Staff Choices

Posted by meyoung on 02/05/16
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Ever since I was young(er), I've loved suspense stories. I've loved the twisted, psychological thrill of basically anything from Criminal Minds to reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment (which is now a movie that I highly recommend). It's no surprise that Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Haeberlin, a book about a lone survivor of a serial killer caught my eye.
16-year-old Tessa Cartwright is found among the remains of other women. She has very little memory of how she got to be buried alive, let alone about the circumstances leading up to this finale. Tessa Cartwright is the sole survivor of the Black-Eyed Susans, rightly named due to the array of black-eyed susans around the grave. Her testimony is what lands a man in jail and sentenced to death.
Almost 20 years later, with the death clock looming, Tessa isn’t so sure the right man is sitting in the cell. After finding the infamous flowers planted beneath her bedroom window, she has her doubts. We soon see that Tessa has a lot more secrets than she's letting on.
Julia Haeberlin takes us through the psychological journey in two different timelines. We follow the therapy and development of young Tessa, as well as the adult Tessa. The slow-building tension is beautifully done and left me falling off the edge of my seat. While some may compare this to Gillian Flynn, Haeberlin is in a league of her own – excellently executed. Once you notice things don’t quite add up, this book is hard to put down.
Fiction, Suspense
Posted by BARB W on 01/27/16
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If you are looking for heaps of hilarity in your life, something guaranteed to make you chuckle, or even better, make you laugh till the tears come down, look no further. Check out the hysterical, frenetic world of bestselling author Jenny Lawson, as she describes in uproarious detail, her struggles with mental illness in 2015’s, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.

Whoa, wait, mental illness? Are we allowed to laugh at that? According to Jenny Lawson we are! She shares her struggles and permits herself to be gloriously and furiously happy, to ride the tide of joy when she can, knowing the darkness is not always that far behind.

This audiobook caught my eye because of its riotous cover, which Jenny will explain in detail. Her goofy voice, sincere delivery, captivating stories and fresh approach to living with mental illness make this a superb selection.
Posted by jonf on 01/18/16
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The true story of Bill Browder and his rise to financial success and his eventual battle with Putin and the Russian oligarchs. Browder starts with his upbringing, his grandfather was twice a nominee for president of the American communist party and grew up in a very liberal family. Bill then went to boarding school in Colorado and began his his rebellious streak against his family by embracing capitalism.
Browder continues his education with a B.A. from U of Chicago and M.B.A. from Stanford and starts his career with a successful stint at Saloman Brothers bank being one of the first to invest in eastern Europe with some success. He then started
Hermitage Capital with help from billionaire Edmond Safra, they mad a fortune investing in oil after the fall of the Soviet Union and thought it would continue when Putin became president. Putin and the Russian oligarchs began seizing companies and the downfall of Hermitage began. Browder was expelled from Russia, had his assets seized and his lawyer arrested and beaten to death.
Browder then started a campaign against the Russian corruption that continues to this day. The book is fascinating and reads like a fiction thriller.
Posted by Lucy S on 01/16/16
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Author George Hodgman moved back home to tiny Paris, Missouri, in 2011 where he grew up as an only child to care for his 90-year-old widowed mother, Betty. He describes himself as an unlikely guardian, that his and Betty’s lives were lived on different planets.  Her independence is now at stake, her home. She struggles against needing assistance and George finds that he cannot bring himself to take her away from the house that his father built. So he stays.
So much goes on in any given day’s routine. Betty still plays bridge with her friends and plays the piano at church but irrational arguments erupt over shoes and forgetfulness becomes more frequent. George finds humor is often the best way to deal with this and the role reversal of a child now caring for a parent.
After graduating college, George lived a lifestyle that he knew his parents could not understand. His homosexuality was an issue they avoided because of the way they had been raised to think about people like him. In this story, there is a great deal of contemplation about life, memories, how events turned out, how people treat each other, and how you can trip yourself up and get into trouble – recovery hurts. Families are complex, living things that constantly change but if done right, one constant is love and that is what Betty gave him.
Many readers will be able to relate to the issues George and his mother face in this memoir written with kindness and candor. Other readers may find some of the topics eye-opening as told from George’s point of view.
Posted by bpardue on 01/06/16
Pianist Paul Bley, 83, passed away this week. He leaves behind a jazz legacy of boundless progression and experimentation. After a fairly straightforward start to his recording career in 1953, he soon headed a trio that featured up-and-coming free jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In the 1960s, he was one of the first jazz musicians to use synthesizers. Later, he would champion such new artists as Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. By the end of his career, he had over 150 albums to his name. There are numerous Bley albums available on Hoopla Digital. 
Here is an NPR report on Bley from 1/6/16:
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/06/16
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I'm just a big, old kid. So sue me. In 1960 I saw on TV for the first time Peter Pan - starring the late Mary Martin as Peter and Sir Cyril Ritchard as Capt. Hook. I was hooked.
I'm still scared that if I hang a foot or arm off the end of the bed, a crocodile is gonna snatch it off while I'm sleeping. To date I've seen just about any and every version of this classic tale and of course read the novel by J.M. Barrie. I was gonna pan outta viewing this latest film adaptation until I brought it home and thought, what the heck, I'd give it a try.
Pan explores an interesting angle. . .that Hook and Peter once were friends and not always aversaries. It stars Hugh Jackman, who I enjoy his work. It also has refreshing newcomer, the 13 year old, Levi Miller, in the title role. His expressive eyes only adds to his charm.  
Adding to the charm of this film is a score that is both lively and supportive. The CGI is okay. I liked the way the pirate ships float in space. Garrett Hedlun (of Friday Night Lights fame) shows some potential to play a more devious role in the obvious sequel.
It is rated PG and not that scary. I almost was able to let my arm drift off the bedside as I fell asleep the night I watched this film. Almost...
Posted by bpardue on 01/04/16
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As a New Jersey kid growing up in the 1970s, I loved soccer. I remember being completely thrilled when the New York Cosmos brought on the legendary Pele, immediately catapulting the then-struggling North American Soccer League (NASL) into the national spotlight and seemingly making soccer America's "next big thing." For the next several years, I thrived as a Cosmos fan (sorry Sting enthusiasts!) and completely bought into the idea that big-time soccer was soon to be a permanent fixture on prime-time TV. Of course, I knew nothing of the NASL's disastrous business model, and didn't realize that, when teams weren't drawing 30,000+ crowds for games against the Cosmos, they were lucky to be filling 15,000 seats in NFL stadiums.
Ian Penderleith's Rock & Roll Soccer gives us a good long glance at the NASL and considers what made it special (great international talent, a willingness to try and create a league based on attractive, fan-friendly soccer when European teams were becoming ever more defense-oriented) and what ultimately brought it down (excessive focus on the Cosmos, allowing for too much expansion too quickly, etc.).
The approach is thematic rather than sequential. Chapters focus on topics like "Pele vs. Eusebio" or "The NASL vs. Fifa and the world," with quite a bit of sidebar-like inserts to illustrate points. This means that the timeline jumps around a bit, but it still makes for a lively, entertaining read. There are plenty of colorful anecdotes about legendary players like Pele, Rodney Marsh, George Best and Giorgio Chinaglia, along with accounts from lesser-known American players, as well.
Ultimately, did the NASL help or hurt soccer's profile in the US? Is the current league, Major League Soccer, successfully managing expansion in a fashion that will avoid NASL's disastrous collapse? You can take either side, but the story of American soccer is certainly not complete without the NASL.
Posted by jdunc on 12/23/15
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“We make choices, big and small, every day of our lives, and those choices have consequences. Fate or not, our lives are still the results of our choices”.  Can one small choice really change the course of your life? In her latest novel, Taylor Jackson Reid explores the questions of fate, choices, and how they influence finding “the one”. Hannah Martin is going aimlessly through life, moving from place to place on a whim and can’t quite get her life together. She decides to return home to Los Angeles after an affair with a married man ends badly. On her first night home, while out with friends, she makes one choice that creates two vastly different lives and stories. Should she stay at the bar and rekindle a romance with an old high school boyfriend or should she leave with her best friend?  In alternating chapters, Sliding Doors style, Hannah’s life takes two vastly different directions.

