Staff Choices

Posted by amypelman on 06/27/13
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The AHML Teen Department is pleased to present a book review from our Summer Intern, Mary Ellen Podmokly: 
 
First, I have to say that I was not a fan of Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist. I wanted to like it; the novel did receive a Michael L. Printz Honor and I tend to trust award panels. After reading The Monstrumologist I lost my faith. I liken my reading experience of it to a performance of Peter Pan in which the audience has failed to revive Tinker Bell. You can therefore understand how my initial attitude towards the hype surrounding Yancey’s The 5th Wave was scornful.
 
I also have to mention that I am a scaredy-cat. While I can read about the horrors of war the only kind of aliens I want to encounter are of the E.T. variety. Even E.T. freaked me out until his big eyes won me over. The aliens of The 5th Wave aren’t cute. Their plan is to eradicate humankind and stay. Yancey warns in the first pages of the book: “ALIENS ARE STUPID. I’m not talking about real aliens. The Others aren’t stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest. No, I’m talking about the aliens inside our own heads. The ones we made up…You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens we’d like to attack us, human aliens…There’s no way to know for sure, but I bet the Others knew about the human aliens we’d imagined. And I bet they thought it was funny as hell. They must have laughed their asses off. If they have a sense of humor…or asses. They must have laughed the way we laugh when a dog does something totally cute and dorky. Oh, those cute, dorky humans! They think we think like they do! Isn’t that adorable? Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm…The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.”  Neil Diamond’s “Heartlight” is the furthest thing from your mind when you come to grips with Yancey’s premise that people are finally prey and not predators.
 
I enjoyed The 5th Wave despite my initial misgivings and trepidation. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t quite the right word though. The book is about bare survival after the first four waves of an alien engendered apocalypse. This is a world in which truly horrible things have happened. Life for protagonists Cassie and Ben is grim. Their sense of security, control, and innocence has been lost along with their families. They know more about the reality of being killed and being killers than any teenager should have to understand. And the terrible anticipation of the inevitable fifth wave is enough to drive the most mentally sound individual crazy. 
 
The only thing keeping Cassie sane is the search for her little brother Sam, who was taken away in a busload of children. When she meets Evan after an alien “Silencer” tries to kill her she knows she should question his story. But she’s tired of being alone on her bleak quest.
 
The only thing keeping Ben alive, tortured as he is by memories of leaving his little sister to die, is his desire for vengeance. And a promise to a little boy named Nugget.
 
Riveting twists and turns in the plot allow Cassie’s and Ben’s storylines to converge in a thrilling, if not satisfying (after all there has to be room for a sequel), end. Both teenagers and adults will find themselves sucked into this David versus Goliath story.
 
 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 06/17/13
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Attention fans of BBC America's Supernatural Saturday! Coming in 2014 is a new series based on the historical fantasy novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
 
If you haven't read it, now's your chance. It's 782 pages, so you may want to start now. Two magicians are bringing magic back to England with their skills and knowledge of long forgotten lore. As the Napoleonic Wars rage on, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell find themselves pitted against a deliciously crafty fairy.
 
Fans of dark fairy tales and historical fantasy will enjoy this beautifully crafted story.
Posted by jfreier on 06/14/13
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Damascus Countdown is the author's sequel to Tehran Initiative featuring covert op David Shirazi an American-born Iranian as deep cover op stationed in Iran.
 
In this sequel, David is contacted by his handlers to deal with a crisis started by an Iranian leader who has proclaimed himself to be the Twelfth Imam and is planning to use his six nuclear bombs to destroy Israel and start the end times. Israeli security forces get wind of the plans and strike Iranian sites destroying all their sites.  But, two warheads are saved and headed to Damascus to be launched at Israel, and it's up to Sharazi to stop the attack.  This is a timely and fast-paced thriller.
Posted by dnapravn on 06/13/13
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I’ve been a fan of Kent Haruf’s novels since Plainsong came out in 1999. His newest novel, Benediction, is written in his sparse, hauntingly beautiful style and does not disappoint.
 
Like his other novels, Benediction is set on the high plains of eastern Colorado in the fictional town of Holt. Seventy-seven year old hardware store owner “Dad” Lewis has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. As his wife, Mary, and daughter, Lorraine, work to make his last days as comfortable as possible, we become witness to what Dad treasures most in life. We learn of his secrets as well as meet the members of his community who rally around both Dad and his family.
 
This is a beautifully written book about a man’s last days. Beyond that though, it is a book about love and regret and the ties that bind us together. If you have never read a Kent Haruf novel, I urge you to give one a try.
 
Posted by rkong on 06/12/13
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Well, Chicago is once again abuzz with the prospect of another major sports championship, and I find myself looking back on our past champions. I just finished Phil Jackson’s recently published memoir, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, and I highly recommend it for anyone who witnessed the Jordan years and Jackson’s six championships with the Chicago Bulls.
 
