Staff Choices

Posted by mothic on 12/22/13
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It always seems that princesses, whether they are the Disney or the Buckingham palace versions, have enviable lives. They live in palaces, have beautiful wardrobes, and marry handsome princes. But in Linda Rodriguez McRobbie’s book, Princesses Behaving Badly, we get a fascinating peek behind the magical curtain and learn that not all princesses live fairy tale lives.
 
McRobbie takes us from the fifth century Black Sea to current day Great Britain telling quick three to four page stories of princesses who are everything from pirates to bank robbers. These short stories are an enticing introduction to princess lore. Each story provides a tidbit of information that leaves you wanting more.
 

Overall I enjoyed the stories and think that both teens and adults will be entertained by this book. It is a fine introduction to the real life stories of princesses throughout history.

 
Posted by bpardue on 12/20/13
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Has anyone changed a sport the way Bobby Orr changed hockey?
 
With his end-to-end skating and puck handling, he redefined what a defenseman could be. I first learned of Orr when he was featured in a 1970 Boy's Life magazine cover story. I was immediately a fan, despite living at the Jersey shore (on the border between Rangers/Flyers territory) and not even being much of a hockey follower. I'd patiently wait for the Bruins to be shown on TV and listen at night on my transistor radio to WBZ to hear their games. I was ecstatic when they won the '72 Stanley Cup and crestfallen when they were beaten by the upstart Flyers in '74. Sure, I liked the team, but it was really all about Orr for me. He was the complete athletic package--skill and integrity rolled into one, just the kind of guy who should be on the cover of Boy's Life.
 
43 years later, Orr has finally (and after some reluctance) put out his autobiography, and it's just what an Orr fan wants--an overview of his life in Parry Sound, ON, some stories about his time in junior hockey and signing into the Bruins' minor league organization (he got $1,000 and his parents got their house stuccoed), all leading up to his stunning--but all-too-short--career with the Bruins and (in case you forgot), the Blackhawks. Orr mostly keeps things positive--he cites his role models and influences, and has high praise for his teammates. This isn't a tell-all book, although he does have a chapter set aside to cover his thoughts about his ill-fated relationship with his now-disgraced former agent, Alan Eagleson. Even there, he shoulders the blame, saying he didn't take enough responsibility for his own finances. Orr also has sage words for aspiring young hockey players and reflections on the current state of the game, including some suggested rule tweaks.
 
Orr's writing is solid, and straightforward--his favorite phrase seems to be "and let me tell you..."--so the book is a quick read. If you're an Orr fan or a hockey fan in general, this is time well-spent.  If you don't know about Orr, then maybe this will help you appreciate him a bit:
 
 
Posted by bweiner on 12/18/13
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Home (2012) , by Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author Toni Morrison, is a perfect book to read this holiday season.
This is a story of survival, and we follow veteran Frank Money in his efforts to adjust to civilian life as he returns home following the Korean War. He wrestles with his demons inside and the forces of society that threaten to diminish his safety and security. Frank is a man looking for his identity in an unforgiving world filled with prejudice and misconceptions. Everything changes as he is compelled to help his sister Cee survive her own desperate ordeal. In order to help her heal, they must return to the small, racist town in Georgia they called "home".
 
Toni Morrison is known for her deep,complex prose, but in this novel she uses her beautiful words sparingly to create a major impact. Above all, there is hope and redemption, and the belief that people can rise to their challenges and emerge triumphant. Inspire yourself this holiday season with a story by a true American classic, Toni Morrison.
 
Posted by jfreier on 12/17/13
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Blue Heaven is a fast-paced thriller by C.J. Box and is a stand-alone from his Joe Pickett series. Annie and William, a 12 and 10 year-old sister and brother, leave their house to go fishing after a fight with their Mom over her low-life boyfriend. Sadly for them, they witness four men murder someone and are spotted by one of the killers.  Their nightmare begins.
 
The two, led by a determined and strong Annie, evade the killers and find refuge at a loner ranchers' home.  The rancher, Jess Rawlins, is having his own problems and he provides a safe haven for them and also wants to find out who the killers are. It turns out that the men are retired cops from L.A. who are bound together by a large robbery they pulled off in L.A. and not even two children are safe from them.
 
This is a suspenseful and fast paced-mystery and it reminds me of the classic movie Night of the Hunter.  It has a great setting and Annie and Jess are well developed characters and the bad guys are really bad.
Mystery
Posted by Ultra Violet on 12/16/13
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William Bellman has always lived a charmed life. He is handsome, intelligent, strong and energetic.Even though he didn't know his father, who left William and his mother when he was small, he isn't resentful. He shares a close relationship with his sweet mother and is close with his cousin. He seems to get whatever he wants with minimal effort, every task is easy to him, he makes friends quickly with people from all social spheres and he has no problem attracting the attentions of beautiful women. He isn't spoiled by all of this good fortune. He works hard and loves accomplishing things.
 
The only blemish on his gilded life is an incident in his childhood. He and his friends were playing with their sling-shots and through a seemingly-miraculous shot, William strikes and kills a raven. The boys are amazed by the feat and go to see the gorgeous bird. Their awe is soon replaced with the macabre playfulness of young boys as they flap the lifeless wings and taunt each other. Will is unsettled. However, he quickly forgets the entire affair. He forgets it so completely that he barely notices how black birds haunt his dreams, and crows and ravens seem to appear out of nowhere whenever he loses someone dear.
 
