Staff Choices

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 12/08/10
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Newly graduated from Smith College, Kerman describes herself as a "girl looking for trouble."  And, boy, did she find it!  She stupidly gets involved with a woman who is a key player in an international drug trafficking ring.  Wined, dined and living the high life while traveling the world with her shadey new friends, she never was directly involved in the drug deals themselves.  That is, until she agreed to deliver a large cash payment for drugs.  The feds eventually catch up with her, and she is indicted for drug smuggling and money laundering.  She spent six years under supervision by the feds while the U.S. tried to extradite the West African drug kingpin, so that she could testify against him.  Finally, 10 years after she had committed her crime, she is sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security women's federal correctional facility in Danbury, Ct.
 
In Orange is the New Black, Kerman tells the story of her long months in prison, relating descriptions of the other women she lived with, some funny, some sad.  Very poignant and touching were the networks of "families" that were established by the women for support, advice, psuedo-mothering, and just simple items that were considered luxuries, such as toiletries and real food.  Friends that she made while in prison helped her survive, cope, and come to the realization that her selfish, careless lifestyle had enabled many of these women to indulge in their drug habits which eventually landed them in jail.  Along with the remorse that she felt over the pain that she had put her family and fiance through.
 
Kerman also offers her readers revealing insights into the criminal justice system, the reasons so many people are sent to prison, and what happens to them while incarcerated.  Its no wonder a large percentage of those imprisoned end up back in prison or homeless, because the system offers them no prerelease training or help in entering mainstream economy or finding real jobs.  Orange is the New Black  is warmly and sympathetically written - a real eye-opener.  In this Book TV interview, Piper Kerman talks about her book and the precariousness of life - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYF2cxY9VAU
Posted by Ultra Violet on 12/08/10
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When an aspiring self-help guru is murdered in the idyllic Canadian village of Three Pines, the townspeople may have been shocked, but no one was very upset about it. CC de Poitiers was a despicable woman who looked down on everyone, cheated on her hen-pecked husband, and made life unbearable for her over-weight 12-year old daughter. The method for the murder was particularly puzzling. How does someone get electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake during a curling match? It's going to take Inspector Armand Gamache and his plucky team of misfits to unravel this most bizarre mystery.
 
A Fatal Grace is the second in the Three Pines mystery series. Louise Penny writes with a style that is far above many cozy mystery writers. Although this book is a "cozy" in many respects, there are some instances of foul language that some readers may find objectionable. Penny's character development is a big draw for this book and this entire series. Another strength is the descriptions of the charming town of Three Pines. It reminded me of Cabot Cove from the Murder, She Wrote series in that the reader feels a strong sense of the place and it is so lovely and welcoming, you are ready to book a flight there immediately. Take note; we will soon be adding A Fatal Grace to our book discussion sets.
Posted by Pam I am on 12/08/10
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In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher reflects on what it was like growing up in one of Hollywood's most dysfunctional families, as the child of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  She refers to her family as "Hollywood Inbreeding".  This is Fisher's fourth book, but her first memoir.  In Wishful Drinking she humorously covers her neurotic childhood, coming of age on the Star Wars set, her on-again off-again relationship with Paul Simon and her personal experience with addictions and mental illness.  This memoir ultimately is about her survival and recovery from addiction and bipolar disorder.  But, along the way her self depreciating sense of humor and wit will have you laughing out loud. 
Posted by cclapper on 12/07/10
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The Tales of the City are back.
 
And Mary Ann, one of the central threads in these interwoven stories, has returned to San Francisco.
 
Things happen, as we have come to expect in this wonderful series by Armistead Maupin.  Lots and lots of things.  Things involving a wide and wonderful spectrum of humanity, interacting in remarkable ways.
 
Mouse never left, but Michael Tolliver's life is still evolving.  Other characters from the original books show up again, too, including some of my favorites.  (Bet they're your favorites, too.)  With interesting new tangents.
 
Back.  All the love you loved is back.   
Posted by Pam I am on 12/06/10
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This is a cozy mystery literally for "book lovers".  Book expert  Brooklyn Wainright is attending an international Book Fair in Edinburgh Scotland  when trouble and murder seem to follow her.  At the book fair, Brooklyn meets up with her ex boyfriend to discuss an original copy of a very secret, potentially scandalous book and later that day, her ex boyfriend turns up dead.    First, Brooklyn is considered a suspect, but later is cleared.  Along the way, Brooklyn conducts her own investigation to clear her name and soon more bodies turn up dead. 

This light mystery takes place in Edinburgh Scotland so I loved the backdrop as well as some humor and romance sprinkled in.  A fun read for a light-hearted mystery fan.

Posted by Uncle Will on 11/30/10
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As prolific a writer Stephen King is, he is most in his element when writing short stories. This latest has four stories that do not disappoint.
 
Liking to read short stories out of sequence from the order they are presented in a book usually produces a devilish fancy.
 
So skipping right to story #3 was the starting point. This one deals with a man making a deal with the devil to expand his current life expectancy; which is on a cancerous crash course.
There is another about a happily married couple that has shocking developments for the wife when she goes nosing around in the garage.
 
A mystery writer has a run in with a truck driver, the size of a semi, which leads to a turn in the road that is not found on Map-Quest.
 
