Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 04/27/11
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Sisters of Fortune : America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake is a study in how women could flourish in non-traditional 19th century America and England. The Grandfather of the Caton Sisters, Charles Carroll, was one of the richest men in America and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. When his Mother's inheritance is lost by his Father, he decides to settle his wife and daughters with trusts that cannot be touched by their future husbands. Rarely done at the time, he also ingrained in the daughters how to take care of their own estates and expenses. This allowed each of them to retain their money as they married.
The daughters were also amazingly allowed to marry for love. Although the family was much interested in their marriages, even when they did not approve of the husbands, they allowed their daughters their happiness. In addition to their own income, this gave the Caton sisters extra-ordinary freedom for their times.
The oldest daughter, Marianne, married locally into what became a sad marriage. When her first husband died she marries the older brother of the Duke of Wellington (her alleged true love). Even the Duke of Wellington thought his older brother a ne'er do well. But Marianne became a Lady In Waiting to Queen Adelaide and later Queen Victoria. She was much admired in royal circles.
Elizabeth, known as Bess, marries very late in life but becomes quite the speculator investing in the new railroads and South American mines. She becomes one of a number of well-to-do women who invest in businesses.
Louisa, first marries the Aide de Camp to Wellington. When he dies, she marries the Duke of Leeds. Louisa had the most trouble being accepted into royal circles. She finally is invited to the family castle after 15 years into the marriage.
Emily stays in America to marry one of the owners of what will become the Hudson Bay Company, known for fur trading. She is also the only one of the sisters to have children and the only one to remain in America.
Author Wake uses extensive letters to develop the lives of the sisters and their closeness to their Grandfather. The sisters were very much involved in the politics of the time whether in America or in England. While the sisters are remarkable, you also understand and appreciate what their Grandfather did for them. They know him to be their hero and readers will appreciate the freedoms he allowed them to have.
Posted by cclapper on 04/25/11
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Appalachian Kentucky in the Depression.  The life of a young girl growing to a woman and into her maturity as a grandmother.  Life has always been hard in the Appalachians, in the small rural town of Aurora where blacks and whites live life as best they can and struggle to make their way.  The Depression has settled across the country and now there is even less for Olivia and her household, living behind a small country store.
Her grandfather brought Silver wolves back from his travels to Alaska , and their descendants inhabit the mountain with Olivia, Olivia's grandson Will'm, and Ida, Olivia's spiteful mother.
Now someone is killing Silvers.  And Olivia and Will'm may be in danger.
Caught me up in its story.  Fresh and immediate; received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, a very high commendation, indeed.  As Carolyn Wall's first novel, tells us we may have more good things coming.
Posted by jfreier on 04/23/11
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I picked this book up because I've seen his T.V. show and have enjoyed it. This book is a light, breezy travel book covering the author's motorcycle trip from Sydney to Tokyo. I liked the travel aspect of this book especially the food and scenic descriptions. I think any motorcycle fans would really enjoy this book as Charley is a Cycle fanatic. I also should mention Charley is the son of director "John Boorman".
Posted by cclapper on 04/22/11
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Castle Rannoch, Pertshire, Scotland, and Rannoch House, Belgrave Square, London -- 1932: Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch, is finding the global Great Depression more than trying.  As thirty-fourth in line to the Throne of the United Kingdom, a young lady must live up to certain expectations.  But that far from the Crown there is absolutely no income to live upon.  So if you're going to work as a counter clerk at Harrods or as a domestic, opening people's houses in town, you have to do it quietly.  One distant hope: HM (that's Her Majesty, otherwise known as Her Royal Majesty and Empress of India, Queen Mary) wants a bit if information about her son and that American person he's spending time with, Wallace Simpson.  Divorced.  Brash.  Impossible.
Add murder, misunderstandings and the Metropolitan Police and some days require a bit of will to get through.
