Staff Choices

Posted by jonf on 04/10/12
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Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are back in "Robert Crais" newest thriller. Elvis get's a call from the mother of a missing girl who thinks her daughter is just run off with her boyfriend, when Elvis investigates he finds out that they have been abducted by professional border kidnappers.
Elvis and Joe set up a plan to free the young couple, but it goes awry and Elvis is Taken.
Joe enlists the help of one of his former black op friends Jon Stone, between the two they take on the lethal human traffickers.
Mystery
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/06/12
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Carl Hiaasen once again writes a book that a reader can really sink their teeth into.  The question is why  has it been categorized a Kid's Book?   It must be because it carries a PG rating.  This is textbook Hiaasen:  characters that are a tad off-center, witty dialog galore, and the setting in the Florida everglades. 
 
Mickey Cray is a loving husband and father, a professional animal wrangler, and a certifiable nutcase.   His doting son, Wahoo, loves giving his father a hand around their animal farm.  One of Wahoo's hands is sans  thumb thanks to Alice, the alligator, who one day was a little more eager to get fed by Wahoo than he anticipated.  Mrs. Cray has to take a short-term interpreter's job in China to help pay the bills.  Times are hard.
 
Hard-pressed for income, Mickey signs a contract with a network studio that produces the extremely popular TV series: Expedition Survival!  The star of this television show, Derek Badger, is battier than one of the bats that nearly bites off Derek's tongue while filming footage for an upcoming everglades' episode.  
 
Mickey and Derek are not a match made in heaven.  Derek, the supposed environmentalist, has total disregard for anything living.  His only concerns are having a massage each night in a posh motel that sports a hot tub in his suite and an abundance of chocolate éclairs at his bidding.  So totally out of control is Derek that he has to have his own personal wrangler....Raven Stark.  She has the undesirable job of being his production assistant and full-time baby sitter.  
 
Before packing up and traveling to the proposed filming location, Mickey and Wahoo sort of adopt Tuna, a runaway abused classmate of Wahoo's.  Tuna's mother is in Chicago.  She has escaped her drunken husband's beatings by leaving to care for her sick mother.  After receiving her latest black-eye from daddy dearest, Tuna decides that swimming solo upstream would be better for her health than remaining home.  Home is a trailer parked in the local Wal-Mart lot.  
 
As expected, there are production problems a-plenty betwixt Derek and Mickey that must be wrangled by Raven and Wahoo.  When Tuna's dad discovers her current whereabouts, the collision course among the three mental midgets is more dangerous than entering the Bermuda Triangle.
 
 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/03/12
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David Bledsoe is the author of two other successful series books; one about hip'n'happening vampires and the other about a sword-wielding private-eye from back in the day of noble knights and distressed damsels.  In this first book of his new series, Bledsoe spins a fascinating tale about the Tufa; descendants of a tribe of Irish fairies that immigrate to the Smokey Mountains years before Columbus discovers America.
 
The setting is the mountains of East Tennessee, Cloud County, where a wounded, recovering Iraq War veteran returns to her secluded home town.  She's greeted with an unwanted hero's welcome, a parade celebration and national news coverage.  Only wanting to lick her wounds and rejoin her loving family, Pvt. Bronwyn Hyatt becomes the government's current poster-child depicting their latest attempt to justify their involvement in a foreign war.
 
There is a foreshadowing of death.  Bronwyn's only defense is in the music that she once was able to create, that now she struggles to relearn.  She must learn to separate her past and forge a new future.
 
Bloodlines are very important in Cloud County.  There are two family factions.  Bronwyn is the first-born daughter of a first-born daughter, of a first-born daughter, etc.  Her gifts and talents are extremely special.  Music is the tie that binds the families.  It is the hum that defies description.  The power that the music emits is godly.  It is the shiver. 
 
Bledsoe creates a world of music, magic and mystery.  The characters are lovable and believable.  Reading this story will leave readers with a hum and a shiver.
 
