Staff Choices

Posted by cclapper on 11/10/11
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Brooklyn -- in our time: Three brothers, young, in a family with stresses.  Puerto Rican father, white mother.  Never enough.  Of anything.  Brothers building their own world- or worlds, contiguous; laughing, fightng, playing, building experience.  Taking life and the larger world as it comes.  Taking life on.
All right.  Personal opinion alert: I have a problem with some definitions of poetry.  Pretty radical, huh?  Lots of people try to set rules for what makes a poem.  Broken lines, and rhymes, and poetic techniques like onomatopoeia and alliteration. 
No.  Just: Concentration.  There is no boundary between prose and poetry.  Only ranging concentration.  Poetry is essential communication.  Like coffee: is coffee weak?  Or strong?  Or verging on the limits of caffein medication?  Langauge is like that: a range of concentration, of intensity.  This novel runs only one hundred twenty-five pages, but there's so much here. 
If you like espresso:  
Brief.  Intense.  Remarkable.  
Posted by mingh on 11/06/11
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Fifteen year old Margo Crane has grown up on the Stark River in Michigan. Her world revolves around her family's life on the river. Although the men go into town to work for the family's metalworking company, their homes are on the banks of the river, just a short boat ride to each other's houses. 
Her unhappy Mother abandons her and her Father to find a new life. This is the start of a very difficult life for Margo. Margo's Father, understanding the rough life on the river, has told Margo to avoid all drunken men including her own family members. When her drunk Uncle takes advantage of her, her father tries to help and is killed by Margo's cousin. If anything happened to her Father, Margo was supposed to live with the family of this Uncle. Now she feels she has no one and takes her boat and drifts down the river to escape and try and find her Mother.
Once Upon a River is Margo's story of survival. She knows how to hunt and fish and build fires, but she is very naive and young when it comes to interacting with people, especially men. She meets some good men on the river, but most treat her poorly, until she finally meets a man who has more to lose than she does.
This is a dark, but beautifully written story of a young girl growing in to womanhood and learning the ways of her environment. She meets many people on the margins of society where she, too, is living. But Margo has an indomitable spirit and the gift of survival. You can only cheer for her, knowing that she, like her great idol, Annie Oakley, will be one of the survivors.
Posted by mingh on 11/03/11
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The Inspector Ikmen series takes place in Istanbul, a city of many colors that swirl in Barbara Nadel's newest addition to the Inspector Ikmen series. A young girl has been found burned to death in an apartment fire. The rest of her family is unharmed. When they find out that the girl had a boyfrend, Inspector Ikmen and Inspector Suleyman wonder if it is a honor killing. Nearby a piano teacher is brutally murdered in his home. When Inspector Ikmen discovers that the murdered man is homosexual, he wonders if this is also an honor killing. With so many people from small villages and towns coming to the city to find work, are honor killings following the conservative villagers to the city?
Nadel is very good at showing the diversity of Istanbul. There are liberal and conservative Muslims, Gypsies, Christians and Jews who have lived side by side for hundreds of years. In addition, the class wars of the Sultan years still resound loudly, the clash of old famly and money versus new. For the most part, this is a police procedural that takes you to all parts of Istanbul, from bars to water-pipe shops. But how all of these different religious and ethnic groups converge is what the reader will enjoy. That and the enjoyment of watching and listening to Inspector Ikmen work to solve the mystery. Inspector Ikmen is calm and patient and tolerant of anyone who obeys the law. He has good instincts about people.
You do not have to have read any of the books in the series to appreciate this title. Whether its a good mystery that interests you or just a chance to fall into a different and changing world, A Noble Killing is a good way to spend an evening.
Istanbul, Mystery
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/01/11
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Investigator Virgil Flowers is back and in rare form.  He has been sent to a Minnesota river
town that has a mad bomber on the loose. The dead and injured are mounting and Lucas
Davenport, Flower's boss, gives Virgil a week to close the case.

It appears that someone is opposed to the idea that a WalMart-like store (PyeMart) open in
their town.  There is speculation that several of the city council's votes have been bought
to favor the re-zoning and building project.  Even the billionaire Pye has been
unsuccessfully targeted.  Working alongside a team of federal bomb experts, Virgil becomes
despondent with the lack of evidence and growing list of suspects.

