Staff Choices

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 03/28/10
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"'So now get up!' Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned toward the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now.” One more kick in the side from his drunken father knocks the wind out of him and young Thomas Cromwell is left there in the cold. The year is 1500 in Putney, England, the day that young Thomas fled his cruel ironmonger father and took to the seas to eventually become an expert in banking and finance under the tutelage of the Frescobaldis, a powerful Florentine merchant banker family; fight for the French; study law; become fluent in French, Latin and Italian and become King Henry VIII’s right-hand man and the 1st Earl of Essex, Master Secretary and Viceregent of Spirituals.
 
Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is a very ambitious and lengthy accounting of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and how he became the powerful chief architect of the Protestant Reformation. This is definitely not recreational reading or the typical “costume drama” historical fiction. But if you can keep all the characters and locations straight, it is well worth the effort. The author paints an incredibly vivid portrait of this very important man in British history, his family who was very dear to him, as well as other influential men of the time, particularly Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Sir Thomas More (it seems that every other man of that time was named Thomas). Told with compassion and surprising humor, Cromwell’s commitment to the freedom of England and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England were the endgame of this powerbroker of Tudor England.
Posted by cclapper on 03/23/10
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Venice!  Opera!  Murder!
 
Commissario Guido Brunetti is the thoughtful, charming family man who is charged with unraveling such crimes as may disturb the peaceful repose of Venice, the urban complex called "The Most Serene One."
 
And Maestro Helmut Wellauer, world-renowned opera conductor, has had an unfortunate encounter with cyanide during an intermission.
 
We run through humane encounters in society- high and low; the thousand political tussles that make Venice so Italian; and exceptional individuals who are fun to follow.  Death At La Fenice is the first in a series that continues into its 18th volume, which was released earlier this year.  And we can all be happy about that.  "Brava!"
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/17/10
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For anyone who struggled with trying to make sense of this Dennis Lehane mystery, here is a graphic novel's interpretation that might help shed some light. 
 
Christian de Metter is another one of those award-winning European illustrators who had this book honored in France. 
 
There has been a lot of debate about the ending of Shutter Island.  It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words.  There are a great many pictures in this graphic novel.  Words still escape me.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 03/11/10
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This Book is Overdue is a witty, fast-paced sneak peek into the thrill-a-minute whirlwind that is the public library...seriously. Marilyn Johnson makes librarians seem like a bunch of smart, sexy mavericks who are willing to do whatever it takes to get information to the public.
 
Johnson's anecdotes are interspersed with fun historical tidbits and ideas about where libraries are headed in the future. Anyone who works in a library will find something to relate to in this book, but any reader can enjoy Marilyn Johnson's writing.
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/04/10
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This is Griffin's 5th installment in his Honor Bound Series.  Marine Aviator, Major Cletus Frade, is back and still working for the O.S.S. as a spy in Argentina. 
 
The Nazis have begun Operation Phoenix, an egotistical plot to move high-ranking Nazi officers and party members out of Germany and relocate them to Argentina, under phony names and passports, before the war is lost to the Allies.    They also are stockpiling massive amounts of gold and precious stones, colleted from prominent Jewish families paying ransom for loved ones being held prisoner in concentration camps throughout Europe.  Himmler has found another way to profit from the misfortunes mandated on occupied Jews. 
 
The plan is simple.  Families are contacted by the Nazis and given the option to either pay the blackmail price per relative for their freedom or never see or hear from that loved one again.  The monies collected are then smuggled into neutral Argentina in hopes to be used when the Reich rises again after its upcoming defeat. 
 
Cletus, whose father was in line to become the next President of Argentina before the Nazis assassinated him, inherited his father's enormous wealth and loyal followers; most all former national soldiers.  His cover is that he is running an airline service using planes supplied by his buddy, Howard Hughes.  This was a plan conceived by President Roosevelt as a personal payback to Charles Lindbergh for once saying that Goering had the best air force in the world.
 
In this new chapter, Cletus and his pregnant wife, Dorotea, await the birth of their first child as a high-ranking Nazi SS Officer is personally dispatched to Buenos Aries by Hitler with the orders to destroy all the planes in Cletus' fleet and kill him.  
 