The book itself is not about regret but focuses on the idea that life is what you make of it. It begs the question is there such a thing as fate? Does life end up the way it is supposed to be or are the series of choices you make have a greater influence? Fast-paced and at times humorous, you’ll want to rush to through it to see how the two stories end.
Posted by meyoung on 12/22/15
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Margaret Atwood does it again in this interesting sociological experiment of a book. Set in the near future, we first meet Stan and Charmaine down on their luck. Stan has lost his job and the couple had to sell their house. While living in their car, Charmaine is attempting to keep things together by working odd hours at a seedy bar where she first sees a commercial that promises an experience that will lower the unemployment rate and promises a comfortable life – to come and live at Consilience. If selected, the applicants are guaranteed a steady job, a home, transportation, and the life they’ve been missing out on.
There’s a catch. There’s always a catch. In order to sustain the society at Consilience, every other month will be spent in a prison while your “Alternates” live in your home. Everything seems to be going according to plan. Charmaine and Stan both have jobs that fit their skill set, both earn money, both have adequate transportation, both contribute to the prison life, and both are happy – for the most part. When both Charmaine and Stan become independently obsessed with their Alternates, things start to spiral.
With an Atwood book you really can’t go wrong.
Posted by bpardue on 12/18/15
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Jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty has built up an impressive discography. Now, he shows up on two very different collaborations. First, he teams up with former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and a formidable group of session musicians to create the Kickstarter-funded Better Late Than Never. Ponty and Anderson contrubute a number of newly-composed songs, such as "One in the Rhythm of Hope," and there are a number of reworkings of Yes tunes ("And You And I," "Roundabout," etc.) and Ponty songs with added vocals ("Infinite Mirage--Soul Eternal"). Overall, the proceedings are more rock/fusion than jazz and are a nice listen for fans of either musician.
For the more jazz-minded fan, Ponty has also collaborated with legendary bassist Stanley Clarke and French guitarist Bireli Lagrene for the album D-Sringz. The album feels like a more modern version of Stephane Grappelli's and Django Reinhardts' Hot Club performances--everything swings and there are some fantastic takes on classics, such as Reinhardt's "Nuages" and Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (most famously recorded by both Cannonball Adderly and The Buckinghams). The album is also available in hoopla.
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