Staff Choices

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 09/09/10
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It was December, 1941. It had been six months since the Germans had kept Leningrad under siege, trapping the Russians, cutting off all land connections so as to starve the residents of the city. Seventeen year old Lev Beniov had been arrested for looting. Russian soldier Kolya Vlasov had been thrown into Lev’s jail cell into the dreaded “The Crosses” for desertion. It was a certainty that the two men would be executed in the morning, without trial, since there was no food to give them to keep them alive while in prison. But in the morning, something unexpected happened. The guards came for Lev and Kolya, escorting them to the colonel’s office. He made them a very unusual offer, one that seemed impossible, but one they couldn’t refuse if their lives were to be spared. He wanted the two men to steal a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake. They had five days to accomplish this task, at which time he would set them free and give them back their ration cards.
 
Lev and Kolya embark on an odyssey to find the impossible dozen eggs, a quest that propels them from the lawless streets of Leningrad to the devastated countryside behind German lines. As they encounter murderous city dwellers, guerilla partisans, and finally the German army itself, an unlikely bond forms between them. With every encounter, it seems as though they have met the end of their road, only to find help from people equally as desperate as they were. The author, David Benioff, gives the story a personal touch in making it appear as though Lev Benioff was his grandfather, and that the story was told to him while visiting his retired grandparents in Florida. Excellent character development set against the backdrop of the infamous siege of Leningrad make for a great read.
Posted by mingh on 09/04/10
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Alexia Tarabotti is a rare creature in Victorian London. She was born with no soul. This should not be confused with the vampires and werewolves who once were people with souls. If Alexia touches a vampire, he will return to his original state until she lets go. In years past, the Soulless were used to hunt vampires and werewolves. Once a Soulless person touched the creature, they lost all of their powers and were much easier to kill.
 
But this is Victorian London and the Vampires, Werewolves, and Humans live happily amongst each other. Until someone starts killing them. Busybody Alexia feels she must get involved when there are hints that she might be involved. But when she is attacked by an unknown creature immune to her powers, things get very challenging.
 
The Head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, a Werewolf,  is very familiar with Alexia and would like to become even more familiar with her. He must do everything to protect her, but a full moon is coming on and he will have to withdraw from society.
 
This is a fun book that has created a society of rules and regulations guiding relationships between the creatures and all wrapped up in a Victorian show of manners. What if Vampires and Werewolves came to the ball? (Well, you just know that the Vampires hold the best dances, although their food and refreshment can be a little lacking.) Add to this some steampunk and you have a fun ride.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 08/30/10
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When I saw the cover of this book amongst the countless all-caps titles and author names with flashy images that adorn most of the new fiction collection, I snapped it up like a gold nugget in a muddy riverbed. The lack of words on a book cover was half of the attraction for me. In particular because it was in the fiction section, so it couldn't be an art book or a poetry collection. I was not disappointed. I wouldn't recommend this book for everyone because it is so unique that readers with a strongly held notion of "novel" will be frustrated by it. From start to finish every sentence in The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? is a question. Yet, Powell manages to establish a substantial character for his narrator, or should I say, interrogator? Not that this feels like an interrogation in any negative sense. The questions spark nostalgia, curiosity, introspection and at times, fear and disgust. By the end, I felt a kinship with the narrator and I appreciated Powell's mastery in crafting this most unusual book. I can't think of when I last felt so strongly that I wish I had thought of that.
Posted by jfreier on 08/27/10
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I was browsing in new fiction and the title and cover lead me to pick up this mystery. This is the fourth in a series featuring a Royal Thai detective in Bangkok named Sonchai. The story starts around a grisly murder of an American movie director in the sex trade part of Bangkok. The story is a witches' brew of graphic violence, Thai sex, Tantric sex and Buddhist sensibilities. The characters include a beautiful Tantric Yogin, a deranged Tibetan Lama and a drug dealing general and a corrupt police chief. I found the book very refreshing and a mystery unlike any I've read, I will now start his series and read them in order.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 08/26/10
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When last we saw Lisbeth Salander, she had been shot in the head and hip by her wicked father, and buried alive by her mutant monster brother. As she lies in her hospital room recovering from her critical condition, Mikhail Blomkvist, her rescuer in the previous book (The Girl Who Played With Fire) must prove her innocence. To do so, he must expose a decades-old conspiracy within the Swedish security police that has, among other atrocities, perpetrated a lifetime of abuse aimed at Salander in order to protect the identity of her father, a Soviet defector and longtime secret asset to Sapo. A hornets nest indeed. This exciting finale to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy does not disappoint his fans. Its just too bad it has to end here.
Posted by mingh on 08/26/10
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The Girls of Murder City : fame, lust, and the beautiful killers who inspired Chicago is the full title of a new book by Douglas Perry. Even if you have no interest in the musical Chicago, haven't seen it, didn't like it, you will still find much to interest you in this book.
 
