Staff Choices

Posted by cclapper on 07/15/11
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Early and intense love tangled up in two lives: Judith Whitman's parents separated and at seventeen she moves to live with her Dad in Nebraska.  Willy Blunt was born in Nebraska and has no plans to be anywhere else.  What builds between them will last as long as they live.
There is much here, and this story has been drawing some favorable attention.  Some beautiful writing that eloquently describes very human situations.
Know what's great about book discussions?
The discussions.
You can definitely respond to reviews in newspapers or magazines, or fire off a comment to Oprah's web site.  And your thoughts might get published, and possibly even responded to.  But probably not.
Or... you can come to one of the Book Discussion Groups that we have here at the Library, or to a group that you and some of your friends have organized in your neighborhood.  Those are great!  You will definitely be heard, and you can exchange great thoughts with other cool people who always have interesting things to say about the work on the table.
The only drawback is that they usually cover one work at a time.
A blog like this, however, is available any time, any day.  Read these notes, respond, and have your response read by anyone who happens through any time in the future.  Then they can leave their thoughts, and we can all read and respond-
A forever discussion.  Right here on your screen.  Any of us can drop in in our jammies- or proper business attire, for you at-work entrepreneurs.  The conversation goes on and on.
Why do I mention this here?
Because I could really use some help with this book. 
I recognize the skill of the writing and the depth of the characters.  A very clear image of a complex relationship.  But I don't know what Tom McNeal hopes I will take away when I close the cover.
Have you read this book?  I would really like to hear what you think.   Just go here:
to respond to this post.  Every one of our blog entries has a similar page- and we all want the hear your responses.  Really.
But first give me a hand with this novel.  What did you think?  What sticks with you?  Talk to me.
love, Willy Blunt
Posted by Ultra Violet on 07/13/11
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Dr. Jennifer White had a stellar career as a hand surgeon until early onset dementia forced her into retirement. Her best friend, who lives only a few doors down, is murdered and Dr. White is a prime suspect. There is no evidence of forced entry or struggle and the victim is missing fingers from one hand. There were expertly removed, even Dr. White commends the work when she is shown the pictures. However, she keeps forgetting that Amanda was killed, as she keeps forgetting everything. Dr. White's son and daughter are alternately a support and an annoyance to her as they struggle with losing their mother and their own neuroses. The entire book is told from the point of view of Dr. White and it is painful and frightening to get inside the head of someone in the situation of slipping away. It is especially hard for Dr. White because she has always been such a powerful woman. If one has gone through the despair of witnessing a loved-one with dementia, this book will be difficult to read, but cathartic as well. LaPlante has achieved something very special in that she has written a work of literary fiction that is also an exciting thriller as the murder investigation unfolds.
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/07/11
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Make no mistake, this book is not a true mystery by definition.  There really isn't a dead body.  New to the AHML collection, but first published in 1952, this book has been resurrected under the category of "hard-boiled noir."   It is short, not sweet, and packs a punch.  There is a plethora of low-life characters with Willa Ree as their poster boy.
Given a female name at birth, Ree is a immoral hobo who descends upon a virtueless oil town in Texas like a sweeping vulture.  It turns out that the town's mayor is looking for a man with Ree's talents to become police chief.  One of Ree's talents is that he is unscrupulous and mercenary.  While hired under the guise of defender of law and order, Ree establishes his goal of robbing the town blind and splitting before being caught and convicted.
What is fascinating about this book is that the tale is timeless.  Trains still run.  Towns are still corrupt.  Men prey upon the weak.  Woman are still used and spit out.  Politicians are corrupt.  Bullies prevail. 
Davis' novella is not dated.  There are no descriptions of old cars, clothing, or any other telltale signs of fiction created over 50 years ago.  It simply reads like "a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist."  
Posted by cclapper on 07/05/11
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Everyday Modern England  --  with magic? Suppose you were a probationary constable hoping to become something a murder detective for example.  Too bad it looks like you're headed to the Case Progression Unit (which means: Paperwork Central).  Fortunately you've got a fierce sense of humor.  And you'll need that humor 'cause the girl you're really hot for is probationary, too- and actually headed to the murder detective squad.  Then the two of you wind up minding a murder scene late one bitter night, and while she runs for hot coffee you stumble across a significant witness to the crime.  A knowledgeable eyewitness.  Who happens to be a ghost.
Great.  Who's going to believe you?
Or worse: what if someone does believe you?
Attitude, wit and a whole new take on the supernatural- this the first in a new series by Ben Aaronovitch, and the second is already on the way: Moon Over Soho (coming soon to a Library near you!)  This narrator has got real character.
Nancy Pearl says it's "something special".
"Fresh, original, and a wonderful read.  I loved it."  writes Charlaine Harris.
And Diana Gabaldon thinks it's "...a hilarious, keenly imagined caper."
Names to conjure with!
Posted by mingh on 07/03/11
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Subtitled, the gilded age crime that scandalized a city & sparked the tabloid wars, Murder of the Century takes place in 1897 when body parts are found scattered in various locations throughout New York. What makes this interesting is this is the start of the tabloid wars in New York. Although William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer had been trying to outdo each other for a few years, it was this murder that really ratcheted up the ante.

Both the Journal and the Herald offered reward money for information leading to the identity of the body (they put the pieces together without the head which was never found). Hearst pushed the Journal to publish more and more about every little clue. Even though some of the clues clearly had nothing to do with the murder, if they had their own sordid story, Hearst went with it. Pulitzer also tried to be first to publish the information.