Griffin is one of the leading authors of World War II historical fiction.  He is strongest when blending fictitious and famous characters into a suspenseful story that always leaves his readers wanting more.
Posted by jfreier on 03/01/10
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Rosemary Mahoney provides travel writing at it's finest by injecting her humor and perseverance on her trip down the nile. The author faces crocodiles, dangerous river currents and most of all the stongly held beliefs from the local men about the merits of a foreign woman. This book highlights the cultural differences yet still enlightens the reader about the richness of Egyptian culture and history. I think if you liked Desert Queen you would enjoy this book.
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/25/10
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Ever wonder where the name Hood came from in Robin Hood lore?  This book has a different twist than most.  It doesn't claim reference to Sherwood Forest roots or slang words for criminal.   Written by a proclaimed expert on Robin Hood history, this story digs deep into the relationship between father and son and king and country.
 
Over the last 800 years that this tale has been passed on by word-of-mouth and in written prose,  character names change (not to protect the innocent) and plot-lines differ.  For example, in this version, Marian is a recent widow.  Her husband, the assassinate of Patrick of Locksley, Robin's father.Templar friar, Tuck, along with Will Scarlet, are Crusaders who have fought side-by-side with Robin.
 
Some things never change.  Sir Guy still suffers from a bad self-image and bad press; who's responsible for the death of Robin's father. 
 
John of Sherwood is still not little.
 
Like most graphic novels, the coloring is dark and ominous.  I don't think pastels are ever a first choice on the color pallet of GN artists.
 
In some versions Robin saves the day and dies in the end.  In others, Robin saves the day and lives on to serve his King and weds the fair maiden.  The ending is never the prize or payoff for the reader.  It is the fascinating adventure and the soul-searching struggle of evil vs. good.  Goliath vs. David. Only this Davey's in green tights.
Posted by mingh on 02/15/10
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Steven Lamb is an unhappy 13 year old living on the moors in England. He is bullied at school and ignored at home. His Grandmother is obsessed with her son who was killed by a serial killer 18 years ago. However, his body was never found.
 
Steven hopes that if he can find the body it can bring peace to his Grandmother. He also hopes that his Mother, who keenly feels the loss of her brother and the affection of her Mother since that day, will come to love Steven.
 
So Steven begins to dig on the moor for the body of his Uncle. Some of the bodies of the children were found there and Steven is convinced his Uncle will also be found there.
 
When Steven gets discouraged he writes to the serial killer for help in locating the body. The serial killer is thrilled to get the letter from the boy and begins a very cryptic correspondence. When things don't go as well as planned for the serial killer, he plans his escape to meet the unsuspecting 13 year old.
 
This is a wonderful character study of a boy looking for love from his family amidst all of the sadness.
Posted by jfreier on 02/12/10
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The story of the Thursday Night Drinking Club, four early thirties friends who meet once a week to discuss their lives. Thers is Alex the bartender,Jenn, Mitch and Ian, one night while playing one of their "What would you do with 50,000 dollars game Alex suggests they rob his boss Johnny Love. They think he's kidding but after a couple of days they convince themselves that it would be easy and they plot their job. The fun starts when they pull the heist but a major snafu leads to murder and more. This is fast well written crime story with good characters and a great Chicago setting.
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/12/10
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This is the second book in the Frank Coffin mystery series by Loomis.  The story takes place in Provincetown or P'town as the locals refer to it.   Frank was a former homicide detective who saw one to many murders and decided to leave Baltimore and move to a city that whose crime rate was limited to most burglaries and indecent exposures.
 
In a town where it appears that everyone has some sort of strange sexual preference, Frank has professionally partnered-up with the beautiful lesbian police Sergeant, Lola Winters, and personally with yoga instructor, Jaime, who still longs to become pregnant and is ovulating throughout most of the novel. 
 
This story is pregnant with colorful characters.  A popular single, rich woman who is the town tramp is murdered and Frank must again investigate a brutal crime scene.  This tale gets twisted when it's discovered that the victim videotaped her dominated, sexual conquests, causing the list of suspects to sweep far and wide.
 
It is refreshing to read a new mystery series where the hero is not some Bruce-Willis-clone, punching his way through life and always quick on the trigger.  Frank Coffin is out of shape, in his forties, and drives a beater because he still pays alimony and also nursing care for his mother (who doesn't even know his name).   He is an average Joe with good days and bad days.  Good news and bad news.
 
The bad news is he his smoking again.  The good news is that his sperm count is up!

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