Staff Choices

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 12/15/09
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"Your house’s emblem should not be the white rose but the old sign of eternity . . . the snake which eats itself. The sons of York will destroy each other, one brother destroying another, uncles devouring nephews, fathers beheading sons. They are a house which has to have blood, and they will shed their own if they have no other enemy." So it was said of the House of York, whose family crest bore the white rose, waging war against their cousins, the House of Lancaster of the red rose, for the crown of England. So it was said of the War of the Roses.
And at the center of the storm was a commoner, whose mother was born of royalty, Elizabeth Woodville. She was a woman of extraordinary beauty, rumored to be a sorceress, who supposedly cast a spell over young King Edward IV to become his wife and Queen of England. While her husband constantly took up arms to defend his crown to usurper cousins from the North, Elizabeth rose to the demands of her lofty position, promoting the fortunes and advancement of her ambitious relatives. But the prediction of the snake which eats itself became true as rivalry between the Yorks and the Lancasters never was laid to rest. Violence, betrayal and murder dominated Elizabeth’s life as Queen of England, passionate wife of Edward IV and devoted mother of their children.
Elizabeth and Edward IV had seven children, five daughters and two sons. The oldest son, Edward V, was never crowned King of England after his father’s sudden death. He and his brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London by their uncle, the youngest York brother, Richard. In one broad stoke of blind ambition, he declared the children of Elizabeth and Edward IV illegitimate and declared himself King Richard III. The fate of the two young princes has confounded British historians for centuries. But Philippa Gregory, master historian and storyteller, puts her own unique spin on this royal mystery, thus setting up the storyline for the next book in this new Plantagenet’s series, "The Cousins’ War."
Posted by Pam I am on 12/14/09
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The irony and appeal of this book is that the author, Jill Bolte Taylor  is a Harvard-trained brain scientist who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 37  and survived.  As a neuroanatomist by profession, Taylor realizes she is having a stroke when it occurs and is able to experience her brain injury and recovery from a patient's and Dr.'s perspective.   She provides the reader with first person narrative of her experience in the ICU, her experience with rehab doctor and nurses, and her long  journey of relearning to walk, to speak, to read, and to communicate, and to live.
Taylor explains the anatomical elements of a brain injury in practical layman's terms but also shares the mystical and powerful lessons she  discovered along the way.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 12/13/09
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 A brilliant little girl has decided that life is just too much to bear for those who truly understand how empty it is, so she is going to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. Until that day, she is making note of "profound thoughts" and trying to find something so inspiring that it justifies staying alive. Alternating with her story is the story of Rene, the middle aged concierge of the girls building. Rene goes to great lengths to epitomize the "French concierge". She scuffs around in dirty old slippers and leaves her TV blaring in the living room with vapid day-time shows, while she sneaks into the back room to listen to opera or read Kant.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog has a literary voice that is singular indeed. It is a joy to read writing of this caliber. At the risk of sounding trite, this book is poignant, clever and witty. It is quirky, but in a natural way that seems fresh and inspired.
Posted by mingh on 12/08/09
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Cake Wrecks would make a nice light funny book to give someone for this holiday season. Jen Yates has been collecting bad cake art for the past two years. Everything from misspellings on birthday cakes to misunderstandings between decorater and customer.
Chock full of the pictures of the cakes and comments to help with the fun, this book is a fast read. But you would be hard-pressed not to find something that will make you laugh. You'd be surprised how many cake decoraters can't spell burthday, brithday, I mean, birthday. Great fun.
For anyone ordering a cake in the future, be afraid, be very afraid.
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/02/09
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"Aye, shiver me timbers, matey!"  The late Michael Crichton's estate found this finished manuscript in his files after his death.  When is the last time a good pirate book was published?
This story has all the essentials:  A flawed hero:  Captain Charles Hunter;  his sleek sloop, the Cassandra;  his crew of 60 lost souls;  not one, but three fair maidens; the corrupt governor of Port Royal, Jamaica;    a more corrupt assistant;  the Spanish villain, Cazalla, the captain of the warship El Trinidad;  stolen treasure beyond imagination; a sea monster that defies sensibility; a helmsman who is a true artist;  a tongueless Moor assassin; a French pirate who is not what he appears; blazing cannons; swashbuckling swords; menacing muskets; barrels of rum called kill-devil; the development of what is known today as grenades; remote island paradises inhabited by cannibals; sea-battling-sinking-ships; wooden-legged spies; a treasure map of sorts; bawdy wenches; and plenty of action and sex.  The only thing missing from this book is a parrot.
