Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 09/01/11
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Annie and Buster Fang are the children of notorious performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang. Caleb and Camille like to create small public performance art that can sometimes lead to arrests and hopefully, a mention in a local newspaper. At the beginning of the book every other chapter is a recounting of an artistic piece. Annie accusing her mother (who she pretends is a stranger) of stuffing her coat with jelly beans. As their mother then opens her coat and the jelly beans fall out, Buster enjoins all the kids to stuff their mouths with jelly beans causing a small melee in the shop. Meanwhile their father is outside of the shop filming with a hidden camera. Even if there is no mention of the event, the senior Fangs like to think about the stories all of the people at the shop will talk about with their families. Many times it is art for art's sake.
 
Both Annie and Buster can't wait to leave home as they grow older. They tire of the performances. Annie goes to Los Angeles to become an actor, and Buster writes stories and novels. But events in their lives force both of them to come back home to live. Buster gets into a fight and has to recuperate at their parents house. While Annie, becomes tabloid fodder and needs to disappear for a while since no one will hire her. Their parents are thrilled as the old performance art gang is back together and they can have the performance pieces of their lives.
 
Part of the problem for Annie and Buster is that any choice they make is perceived as performance art because of their parents. This dismays Annie because she realizes that everything she does will be perceived through this filter of art. All of her good and bad decisions will be art.  One of the comments Buster makes near the end is that their parents prepared them for bad choices because all of the art that their parents were creating was people making bad choices. And therefore, their parents gave them a gift in not fearing bad choices. Annie is not so sure.
 
This novel really makes you think about what is art? Can a life be art? Are all lives performance pieces? Is art the act of creating the piece? Or is everyone who has to respond a part of it, and are they also artists? This novel has some very funny moments in it as Annie and Buster try to escape their upbringing. But as Buster points out, they were also given some very important skills for navigating through life. A very readable book.
Art, Fiction, humor
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 08/31/11
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The setting is the alluring social scene of New York City in 1938.  Katey Kontent (“like the state of mind’), our heroine, is the daughter of a Russian immigrant.  Smart, witty and fearless, we first find Katey working at a Wall Street secretarial pool and living in a boardinghouse with her roommate Eve.  Katey and Eve pinch pennies all week so that they can go out on the town on the weekends.  Until New Year’s Eve when Eve’s social-climbing eye manages to land them in the path of Tinker Grey, a handsome New York up-and-comer banker.  Soon Tinker takes them under his wing and introduces them to the world of New York’s wealthy.  Thus the story unfolds.  These are three very complex characters, each with their own story to tell.  Eve has tunnel vision as far as improving her social status and the power it can bring.  Tinker, of course, is not the person he appears to be.  But Katey is a shining star.  Looking to improve her job status, she uses her brains and guts to move up from the secretarial pool to the upper echelon of Conde Naste magazine.  She manages to sidestep every bump in the road, and there were quite a few,  with grace and a strong sense of self.  We see her grow through her experiences and applaud her successes.
    
Rules of Civility is a very sophisticated, classy book, reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald in its smart dialogue and strong sense of the setting and time period.  With a dry martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other, the unforgettable characters stroll through the book with an edgy reality that only New York City can provide.  Sometimes brilliant, sometimes reckless, sometimes heartbreaking, this first novel by Amor Towles is a must read.
Posted by Pam I am on 08/31/11
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Maine takes the reader into the dysfunctional Kelleher family in all its glory.  Maine is told from various perspectives:  Alice, the 83 year old matriarch of the family;  Maggie, Alice's granddaughter; Kathleen, Alice's estranged daughter;  and Anne Marie, Alice's uptight daughter-in-law. It is through these four women that we see the struggles and triumphs of the Kelleher family.  These women all come together at the summer cottage in Maine during the month of July and they each bring their "baggage" so to speak.  Alice is haunted by a tragedy that happened in 1942  and has always seemed to struggle with the path her life has taken.  Maggie comes to Maine single and pregnant.  She is a writer living in Brooklyn and has just broken up with her boyfriend, who she thought she may have loved.  Kathleen, Maggie's mother comes to Maine when she learns of Maggie's pregnancy although she vowed never to see her own mother, Alice, years ago.  And Anne Marie has crafted a life that seems perfect on the outside, but just below the surface she is struggling to figure out her life and marriage.  As each chapter switches narrator, you are drawn to their own individual stories and the characters are rich, funny, mean and much more. 
Fiction
Posted by on 08/30/11
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In this debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, we are introduced to Victoria Jones a complex character who we learn is a foster care survivor. We follow Victoria, wavering between past and present, starting at age 9 when she entered the system to present age 18. As she now emancipates from the foster care system, Victoria must learn to live on her own. She finds some peace by tending to a small garden in the corner of a park where she has been sleeping. She meets and is hired by a neighborhood florist named Renata who discovers her talents. Victoria finds that with her unique gift for flowers she uses the flowers and the symbolism to help her communicate.  You can sense Victoria’s pain and feelings of unworthiness when you learn of all that she has had to endure in foster care. Victoria is just trying to overcome her neglect and abuse and that’s why she pushes people away, always wondering why she was abandoned by her mother at birth.
 
