Staff Choices

Posted by lsears on 01/06/15
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An incongruous image of a porcupine on the cover of Dear Committee Members humorously hints at the prickly nature of the main character before the book is even opened.

The story unfolds through correspondence penned entirely by one person, Jason T. Fitger, a Professor of Creative Writing and English at fictional Payne University.  His beloved English Department is being squeezed both financially and by a construction project which puts him at odds with another more favored department in the same building.  A great deal of Fitger’s time is mired in bureaucratic paperwork, politics, and writing endless letters of recommendations for students.  Some are written with such biting honesty that certain requesters will regret asking him to write anything at all, especially when it is required to be done online.

Each letter is tailored to the recipient with varying degrees of Fitger’s unbridled and unfiltered manner of speaking.  The level of praise, ire, disdain, explanation or pleading is dependent on how much he cares about that particular topic. His professional and personal lives are intertwined and, oblivious to decorum, he often reveals too much to the wrong people through what he writes.

Fitger is a bit prone to gossip, perhaps a little naïve, selfish yet likeable, articulate yet socially dense, and passionate. I found the way in which author Julie Schumacher presented these elements of his personality very entertaining.  I think the book is a tribute to epistolary and imaginative writing.

And, yes, I had to read the story with a dictionary close at hand.

Posted by crossin on 01/06/15
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This month, Park City, Utah, will host the 31st annual Sundance Film Festival. Sundance is one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States.  Last year, more than 12,000 films were submitted for consideration; less than 200 were selected.  Besides the juried competition, several Audience Awards are bestowed on films voted as favorites by the festivalgoers.  AHML has many of the fans’ picks from over the years.
Posted by bpardue on 01/02/15
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The successful test launch and return of the Orion space capsule in late 2014 reminded me that I'd yet to read Mary Roach's 2010 book about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting humans into space and (fingers crossed) to Mars one day. Keep in mind that sending probes and landers the many millions of miles to the red planet is certainly a feat of science an engineering, but it's almost trivial compared to the task of creating a spacecraft that can actually get humans there (and back, if they're lucky) in a way that leaves them both alive and sane. Roach describes the kinds of earthbound testing done on human research subjects to see who'll best be able to live for months in close quarters, dealing with exacting routines and massive amounts of boredom (hint: it's not the "Right Stuff" space-cowboy types). There's also an awful lot of discussion of discussion about hygiene issues, and even the requisite reflection upon space romance. What you quickly learn is that space travel will not be for those who expect to maintain a great deal of privacy and dignity. Roach's tone is often humorous, especially when she describes her own experiences in various testing/training tools, such as the  "vomit comet" (the jet on which would-be astronauts first experience zero-gravity). She nicely focuses on the personalities of the people behind the projects, not just the science and technology. The has a lot of diversionary footnotes, which I found interesting and enjoyable, but that others might think bothersome. This is a quick, entertaining and enlightening read.
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/31/14
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Here's a teaser.  What is the greatest coming of age book that you have ever read? Some will argue J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Some will argue Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Other readers that are not part of the Baby Boom Generation might choose Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower. All sound choices. Each profound and still relevant. This probably explains why we still have 6 copies of each in our collection. However, there is another classic that never seems to get its fair amount of attention.
Attend to this: William Goldman is a two-time Academy Award winning American novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. Author of 16 novels, many of which have been adapted to film; today Goldman might best remembered for Princess Bride (1973) or Marathon Man (1974). In 1957 he published his first novel, Temple of Gold - and for over 50 years, I still recommend it to reader's of all ages.
This novel is only about 200 pages long. The setting is in the Midwest during late '50's.  Some of the fashions are a bit dated, but there's no doubt that in chapter one when Ray Trevitt begins his story:  " . . . My father was a stuffy man . . " a young person is about to come of age and his story still needs to be heard. . .even today.
Posted by jdunc on 12/29/14
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The best way to take in Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please, is via audio. I’m sure the print book contains lots of pictures, but the audio is really a pleasure to listen to. It is like listening to a conversation between friends. Poehler has her parents in to read their life lessons and has records candid conversations with Seth Myers and Mike Schur about her time at Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. A special treat is a live reading of the last chapter at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Poehler’s improv theater in Los Angeles.  It is amazing how different a reading sounds with a live audience responding with loud laughs.
