Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 11/28/11
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Will Silver is a literature teacher at an International high school in Paris. His Senior Seminar focuses on the works of the existentialists such as Sartre and Camus. Both teacher and students are struggling to find meaning in their lives.
At a family party for a graduating Senior, Will filrts with a junior girl who is desperate for some meaningful attention. Soon they are having an affair, something that he knows is not right, but against which he doesn't have the strength to fight. In the meantime, a student who hero-worships Will sees him at a very vulnerable moment and struggles to understand his own feelings.
Maksik uses existentialism to ask the basic questions about what is life. You are responsible for the choices that you make in life. The students argue with Will about these questions, some of them are believers in God, and others question their control when they are required to go to school. The discussions in the classroom are well written and interesting to read. Maksik represents the high schoolers well.
The book is written from the viewpoints of the three major characters, the teacher Will, the student Marie, and the young man who worships his teacher, Gilad. They each have a viewpoint and an opinion about what is meaningful in their lives. Even though the story moves to a known conclusion, it is interesting to see the developments of the characters as they learn more about themselves and what values mean to them.
Posted by Pam I am on 11/22/11
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I have often wondered what my dog would say if I could hear his thoughts, feelings and perspective on life.  A Dog's Purpose gives voice to a special dog and is a touching and often humorous look into a dog's soul.  The dog, Bailey, is reincarnated three times during the course of this book.  Each "lifetime" reveals more about the purpose of that dog and his relationship to humans.  The author tells the story through the dog's perspective and this makes the book all the more heartfelt and really highlights the bonds between man and man's best friend.  I found myself laughing outloud at parts like Bailey eating mom's shoes, but then literally found myself crying at other more poignant passages.  I consider this a read alike to Garth Stein's Art of Racing in the Rain.   I would recommend this book to anyone, particularly any animal lover.
Posted by jfreier on 11/22/11
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The newest mystery featuring the team of "Rizzolli" and "Isles" takes us on a roller coater ride after a severed foot is found on a roof in Chinatown. The foot has been cut clean by a  very sharp sword and leads to a powerful matron of Chinatown. The story takes a turn that connects the murder to a murder in a Chinatown restaurant that took place many years ago. I loved the element of Chinese folklore especially the fable of the "Monkey King" which has an important role in the story. Tess does a great job evoking the secrets and mystery of Chinatown and the characters as always are top notch. I loved this book.
Posted by mingh on 11/20/11
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Matt King's wife is in a coma from a boating accident. Suddenly, he is the one responsible for their daughters, one ten, the other eighteen. Raising the daughters has been mainly the job of his wife. As he begins to learn about his daughters lives, something that he has only been invloved in tangentially, he learns that his wife's coma is irreversible.

Matt also is coping with the biggest business deal of his life. He is a descendant of Princess Kekipi of Hawaii and a missionary turned business man. And through that descendance, he and his cousins, have become major landholders. The cousins want to sell most of the land to the highest bidder. Matt is thinking that he would like a local businessman to win the deal so that the land would not be run by some major offsite corporation. Since Matt is the highest shareholder of all the cousins, he can make or break the deal.

Before she was in the boating accident that put her in the coma, Matt's wife, Joanie, rarely was involved in Matt's business plans. Usually, she just ignored it. So it seemed unlike her to want Matt to commit to a particular bidder for the land. Matt thought her involvement might be because the results would affect their daughters. That is until he learned that his wife was having an affair and how the deal would affect all of them.

This is a wonderfully written novel with some very funny and poignant moments. Matt King is a likable if removed Father who now knows he needs to step up his game. He loves his wife and his daughters and wants what is best for all of them. This is a quiet story with great sadness underneath that comes out in their lives, but there is also great hope for Matt and his family.

The Descendants has been made into a movie starring George Clooney. It is currently in limited release in Chicago with a wider release expected in December. Knowing that George Clooney is playing the father will not harm the reading of the book. I can only hope that the movie is as wonderful as this book.