William Bellman's perfect life starts to unravel as his begins to be visited by the mysterious Mr. Black. But Black may be just what Bellman needs.
 
A mysterious and beautifully descriptive homage to the spirit of the raven, told through a suitable moody Victorian tale.
Posted by bpardue on 12/16/13
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Plank is one of those people you've never heard of, but whose influence is everywhere. He's best known as the producer/engineer for many classic "krautrock" bands in '70s Germany (Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster, etc.), but also worked on albums by Eurythmics, Devo and Ultravox. Brian Eno approached Plank to produce U2, but Plank decided he couldn't work with Bono and turned the project down. CDs 1-2 are a nice sampler of his production/engineering work (although it's a shame that Kraftwerk and a few other bands aren't included). CD 3 has some poorly-recorded but ultimately compelling live material with collaborators Dieter Moebius (of Cluster) and Arno Steffan. CD 4 is remixes/reworks, a few of which work well (especially "Broken Head"), the rest of which are pretty forgettable. There's also a booklet with plenty of details about Plank's life and reminiscences from musicians he worked with. Interested in more background on "krautrock?" Check out the book Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and Its Legacy, or view this brief documentary about an event in appreciation of Plank at the Goethe Institut in London, in October 2013:
 
Posted by dnapravn on 12/15/13
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I can't remember the last time a debut novel made me smile as much as this one did. With characters that are appealing and quirky, The Rosie Project made me laugh out loud at times and wish that it was way longer than 295 pages.
 
Don Tillman is a socially awkward and brilliant professor of genetics. He freely admits that he only has two friends in the world and decides that it is high time to find himself a wife. So of course he goes about the task in the way he does everything: in an extremely logical and orderly manner. He develops a sixteen-page scientifically based survey and refers to it as The Wife Project. While he has never even had a second date before, he is convinced that his survey will find him the perfect partner, filtering out all of the smokers, drinkers, vegans, and women who habitually show up late to things.
 
When he meets Rosie, an unconventional and outgoing bartender, he doesn't even have to administer the survey to realize that she does not qualify as a candidate for his wife. Yet as he helps her try to identify her biological father and finds his very ordered life being turned upside-down, he can't deny that there is something very appealing about her. And truthfully, is the person who is perfect on paper always the right person for you?
Posted by annetteb on 12/08/13
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“The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure.” -Christopher McCandless

As humans, we each have instilled within us a desire to explore the unfamiliar and to live as thoroughly and as memorably as possible. Should routines begin to dull, we are prompted to examine our own lives and passions, and to reinvigorate ourselves by pursuing the likes and interests that propel us to a new sense of meaning and purpose.

The true story of Chris McCandless, the son of a well-to-do family and his solo venture to the Alaskan wilderness, is a tale of identity, independence, and an unquenchable pursuit of the self through the simplest, albeit most unforgiving force—nature. A modern-day Thoreau, Chris McCandless escapes a tense family life and sheds all familiarity in order to cultivate a path for himself. He drops his family name and takes on the persona of “Alexander Supertramp,” as he aimlessly travels what is unfamiliar to him and lives off the land. As always, the road to adventure points West, as Chris meets a host of characters on his hitchhike throughout the nation.

Ill-equipped, yet an idealist, Chris does not survive his journey. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. It's fact.) Journalist Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild retells the story of Chris McCandless through Chris’ postcards and journal, as discovered with Chris’ body. This is not a tale of death, but rather, a philosophical question of why Chris needed this journey, who he met along the way, and how he influenced others. To this day, adventurers, curiosity-seekers, and free spirits alike continue to visit the “Magic Bus” in which Chris died, along the rough Alaskan Stampede Trail.
 
I highly recommend this text to anyone with a penchant for travel, memoirs, or tales of adventure. Additionally, I encourage a viewing of Sean Penn’s film by the same title.
Posted by Pam I am on 12/06/13
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As the holiday season is upon us and the hustle and bustle of life ramps up, I decided I wanted something light and heartwarming to read.  I love a good literary challenge, but what I really needed was a book that would let me escape the chaos.  Lorna Landvik's Welcome to the Great Mysterious is the perfect book to curl up with and relax.
 
Geneva Jordan is a middle-aged self-centered Broadway star who has just been dumped by her boyfriend and is fast approaching menopause.  Just then Geneva's twin sister Anne asks Geneva to come stay and babysit her teenage son while Anne and her husband take a much-needed vacation.  Geneva grudgingly agrees and heads to Minnesota to babysit her 13 year old nephew, Rich, who has Down Syndrome.  Rich and Geneva forge a relationship and learn about life and love together.  Together they find an old scrapbook from Anne and Geneva's childhood, titled The Great MysteriousThe Great Mysterious scrapbook contains questions and answers from Anne and Geneva's teen years and explores the great mysteries of life such as finding true love, facing your fears, and the bond of family.
 
Posted by jkadus on 12/03/13
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'Tis the season to be baking, fa-la-la-la!  Is there anything sweeter than the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the house? Well, aside from eating them of course! We all have our traditional family recipes as well as some "tried and true" favorites, but why not try something new this holiday season? Here's a sampling of some of our holiday cookie books to get you started. Who knows, you might start a brand new holiday "tradition" this season. So break out those cookie sheets and let's get baking.

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