Staff Choices

Posted by jfreier on 11/16/09
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Harry Pappas head of the "Persia Desk" at the C.I.A is surprised to receive an E-mail from an Iranian scientist indicating he would like to share info on Iran's nuclear program, this is the start of this tense spy thriller. The author is a mideast expert and columnist for the Washington Post so you get the feeling you are really getting the inside scoop. The tale leads Pappas to his counterpart in British Intelligence and has them racing against time to find the Iranian Dr. before the U.S administration attacks Iran. I think this book would appeal to readers of LeCarre and those who enjoy political thrillers that are not led by action and violence only.
Posted by cclapper on 11/12/09
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How do you define a "great book"?
 
Technically, this is science fiction. It's a story of time travel, a contrast between the years 2048 and the 1300's;  between a time proficient in science, particularly medical science, and a time of  horrifying physical want and disease.  Between future scholarly Oxford and a medieval rural community struggling to be self-sufficient miles outside ancient Oxford.
 
But at it's core, this is a study of people trying to survive, and human relationships.  What happens when history stops being an academic study and becomes a personal experience?  When names carved in stone become living, breathing individuals?
 
I think I've mentioned in other reviews that I am coming to understand that a "great book", to me, is a book that changes the way I see or understand the world.  The Doomsday Book did that.
 
It doesn't surprise me that this book won the Nebula and the Hugo Awards, the top awards in the sci-fi field.
 
I have also read Connie Willis' Bellwether.  I enjoyed it very much.  I'm beginning to feel that if I see her name on the spine of a book, I want to pick that book up and jump in.  Wanna join me?  We might have some great discussions!
Posted by Pam I am on 11/12/09
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This is Mitch Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesday's with MorrieHave a Little Faith opens with Albom facing  an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from his old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.  Albom begins meeting with this rabbi to understand his life better and begins to renew his relationship with the rabbi.  Over time, these meetings become a re-connecting  with his Jewish faith.  At the same time, Albom begins a relationship with a Christian pastor of a broken-down impoverished congregation in Detroit.  Through these two very different relationships, Albom explores how faith connects us all, despite our differences.  As one editorial review said,
 
"Have a Little Faith is a book about a life's purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man's journey, but it is everyone's story."
 
As an added bonus, it is important to note that ten percent of the profits from this book will go to charity, including The Hole In The Roof Foundation, which helps refurbish places of worship that aid the homeless.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 11/10/09
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The setting is the Mississippi Delta, post – WWII. Laura McAllan has had to leave the mannerly, gentile life in which she was raised to move to a miserable, primitive, “mudbound” cotton farm her land-loving husband has purchased in the Mississippi Delta. Not only does she have to endure these primitive, brutal living conditions, but her mean-spirited, nasty, Ku Klux Klan card-carrying member of a father-in-law has also moved in with them. The only bright spots in Laura’s life are her two daughters, and her charming, handsome, but troubled brother-in-law Jamie who has recently returned from the war.
 
This is also the story of the Jackson family, sharecroppers on the McAllan farm. The Jackson’s oldest son, Ronsel, has also just returned from the war in Europe. In spite of Ronsel’s bravery in defending his country, he is still considered an inferior black man in the “Jim Crow South.” In an effort to try to come to terms with the horrible memories of combat, Ronsel and Jamie McAllan form an unlikely and forbidden friendship. It is this friendship that is at the heart of the book, inviting catastrophe from those KKK members who live in the nearby town.
 
The story is well-constructed and convincingly narrated by the men and women from the two families. The reader sees the story from all sides as well as the hardship of life in 1940’s Mississippi and the terror of racism at that time.
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/07/09
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In his latest novel, Connelly joins together for the first time two of his most memorable characters:  Mickey Haller and Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch.  An old rival of Mickey's is murdered and he is appointed by the court to pick-up the deceased lawyer's 30 cases.  One of the cases is  big-time Robert-Blake-O.J.-Simpson-like; a televised courtroom drama starring a Hollywood studio-head-defendant on trial for allegedly shooting his wife and her lover.  If you are an avid Connelly fan you'll enjoy the banter between the boys in this book.  The ending might be the biggest surprise.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 11/02/09
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In 1947 Homer and Langley Collyer were found dead and decaying in their 5th Avenue mansion that was packed with newspapers, trash, pianos and booby-traps. From this bizarre true story, E. L. Doctorow crafted a mesmerizing novel of two boys from a very privileged but neglectful childhood who formed a profound and enviable bond of friendship, loyalty and dedication to each other. Homer is a promising pianist who starts to gradually go blind as a teen and as a consequence, his other senses become more acute. His brother, Langley, goes off to fight in WWI and is badly damaged (physically and emotionally) in a mustard gas attack. Their parents both fall to Spanish Flu and Homer is left for a while with just the servants. Langley returns from Europe with a nasty cough and penchant for hoarding which soon takes over their lives.
 