Poehler covers a wide range of topics including the sadness after her divorce, her intense love for her kids, her childhood, and her experience in the “biz”. It was much more reflective and insightful than I had anticipated. However, I found the organization a little disjointed. As opposed to being divided up into distinct sections (work, family, friends or childhood, young adult, adult) it is compilation of somewhat unrelated short stories. Fans of Poehler will appreciate this deeper, introspective look into her life.
humorous, memoir
Posted by jfreier on 12/18/14
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Jamie DeBroux is heading to a special saturday morning meeting at his office but it turns out not what he expected. Jamie's boss has informed his staff of six that they have been working for a covert government agency and they are being shut down.
He tells his employees they have two choices drink poisoned mimosas and die quick and painlessly or get shot in the head.
The boss also has shut off all computer and cell service and rigged the elavators so ther is no way out.
Molly Lewis, the quiet assisant to the boss sets the action in motion by shooting the boss in the head and then the fun begins, eveyone for themselves, the surprises and plot twists are dizzying but it is so fast paced it is impossible to put down. Severance Package is the first book I have read by Duane Swierczynski and now I have read all of his other books, if your looking for a fast, fun escape I highly recommend this authour.
Posted by jmurrow-res on 12/17/14
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When Brandon Stanton first began his project to take pictures of the various inhabitants of New York City, he thought that he might post some pictures on Facebook, maybe start a blog.  But what started as a weekend pastime has become a New York Times best seller, and with good reason.  Humans of New York is visually arresting, deeply uplifting, and filled with a warm humor at the most surprising moments. 
From a Yugoslavian janitor who studied for 12 years to earn his classics degree to Muslims in prayer, adorable kids (who look better on their first day at school than I’ve ever looked in my life), crazy fashionistas, and young lovers, I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  Each picture is paired with a quote from the subjects themselves, revealing their hope, plans, and fears, as well as a depth of humanity that will bring a smile to your face (also: if you're doing any last minute gift shopping, this would make a great stocking stuffer)!  
Posted by Kelley M on 12/02/14
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Can a story about a teenage latrine cleaner be entertaining enough to read 387 pages?  Absolutely.  Nombeko, the main character of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is a self-educated girl from Soweto, who has the chance to save the king of Sweden & the world.  In the book, she claims that the probability of this happening is 1 in 45,766,212,810.  The book is about serious topics: discrimination, nuclear weapons, politics…  But, the book somehow manages to be light-hearted & comedic.  This author truly has a special talent for taking difficult topics & making them entertaining & accessible.  The story contains a unusual, eccentric group of characters.  Moral of the story?  No matter who you are, you might just have a major impact on humanity.
The Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson, is a best-selling author overseas.  This is his second novel.  His first novel was The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.
Posted by jkadus on 12/02/14
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December is here and with it comes all the frenzy of activity.  Deck the halls, bake the cookies, buy the presents, wrap the gifts and then either host a holiday party or, if you're lucky, go to a few and just enjoy yourself.   Whew!  I'm exhausted just WRITING this and all I've done is put up the tree and a few decorations around the house.  While we can't physically be there to help you with all you have to do this month, we can provide you with some items from our collection to hopefully make your December a bit easier.  Happy Holidays to all and all the best for a wonderful 2015!
Posted by jdunc on 11/25/14
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The Possibilities, by Kaui Hart Hemmings, provides an intimate look at grief and the journey one must take to return to life after a tragedy. Sarah lost her 22-year-old son, Cully, in a tragic accident three months ago. She is attempting a return to work as a peppy television host on a program that showcases tourist spots in Breckenridge, Colorado, but just can’t seem to muster the resolve to paste on a fake smile. Sarah’s pain is palpable. In response to another mother who has suffered a similar loss Sarah narrates “While I seek common experiences, at the same time I hate it, how it weakens my own pain, which I cherish.”
She alternates between sorrow and anger which she takes out on her father and best friend. While the book has dark themes, it is interspersed with light-hearted moments especially with Sarah’s father, who has a QVC addiction, and her best friend Suzanne, who is in the midst of a divorce and as Sarah states“has enviable problems”. In the middle of this struggle, a young woman enters their lives and helps Sarah to heal and to see the possibility of life after the end of pain.
Hemmings is the author of the best-selling novel and Oscar winning movie, The Descendants. Like The Descendants, The Possibilities examines the secrets people keep and the aftermath of loss. Her writing is incredibly descriptive, not just of the emotions of the characters but of the setting. She describes in beautiful detail the tourist town of Breckenridge: the snow on the mountains, the tourists, the valets at the hotel, and the feel of the sun. The Possibilities shows that even in heartbreak there is still beauty.
The book has been optioned for a film by director Jason Reitman.
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