Parrot be damned!  This story hooked me from the title page. It has been a while since I read Crichton.  I forgot how visual his books can be.  Hollywood will undoubtedly purchase the rights and cast a spirited crew of actors.  Until then, reading this book will have to fulfill all those dormant piratical needs.
Posted by Pam I am on 12/02/09
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The Handmaid's Tale is set  in the near future in the Repuplic of Giliead, a country that was formed when the United States was overthrown by  racist, chauvinistic, theocratic military coup.  The story is told from point of view of a slave named Offred (of Fred, referring to the man she serves) who is a "handmaid" – a woman kept for reproductive purposes by the ruling class.   Margaret Atwood explores many social issues including:   gender roles, reproduction and sexuality, caste and social classes, and religious fundamentalism.  The author gives the reader a  thought provoking view into a future society.
This book would make an excellent choice for a book discussion group as it could lead to spirited discussion on many issues and provokes "What If" thinking.
Posted by mingh on 12/01/09
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Bryant and May on the Loose recounts the most recent events of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit. Although they are on permanent hiatus, a headless body found in the environs of the work being done in anticipation of the 2012 London Olympics sets the group back in to motion. Thinking it is the work of gangs, nobody, including the Prime Minister wants this information to get out and ruin the building and rebuilding that is going on in London's King's Cross neighbourhood.
Like all of the Bryant and May mysteries you have to love London history which plays a pivotal role in every case. And the history of this case goes all the way back to pagan times as more headless bodies turn up in the area.
John May uses his relentless logic and understanding of human nature and Arthur Bryant uses his unusual interest in history and the occult to solve the murders. The head of Homeland Security has given them four days to solve the mysteries or their permanent hiatus will become a permanent ending. Can they do it?
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/30/09
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I wish this Young Adult book was written about 4o years ago. The story is simple and tragic. Two young teenagers; one German and one American, long to enter the armed forces to defend their country during WWII. Both are underage and fear that their window of opportunity to become a hero is rapidly closing. Both were raised in good families and taught values.
However, values can vary country to country. Dieter believes every word that he heard while in the Hitler Youth. Spence is driven more by the love of a girl that loves another.
Mid-teens is universally the rough stage for growing up. Boys who should still be playing with toys want to prove their manhood. During a world crisis, boys are compelled to mature more rapidly; especially if they insist on pressuring their parents into allowing them to enter wars underage.
This story is a good rite-of-passage. It's two different perspectives on the war and one's responsibilities. In today's world conflicts, reading this book before making the decision to enlist would be worthwhile. There is nothing more noble that wanting to defend one's country with honor. This book tries to make the point that there is a lot of baggage that accompanies that journey and being true to oneself is paramount.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 11/30/09
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On July 16, 1942, thousands of Jewish families who were Paris residents were rounded up by French police. They were locked up in the Velodrome d’Hiver, an indoor stadium, for several days under appallingly inhuman conditions. From there, they were sent to Auschwitz where they were gassed. Ten-year-old Sarah Starzynski and her parents were one of those families. With the police pounding on their door in the middle of the night, Sarah was desperate to save her little brother.  So she locked him in a bedroom cupboard and promised to return for him.
Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in Paris in 2002, who is investigating the 1942 roundup at “Vel d’Hive.” Julia’s research leads her to a trail of long-hidden family secrets that link her to Sarah, compelling her to delve deeper to find out what happened to Sarah. Probing into Sarah's past adds some serious uncertainties to her own future, causing Julia to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a vivid and compelling snapshot of France under occupation and reveals painful details that surround this episode in France’s history.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 11/30/09
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If you have seen the trailers for the film version of Men Who Stare At Goats, you may assume the book is full of absurdity, one-liners and pratfalls. And even though there is plenty of humor throughout, Ronson is exposing a very disturbing part of our military tactics that have had a real impact on the way we fight our wars and torture our prisoners. Top military officials developed "new age" techniques of training which incorporated psychic training. The program was actually called "Project Jedi". As indicated by the title of the book, the psychic battalion spent a substantial amount of time in a secret location trying to stop a goat's heart by staring at it. Men Who Stare At Goats is a fast, fascinating read. It does contain some rather disturbing descriptions of torture, but that is balanced well by the humorous tone of the writing. Overall, an enjoyable and eye-opening read.

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