Homer and Langley is so much more than a story of recluses and compulsive hoarding. The meat of the novel comes from the exquisitely human interactions between the brothers, their servants, and the other people who pass briefly through their lives. E. L. Doctorow's words are so carefully chosen that the reader feels what these men feel, from the loneliness, isolation and paranoia to the intense joy they experience from their music and their closeness with each other.
Posted by Pam I am on 10/23/09
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In Shanghai Girls the reader follows two sisters, Pearl and May as they travel from Shanghai to the US as young women. Lisa See vividly describes life in pre-World War II Shanghai and takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the Japanese invasion of China and its aftermath. Even after leaving China, the sisters face many hardships in the United States. Pearl and May are detained on Angel's Island for months undergoing untold suffering.  They finally meet their "arranged spouses', but life for the sisters has many more trials in store, and a secret shared between them threatens their future.  The novel spans several decades and does end on a bit of a cliff hanger. . . On a personal note, I wasn't sure that I liked the characters although I most certainly empathized deeply with them. I greatly appreciated the author's writing and found myself learning about a time and place in history that I did not know much about. Also, I have not read Lisa See's prior novels so I don't have anything to compare, but I think this is a departure from her previous works.
Posted by cclapper on 10/22/09
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Ya' know all those news segments and newspaper columns titled "Someone You Should Know!"?  Well have I got an introduction for you!
 
Alan Bradley has just written his first novel- a mystery involving a dead jack snipe (a kind of bird), a Penny Black (a kind of postage stamp- which, by the by, is curiously orange), and a most remarkable heroine, Flavia de Luce.  Believe me, Flavia is the most interesting item on that list.
 
I'm glad I tripped over Ms de Luce... quite a windfall!  I think we'll all be looking forward to meeting her again - and again.
 
Mr. Bradley won the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award for this first mystery, and the mystery is not the most perfect part of this book.  Personally, I'm looking forward to future visits  to Ms de Luce's Sanctum Sanctorum; curious things are sure to be bubbling...
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/22/09
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"...That ******* Flowers..."  is back.  Virgil Flowers works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.  He is a surfer-dude- lookin' investigator that has long blond hair.  His wardrobe consists of blue jeans, polished cowboy boots and T-shirts that feature the names of abstract music bands.  He has been married a few times and likes the women.  He works for Lucas Davenport and always is assigned the most troubling cases.  In his up-time, he writes articles for outdoor magazines.  To complete his character, he travels from case-to-case in a pickup truck pulling his bass boat on a hitch. 
 
In this book, which is 3rd in a series, he is sent to a remote resort that caters to rich, single, successful women that might or might not be lesbians.  A successful owner of a affluent ad agency is assassinated.  There isn't much evidence left at the crime scene because she was paddling a canoe in the middle of a lake when she was struck down by a single sniper's shot.  Virgil's job is to sort out the suspects and bring closure to a case that touts a killer with little or no apparent motive.
 
As usually, Sandford has several suspicious characters tossed into the plot to provide a well-structured whodunnit.  As Sherlock Holmes had his cocaine to help solve his mysteries, Virgil has his bass fishing pole to aid in his deductions.  Once again Sandford has a story that flows like a stream from Eagle Mountain Minnesota; full of likable characters and witty banter.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 10/21/09
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This is not just another book about the Japanese American internment in 1942 to War Relocation camps. Jamie Ford tells this heartfelt story from the point of view of young Henry Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese boy, and Keiko Okabe, an adolescent Japanese/American girl who are the only non-whites in an exclusive prep school in Seattle. The book delves deeply into the close friendship of the two teenagers and the bullying they have to endure at their school, their unique and very different relationships they have with their fathers, and their forced separation when Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp.
 
Alternating between the story of young Henry and Keiko is the adult perspective in 1986 of middle-aged Henry who has just lost his wife to cancer. In the opening pages, Henry comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, a National Historic Landmark in Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of several Japanese families, left in the hotel basement when they were sent to the internment camps. Henry investigates the suitcases himself and finds Keiko’s sketchbooks and her parasol covered with 40 years of dust. This discovery forces Henry to try to come to terms with the actions of his Chinese nationalist father, and decisions that he himself made decades ago with regard to Keiko.
 
This is Ford's first novel, and it’s a great first effort. Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of a Chinese mining pioneer, and grew up near Seattle’s Chinatown. He gives us an intimate look at a very ugly period of U.S. history, when Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor caused such widespread panic and hatred that the president himself rubber-stamped the authorization of the internment camps. 62% of those sent to the camps were U.S. citizens.

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