Staff Choices

Posted by Uncle Will on 07/22/10
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Every time a new James Lee Burke novel gets released; it seems I end up playing hooky for a couple of days.  This time was no exception.    Burke’s words melt off the page like the Louisiana landscape he so aptly describes.
In this 18th book in the series, Dave is back with his best-friend Cletus, who are investigating the deaths of several teenage girls.   Alafair, Dave's adopted daughter, has hooked-up with a rich and powerful heir who is helping her publish her first novel while she is attending law school. 
Alafair is unaware that her new boyfriend has also hooked-up with a slimy ex-con author, who might or might not be responsible for the all the girls' deaths.
The back-stories for Burke's main characters are all colorful and important; however, one of the enduring things about this book series is that every story is independent and a reader does not have to follow them in any chronological order.  
It took a while for this book to be published.  It appears that Burke is slowing down as a writer, but there is no indications that he will ever suffer from any James-Patterson-type-disease where he is compelled to co-author and publish several books per month.
Posted by mingh on 07/13/10
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What would make a teacher enter a school assembly and start shooting? This is the question Detective Lucia May must answer in this novel by Simon Lelic. Were the dead targeted? Or just random victims?
Many of the chapters are the recorded conversations of the witnesses to the shooting. Detective May tries to find out if a brutal attack a week earlier was related to what happened. That attack was to be the subject of the school assembly. Bullying seemed to be what caused that attack. But by whom?
Other chapters show what life is like in this police precinct for new Detective May. The only woman in the office, May has to deal with the misogynistic tendencies and fears of the other detectives. Her superiors would really like her to wrap up the report and chalk it up to the actions of a madman. But May feels that there is more at stake.
A psychological study of a man who cannot take anymore and a woman who is understanding how he feels.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 07/09/10
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Most 19th century circus freaks were unfortunate people born with various physical deformities, however, there were individuals who chose to separate themselves from society; sword-swallowers, fire-eaters, snake-charmers and most of all, the tattooed ladies. The inate fascination with the forbidden along with the reputation of sexual deviance and primitive savagery that went along with tattooing until relatively recently made people willing to pay money to view a scandalously clad young lady covered with tattoos. What I found most intriguing in this book was the accounts of how common tattoos actually were for women throughout history. They were just hidden. Even Winston Churchill's mother had a tattoo which she concealed with jewelery. The Tattooed Lady is a gorgeous book filled with fascinating photos, well-designed graphics and vintage-style fonts that add to the mystique of the subject. An engaging book to read cover to cover or to just peruse for the pictures and captions.
Posted by jfreier on 07/07/10
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[This is the author's third novel and the first I've read and will be reading his first two soon.
The city of Chicago is the target of seemingly random murders by a sniper at various C.T.A  locations. Michael Kelly an ex Chicago cop and now P.I is on the seen of the first murder and as the killings continue the serial killer makes it clear that Kelly is personally connected to the killer.
The plot includes and F.B.I agent who seeks Kelly's help and the main event is based on an actual C.T.A crash from 1977. The story is fast, good characters and great descriptions of Chicago
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/07/10
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What if you were handed 15 million dollars and the ownership of an established, once promising business?  What if you were able to hire the best minds in that business?  What if it was a corporation that you were extremely talented at running and opening branches worldwide?  What if it was for a career that you already possessed all the qualifications to become successful?  What if the only drawback was that this gift was the unsolicited inheritance handed to you by your deadbeat father, while he was serving a life-sentence in prison...the same father that beat you regularly while you were growing up and learning to hate with a passion?  And most importantly, what if it was a career that you loved and you were legitimately able to help clients live safe and less stress-free lives?
This is Jack Malone's legacy.  He successfully manages the most exclusive private investigation firm in the world.
Here's hoping that Patterson has settled on Jack Malone to start a new series of mysteries. There are several plots that intertwine.  One is the prolong serial killings of over a dozen teenage schoolgirls.  Another is the murder of Jack's best friend's wife and  Jack's former flame.  There also is an investigation of a suspected final score tempering of some NFL games by its referees.  And just when the reader thinks that there is plenty on the plate for Jack to deal with, his twin brother is discovered to be in hock for $600,000 to loan sharks.
Patterson has found a winning combination is co-authoring several of his books.  The narration is fresh and this style of writing almost always ensures short chapters...a late night reader's delight!
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 07/02/10
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A Gate at the Stairs takes place in a small Midwest college town shortly after 9/11. Tassie Keltjin, whose father is a potato farmer in a small Illinois town, and whose Mother is Jewish, is an aimless college freshman. She gets a part-time job as a nanny for a couple who have adopted a beautiful bi-racial 2-year-old girl. Not only does she interview for the job, but she goes through the entire adoption process with the couple, thus becoming completely immersed in their lives. The post-9/11 racial tension and fear in the United States is an understood sideline that doesn’t hold up very well in the story. But it does act as somewhat of a catalyst.