Phil (we’re all on first name basis with him, right?) goes into great detail about his upbringing as the son of two ministers in Montana and also his own NBA playing career with the Knicks. But the best parts are when he discusses applying a number of psychological and spiritual approaches to the locker room dynamics of those Bulls teams. Anyone who has ever played or coached a sport will appreciate the challenges Phil faced with bringing Michael, Scottie, and other players together as one unit. Highlights include the time Michael fought Steve Kerr, not exactly the toughest guy on that team, during a heated practice and the way Phil handled the enigma that is Dennis Rodman.

Give Eleven Rings a chance if you’re a sports fan or even interested in leadership, psychology, or spirituality. And, yes, it is perfectly permissible and expected for Chicago fans to skip over the sections Phil talks about his time with Kobe, Shaq, and the rest of the Lakers. We all know his best years were with Chicago!
Posted by Pam I am on 06/02/13
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It has been six years since the release of Khaled Hosseini's best sellers A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) and The Kite Runner (2003) and many fans, including myself, have awaited his next novel.  Hosseini's new release, And the Mountains Echoed is a compelling story about love, loss, family and acceptance. I confess that I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. engrossed in this epic novel that spans generations and countries from Afghanistan to the United States.
 
The book unfolds in a way that feels like a variety of short stories with multiple characters. At times it can be a little confusing, but in the end the author weaves all the different stories together. In this clip, Khaled Hosseini talks about the many themes of the novel and his inspiration for writing the book.
 
This book will make you think about how a single act or event can reverberate or "echo" for generations to come. If you have read Hosseini's previous books or you are looking for a new thought-provoking novel, this is a great choice.
 
Posted by crossin on 05/29/13
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I've been selecting movies for libraries for a good part of my life. I've seen video formats come and go, and sometimes cringe a bit when new technology is introduced (does anyone out there still use Laserdiscs?). Back when Blu-ray and HD-DVD were battling for the market share, I didn't think either one would last more than a year or two - who would buy into these when downloadable media was poised to take over? Clearly, I was wrong. In the past two years, Blu-ray checkouts at AHML have nearly tripled. There are still some library users who ask if a Blu-ray will play in their regular DVD player, but clearly many have adopted high-def.
 
The latest and greatest, 3-D Blu-rays, hit the market a few years ago, and library users immediately started asking when AHML would be getting them. Back then, there were only a handful of 3-D Blu-rays available; even today very few films are released on 3-D Blu-ray. Even so, AHML currently has more than 60 movies available on 3-D Blu-ray. If you haven't upgraded to 3-D, no worries, these also include a standard Blu-ray.
Blu-ray
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/29/13
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What do Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandberg, Lebron James, Devin Hester, Don Mattingly, David Beckham, and John Sandford's newest Prey series book all have in common? The number 23!
 
Silken Prey is the 23rd novel in this long-standing mystery series. And it is a doozy. Davenport might have met his match in the form of a ruthlessly rich female politician who has the moral standards of Cleopatra. Her name is Taryn Grant and she wants to be the next senator from the great state of Minnesota. Taryn and her security team - comprised of a couple of ex-Black Ops assassins, make formidable foes for Davenport. They devise a pathological scheme to defraud the incumbent senator - hoping to turn the election polls in their favor. Nothing can hurt a campaign more than the accusation that ones opponent is a child pornographer. Taryn's team will stop at nothing to win the senate seat. Multiple murders is an occupational hazard. 
 
There is nothing haphazard to Davenport's investigation. He is well aware that the arena the governor asks him to enter could be a career-breaker. He knows that politics is a dirty game and up until now, Davenport has only dressed for the games and sat on the sidelines. This time around he is put into the line-up and it's winner take all. 
 
Davenport groupies will not be disappointed. He flirts with both danger and femme fatales effortlessly. He even gets to the Mall of America a couple of times to make sure that he is dressed appropriately.
Mystery, Suspense
Posted by bpardue on 05/24/13
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I'd like to see these guys live. In a planetarium. With lasers. Simply put, the trio Emeralds' 2012 album, Just to Feel Anything, hearkens back to the days when synthesizer music was spacey and expansive. It's kind of like the album Tangerine Dream has refused to make since the early 80s. The seven instrumental pieces have ghostly soundscapes, pulsing sequencers and drum machines, fuzzed-out guitar solos, the whole package. To me, "Everything Is Inverted" is the standout cut. To be fair, "Through & Through" and "Search for Me in the Wasteland" are more guitar-centric and almost hummable, but mostly, this is a put-on-the-headphones-and-turn-on-the-Lava-Lamp kind of collection that just carries you away into the Milky Way...
Posted by Ultra Violet on 05/24/13
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It's the last part of the 19th Century, and an evil Jewish mystic creates an incomparable golem who ends up lost and alone in New York City. Blending in to the human population is hard enough for Chava, but getting involved with Ahmad, a Jinni who has been cruelly trapped in human form thousands of years ago, causes even more complications. Their uneasy alliance stems from their shared situations, but their natures are so far from each other that they are constantly butting heads.When Chava's creator comes to America, Ahmad and Chava must fight for their lives and try and outwit a mastermind with no conscience.
 
The Golem and the Jinni is a fun, fast read with great details of 19th century New York, particularly the Jewish and Syrian neighborhoods and lifestyles. The Jewish tradition of the golem and the Middle Eastern stories of the jinni add a delightful twist.

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