family, Hawaii
Posted by mingh on 11/16/11
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Julie Otsuka's beautiful novel tells the story of the large wave of women who emigrated to America from Japan as mail-order brides for Japanese men. Each chapter is written as if from the viewpoint of someone who witnessed it. The fears, hopes, and joys of the women are depicted and the reality of their situations to come. It is like hearing many voices relating their experiences.
Women, who had been brought up in houses with servants, were finding themselves having to pick fruit in the hot California sun. For many, their prospective husbands lied to them and sent pictures of other, more wealthy Japanese men, to represent themselves. The women have no money to leave, having given the money to their families still in Japan.
The time period is the early twentieth century until the middle of the second World War when most of the Japanese in California had to to go to the Internment Camps. Then the chapter changes to the voices of the white women left behind who notice their absence and wonder where they have gone.
In this slim novel is a wealth of experience, with much to be learned about the women who came over with such hopes for a new and wonderful life. How they had to survive and endure is the beauty of the story.
Posted by mingh on 11/11/11
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Former Homicide Detective Ben Decovic is still trying to understand the death of his wife at the hands of a gunman. As a police officer, he understands that not every event has a reason. But he keeps thinking that if his wife was only five minutes late for her appoinment she would still be alive. Not able to continue working at the unit that could not solve his wife's murder, he has taken the role of beat officer in a community near Myrtle Beach. Decovic hopes that by returning to the lesser role of patrol, it will help him get away from his memories of her horrible death.
While investigating a break-in at a local strip joint, he is beaten and his gun stolen. The gun is later used to kill two people. While patroling his area he happens upon an investigation into the death of a beverage magnate who was well-liked in the community. The only witness is a man struggling with Alzheimers.
Ben's homicide instincts kick in and he begins to work behind the scenes when he finds the Homicide Detectives unwilling to listen to his ideas.  The bodies start to pile up in this mystery and all the mayor cares about is that it doesn't affect the tourists. Is everyone on the take?
The action moves pretty fast in this dark mystery of secrets and lies. Hopefully we will get to see more of Officer Ben Decovic.
Posted by cclapper on 11/10/11
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Brooklyn -- in our time: Three brothers, young, in a family with stresses.  Puerto Rican father, white mother.  Never enough.  Of anything.  Brothers building their own world- or worlds, contiguous; laughing, fightng, playing, building experience.  Taking life and the larger world as it comes.  Taking life on.
All right.  Personal opinion alert: I have a problem with some definitions of poetry.  Pretty radical, huh?  Lots of people try to set rules for what makes a poem.  Broken lines, and rhymes, and poetic techniques like onomatopoeia and alliteration. 
No.  Just: Concentration.  There is no boundary between prose and poetry.  Only ranging concentration.  Poetry is essential communication.  Like coffee: is coffee weak?  Or strong?  Or verging on the limits of caffein medication?  Langauge is like that: a range of concentration, of intensity.  This novel runs only one hundred twenty-five pages, but there's so much here. 
If you like espresso:  
Brief.  Intense.  Remarkable.  
Posted by mingh on 11/06/11
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Fifteen year old Margo Crane has grown up on the Stark River in Michigan. Her world revolves around her family's life on the river. Although the men go into town to work for the family's metalworking company, their homes are on the banks of the river, just a short boat ride to each other's houses. 
Her unhappy Mother abandons her and her Father to find a new life. This is the start of a very difficult life for Margo. Margo's Father, understanding the rough life on the river, has told Margo to avoid all drunken men including her own family members. When her drunk Uncle takes advantage of her, her father tries to help and is killed by Margo's cousin. If anything happened to her Father, Margo was supposed to live with the family of this Uncle. Now she feels she has no one and takes her boat and drifts down the river to escape and try and find her Mother.
Once Upon a River is Margo's story of survival. She knows how to hunt and fish and build fires, but she is very naive and young when it comes to interacting with people, especially men. She meets some good men on the river, but most treat her poorly, until she finally meets a man who has more to lose than she does.
This is a dark, but beautifully written story of a young girl growing in to womanhood and learning the ways of her environment. She meets many people on the margins of society where she, too, is living. But Margo has an indomitable spirit and the gift of survival. You can only cheer for her, knowing that she, like her great idol, Annie Oakley, will be one of the survivors.
Posted by mingh on 11/03/11
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The Inspector Ikmen series takes place in Istanbul, a city of many colors that swirl in Barbara Nadel's newest addition to the Inspector Ikmen series. A young girl has been found burned to death in an apartment fire. The rest of her family is unharmed. When they find out that the girl had a boyfrend, Inspector Ikmen and Inspector Suleyman wonder if it is a honor killing. Nearby a piano teacher is brutally murdered in his home. When Inspector Ikmen discovers that the murdered man is homosexual, he wonders if this is also an honor killing. With so many people from small villages and towns coming to the city to find work, are honor killings following the conservative villagers to the city?
Nadel is very good at showing the diversity of Istanbul. There are liberal and conservative Muslims, Gypsies, Christians and Jews who have lived side by side for hundreds of years. In addition, the class wars of the Sultan years still resound loudly, the clash of old famly and money versus new. For the most part, this is a police procedural that takes you to all parts of Istanbul, from bars to water-pipe shops. But how all of these different religious and ethnic groups converge is what the reader will enjoy. That and the enjoyment of watching and listening to Inspector Ikmen work to solve the mystery. Inspector Ikmen is calm and patient and tolerant of anyone who obeys the law. He has good instincts about people.
You do not have to have read any of the books in the series to appreciate this title. Whether its a good mystery that interests you or just a chance to fall into a different and changing world, A Noble Killing is a good way to spend an evening.
Istanbul, Mystery
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/01/11
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Investigator Virgil Flowers is back and in rare form.  He has been sent to a Minnesota river
town that has a mad bomber on the loose. The dead and injured are mounting and Lucas
Davenport, Flower's boss, gives Virgil a week to close the case.

It appears that someone is opposed to the idea that a WalMart-like store (PyeMart) open in
their town.  There is speculation that several of the city council's votes have been bought
to favor the re-zoning and building project.  Even the billionaire Pye has been
unsuccessfully targeted.  Working alongside a team of federal bomb experts, Virgil becomes
despondent with the lack of evidence and growing list of suspects.

They know what the bombs are comprised of and from where the materials were stolen. Virgil
decides to use a marketing tool and mass produce a survey that he has hand-delivered to
selective townfolks.  The survey asks for names of neighbors that might be guilty.  Virgil's
plan is to collect the completed surveys and tally the results.  He will then interview the
names of those most offered as likely candidates in hopes of finding his killer.

This is the 5th installment in Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.  Virgil remains a maverick.  
He still dresses in faded t-shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots.  His hair is still long and
disheveled.  He still hates to wear a sidearm and tows his fishing boat behind his pickup to
every crime scene in hopes of getting some "reel time" alone with his thoughts. He's a ladies
man who is a 3-time loser at the altar. Still, he is a lovable character that is enviable and
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