Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 01/23/12
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Former commercial Pilot Chip Linton and his wife Emily decide to move their family further away from the memories of Chip's horrific plane landing on Lake Champlain. Many people died and he is wracked with guilt. The Linton's, along with their twin daughters, move into a rambling Victorian house in a remote part of New Hampshire. Their neighbors seem polite and watchful of them and there is much for the family to do.
The twins begin to hear voices in the house. They can't see anyone but the voices are all around them. The Linton's find out more about the house and how it has been abandoned for many years after the suicide of the twelve year old son of the former owners. Chip Linton finds a small doorway in the basement that looks like it used to be the coal chute. However, it has 39 long bolts to seal it. The exact number of people who died in Chip's plane crash. He begins to unseal the bolts.
Chris Bohjalian creates wonderful well-rounded characters who are dealing with elements that they have never seen and never believed in. Chip begins to unravel and believes the voices. Emily, the Mother, knows that she has to save the twins, but from what? We have entered Stephen King territory.
Bohjalian does a great job of creating the suspenseful and spooky atmosphere that this book needs. Is this all happening in Chip's head? if not, what are the intentions of the townspeople? What really did happen in that house so many years ago? Read it to find out.
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/20/12
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The book jacket exclaims:  "...James Bond meets Jason Bourne meets The Da Vinci Code..."  Not a bad comparison for a writer's first published novel.  The book cover goes on to state that this is Mariani's first book in his Ben Hope series.  And what a sensational series kickoff it is.
Ben Hope is a retired Major in an elite British military unit.  He now freelances as a man who solves problems.  His method of problem-solving usually ends in someone's demise.  Indulging in the finer spirits is Hope's way of coping with his job-related stress.
Adding to his stress level is his former love interest, the internationally known opera singer, Leigh Llewellyn.  Oliver, Leigh's brother, and Hope's best friend, is murdered.  Fearing for her life, Leigh begs Hope to become her personal protector.   It appears that Oliver stumbled upon information that might prove that Amadeus Mozart's death 200 years ago was not what the history books profess.   
It is common knowledge that Mozart was a Freemason.  The secret society has a long history and suspected sordid past.  With the newly found evidence that Oliver turns-up, the future of the Freemasons is in jeopardy.
This book has a little of everything...tight story telling, interesting character development, exotic locations, long last love rekindling, evil doers doing evil deeds, a precocious child, a loyal dog, action, suspense and a fragile, tragic hero. 
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 01/17/12
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At 1222 meters above sea level in the mountains of Norway, a train has derailed during a hurricane-force blizzard.  Only the conductor was killed in the accident.  The 269 passengers are taken to a centuries-old hotel in a remote Nordic village to wait out the storm. The passengers think they are safe and secure from the raging storm, since there are plenty of rooms and excellent food in the hotel.  That is until people start turning up dead. That is when Hanne Wilhelmsen, a retired paraplegic police detective, begrudgingly becomes involved. Hanne must quickly solve the murder mystery while all are still confined to the hotel. Are the strange gun-toting couple the murderers?  And then there are the mysterious occupants of the extra train car who are occupying the top floor.  Surely they have something to do with it.

If you're thinking, "Oh, no, not another Scandinavian mystery!" you are probably right. But Anne Holt is not just any Scandinavian mystery writer.  She is none other than Norway's best selling female crime writer.  And 1222 is not just another Scandinavian mystery.  It has been compared to Agatha Christie's "locked room" mysteries.  1222 is the first of Holt's popular series to be translated into English, but is the 8th book in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series.  The first book in the series, Blind Goddess, is scheduled to be released in the U.S. in June 2012.  So watch for it to find out what makes Hanne tick. Maybe this series will satisfy your Stieg Larsson cravings.

