Staff Choices

Posted by Uncle Will on 05/17/11
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Some books are good on long trips.  Some are better at bedtime.  Others adorn coffee tables with little or nothing more to offer.  A fair share get labeled as good bathroom reads.  This book fits the latter category.
 
Comprised of about 250 "personal letters," this book is quite clever.  It is reminiscent of the books penned back in the late '70's by Frank Novello writing as Lazlo Toth (The Lazlo Letters, Citizen Lazlo!, and From Bush to Bush).  The author, Ted L. Nancy, is the pseudonym used by comedian Barry Marder. 
 
Marder was a writer on the award winning "Seinfeld" TV series.  This book's forward was written by Jerry Seinfeld, who for a while was rumored the "true identity" of the author for this series of books. 
 
Marder's correspondence is referred to as prank letters.  There are a variety of businesses, places, and people pranked.  At times it is hard to determine what's funnier - the initial letters themselves or the actual responses.    
 
 
 
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 05/15/11
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 The body of a viciously beaten woman has washed up on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  The city's detectives readily dismiss the case as another unsolvable murder, assuming that it is just another housemaid killed by her employer.  In a city where the burkas required by conservative Islam keep women  anonymous in life and death as well, this is a common  crime.
 
But Katya Hijazi, a forensic technician in the coroner's office, is determined to find Leila Nawar's killer.  This is not an easy task, since she must maintain the strict protocol of Islam, never going out unless escorted, nor could she interview or speak to strange men.   With dogged determination, she discovers the woman's identity as that of a provocative and controversial Saudi filmmaker, and with the help of her friend Nayir Sharqi, uncovers the woman's film library which exposes an underworld of prostitution, violence and exploitation.  It appeared as though the young beautiful filmmaker had earned some enemies.
 
The City of Veils provides the reader with many twists and turns in this mystery based in Saudi Arabia, a country torn between the strict edicts of islam and the lure of the modern world.  Zoe Ferraris weaves a good mystery and gives us a revealing glimpse into life behind the veil.  This is the author's second mystery set in Saudi Arabia, the first of which is Finding Nouf.
 
Posted by mingh on 05/13/11
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In 2009, Francisco Goldman's wife died of a freak accident at a Mexican beach. Having difficulty accepting his wife Aura's loss, he started to write a fictional story of a character he called, Francisco Goldman. The character Francisco Goldman also loses his wife, Aura, to a freak beach accident on the coast of Mexico. That much we know.
 
By putting all of this in a fictional context, author Goldman is allowed to explore his feelings both good and bad and to explore the feelings of his wife in the character that he has created. The book does not read like a memoir--it really does read like fiction. And it is helped by it as the author can condense time in the story and allow us to wonder if the other characters are real or compilations. We don't know if the real Aura said that to her Mother. But the fictional one does and can. The story moves along as you jump between times before they met, through their courtship and even after her death.
 
I don't know if a memoir could have been as profound as what we read as fiction. The author is able to explore relationships and feelings more deeply than if he was having to stick to the facts or the truth as he knew it. Goldman has written both nonfiction and fiction, so he does know the difference. The choice to present his story as fiction makes it a more compelling albeit very sad read.
Grief, Literary
Posted by mingh on 05/13/11
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Harold White has just been received into the exclusive Sherlock Holmes society known as the Baker Street Irregulars. You cannot join the group. You must be nominated by someone already in the group and you must have published about Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle. Outside of the Reception for his induction ceremony, Harold is introduced to the infamous Sherlockian, Alex Cale. Alex has hinted that he has found the lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle.
 
The next day, when Alex fails to show for his presentation, Harold and others flock to his room to find him dead in the manner of a Sherlock Holmes character. Who might have killed Alex Cale? And was it for the alleged lost diary that he found? Relatives of Conan Doyle hire Harold to try and find out who killed Alex and where is the diary? The search will send him to London, Switzerland and New York.
 
In the meantime, every other chapter follows the fictional exploits of Arthur Conan Doyle and his good friend Bram Stoker as they try and figure out some murders during their lives. These adventures supposedly make up the time in the lost diary. Is it possible that Conan Doyle destroyed the diary because he did not want it to get into the wrong hands?
 
