Staff Choices

Bed
Posted by mingh on 08/13/11
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Bed is the story of two brothers growing up in England. The oldest brother, Malcolm, takes to his bed at the age of 25 and allows himself to grow to morbidly obese proportions from being overfed by their mother. The youngest brother tells the story. It is hard not to focus on the oldest brother's decision. But Bed is really a story of what love means.
 
Late in the novel, Mal tells his brother that love is a continuum with a romantic giving end and an opposite end of destruction. The youngest brother is deeply in love with a woman, Lou, who can only think of Mal. She sees how her father is being destroyed by her mother's lack of love. Lou can't see how the youngest brother can help her.  The younger brother watches his family decline until he is finally able to escape to America with Lou. They leave as friends but soon become much closer.
 
 After many years, he returns to find that his brother has grown so large, 1300+ pounds, that his skin has become enmeshed with the linen of the mattress. Mal's body has become part bed and the bed a part of his body. He finds his mother happy to have someone to take care of and his father engaged in working on a contraption that will allow Mal to leave the house.
 
This book is dark and filled with depression although not in itself depressing. You will keep reading to find out if this growing horror of a situation will resolve itself. This book will make you think long after it is finished. What is love? And what does it mean to sacrifice?
British, Fiction
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 08/11/11
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“War happens to people, one by one.  That is really all I have to say, and it seems to me I have been saying it forever.”   - Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War  
 
In war-torn Europe of 1940, Frankie Bard, an American broadcast reporter, delivers intense person commentary on the London blitz and the forced evacuation of the Jews elsewhere in Europe.  In Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod, newlywed and newly pregnant Emma Trask anxiously awaits the return of her husband, a volunteer doctor stationed in London.  Iris James, the single, 40-year-old new postmistress of Franklin, feels an immense responsibility in holding the town’s secrets in her bags of mail.  Sarah Blake, the author of The Postmistress expertly weaves together the lives of these three very different women who live in two very different worlds.  Frankie’s world is one of devastation, destruction and violence.  For Emma and Iris, small-town America is home where its citizens go about their ordinary lives with their heads buried in the sand.  As the United States reluctantly edges closer to getting actively involved in this horrible war, the entire country listens to the accounts of Frankie in disbelief, trepidation and horror.  The United States at this time in history was trying hard to convince itself that the war in Europe would not touch them.  But through the eyes of Frankie, Emma and Iris, the reader sees the tragedies of war that indiscriminately touched the lives of everyone.

This is a very powerful book, written about a very difficult subject in a dreadful time in our nation’s history.  But I guarantee that once you pick it and start reading, you won’t be able to put it down!  You will care very deeply about the fates of these three women. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/08/11
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Why is Sweden suddenly emerging as the forerunner in publishing suspense novels?  Is it the lack of a sufficient satellite signal sent to Swedish television sets?  Could it be that during the cold season, darkness dominates by mid afternoon?   
 
This dark first novel by husband and wife team, Lars Kepler, demands the international press that preceded it.  A family is sadistically slaughtered.  One of the victims, a teenage son, survives.  His older sister might be the perpetrator or possibly the next casualty.  A highly successful police investigator demands the case, and enlists the services of a doctor who at one time specialized in the use of  group hypnosis to clinically treat his patients. 
 
The hypnotist, Dr. Erik Maria Bark, promised, ten years in the past, never again to apply his craft, ever since a former patient unjustly accused him of malpractice.   Forced to return his grant money and expelled from his high class hospital role, Bark turns to swallowing synthetics to soothe his humiliation.   This drug addiction leads to a sour marriage.  His only son is born with a blood disorder that adds to the physician's guilt.
 
This book makes the late Stieg Larsson appear to have created his craft using crayons.  This book is suspenseful and sophisticated.   It examines the complexities of relationships in all types of groups, be it family, work or other.  It not only points to their pitfalls, but at the same time proves promise on the horizon.
 
 
 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 08/08/11
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At her full adult height Lavinia Warren Bump was 2 feet, 8 inches tall, yet she was a proportional dwarf, meaning she was a "perfect woman in miniature". Melanie Benjamin was inspired by her appearance in the E. L. Doctorow masterwork, Ragtime, to write Lavinia's fictionalized autobiography.
 