Posted by Annonomiss on 01/17/12
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A tall, dark and handsome stranger with a sexy, foreign accent rescues you from the middle of nowhere when you need help.  He saves your life, as a matter of fact.  Then he takes care of you.  He also happens to be rich and single.  ‘Not a bad fantasy.  That’s nearly the opening scene of Syrie James’ novel, “Nocturne”.
She’s stranded in the Colorado Rockies and snowed in at a mansion with this enigmatic stranger for days.  But, if you think you know where this is going, you might be wrong.
A twist to the classic romance -- not only is he from “across the pond”, but he’s from across time!  This isn’t anything new for genre fiction readers familiar with the uber popular “Twilight” books in the marketplace.
We, the Reader, are clued in on his secret early-on when he reveals what he’s thinking.  Our Heroine is the one who might be a little slow on the uptake.  The nearly empty fridge and a glimpse of red eyes were a couple of hints. She writes this off as “typical bachelor”. But he stocks the pantry with food to throw off his housekeeper.  Perhaps conveniently, he can feed his human houseguest for days with this food supply.  Yet there were the nightmares in which she dreamt of vampires.  So, she takes her time to reach the inevitable conclusion.
He’s offering the Fountain of Youth in those fangs to her.  Most romance readers will agree that this might be THE fantasy one’s looking for in those books being devoured. (Pardon the pun.)  But there are more clues for her before she realizes what he is.  He prefers to eat alone.  Wouldn’t this be curious… or strange?  Not when we and the Protagonist find out that he’s a successful Novelist.  After all, they are known to be reclusive and peculiar, right?  Lovers of fiction would love to be stranded with a writer.  How about their FAVORITE author?  Even better.
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read beyond this point, if you don’t want the complete book review.
The heartbreaking conclusion might keep you on your toes to the very end.  This isn’t a classic romance, so beware: “there be vampires” and not all romances are happily ever after.
Posted by mingh on 01/17/12
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This is a very detailed look at a fascinating woman who changed Russian history. Catherine (born Sophia) was a lesser known and unrich princess of a German duchy when she was called up as a potential suitor for Peter III. Catherine did not love Peter who, although older, remained childish. However, she was able to gain his confidence and the wedding was scheduled. Before it could take place, Peter caught smallpox. He lived, but when Catherine saw how disfigured he was she could not contain her disgust. Peter never forgave her.
Massie uses Catherine's diaires which go very extensively into her personal life in the court of Empress Elizabeth. In these diaries, Catherine notes that she and Peter III never consummated their marriage for nine years and it was likely that Peter fathered none of her children. Because of Peter's state of mind, most of the attendants could easily come to the same conclusion. It is Catherine's autobiography and diaries which gives us all of the information that we have today. Catherine noted in her autobiography that in her life she had had 12 lovers. This is where rumors of her sexuality came from.
Once Catherine takes the throne from her husband she embarks on many visits throughout Russia and starts to institute changes including those to alleviate some of the harshness of the life of the serfs. She was well-educated and built The Hermitage to showcase the art that was in the collection of the Romanovs. She continued to have favorites in court and their intrigues and lives are greatly detailed.
This biography is for serious readers of history. There is wonderful detail in the lives of Catherine and her family and everyone in the court. I can't remember reading as extensive a biography of a ruler ever. Catherine the Great, indeed.
Biography, Russia
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/05/12
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What if 12 terrorists, armed to the hilt, commandeer the world's most popular shopping mall, with the intent to just kill and maim?  Such is the plot of Hunter's new novel. 
Minnesota's Mall of America is the target; and the thousands of hostages one hope is inactive, veteran Marine sniper, Ray Cruz, who unfortunately is in the wrong place and the right time.  To make things worse, the entire rescue operation is commanded by a political power-monger whose only concern is his public image and personal political growth.
Stephen Hunter was the Washington Post film critic before he retired.  His series of "sniper" novels have been extremely popular and one was adapted to film starring Mark Wahlberg.  This book is concise and compelling. 
The scenario is not that farfetched.  The United States has always supported a "no negotiation policy" regarding hostage situations.  Terrorism has taken place within our shores.  The FBI has not had great success when breeching heavily guarded compounds.  Politicians do not always have their constituent’s best interests in mind when making decisions. 
All of these facts come rushing to the inevitable conclusion:  innocent lives will once again be sacrificed, but at what price glory?
Posted by jonf on 01/03/12
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A  first for me, a mystery where the P.I. is a surfer and the Dawn Patrol are his surfing pack, Dave the Love God, Hang Twelve, Johnny Banzai,and Big Tide are quite the crew. Boone Daniels is the ex cop who is hired by a pretty British lawyer to find a missing person who is expected to testify against an arsonist murderer. A body is found shoved off a balcony and is thought to be the witness, when it turns out to be a friend the case turns to drug and human trafficking. I really enjoyed this surfer twist and the the old school Raymond Chandleresque California P.I.
Posted by mingh on 01/02/12
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In a series of letters addressed to her husband, Eva Khatchadourian talks about their love and their life before and after the birth of their son Kevin. Just before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin walked into his high school with a crossbow and killed eleven people. She tries to explain what it feels like for a Mother to learn that her son has done such a horrible act. Is she to blame? The husband? The world? Who has caused this terrible tragedy?