King describes his latest work as harsh. The stories are gritty and not like anything he has written in the past.
Posted by emcinerney on 11/28/10
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In his newest book, David Sedaris looks into the world of animals and asks one question, what if animals acted like humans? Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a collection of stories featuring animals in human situations and their reactions. As in his previous books, Sedaris looks at the oddness of everyday life and the interaction we have with others. All of the wit and humor is there, but with animals as the main characters. My favorite story, “The Cow and the Turkey,” is about an curmudgeon cow who participates in the farm’s secret Santa program. Sedaris paints the picture of a scheming cow who tries to get the Turkey as his Secret Santa, as the cow figures the Turkey will not live to see Christmas anyway and therefore, will not have to get him a gift. All the stories are filled with Sedaris’s laugh-out loud humor, however, the stories take more a grim, bloody approach than in his previous works. Despite the graphic nature, the stories are relatable to anyone who has dated someone their family didn’t like, had to make awkward conversation with a hairdresser, or has ever received unsolicited parenting advice. As an added bonus, Sedaris’s stories are illustrated by Ian Falconer, who has done several covers for The New Yorker magazine. A must read for any Sedaris fan or anyone looking to laugh at the awkwardness of people.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 11/15/10
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It was not the subject matter of this collection of shorts stories that caught my attention so much as the array of authors which are included. Some of them are old favorites of mine, while many of the others are writers who have been on my "read them someday" list for years. For example, Italo Calvino, Ursula K. LeGuin, Alice Munro, and Ray Bradbury were all familiar to me, but I also enjoyed the story by Anthony Boucher, whose work I had never read before. All of the stories included deal with libraries or librarians in some way, but with vastly differing results. There are romances, and mysteries and some stories which defy genre. With all of the novels and non-fiction books I read, I seem to forget all about short stories. It is singularly rewarding to be able to follow a story start to finish in one sitting.
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/15/10
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Imagine if Robin Hood was 6′5″ and could take on all of the Sherriff of Nottingham’s elite guard bare-handed and the outcome would be “…Chalk one up for the Good Guys…”? Jack Reacher is a modern day Robin Hood, on a smaller stage.
 
In Child’s newest edition, Reacher takes up from where he left off in 61 Hours. He is on his way to Virginia to meet a woman that he has only spoken to over the phone. While traveling through a remote Nebraskan town he stumbles upon a farming community that is being ruled by a band of bullies. These bullies own a fleet of trucks that the town’s farmers are mandated to use when they harvest their crops. The Duncans are comprised of three middle-age brothers and one son.
 
Reacher takes the Duncans head-on. They employ former Huskies’ linemen as their enforcers. To their dismay, the 300 lb. ex-athletes are no match for Reacher. While dishing out his brand of justice, Reacher gets hooked into investigating the 20-year old disappearance of a young girl. The case was never closed and is as cold as liquid nitrogen. Reacher learns of the unsolved crime while sharing bar-stool space with the town’s only doctor; the pickled version, not the sober. A cry of help is phoned-in to the doctor by the younger Duncan’s wife and Reacher volunteers to drive the slobbering physician out on his house call. She has been beaten bloody. Reacher learns that this is an everyday occurrence and the rest of the novel is Reacher reactions to domestic violence and child-abuse.
 
Having read all of Child’s novels, I found that this one compares to the fictional characterization of Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jackin 1971. Billy Jack was the protector of an Indian Reservation in Wyoming. He always seemed to banter with his villainous opponents before reigning great pain upon them. Reacher has several such scenes in this book. There is something almost poetic in a humble man’s weary warnings to the wayward just prior to the words being acted out.
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/13/10
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In the long awaited sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, Patrick Kenzie and his wife, Angie, are asked by Aunt Beatrice to once again search for her missing niece Amanda. It has been 12 years since Kenzie found the then 4-year old kidnapped daughter of drug-addicted Helene. He is still dealing with the guilt that he took a young child out of a loving relationship and placed her back into the hands of a living nightmare mother.
 
He discovers that Amanda has matured into a Harvard-bound teenager who displays a strong constitution, worldly wisdom, and is an expert at identity theft. Has Amanda been kidnapped again, this time by a Russian mobster, or is she simply orchestrating her plans to begin a new life away from the horrid one that she’s been subjected to for the last 12 years.
The current U.S. economy not only is affecting all in real-life, but also has forced Kenzie to seek some type of full-time employment with benefits that include health insurance. Angie is close to getting her graduate degree in education, but with their precocious daughter, Gabriella, requiring all the basics in life….food, shelter, clothing, etc.; Kenzie fears that the private-eye trade is no longer going to help him provide for his family.
 
This story appears to be foreshadowing of what the Kenzie’s lives will be in future novels. This time around Lehane’s emphasis is more toward modern families and not limited to his usual Boston-way-of-life themes. There is a great deal of conversations like those that take place everyday in homes around the world by parents and husbands and wives.
 
Bubba, the modern-day Michael-the-Archangel best friend of the Kenzies also returns. Wouldn’t it be grand if everyone was able to have as a godfather, a menacing man-child who shoots first and might get around to asking questions later?
 
There is doubt if this book will ever be adapted to film. There is not the usual mandated action scenes and intrigue sought in today’s popular mysteries; but rather a centered story about the importance of family, friendship and the work that must be put in those relationships in order to yield some assemblance of satisfaction.
 

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