Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 06/06/10
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It is rare to like a memoir in which you don't care so much for the person writing it. Dead End Gene Pool is one such memoir. So many of the surrounding people of the memoir rise to the top.
 
Wendy Burden is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt on her father's side. Her mother's family, who had money once, are now poorer. That means that they have start selling their Picasso's and Monet's to keep their homes.
 
Wendy and her brother's father disappears early in their lives and is one of the questions that lingers until the the end. Throughout the book you get to meet her Great Grandmother who is made to look silly by Burden but as a reader you can't help but like her.
 
The same is true for some of the servants, especially Grandfather's poor leagured secretary Miss Pou. She has to handle his calls asking her to get five of the newest Mercedes Benz cars and have them to each of his estates by noon. Some requests she immediately handles and others, which she deems irresponsible and forgettable, she cancels. Although she is briefly in the memoir in snippets, she comes across as someone who cares about the Grandfather.
 
Fitzgerald wrote, "The rich are different from us." Burden might add, but sometimes, as children, they don't want to be.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/02/10
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This story was like reading a book by Whitley Strieber--only written while he was on crystal methamphetamine.   It is historical fiction of sorts about the mysterious, colorful lights in the sky that have been seen, by some, for centuries, in Marfa, west Texas. 
 
According to Wikipedia, "...The Marfa lights are unexplained lights (known as "ghost lights") usually seen near U. S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat east of Marfa, west Texas..."  
 
Morrell makes this phenomenon the backdrop for his top-secret-government-project-gone-awry-thriller.  One day a police officer's wife disappears from home and he tracks her to the town of Rostov, where she has traveled to view the ghost lights from her past.  While there, the lights somehow cause a spectator to go mad and kill several viewers brought by a tour bus. 
 
While this is occurring, an Army officer is back in Rostov to continue the hush-hush experiments that his grandfather started during WWI.  Not only are the lights mesmerizing, they also seem to emit a sound that appears to drive people towards exhibiting aggressive behavior.  The military stance is anything that colossal has to be controlled and developed into a powerful weapon! 
 
Morrell's stance seems to be anything that colossal has to be surrounded by several flashy fire-fights, meddling news teams and an over-the-hill main character.
Posted by jfreier on 06/01/10
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In a sweltering Oslo heatwave inspector Harry Hole is called in to investigate a murder of a young girl found with a red diamond star under one eyelid. Harry is down and out and drinking hard after falling off the wagon and ruining another relationship. Th case turns when a girl is reported missing and the police receive her finger with another diamond star attached. Harry struggles with his personal state and with a co-worker out to get him. The search for a serial killer and the personal vendetta coalesce and in this well written story there are some great twist and turns. This is my first Jo Nesbo mystery and I loved it .
Posted by Ultra Violet on 05/31/10
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Deirdre Monahan is a talented teenage harpist. She is shy and awkward and doesn't fit in except with her best friend, James Morgan. James is a snarky, bagpipe-playing outsider who has a few neurotic habits and a secret love for Deirdre. When Deirdre meets the mysterious and amazingly cool Luke, her whole world changes, quite literally. She and James are drawn into battle with the evil Queen of Faerie. Someone's not going to make it back to this world. This book and its sequel, Ballad, are both in the Teen section, and while I am sure teens would love them, I also found them very entertaining. The relationship between James and Deirdre is realistically tragic and romantic. I highly recommend both Lament and Ballad for a quick, fun summer read.
Posted by cclapper on 05/28/10
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Global warming has taken its toll.  The oceans have risen, and much of the eastern seaboard has slumped into the sea.  The populations are stacked mercilessly upon each other, and there is no space- unless humanity expands in new directions.  And so colonies have begun to form under the surface of the oceans.
 
Ty's parents have been among the first to try to build a life on the vast plains of the new continental shelf.  Ty and his sister have lived beneath the seas all of their lives.  And living at such depths has its effect- like the shimmer that covers their bodies from their diet of deep-sea life.  And there may be other changes, too.
 
But the world Kat Falls has built is not a peaceful one.  Renegades have taken to the seas, and have been raiding the supply ships of the world government.  These pirates may threaten the deep-sea settlers at any moment.  And the dry-land government seems to see the oceanic settlers primarily as a resource for food production and taxation- draining the settlers of all benefits from their risk-taking and their labors.
 
There is a lot happening in this world- and Ty and his sister are growing up.  When Ty meets Gemma, a Topsider girl, things start to move in unforeseen directions.
 
This novel has gotten a lot of attention in the book blogosphere, and it is a great read- especially for boys who will love the undersea lifestyle and the constant adventure.  We classify this new novel for grades 6 to 8, but readers much older (ahem) will love it too.
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/28/10
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The sniper's motto is BRASS:  Breathe.  Relax.  Aim.  Slack.  Squeeze.
 