We learn, how in love as a young couple they were. How they agonized over whether and when to have children. But Eva just can't shake the feeling that there is something wrong with their son from day one. He hates her. Franklin, the father, cannot believe that a child this young can have these feelings for a parent. Franklin suggests maybe she should seek therapy. At this point in the story you begin to wonder if she is mad, or if we are reading a story of a "bad seed."

The author keeps you guessing until the very end about what really happened. How could this Mother be so cold? How does the husband respond to these very brutal and telling letters? The reader also begins to look for clues in the letters about what is really going on with this family.

A chilling book now turned into a movie to be released in January in the Chicago area.

Posted by jonf on 12/22/11
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#5. Keeper of the Lost Causes. A new suspenseful mystery by Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen.

#4. Northwest Angle. The latest in the Cork O’Connor series set in Minnesota by William Kent Krueger.

#3. Snowman. The search for a serial killer in Oslo featuring “Harry Hole” by Jo Nesbo.

#2. Silent Girl. A Rizzoli and Isles mystery set in Boston’s Chinatown by Tess Gerritsen.

#1. The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes. A crime fiction story of a man who has lost his identity and his quest to find the answer. By Marcus Sakey.
Posted by Pam S on 12/22/11
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#5 Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Libby Day was 7 years old when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in their home and she narrowly escaped.  Her brother was convicted of the killings -- based on her eyewitness testimony.  But, now 25 years later she is revisiting the case and beginning to question what she thought she witnessed.  She begins to look into the case and search for the truth.
#4 Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Maine explores the dysfunctional Kelleher family in all its glory.  The narratin shifts between four Kelleher women as they come together at the family summer cottage in Maine.  The reader is drawn to the individual stories and the characters are rich, funny, mean and much more.
#3 Room by Emma Donoghue
Room is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Told from 5-year-old Jack's point of view, this novel gives a unique and interesting perspective.  Room chronicles the life of Jack and Ma as they are held captive in an 11 foot by 11 foot room.  Room is the only world Jack has ever known and when this suddenly changes, Ma and Jack both must learn how to live in a much bigger world. 
#2 State of Wonder by Anne Patchett
This book is an epic journey into the remote Amazon jungle and it is filled with mystery, deception, and peril.  Marina Singh is a medical researcher working for a pharmaceutical company that is developing a new drug from research in the Amazon.  Marina is sent to Brazil to investigate the death of her colleague and to push research for the new drug.  The writing is rich and vivid and will engage you on every page.
#1 Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Euginedes
Euginedes explores the love triangle of three college graduates Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell.  Madeleine, an english major writes her senior thesis on Jane Austin and George Eliot, purveyors of  "the marriage plot" that lies at the heart of many of the great english novels.  Euginedes takes us into modern-day and examines if there can be a new "marriage plot" that includes feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce.
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