When Victoria meets Elizabeth she is the first person that understands what Victoria is doing and she breaks through to her by teaching her the language of flowers. Through this language they are able to build a relationship. Elizabeth has her own challenges which Victoria interprets as rejection. To protect herself Victoria acts out against Elizabeth in a violent way that ends up haunting her for years to come.
 
It’s a story about confronting the pain of a life spent in foster care and accepting limitations. She must decide whether it’s worth risking a second chance at happiness when she meets a mysterious vendor at the flower market and has her questioning what’s been missing in her life.
 
Includes a glossary at the end of the book.
 
Posted by mingh on 08/29/11
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Jake Marlowe is the last werewolf in the world and he is being hunted by the group known as the Hunt. Grainer, the leader of the Hunt, demands the right to kill Marlowe because Marlowe killed his Grandfather. Grainer refuses to kill Marlowe until he has turned into a werewolf because Grainer does not kill humans. In two days, Marlowe will have turned and Grainer who has been tailing him will have his chance.
 
So why have one of the Vampire families kidnapped him? Vampires and werewolves don't associate. Marlowe owes nothing to the Vampires and as far as he knows the Vampires owe nothing to him. So why are they so concerned with keeping him alive?
 
What the author does best is to get into the head of Jake Marlowe with his loneliness and inability to make a human connection. In his human life, Marlowe runs many philanthropic organizations meant to benefit humans. But then every full moon he must kill and eat human flesh. Desperate to hang on to his humanity, Marlowe toys with giving himself up to Grainer.
 
This is a psychological werewolf story, part thriller, part horror. The werewolf killings are graphic and try as he might, Marlowe cannot deny the beast in himself. The Last Werewolf reinterprets the folklore about werewolves in twists and turns that will surprise and interest readers of paranormal fiction.
Posted by mingh on 08/25/11
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This book was published earlier in the UK under the title The Popes : A History. That is precisely what it is. Not all 265 popes are mentioned nor can be in this survey of the papacy. But all of the major players are here.
 
What Absolute Monarchs does best is to really show what the job of Pope was before the 20th century. The Pope had to be mediator between squabbling aristocratic families, a negotiator of treaties between countries, the civic manager of Rome, and the defender of the faith. It was the rare man who could do well at all of the functions. There are very holy men who do wonderful things for the poor of Rome but are hopelessly inadequate to negotiate treaties or mediate. Those responsibilities take a diplomat or statesmen to maneuver around all of the politics of the day.
 
The Pope was in charge of Rome and keeping its commerce rolling as well as collecting tithes and  indulgences, therefore the position of Pope could be very lucrative. So it becomes clearer how we wind up with the Borgias or the de Medicis who were less interested in the defender of the faith elements of the position.
 
Because the position of Pope was so tied up with the politics of the day, parts of the book can seem very dense. Arguing with the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and having to quell dissension in France, or disputes in Spain, reads more like international history or political history. But the Pope was very involved in all aspects of politics and international negotiations. It wasn't until Italy was united in the 19th century that the position of Pope becomes less political and more spiritual leader.
 
The author continues his survey of Popes to the present day. He has opinions on some of the conspiracies of the papacy, Pope Joan, death/murder of John Paul I and the rules of the antipopes. But the real benefit is in showing why some men were drawn to the position and others refused. The modern papacy is very different from what went before.
 