Posted by Pam S on 03/31/12
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I have never read any of the "Prey" series by John Sandford and thought the latest one might be as good a place to start as any.  Buried Prey is #21 in the Lucas Davenport series, but it didn't matter that I hadn't read the previous books in the series.  In Buried Prey, Lucas Davenport is haunted by an old unsolved case of two missing girls from the mid 1980s.  In present day, a house demolition results in the uncovering of the two girls bodies buried in the foundation.  This finding launches Lucas into re-opening the case and hunting down suspects and witnesses from long ago.  The writing and pacing kept me interested and this was a great introduction into the Lucas Davenport series.
Mystery
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 03/24/12
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April 15th marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  So Kate Alcott's new novel The Dressmaker is very timely.  Not to minimize the seriousness of the subject, this book could be described as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Titanic, with a little Daniel Steel drama thrown in for good measure.  You very well could envision Kate Winslett in the part of our protagonist, Tess Collins, the dressmaker.  Leonardo Di Caprio could play the part of any male in the story since he seems to be so versatile.  But this only speaks to the many layers of this book.

The backbone of the story was derived from the actual transcripts of the Senate hearings that took place to investigate the tragedy.  Alcott's novel humanizes the tragedy, fictionalizing what happened to the real survivors of lifeboat #1 after the ship sank.  Why were there only 12 people in that lifeboat, when it could have held 50-60?  Lady Lucille Duff Gordon, who in the early years of the twentieth century was the one of the top names in the fashion world, was actually in lifeboat #1, along with her husband Cosmo.  In real life, Lady Duff, as she was commonly referred to, was a driven, nasty, tough woman.  Alcott gives her this persona in The Dressmaker, but with a hidden softer side as well.  She hires Tess Collins as her apprentice seamstress just before they board the Titanic. In the aftermath, Tess stands firm against Madame Lucille's pressure, manipulations and lies about what actually happened, determined to be a success in the U.S. and make it on her own talent.  With the Senate hearings conducted by Senator William Alden Smith as a backdrop, The Dressmaker examines the choices people make when faced with a life-threatening situation and how they live with those choices afterward. The impressive caste of characters also makes this believable and intriguing history - the "Unsinkable Molly Brown;" Pinky Wade, the indominable New York Times reporter; Tess's two suitors, Jim and Jack, who also survived the disaster; and Elinor Glyn, Lady Duff's sister, a real-life famous actress and author.    

Posted by jonf on 03/18/12
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In present day Afghanistan an Iraqi agent who is working for the C.I.A has turned and blows himself up in Kabul.The Kabul station is also dealing with a mole and possible drug trafficking between the Military, C.I.A  and the Taliban, the morale and leadership is a mess.
John Wells C.I.A. covert agent is back in Montana trying to reconcile with his son who he barely knows due to his covert ops when he gets the call from Eliot Schafer to meet with him and C.I.A chief Vinny Duto to discuss an op.
Wells is asked to go to Kabul as an undercover observer to see how bad the mess is, which leads to an exciting tale of betrayal and war.
spy thriller
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 03/17/12
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In Stacy Schiff's outstanding bestselling biography of the famous Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra emerges as a woman who bedazzled her admirers not as a devastatingly beautiful temptress, but as an intelligent, well educated, multi-lingual power broker.  Schiff admits that "there is not universal agreement on most of even the basic details of Cleopatra's life.  So much of this history is simply not known."  She does an excellent job of researching the reputable historians accounts to piece together a very credible account of Cleopatra's life and times. Discarding the myths and fantastic fiction of Shakespeare and Hollywood, the reader sees a clear picture of a very powerful, wealthy Egyptian female ruler who used her intelligence, charisma and politial acumen to parley political deals and military alliances with those who would best serve her and her country's needs - the Romans. Cleopatra: A Life is definitely not a beach read, and commands every ounce of your attention.  You will find yourself running to the dictionary to look up words you'd never heard before.  But the history is fascinating and well worth the time and effort spent in the reading of it.  As one critic noted, "Ancient Egypt never goes out of style." (Margaret Flanagan) 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 03/16/12
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On the radio yesterday I heard an interesting story. Sir Gilbert Levine, Music Director of the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, spoke about his seventeen year friendship with Pope John Paul II. Sir Gilbert related how his relationship to the Pontiff deepened his own Jewish faith and gave him a greater understanding of the Polish people. It was an emotional interview and Levine's eloquence did much to intrigue me. Regardless of one's faith, it is undeniable that Pope John Paul II was an iconic figure of tremendous influence in the 20th century. Levine also spoke about the book he had written which came out in 2010 called The Pope's Maestro. It is a beautiful story of the interaction of two men of faith who came together through the common bond of music. Make sure to watch the enclosed DVD that comes with the book. It contains a broadcast recording of a concert at Saint Mary's Basilica in Krakow called, "A Thousand Years of Music and Spirit".
 