They know what the bombs are comprised of and from where the materials were stolen. Virgil
decides to use a marketing tool and mass produce a survey that he has hand-delivered to
selective townfolks.  The survey asks for names of neighbors that might be guilty.  Virgil's
plan is to collect the completed surveys and tally the results.  He will then interview the
names of those most offered as likely candidates in hopes of finding his killer.

This is the 5th installment in Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.  Virgil remains a maverick.  
He still dresses in faded t-shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots.  His hair is still long and
disheveled.  He still hates to wear a sidearm and tows his fishing boat behind his pickup to
every crime scene in hopes of getting some "reel time" alone with his thoughts. He's a ladies
man who is a 3-time loser at the altar. Still, he is a lovable character that is enviable and
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 10/31/11
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Since they moved to New York City from a small college town in upstate New York, the Bergamot family have worked hard at making this big adjustment.  Richard is focused on his new job as an executive administrator at a large New York university.  Liz Bergamot, leaving her comfortable life and her own career in academia, has become a full-time Mom to 6-year-old Coco and Jake, who is 15.  They find themselves in a strage new upper-class world since Jake and Coco attend an elite private school.
Jake has made friends with a group of boys at Wildwood school.  They do things on the weekends that most boys their age do - play video games, go to parties, hang out.  The Bergamot's have a beautiful life, or so it seems.  Until the morning after Jake attends an unchaperoned party to find a sexually explicit video from an 8th grade girl in his email.  True to form for an adolescent boy, with a combination of shock and pride, he forwards the video to a friend.  Within hours it goes viral, and the beautiful life of the Bergamot's becomes a living hell.
This Beautiful Life is an intimate examination of a family falling apart under intense pressure.  Helen Schulamn expertly scrutinizes a contemporary nightmare with the precision and acuity of a Greek tragedy, a tragedy that even the most caring and vigilant parents could not protect their children from.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 10/29/11
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Amidst the shadows of the World Trade Center they had grown up the best of friends, full of hopes and dreams.  Markie was the crazy, irresponsible one.  All the boys were in love with beautiful Sally, but her heart belonged to Markie.  Tom was the fixer, and they all knew they could count on him to help them out of a jam.  Vicky and Tom had always been together.  Jack, Tom's half-brother, had always lived life on the edge.  Sensible and smart, Marian had a solid plan for her life, which, of course, included Jimmy.  They called him Superman.  Jimmy McCaffery was the hub of this circle of friends.
Life had always revolved around Jimmy.  That is until one tragic night that changed everything for them all.  20 years later, James McCaffery, Captain of Ladder 62 Firehouse in New York City, died a hero saving people from the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.  His heroism subsequently became legendary at a time when devastated New Yorkers deparately needed heros.  But then a series of articles in the New York Tribune newspaper called his character into question.  Like a falling house of cards, the search for the truth about Jimmy McCaffery and what happened that night 20 years ago begins to destroy the lives of everyone involved.
Rozen does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy and its devestating effects on New Yorkers.  Absent Friends bounces back and forth from NYC post-9/11 to episodes in the lives of the main characters as children.  This gives the reader multiple perspectives on, and insight into the depth of their relationships as children and adults.  The author unravels the mystery of Jimmy McCaffery with memories of remorse, regret and guilt as seen through the eyes of his old friends. In the end, a quote from Jose Latour at the beginning of the book rings loud and clear.  "All I know is that the surest way to make enemies is to always tell the truth."
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/25/11
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This is the 3rd book in the Hackberry Holland series.  To better serve memories, Hack is an octogenarian who's the elected sheriff in a small Texas border town.  He's a former Korean War P.O.W. and multiple medals award winner.  He is a recovering alcoholic/whoremonger.  He was a lawyer when younger and has been a widower for over 10 years. His second in command is 40 years his junior and madly in love with him.  

Pam Tibbs, the dubious deputy, and Hack are once again on the hunt for the machine-gun-toting-serial-killer, Preacher Jack Collins.  The Preacher stumbles upon a government official, Noie Barnum, who was kidnapped and tortured by a crazed Mexican assassin called Krill.  Collins adopts Barnum and offers a strange sort of sanctuary towards the escapee. Barnum has information in his head that makes him also the target of the Russian mob and a rogue U.S. Congressman's hit team.  