The author, Lorrie Moore, is a highly praised and gifted literary author of short stories filled with sharp wit along with cynicism, wryness coupled with sweetness. This novel is another great example of her talent. The longer literary form of the novel might be a little daunting for her, however. The characters were well developed, but the plot was not. At times, it seemed as if the plot was going nowhere. That being said, Moore’s talent for the metaphor, her sardonic humor and moving way in which she looks at life are definitely worth the time invested in reading A Gate at the Stairs.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/30/10
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There's something in the water.  The water is bottled and called:  Pluto Water.
This is Michael Koryta's  (pronounced ko REE ta) sixth novel.   This story is sort of taken from the playbooks Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Eric Shaw, a promising film director, makes a wrong career decision and is blacklisted in Hollywood.  He is force to earn a living by creating short films on the lives of the recently departed; which are then shown at the decease's funeral.  He is hired to make one of his tribute films about the life and times of, Campbell Bradford, who is on his deathbed.
Bradford, who is 95, was once the wealthy owner of a luxurious spa that featured mineral spring water that legends were built on.   It had been many years since the resort closed down and Shaw's return to the rundown town triggers a chilling chain of events.
Shaw makes the mistake of drinking some of the bottled Pluto Water and becomes dependent of it.   What mysteries lie behind this magical water?  Just how are ghosts of the past conjured up after a swallow?  And how is the past and present able to meet up in the future for an explosive conclusion? 
There's something in the's an understatement.
Posted by cclapper on 06/30/10
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You may remember this from High School... you probably had to read one or two of these poems in your survey of English Literature.  Cringing already?  Well, stop- you might need to think again!
I only read the required selections when I was in school, too.  But recently I ran into several references to this collection and decided to go exploring.
In these poems, former inhabitants of the imagined town of Spoon River look back on their lives and speak of their hopes and dreams, all too often thwarted, squandered or mislaid.  First published in 1915, could these short poems possibly be of any interest to a modern reader?
Yes, they could.  Surprisingly contemporary, these stories form a mosaic of lives stretching all the way back to revolutionary times.  Some stand alone.  Some dovetail in cool ways.
And the poetry is good stuff.  Not formal, stilted or antique, these people speak in their own colloquial voices.  And together, they create a powerful narration of lives lived to varying degrees of success.
I bet you will find your life reflected in one or two of these quick but pithy verses- none much longer than one brief page.   I know I did.  Which ones made you recognize yourself?  Tell me yours- I'll tell you which ones showed me... me.
Great for quick browsing on a blanket in the park, or while grilling (yourself) on the beach.  Lots of these made me laugh.  Enjoyable...  and it's poetry-  Who knew!?
Posted by mingh on 06/29/10
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The Imperfectionists is a collection of stories about workers, readers and their companions who are influenced by an international paper based in Rome. (The paper is based on the International Herald Tribune). Each chapter covers a different person and their relationship to the paper.
Rachman does a great job of pulling all the characters together. In different chapters you will read about what someone thinks about a person showcased in a previous chapter. Some chapters deal with the same events but told from different characters.
Some reviewers have called this a collection of short stories. Most stories do involve an event that has a beginning, middle and end. But the stories hold together more closely than that. As the book moves along, you begin to wonder which character will be showcased next and what their story is.
The Imperfectionists is time well spent for the reader who likes to learn about characters from angles not necessarily their own.
Posted by emcinerney on 06/26/10
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High school reunions:  the chance to relive the glory days of Friday night football games, first crushes and heartbreaks, and the time before the responsibilities of being an adult set it.  In author Elizabeth Berg’s latest novel, six men and women prepare for their fortieth, and final, high school reunion and all the drama that comes with it. This reunion is the last chance for all of them.  For Dorothy, it is her last chance to finally be with her crush, former star quarterback, Pete.  For Pete, it is his last chance to save his marriage to his high school sweetheart, Nora.  For Lester, a former nerd, it is his last chance to connect with his crush, Candy, the former cheerleader and the most popular at school.  For Mary Anne, it is her chance to finally find out why she remained invisible for all four years.
Berg deftly alternates between the funny and the heartbreaking.  Dorothy, now the vapid and vain divorcee, is determined to do whatever it takes to land Pete and is the quintessential high school mean girl, forty years later.  Candy, now stuck in an unhappy marriage and facing a serious disease, is looking to make amends for her treatment of others, especially Lester and Mary Anne, during high school.   Anyone that has gone to their high school reunion can relate to this book:  the dread, the panic, and the anticipation.  Berg captures all those emotions and brings some closure to these six classmates.  Overall a fun, leisurely read down memory lane.
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