Its fascinating to read that from 1840-1920 no women were convicted of murder in all of that time. It doesn't mean that women weren't killing, no, it has more to do with the fact that the juries were all male and still put women on a pedestal. AND forget it if you were good-looking. All the newspapers had tabloid elements to them and your picture appeared on the front page: pictures of you from before the murder, pictures of you in jail perhaps looking helplessly up to the sky. The newspapers were just as responsible for depicting these women as helpless much to the chagrin of the prosecutors.
 
Finally, in 1924, a jury convicted a poor dishevelled Italian immigrant, Sabella Nitti, who spoke little English. Even after this, good-looking women could still get off for the most heinous murders. When a female lawyer decides to take the appeal case of Sabella Nitti, she dresses her up and gives her English lessons and she wins the appeal.  This book is about all of those women and the female journalists who wrote about them.
 
It was the fact that it was so difficult to get a conviction of a good-looking woman that made the Illinois Courts change to adding women to juries. Really a fascinating read and great book club read.
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/25/10
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I recently saw a trailer for a film that is opening in a few weeks called "The Town" that is based on this novel.  I have never read this author and was pleasantly surprised just how good he is.  His characters are real and his plot is Shakespearean. . .Boston-style. 
 
Doug MacRay is the mastermind behind a robbery crew of four who all grew up together in a tough neighborhood of Boston.   He comes from strong criminal bloodlines...his father is doing 20-to-life in prison.  Doug is an alcoholic who desperately needs a change in venue but has no idea how to achieve it. 
 
Doug's modus operandi is to stalk his victims for several weeks prior to   his robbery attempt and base his plans on their habits and tendencies.  One of his victims is the beautiful bank manager, Claire Keesey.  He falls in love with her from a far and after his successful holdup, meets cute with her at the local laundromat.   Doug thinks that she might be his ticket outta the life of crime. 
 
Claire, who has no idea that Doug was responsible for her bank's theft, suddenly has to deal with her post-traumatic shock of being kidnapped and left to live; as well as the newly smitten FBI Special Agent's and Doug's fancies. 
 
The mouse and cat gaming between Agent Adam Frawley and Doug is unpredictable.  Neither character is honest with poor Claire, who appears to be left the dupe in their games. 
 
Hogan has several characters whose back-stories he slowly rolls out like a stripper showing  just enough skin to tease and tantalized their audience. 
 
Ben Affleck, the Hurt Locker'sJeremy Renner, and Mad Men's, Jon Hamm all star in "The Town"  which is the movie version of this book. It's to be released in theaters in September.    I am hoping that the film flows half as well as this book did.
Posted by Pam I am on 08/24/10
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Emily Giffin's  latest novel explores infidelity and the impact that a single mistake can have on a marriage.  The interesting spin in this novel is that Giffin alternates the point of view of each chapter between the wife and the "other" woman.  Giffin does an excellent job of creating sympathetic characters on both sides.  You care about Tessa the stay-at-home mom who is feeling the strain of her marriage and wondering why her husband is pulling away and spending longer hours at work and not feeling as connected to her husband.  In the next chapter, you get the perspective of Valerie a single mother raising her son, Charlie who has been injured in a camping fire and is being treated by Dr. Russo, Tessa's husband.  Valerie and Dr. Russo become increasingly close and tension builds as their lives all become interconnected.    I thought this book was an interesting, thoughtful book.
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/21/10
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I don't care if I found this book in Kids World, it is a stitch.  I have never watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; however, I have seen him perform and he is very sharp and witty.
 
The author of this book is the Executive Producer of Stewart's show and also is very sharp and witty.   Oliver Watson is in 7th grade and wants to run for class president.  His only obstruction is his peers.
 
When I try, I can't recall the name of my 7th grade nun, but I do remember that awkward age.  Lieb catches the spirit of a 12- year old boy, who tries to balance his inner, most dark secrets with his limited social conscious.  
 
This book was a delight.
Posted by mingh on 08/19/10
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The tower is the Tower of London. The zoo is a return of the Royal Menagerie to the Tower after 165 years. And the tortoise is Mrs. Cook, the world's oldest tortoise, owned by Beefeater Balthazar Jones who resides in the Tower with his wife and the memory of his young son.
 
Balthazar Jones and his wife, who works at the London Underground Lost & Found, are still struggling with the sudden loss of their only child, when Jones is assigned to manage the new Royal Menagerie at the Tower. Jones turns to organizing the Menagerie to deal with his grief, while his wife deals with returning items to their rightful owners to keep herself from dwelling on their loss. As they grow estranged, we learn more about how they met and fell in love.
 
Although there is sadness in the book between Balthazar Jones and his wife, Stuart tries to keep it lighter with the antics and assignations of the other characters. From the enraged Ravenmaster who is disturbed that other creatures should outshine his ravens, to the Minister of the Tower's Chapel and his unrequited love for the barmaid, there is a lot of fun in the book. Stuart never lets the sadness become overwhelming.
 
Even if you have been on one of the Beefeater's tours of the Tower of London you will learn more about the history of the place and how the Beefeaters (or, as they refer to themselves, Yeoman Warders) live within the confines of the Tower. A light, delightful read even if you have never visited the Tower of London.

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