The book traces her life from the Massachusetts farm where she lived a protected life with her family, to her achievement of becoming a school teacher, to her disheartening and sometimes shocking life on a Mississippi riverboat as a performer. Lavinia maintained her dignity and grace through it all. It was her most distinguishing characteristic. She returns home to find that she misses the lime-light, and approaches P. T. Barnum with a business offer. Barnum takes her into his troupe and Lavinia Warren becomes a household name. With a bit of manipulation from Barnum, Lavinia meets and marries the famous General Tom Thumb, who is only a few inches taller than her. The wedding of the tiny people was the event of the year. It even bumped the news of the Civil War off of the front page of the New York Times. They travelled the world together and amassed a fortune. Nonetheless, Lavinia had many hardships to endure.
 
Any reader interested in P. T. Barnum, or Gilded Age America will enjoy this historical treat. It is rich with detail about the period, including clothes, customs and lifestyles of the rich and famous, such as the Astors and Vanderbilts.
Posted by DavidO on 08/04/11
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The novel opens with Christine waking up in a bed she does not remember, next to a man she does not recognize.  As she enters the bathroom and looks into the mirror it takes her a few moments to realize that the person looking back is a version of herself much older than she can remember going to sleep as.  She also cannot remember the various other moments of her life captured in the photographs taped all around the bathroom.
 
At the advice of her doctor, Christine has started a diary to keep track of the events that happen to her on a day by day basis in the hope that she will begin to remember her past.  The majority of this book is told as Christine reads through her former diary entries and tries to mentally piece her life back together.
 
As Christine starts to read these past diary entries, she begins to question herself and all the events that have happened to her since the accident.  She also begins to notice discrepancies between what she is being told and what she has already written in her diary about her past.  Should Christine trust her husband or her doctor, who is telling her the truth?
 
Before I Go to Sleep is at its core an amnesia story, but also does a good job of continually building suspense as Christine’s layers of old memories unravel.
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/01/11
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What a cleverly conceived question for a mystery book premise:  "...Is it more difficult to think of the solution to a problem yourself or to ascertain if someone else's answer to the same problem is correct...?"
 
Yasuko is a divorced mother who is trying to piece together her life and her teenage daughter's after surviving an abusive marriage.  Constantly changing living locations and livelihoods couldn't stop her ex-husband from tracking them down.  The latest confrontation causes the daughter, Misato, to accidently aid in the killing of her father while she's defending her beaten mother. 
 
It seems that once again life has beaten down this pair.  In a panic they turn to a neighbor who has a secret crush on Yasuko.  He is a genius math teacher and lives in the apartment across the hall.  He views the murder as a mathematical  challenge.  He convinces the mother and daughter to follow his exact instructions and swears that they will not be implicated in the ex-husband's death.
 
Thus begins the mouse and cat game betwixt the math scholar formerly known as The Buddha and his long lost college friend, Dr. Yukawa, known affectionately as Detective Galileo by the homicide detectives he sometimes aids in their investigations. 
 
Higashino is one of the most widely known and bestselling novelists in Japan.  To date, he has at least five TV movies and three TV series to his credit.  His characters are all sympathetic.  This plot, based on a famous math premise, is similar to reading  the play-by-play of a chess game between two masters.
 
English majors need not hesitate from picking up this book even though math whizzes will be in undoubtedly cast into the calculus clouds.
 
 
 
Posted by mingh on 08/01/11
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When Beatrice Hemmings learns that her younger sister has gone missing in London, she hurriedly returns to her home country to comfort and assist her mother and the investigation. Tess is found one week later in circumstances that suggest suicide. Beatrice is unbelieving and so begins her search for the truth in her sister's life.
 
Beatrice tells the reader the story of her life with and without her sister. As they grow, Tess becomes the bohemian artist and Beatrice the suited New York consultant. What drove them to the choices they made? Beatrice reflects on their life together and why she is so sure her sister would not commit suicide.
 
Beatrice begins to understand that there was so much about her sister's life that she never knew. When Beatrice learns that Tess was pregnant and undergoing experimental gene therapy for her cystic fibrosis fetus at the time she went missing, she tries to learn everything she can about the therapy and the major pharmacy company that is underwriting it.
 
But Tess has also complained about menacing phone calls in the days leading up to her disappearance. And who is the father and what is his role in the story? Although the police are sympathetic, unless Beatrice can find evidence of some wrong-doing, they are reluctant to investigate. So it is up to Beatrice to find out.
 