To commemorate the first anniversary of the Pope's beatification, Sir Gilbert Levine organized a special concert in Orchestra Hall scheduled for April 23. Levine said that Chicago was the obvious choice for this concert's location, because the Pope had always loved this city so much. This Chicago Sun-Times article tells more about the concert. For tickets, call Symphony Center Box Office at 312-294-3000 or log onto www.cso.org.
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/12/12
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Michael Robotham is back with his sixth installment in his international bestselling mystery series.  Readers not familiar yet with Robotham are missing out.  Each of his books is told in the first-person narrative of one of his recurring characters. 
 
This time around, Professor Joe O'Loughlin is still battling the beginning stages of Parkinson's Disease and the 2-yr. separation from his wife, Julianne, and his two daughters.   Sienna, the best friend of his eldest, Charlie, is found covered in blood not belonging to her.    Sienna's domineering dad, a retired Detective Investigator, is found bludgeoned to death in her bedroom.  All evidence points to her guilt.  Joe is asked by the court to conduct her pre-trial psychological profile. 
 
What Joe discovers while conducting his investigation is disturbing to a man, a husband, and most of all a father.  Joe is reminded of the pure evil that exists in the world.  Evil that even touches his precious family core.
The evil that has rocked Sienna's world is now determined to make Joe dance to its bastardly beat.
 
As mentioned earlier, by switching narrators in each of his books, the reader gets a refreshingly new perspective on each of the main characters.  One man's said strengths thus can, and sometimes are, viewed as his weaknesses.
 
This book is such a page-turner that readers should be aware of the probability of a plenitude of paper cuts. 
 
 
 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 03/11/12
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If you got something valuable from Jim Collins' Good to Great, you should pick up Great By Choice. In these uncertain economic times, Collins and Hansen challenge some pre-conceived notions about how companies and business leaders can succeed and excel in a negative market. In the classic form of Collins' earlier books, Great By Choice is clear, cogent, and concise. It is easy to understand and is a pleasurable read.
 
Collins and Hansen and their team of researchers studied the results of companies that performed at more than ten times their industry indexes over a period of fifteen years during times of economic instability. Their findings were a bit surprising. The leaders who guided these 10X companies (their term for the top performers), were not fast-moving gamblers that pushed their organizations to the limit to innovate and change with changing times. Most often the opposite was true. The leaders of the 10X companies were cautious, prudent and (as Collins and Hansen put it) paranoid planners. They support their empirical findings with anecdotes such as comparing the two men who made a run for the South Pole in the late 1800s. They showed clearly the different approaches the two men had and compared that to business leaders of today. They also showed why one man succeeded with supplies to spare while the other died in the frozen wasteland with his entire crew.
 
A recommended read for business leaders, but also for anyone who is troubled by our current global economic circumstance. This book delineates some vital attitudes and approaches for anyone who needs to weather a difficult time. It is as inspirational as it is instructive.
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
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