Simon go through many difficult times trying to deal with each other but they both always put David above all else.
 
The childhood of Jesus is a complex examination of such a wide varieties of issues we all face, but it never seems ponderous or plodding. The story of the man and child is enough to keep the interest while the deeper topics are slipped in the narrative as discussions between the characters. It is a thoughtful book for a time of uncertainty.
Posted by dnapravn on 09/13/13
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Reading and traveling are two of my favorite things, so I was thrilled when I stumbled upon the book Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways by Terri Peterson Smith, which encourages combining the two.
 
Like pairing wine with food, traveling to the places you read about or reading a book set in your next vacation spot only enhances your experience. Whether you travel alone, with family, or with book club friends, this book is packed with creative reading and travel ideas.
 
Within the pages of her book Terri Peterson Smith describes fifteen of her favorite literary destinations. Each section provides an extensive reading list, made up of fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as excursion ideas. The excursions range from very simple to the more elaborate. She bases her itineraries on a three day trip but offers extension ideas. She even suggests hotels and restaurants. And if a getaway isn't in your plans, you can still enjoy her "field trip" ideas; local excursions that only require a couple of hours in or near your hometown.
 
All I have to do now is grab my book club, choose a book and begin planning our trip. I hope you do too!
Posted by bpardue on 09/09/13
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Waiting for the latest from Bryson, I opted for this 2010 delight. Having moved into an old English parsonage, Bryson goes through the house room by room and begins to wonder about just how domestic lives evolved into what they have become. In typical Bryson fashion, there's a lot of dry humor, saucy details and fascinating diversions. For example, a discussion about the dangers of the stairwell shifts into thoughts about many of the other things around the house that can kill us (and how dangerous paint and wallpaper once were). Thinking about the lawn leads to a brief history of gardens and public parks. If you're the kind of reader, like me, who often goes through a book in bits and pieces, rather than in a single multi-hour session, then At Home works well--its structure and parade of facts almost welcome occasional breaks. Available in book, CD audiobook, downloadable eBook, and downloadable audiobook formats.
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