If that isn't enough characters, add a Chinese female former CIA agent, who has ties back to the Cambodian Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam Conflict. Anton Ling, nicknamed "La Magdalena" by the refugees she harbors on her ranch, resembles Hack's late wife. Tibbs senses something sensual stirring deep inside Hack and takes an immediate dislike to Ling.  

All the players are desperate to bring closure to their pursuits and this helps make the story fast-paced, not unlike a fire drill.  

Usually a character-rich story with several subplots can get confusing.  Burke's tale unfolds effortlessly.

Posted by Pam S on 10/24/11
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Sandra Brown is wildly popular for her romantic suspense novels and I recently decided to give her a try.  I thoroughly enjoyed Richocet with its many plot twists and adreniline rushes.  Duncan Hatcher is a handsome, rugged, police detective who is on a mission to put away killer Robert Savich.  The book opens with Judge Cata Laird declaring a mistrial in the Robert Savich case.  Duncan Hatcher is incensed and wants to nail Robert Savich.  Fast forward, and there has been a burglary and subsequent murder at the Laird household and Duncan Hatcher is the investigating detective.  It turns out that Elise Laird shot the intruder.  It also turns out that Elise Laird is beautiful and Duncan is captivated by her.  Duncan and his partner investigate the shooting at the Lairds and uncover inconsistencies.  Elise even makes a claim that her husband hired the intruder to kill her.  Duncan is torn between his attraction to Elise and his duty as an investigator.  This book comes to an exciting conclusion with some definite romance thrown in.  I found it entertaining and exciting.  I would read Sandra Brown again!
Posted by Uncle Will on 10/23/11
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Lee Child truly has found his nitch.  He created the perfect modern day cowboy, Jack Reacher, former Military Police Major turned nomad.   The only thing missing in these formulary mysteries is the quirky horse who has a penchant for imported oats, for Reacher to wander on, from town to town.  
In this 16th installment, Reacher's long awaited back-story forms the plotline.    Readers learn a little of why Reacher decides to leave the Army with only his toothbrush in his pocket and his heavy heart.   The story begins back in Mississippi around 1997 when Reacher is ordered to go undercover to investigate a woman's death.  A soldier is suspected.   Unfortunately, this soldier has powerful friends and Reacher's investigation gets complicated. 
Cowboy Jack forms an allegiance with the town's sheriff, but it is obvious from the start that Reacher will be mostly flying solo in order to close this case. 
Dead body.  Check.  Belligerent townies.  Check.  Mysterious female counterpart.  Check.  Insurmountable odds stacking up against hero.  Check.   Brawls with outnumbering bullies.  Check.  Injustice served by money-grubbing power-hungry elitist.  Check.    In the end, after the dust settles, toothbrush still in pocket.  Check. 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 10/22/11
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Judy grew up in Bavaria because of her military father being stationed there. Her mother was a neurotic and exacting woman who eventually had to be hospitalized. Judy's feelings about her childhood in Germany influenced her choice in becoming a Waldorf school teacher. Waldorf schools celebrate they beauty of childhood and fantasy, encouraging even the teachers to believe in gnomes. Nothing damaging is allowed at a Waldorf school. There is no candy, no t-shirts with Disney characters on them, nothing that could ruin the natural process of growth. In this idealized setting, Judy finds herself estranged from her husband whom she discovers is hooked on pain pills. She is in a state of shock over losing her best friend to cancer, and her children are drifting away. Alone and frustrated, she finds herself attracted to one of her son's friends. Zachary is only sixteen, yet Judy engages in a physical relationship with the boy who is a student at the very school where she teaches.

Their forbidden romance cannot end well, but the culmination of Julia's punishment is a taut, intense story. This is a difficult topic to read about, but the author manages to balance the raw passion with modesty of language. I was particularly interested in the layering of symbolism of the Bavarian folk tales and Catholicism juxtaposed with our contemporary values and social mores. This is a dark, primal, and often disturbing love story.

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