This is all part of the fun of The Sherlockian, a great read for mystery lovers and Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.
Mystery
Posted by Pam I am on 05/06/11
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As a follower of Matt Logelin's blog, I was anticipating the release of this book and I devoured it in one day.  This book is an emotional memoir chronicling the first year after the tragic death of Matt's wife, Liz.  As Matt explains, on March 22, 2008 his daughter Madeline came into this world and the next day, her mother, Liz left it after suffering a pulmonary embolism.  He experienced the best joy in the world, and the worst tragedy all in 27 hours.  To deal with his grief and struggles of new single fatherhood, he turned to the blogging world.  He was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity he found among internet friends who reached out to help him and Maddy.  This book is an honest and heart wrenching look at loss and grief.  But, it is also a love story from a father to his daughter.  Matt admits that the only thing that got him out of bed in the mornings was knowing that his daughter Maddy needed him and was depending on him.  This book is also a tribute to his love for Liz.  What a wonderful tribute it is.
memoir
Posted by cclapper on 05/05/11
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Vampires, Werefolks and Witches- OH MY!  Sookie Stackhouse, our favorite down-home telepathic cocktail waitress and vampire/werewolf/fairy/(insert other supernatural entities here) magnet is back!  And, no, her life hasn't suddenly become calm, peaceful and filled with meditation. 
 
In fact, the body count is going up.  Bodies, of course, in all the many meanings of that word.
 
This series is just plain fun escapism.  And there's plenty of everything, here, for everyone.  Those addicted to 'flights of fantasy' will enjoy the hidden supernatural world that Charlaine Harris has created- a world that is beginning to pop out into a 'real' world that doesn't yet quite know how to deal with it.  Guys will love the action- and there is plenty of action: guns, blood, swords, motorcycles, pickup trucks, bar fights, wars...  And the ladies inclined to romance will find plenty of "affairs of the heart".  And occasional other corporeal components.
 
Charlaine Harris has spun several series, including: one on a lightning-strike survivor; one about a housecleaner named 'Bard' in Shakespeare, Arkansas; and one *gasp* about a LIBRARIAN!!  (I gotta check that one out-)  Plus, of course, her most famous incantation: these Sookie Sackhouse novels.
 
Sookie and her friends have become the (occasionally rather loose) inspiration for the very popular True Blood television series.  (Sorry, kids, these are for grown-ups.) 
 
Our adventure continues- and so does Sookie's.  If any of this catches your fancy, check them out.  (But start at the very beginning: Dead Until Dark ...a very good place to start.)  And fasten your seat belts.  It's going to be a very 'things-that-go-bump-in-the' night.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 04/29/11
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 Wendy White was a late bloomer.  All her classmates and friends couldn't wait to graduate and get out of rural, run-down Haeden, N.Y.  But Wendy was a homebody, happy to stay in Haeden, help her dad in his business, work as a bar maid at night, and get her own apartment.  So when Wendy goes missing, everyone assumes that she must have been abducted by a stranger.  That is, everyone but Alice Piper and Stacey Flynn.
 
Alice Piper was an extremely bright and precocious high school student.  Raised by her idealistic, free-spirited parents in a sort of hippy commune environment, Alice has a completely different perspective of Haeden, as a town that is suffocating and sick.
 
Stacey Flynn is young reporter who has come to Haeden from Cleveland to cover the community beat.  She quickly zeros in on the small-town mentality and habit of burying their heads in the sand when things get too dicey - such as Wendy White's disappearance.  Piper and Flynn arrive at the same conclusion, but from different directions and different solutions.
 
In her debut novel, Cara Hoffman does an excellent job of gradually building up the suspense, doling out pieces of information so that the readers can come to their own conclusions.  Until the shocking ending that blows you away!  Hoffman's book is based on a true case that she covered as an investigative reporter covering New York State's rural and Rust Belt communities, where she reported on environmental politics and crime.  She makes a harsh indictment against violence and adolescents in small-town America.
Mystery
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/28/11
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For those who found Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series of books to be  fresh, invigorating diversions, prepare thyself - there is a new Swedish Sheriff in town!  Her name is Camilla Lackberg and this book is the first in her series of seven mysteries. 
 