Bob, The Nailer,  is back and he again is taking no prisoners.  In this latest edition, Swagger is hell-bent on proving that the most decorated Marine sniper of all time's legacy is not tarnished.  Bob knows in his gut that the late Carl Hitchcock could not have committed the atrocities that are being blamed on him.
 
T.T. Constable is the billionaire-blamer, whose wife is one of the recent multiple sniper victims and he wants immediate closure on this high-profile case.  T.T. is not a man to take lightly.  He is a man who is used to getting his way.  He will use all his resources to accomplish his goals.
 
Nick Memphis is given the task to lead the sniper investigation for the FBI and he calls on his old friend, Bob Lee,  for insight.  Since Memphis is not moving the case along fast enough for Mr. Big Bucks, a conspiracy is started to discredit Memphis and remove him from the case.
 
Hunter has  fun with this novel and takes some liberties by basing two of his characters on Ted Turner and Jane Fonda.  A fast glance at the author's Acknowledgments page is worth the read.        
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/27/10
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This book came highly recommended by a co-worker.  It is the first in a series about a "cleaner" for the CIA, Micah Dalton.
 
Stone is more a descriptive writer than one that is adept at creating dialogue.  The chapters are longer than in most mysteries.  Chapter 3 is 78 pages!  If the reader enjoys, for example, James Patterson's style of  3 to 4 paragraph chapters, this is not the book to read.  However, as far as protagonists go, Micah Dalton can rival popular fictional characters Joe Pike and Jack Reacher, even on his bad days.
 
Dalton is in a self-imposed celibacy.  He is a deadly killer.  A loner.  He is on assignment investigating the strange death of a good friend and co-worker in Italy. He is exposed to an airborne hallucinogen that results in him having several encounters with the apparition of his dead colleague, Porter Naumann.
 
Dalton's nemesis is somewhat of an apparition himself.  Dalton is traveling the world trying to get his hands on this elusive serial killer, who might be a native American Indian bent on vengeance.
 
As who-dunits go, this was a good first book.  Stone has the knowledge and background for writing these international thrillers since his former career was in military intelligence.
Posted by mingh on 05/24/10
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When "Christopher Columbus" shows up at Consuela Lopez's mental institution she doesn't know what to think of him. But she listens to the  stories of his many women and trying to get Queen Isabella to invest in his scheme of travel across the Western Sea. Consuela is lonely and soon finds that she is falling in love with the romantic Christopher Columbus.
 
Emilie St. Germain works for the missing persons division of Interpol (the International Police). He is trying to track down a lost man who bears many similarities to Christopher Columbus. Why is this man so important to Interpol and why is he hiding behind the persona of Christopher Columbus?
 
This is a very sensual story about love and loss and the nature of who we really are. You can get lost in Waiting for Columbus.
Posted by mingh on 05/21/10
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Citizens of London is a nonfiction book that delves into the world of American citizens caught up in London during World War II. Olson primarily focuses on Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, Diplomat Averill Harriman and reporter Edward R. Murrow.
 
Most Americans who were alive at the time will recall the effect of Murrow's harrowing radio reports from London during the Blitz. Olson makes the case that Murrow's reports were very much responsible for turning the tide of American sentiment to stay out of the war. Murrow and his wife, who also stayed, lost many friends and colleagues in the bombing.
 
Ambassador Winant, who replaced the British-reviled Joseph Kennedy, became beloved by the British for his untiring work on their behalf. In addition to trying desperately to get Roosevelt into the war, Winant was able to convince Roosevelt to expand aid to the British both in basic goods and war aids. He also lived very quietly and low-key in London. The British admired him so much they gave him one of their highest honors.
 
On occasion, Olson leaves London for Yalta and other conferences between the big three which tends to drag the book down. She also runs rather quickly through the effect of the American soldiers in London and other parts of Britain. At the highest point in the war, 1 of every 6 citizens was American. And to keep up morale, the Americans had more and better food than the British. But, Olson notes, they also had money to spend in shops and pubs and kept England floating economically during the latter half of the war.
 
A fascinating look at the early part of the war when most Americans had not yet entered the fray but for whom Eric Sevareid would say, "When this is all over, in years to come, men will speak of this war and say, I was a soldier, I was a sailor, or I was a pilot. Others will say with equal pride, I was a citizen of London."
Posted by jfreier on 05/17/10
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In 1925 Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett,the last of the great Victorian explorers ventured into the Amazon looking for El Dorado or as he called it the Lost City of Z, he never returned.
 
David Grann a staff writer for the New Yorker does a great job in trying to recreate Fawcett's trip and also to find out what his fate was.
 
This book is part biography, travel adventure and detective story, riveting and well researched, a must for travel buffs.
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