Sister is part mystery, psychological suspense novel, and medical thriller all rolled into one. There are twists and turns in this novel that keep it moving at a good pace. Book discussion groups that like mysteries that delve into family relationships are sure to like this one.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 07/29/11
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Beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash is the toast of the town.  She is probably the most wealthy and eligible young heiress of the Gilded Age in America, since her father is one of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, making his mark in flour.  Their family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, puts the Vanderbilts’ down the street to shame.  Her mother’s every move is in gilded and diamond-studded excess, so that there is no doubt who has the most money in town.  Mrs. Cash has determined that the most ideal marriage for her daughter would be to a British nobleman – say, a duke, perhaps.  So Cora and her mother are off to England to find a titled husband for Cora.  Literally, quite by accident, she meets the dark, handsome and mysterious Lord Ivo Maltravers, the Duke of Wareham.  In no time flat, he asks her to marry him.  Everybody’s happy – end of story.  Right?
 
Not so fast . . . there are a few things not quite right here.  For one thing, our handsome Duke is broke.  So did he marry Cora only for her money?  Does he really love her?  For sure, Cora is madly in love with her husband, which is also problematic.  Since there appears that Ivo might be having an affair under Clara’s nose.  Clara soon finds out that money can’t buy happiness, especially under the critical eye of the “Double Duchess,”  Ivo’s jealous and deceitful mother.  The rigid traditions of Victorian-era British aristocracy make mincemeat of Clara’s attempts at making a name for herself in the London social scene, to the point of humiliation.  Can this marriage possibly be saved?

I normally do not read romance novels, but the vivid details of this period in history, the costumes, customs, food, and social lives of the upper class of the Gilded Age really drew me into the story.  The author deftly used the culture clash of American new money vs. Victorian tradition to move the plot along.  There were plenty of twists and turns in the plot, so that you were always second-guessing what you thought was going to happen.  The cast of supporting characters was delightful, including Prince Bertie himself.  The American Heiress is Daisy Goodwin’s debut novel, which came as a surprise to me.  Her writing is excellent and mature.  This was really a fun summer read.
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/27/11
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This modern Mephistopheles has an exotic twist.  Set in a secluded section of the Smoky Mountains, two animal activists are in the process of relocating their sixty large, rescued, endangered, wildcats to land that they recently purchased.  They are going to build their dream sanctuary.  Little does the husband and wife team realize that their new property is on the border of a place that has a history of victims being terrorized by some foul force.  
 
The town drunk is well aware of this foul force.  He has erected a towering lighthouse in the middle of his property that, from dusk till dawn, beams a blinding beacon of light into the dense forest.  So fearful of the dark, Wyatt French has chosen to live in the top of his lighthouse. 
 
The local deputy sheriff, Kevin Kimble, reluctantly partners with the town's local reporter, Roy Damus, in attempts to solve the mystery to a pattern of present and past accidental deaths.   Has a pact been made with a demon?  Could unspeakable evil be behind blatant disregard for human life?  One thing is certain.  The large cats are hip to what's happening.  They just need to be asked. 
 
By combining unsuspecting characters with big game action; while set in the backdrop of moody, misty mountains, Koryta has once again created an atmosphere of eeriness and terror.  What is that old saying about dancing with the Devil? 
 
 
 
     
Posted by Pam I am on 07/27/11
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This is NOT another Marley and Me dog story.  Even though, Hola, the enormous untrained Bernese Mountain Dog is the main subject of this memoir, this book offers so much more.  Martin Kihn struggles to control Hola, but this memoir focuses on Kihn's struggle with alcoholism and recovery.  Kihn is on the verge of losing it all, his job and his wife because of his out of control drinking.  He is brought into the world of addiction recovery and very poignantly reveals his personal struggle.  At the same time, he dives head first into the world of dog obedience training and attempts to get Hola to pass the Canine Good Citizen test.  This is a great, if not obvious, metaphor in his way through the "steps" of a program and his way through the "steps" of canine good citizenship.  Kihn's writing is thoughtful, funny and touching. 
Want recommendations on what to read next? Email advisory@ahml.info and we will be happy to assist you in finding a great book to read.
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04/27/2011
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