 
 
Posted by jfreier on 08/22/11
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Alex Miller is full partner at one of New York's most prestigious law firms, he has a beautiful wife and a young daughter and life is a dream until the death of his father. Alex meets the mysterious Michael Ohlig , his fathers' best friend but unknown to Alex except as an almost legendary figure in his fathers' life. Michael asks Alex to represent him when he is about to be indicted for fraud against his Boutique brokerage firm. Alex and his co-worker Abby Sloane lead the case and are drawn into an dangerous relationship and uncover many skeletons from Michael's past and also Alex's. This is a well written first novel by Adam Mitzner, good character development, surprises and he knows the law. This would appeal to fans of "Scott Turow" and early "John Grisham".
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/22/11
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Writing this Staff Choice recommendation is justified.   Even though this collection of short stories has been on our shelves since 2009, it is justified.   There is not one weak story out of the nine that appear.  That is justification in itself.
 
Justified is the FX television series starring Timothy Olyphant.   The  show still emits a buzz even though it is in its second season.  It is based on the short story Fire in the Hole that is included in this book.  The TV adaptation is dead-on in the pilot episode.  That alone speaks volumes about the kind of writer Leonard is.  Two of his strengths are being able to write descriptively and capture everyday dialog.
 
What other popular writer can create a cute encounter between two retirees that encompasses both a fading past and sweet future in only five pages? Such is Hanging Out at the Buena Vista.
 
In Karen Makes Out, U.S. Marshall, Karen Sisco, of film fame and former TV series Out of Sight, shows another unsuccessful slice of her sex life.
 
Sparks is the aptly titled story about an insurance company investigator looking into the suspicious house fire of a young widow of a recently departed millionaire.
 
The title story has a former burlesque dancer turned bored rich wife getting marriage counseling from her Columbian murdering maid.
 
Available in both written and audio book formats in our collection.  
 
This checkout would be most justified.
Posted by mingh on 08/21/11
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In the story of the War of Heaven, certain angels went against God and were plunged into the abyss. Their leader, Lucifer, was sent to the lowest depths of Hell from which he cannot escape. In The Paradise Prophecy, the war between the fallen angels and Michael the Archangel continues on Earth.  According to a prophecy, if the fallen angels can find the key and what it opens before the end of the 4th eclipse in a year, they will have freed Lucifer and will rule the Earth.
 
Agent Callahan is not sure who she works for in Washington DC, a group called the Section. But they are very keen on her finding out who killed a Christian pop star, a Turkish Antiquities owner, and others who have died with the sign of the devil beneath their charred bodies. She is not a believer but soon begins to see things that just cannot be, humans morphing into horrific creatures, beings with superhuman powers, and creatures disappearing into dust when killed.
 
Callahan is joined on her travels by a drunken Milton and Paradise Lost scholar who is capable of the Vision, When he shows her how these people died she comes to believe in demons and angels. But how are humans supposed to fight this?
 
The story travels from Los Angeles, to Sao Paulo, to London and Istanbul. Written by a screenwriter, the action builds to a thundering crescendo. This novel for fans of The DaVinci Code and other thrillers starts out with each chapter following a different character. As the reader sticks with the book, the characters start to come together to bring this war to its conclusion.
 
(Note:  Fans of the Left Behind series might find this more R-rated.)
Posted by cclapper on 08/18/11
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New York...City & State! -- Today, Working Toward the Future: Kristin Kimball was creating a dynamic life in the Big City... one of the biggest, in fact: New York City.  Then she went to interview a farmer working on a dream he's had for quite some time... and her life changed.  The farmer was building a business, a farm based upon 'CSA'.  CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture", and it fits into the 'locavore' concept.  Basically, local folks contract with a local farmer for a period, and then pick up food for the duration of their subscription.  Most CSA farms are vegetable operations, but this young farmer hoped to set up a CSA that would supply all the food their subscribers might need- vegies, meat, milk, eggs, maple syrup...  An ambitious undertaking.
 
And Kristin Kimball was entranced not just by the ideas, but by the young farmer himself.  And vice versa.
 
This is a book about relationships: Kristin and the farmer; their relationship with their animals and the land; the relationship we all have with our food and it's points of origin; and the relationships we all share with our planet's environment.  Even the ongoing relationship every one of us has with our 'work'.
 
I enjoyed this book tremendously.  Enough so that I won't hint how it turns out.  You can find out by coming to one of the two presentations the Library is hosting... with a discussion!
 
The talks will be at the Library on Thursday, August 18, 2011 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm,  and on Saturday, August 27, from 10 am till Noon.  Both get-togethers will be in the Lindsey Room.  You can register online or by phone- just give us a call.
 
 
NOTE!  You do *NOT* need to have read the book- just come on down and join the discussion!  I'm going to... and I hope to see you all there!
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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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
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