Rhys Bowen has created three popular mystery series including these Lady Georgiana tales, which begin with this title.  Bowen works in some stale stereotypes at the end of this novel, and that takes something away from this light confection.  Still, Georgiana is a young woman with her own will, determined to make her own way, and she can be a cheering companion.  If you're looking for a light cream tea, this might do.
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/14/11
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Even though this book is cataloged as Fiction, it is definitely Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Matheson is probably best known for his novels:  I am Legend, What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hell House, and The Night Stalker.  He also penned the short story Nightmare at 20,000 Feet which is one of the most famous episodes from the "Twilight Zone."
This story begins as a recollection by the 80+ year old author, Alex White (aka Alex Black).   During World War I, Alex meets his soon-to-be best friend in a trench in France.  Alex is fighting for America and Harold is there for his beloved Britain.    While dodging mortars and hand-grenades, the two form a special bond.  As the war progresses, so does the likelihood that their deaths are near.  
Harold's dying words to Alex are the rekindling of past stories about Harold's "gorgeous" village in England named Gatford.  Alex is bequeathed a wad of gold the size of a fist and vows to find the place after his medical discharge.
Gatford proves to be almost impossible to find.  When Alex finally discovers it, he agrees it is gorgeous and decides to settle down there.  Only 18 years old and very impressionable, Alex gets into a relationship with the local witch, Magda, who is old enough to be his mother.   Alex discover that the nearby forest is called Middle Earth; the home to a nation of fairies.  
Alex slowly begins to break the rules passed on to him by town-folk and eventually falls in love with the diminutive fairy, Ruthana.  What follows is a sweet story of love and loss in a mixed-marriage (human and fairy) peppered with a vow of vengeance by the vindictive half-brother of Ruthana.
The narrative of this book is borderline grating.  Alex is the type of person that cannot take a stand on anything and questions everything he says and believes.  Not a good quality in an author leastwise a narrator.  The frequency of the narrator's "second thoughts" is so reoccurring that it almost becomes annoying.   And yet this story has enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning. 
Posted by mingh on 04/13/11
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When Diana Bishop finds an enchanted document in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University she doesn't think much of it. Diana is a reluctant witch from a long line of witches that extends to the Salem witch trials. But the find of this long lost book arouses the attention of every vampire, witch and daemon in the world. Witches, vampires and daemons don't mix well with each other, and even less with humans. But this find has the potential to drag them out into the open.
A very powerful vampire, with suspect intentions, aligns himself with Diana, he says, for her protection.  She is not sure what to think at the beginning of their relationship, but begins to fall in love with him.  But why are her Aunts so cagey about her past, her parents, and this vampire? 
Will the vampire remain her true protector? What is the meaning of this magic book? And why is it Diana who is destined to be the one to unleash all this magic in the world? These are the major questions in this adventure romance novel. From London, to France. to New England, follow Diana and the vampire Matthew as they try to outwit the others.
There is plenty of history in the book -- the vampire is very old and has known many people, and Diana is a Professor of History. Although not a time travel book, nor historical fiction, this book will remind many readers of Gabaldon's Outlander series.
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/04/11
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What's better than stumbling upon a new mystery series author?
This is the 5th book in Randisi's Rat Pack series.   Baby boomers and boomettes recall that the Rat Pack was comprised of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  The '60's were their heyday and their kingdom was Las Vegas.
Eddie G. is a pit boss in a mob-run Nevada casino.  He also is a fixer.  Eddie G. ("...just call me Eddie...") knows a lot of people.  This knowledge endears him to The Chairman of the Board, aka:  Sinatra.  In past Randisi novels we learn that Eddie was minutes late to Marilyn Monroe's date with destiny,  helped Dino when he was being blackmailed, assisted Sammy when the little man shot someone in Eddie's living room and  is currently attempting to protect Ava Gardner.  
All of the books have titles that play upon popular song titles:  "Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime";  "Luck be a Lady, Don't Die"; "Hey There, You With the Gun in Your Hand"; "You're Nobody Till Somebody Kills You."