Besides the common thread that both authors were born in Sweden, they share the same American translator, Steven T. Murray.  The major differences are that Lackberg is alive and writing and has been deemed Sweden's most successful writer of all time.  This series has surpassed her late counterpart's in gross sales. 
 
Not certain what is fed to young mystery writers in Sweden that enables them to create such troubled, yet interesting characters.   The storylines do dip towards the dark side. 
 
Erika Falck is a biographer who returns home to sort out the estate of her late parents.  Erika learns that her once best friend, Alexandra, has been found dead, frozen in her bathtub, in an unheated house.   Erika's curiosity about her friend's death leads her to the police investigator in charge of the case, Patrik Hedstrom, another old childhood friend.
 
Fortunately for Erika (and readers who enjoy a nice romantic twist) Patrik never got over his childhood crush on Erika.  Flames kindle as the investigation grows more complicated by the day.  The town drunkard, who was having an unlikely affair with Alexandra, is then also found dead.  
 
There is no shortage of characters in this book and all have significant back-stories.  For a book being 400 pages long, there are only six chapters.   Dialog is buried in paragraphs.  The story starts slow and is not very seductive, but gains speed after about 50 pages.  This was a similar criticism for Larsson's first novel, that didn't hook the reader until after 75 pages or so.   Sticking with this book is worth the time invested.  Because of the number of characters and sub-plots, it will be difficult to guess the ending.  Lackberg has laid the foundation for a long-running series. 
 
 
 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 04/28/11
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Hugh Laurie is best known for starring in the TV series, House, or for his role in the popular BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster, but not many people think of him as an author. The gun seller is a witty, gritty espionage thriller packed with black humor. Under-employed ex-Scot's Guard, Thomas Lang, is offered a substantial sum of money to kill a wealthy American businessman. Lang, being and all-round good egg, not only refuses, but tries to warn Wolf, the American he is supposed to kill. He ends up getting involved in an international affair that is much more than he bargained for. He can't get out, or the gun sellers will kill Wolf's daughter. The first half of this book is very funny and ironic, while the second half gets down to the serious action, but I found both parts thoroughly enjoyable.
Posted by mingh on 04/27/11
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Sisters of Fortune : America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake is a study in how women could flourish in non-traditional 19th century America and England. The Grandfather of the Caton Sisters, Charles Carroll, was one of the richest men in America and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. When his Mother's inheritance is lost by his Father, he decides to settle his wife and daughters with trusts that cannot be touched by their future husbands. Rarely done at the time, he also ingrained in the daughters how to take care of their own estates and expenses. This allowed each of them to retain their money as they married.
 
The daughters were also amazingly allowed to marry for love. Although the family was much interested in their marriages, even when they did not approve of the husbands, they allowed their daughters their happiness. In addition to their own income, this gave the Caton sisters extra-ordinary freedom for their times.
 
The oldest daughter, Marianne, married locally into what became a sad marriage. When her first husband died she marries the older brother of the Duke of Wellington (her alleged true love). Even the Duke of Wellington thought his older brother a ne'er do well. But Marianne became a Lady In Waiting to Queen Adelaide and later Queen Victoria. She was much admired in royal circles.
 
Elizabeth, known as Bess, marries very late in life but becomes quite the speculator investing in the new railroads and South American mines. She becomes one of a number of well-to-do women who invest in businesses.
 
Louisa, first marries the Aide de Camp to Wellington. When he dies, she marries the Duke of Leeds. Louisa had the most trouble being accepted into royal circles. She finally is invited to the family castle after 15 years into the marriage.
 
Emily stays in America to marry one of the owners of what will become the Hudson Bay Company, known for fur trading. She is also the only one of the sisters to have children and the only one to remain in America.
 
Author Wake uses extensive letters to develop the lives of the sisters and their closeness to their Grandfather. The sisters were very much involved in the politics of the time whether in America or in England. While the sisters are remarkable, you also understand and appreciate what their Grandfather did for them. They know him to be their hero and readers will appreciate the freedoms he allowed them to have.
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