The narrative is right out of film noir.  The sentences are clipped.  The characters' shoulders all have chips.  Sexism is the standard where women are "broads" and nothing gets discussed unless it is over a few fingers of booze and several smokes. 
Eddie G. is a lover, not much of a fighter, so he always teams up with a lovable enforcer named Jerry Epstein.  Jerry loves to cook and eat and has no qualms about breaking bones.  It's his business.
Mystery lovers should make it their business to check out this series.  It will deliver.  That's a fact, Jack.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 03/31/11
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Natalia is a young doctor living in an unnamed Balkan City that has been devastated and broken by years of war.  While en route to an orphanage located in enemy territory, she receives word that her beloved grandfather has died far from home.  Since he was a well-respected doctor and a very rational man, the circumstances surrounding his death are confusing and mysterious.  Beset by memories of tales her grandfather told her as a child, she becomes convinced that his last journey was in search of the "deathless man," a drifter who claimed to be immortal.
Filled with myths, fables, superstitions and a touch of magical realism, The Tiger's Wife alternates between grandfather's past and Natalia's present.  As Natalia is lured into her grandfather's past, she must piece together the puzzle while reconciling the present state that her country is in.  Stories of the tiger who escaped from the zoo when the city was bombed by the German's, the woman from his village who became known as the tiger's wife and the mysterious deathless man, are brought to life by the author's rich prose and honest portrayal of life in her embattled country of origin.  Tea Obreht is an author to watch, immensely talented and wise way beyond her years.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 03/29/11
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 "No one questioned how she came by the information or what she had to do to get it; they simply paid."
Vanessa "Michael" Munroe has a special talent for finding information where others cannot.  Armed with fluency in multiple languages and a reputation for extracting highly accurate sensitive information, she has turned this into a very lucrative career, dealing this information to corporations, heads of state and private clients who are more than willing to pay her price.  Her past life as the daughter of missionaries in violent Central Africa is the demon that torments her, causing her to turn violent when backed into a corner, or when someone she loves is harmed.  When she was 14 she escaped from a horrific life, only to walk into another one at the hands of a sadistic mercenary.  But while "in training" for a drugs and guns dealer in Cameroon, she became an expert at martial arts, and not too shabby at handling a knife.  These skills, of course, also aid her in her current occupation.
Munroe accepts a job from a Texas oil baron, who hires her to find his daughter who disappeared four years ago in Central Africa.  The job takes her back to her old haunts in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, where she is kidnapped twice and barely gets away with her life more than once.  In addition to finding the oil-dude's daughter, she must lay to rest her demons from this savage world.
One reviewer referred to the character of Vanessa Munro as a "warped composite" of Lara Croft, The nameless Bride from Kill Bill, and all three Charlie's Angels.  Action-packed and fast-moving, the author has left plenty of unanswered questions and room for a sequel.  The Informationist is Taylor Stevens debut novel, and a must-read for thriller lovers.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 03/27/11
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On a cold November night in 1910, Will Anderson is summoned to a meeting with John Cooper, a man who was once his close friend, but is now his romantic rival. Cooper has told Will that he needs to meet him at Detroit Electric, the automotive company owned by Will's father. Cooper says that Elizabeth Hume is in great danger. Elizabeth was Will's fiancee and now is engaged to Cooper. When Will goes to the automotive works late at night to meet with John Cooper, he finds the man brutally crushed beneath the steel stamping machinery. When Will hears footsteps and voices he runs. Fleeing the scene of the murder for which he has such a strong motive puts Will in a pretty tough spot. Things go from bad to worse as more bodies show up and more evidence piles up against Will.
Detroit Electric Scheme is a fun, suspenseful mystery, but it is also a well-researched historical novel that sets the reader firmly in early 20th Century Detroit. Two of the main characters are struggling with addiction problems. This is also a story of redemption and overcoming oneself in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
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