The solving of the murder is here from the poor detectives who had to do their job under the watchful and following eyes of the reporters, to the courtroom antics, and the viewings at the morgue. Every day for months, people were allowed to come down to the morgue to view the body and make a guess as to whom it belonged.

The murder is solved and actually quite quickly once they get a vital clue. However, the New York papers were never the same. The largest typeface, traditionally held only for declarations of war, appeared for the most sordid stories  for morning and evening reading. And in color!

This isn’t an in-depth view of yellow journalism but how one New York murder changed the way newspapers delivered the news.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 06/29/11
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Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts in the 1640's was primitive, rugged, yet beautiful place.  Inhabited by the Wampanoag Indian tribes, the island was rich with vegetation and wildlife, the ocean rich with fish and crab.  This is the place chosen by a ragtag group of Puritan English pioneers to establish a settlement in order to escape the cruel treatment of the rigid, Calvinistic British society on the mainland.
The voice of Caleb's Crossing is that of young Bethia Mayfield, whose father was Great Harbor's minister.  Bethia is a very bright, curious girl, longing for the education that is denied her because of her sex.  So she eavesdrops on her dull brother's Latin, Greek and Hebrew lessons, soaking up the new languages like a sponge.  Her free spirit presses her to explore the beautiful island that is her home, much against the strict dictates of a Calvinistic upbringing that demands obedience and domestic subservience from their womenfolk.  Through her wanderings, Bethia meets Caleb, an Indian boy her age, and the son of the Chieftan.  Bethia teaches Caleb to speak and read her language.  He in turn teaches her how to live off the land, gathering berries and herbs, and spear fish from the ocean's shore. She soon becomes fluent in his language.  They become the best of friends.
Minister Mayfield takes it upon himself the job of educating and converting the local Indians, thus incurring the wrath of the Shaman, Caleb's uncle.  He lands the big prize by taking Caleb into his home to tutor him in the classic languages in preparation for his formal education at Harvard University.  The opposing forces of the Calvinist minister and the Wampanoag shaman collide as tragedy and heartbreak follow celebrations and successes.
Caleb's Crossing is Geraldine Brooks at her best, weaving an beautiful, vivid story from a tiny shred of historical fact.  Brooks actually recently moved to Martha's Vineyard where she came across  a map made by the Wampanoag people that marked the birthplace of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.  Not much is known about Caleb's short but remarkable life.  But that is just the hook that Brooks needed to immerse herself in the history of this Indian tribe and Martha's Vineyard, to create another evocative and absorbing historical novel. 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 06/27/11
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Andrew Harrington is a wealthy, handsome, Victorian gad-about who has fallen in love with the model in a painting at his Uncle's home. He is understandably shocked to find that she is a common prostitute from White Chapel. His wily cousin, Charles, had commissioned the portrait and gifted it to his father as a joke. However, the knowledge of her low status doesn't dampen Andrew's ardor for the girl. Through Charles he finds out her name, Mary Kelly. Andrew begins evening forays to White Chapel to meet her, and he even takes a cheap room for their liaisons. Imagine his horror when he finds her completely mutilated by Jack the Ripper in the very room where they had shared so much happiness. Seeing that his cousin was genuinely suicidal, Charles goes to Andrew with the news of a time travel company that is offering trips to the future. Charles convinces Andrew to go with him to meet the eccentric man behind the company to beg him to take them into the past to save his precious Mary. From that point on, the story gets weirder, deeper, wittier, and thrilling.
A time travel book with Jack the Ripper, H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Henry James as characters isn't really so strange these days; what makes Map of Time special is the multi-layered deception and misconception and fact, fiction and science. This is the most creative book I have read in years. Not everyone will enjoy the mental gymnastics it takes to keep up with what is going on here. But if one is willing to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride, The Map of Time is exciting, and delightful. I was particularly impressed with the fact that Felix J. Palma is Spanish and yet he created a tremendously believable Victorian England. But what stands out the most is the complexity of the intricate web of the plot. Get ready for a wild ride!
Posted by mingh on 06/26/11
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Area 51 begins with the crash of a UFO at Roswell and ends with the crash at Roswell. In 1947, Area 51 (apparently never officially called that) didn't exist. The atomic bomb testing was happening nearby and it seemed efficacious to have the development of new aircraft also occur in this remote area of the western desert. So work was begun in 1951 to create secret projects both aircraft and atomic.

Area 51 : an uncensored history of America's top secret military base, is interesting for anyone wanting to read more about America and UFO's, the escalation of the Cold War, military buffs, and top secret projects, from U2 planes to the drones that now fly over Iraq and Afghanistan. Area 51 is still the stealth capital of our world . . .
as far we know.

Jacobsen is clear about how much information is out there and how much is still classified. What is interesting is how something as small as the radio broadcast of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds, would still define whether Americans should be told information that may make them panic. Also interesting is how much is defined as classified because it would seem to embarrass or shame those who did the work. It would be hard to point a nasty finger at Stalin for allowing Dr. Mengele to travel safely in exchange for his work, when we were injecting developmentally disabled children with plutonium so that we could see how they reacted.

An in-depth book of details about top secret projects and how the CIA would use conspiracy theories to work in their favor. Cover the truth or deflect the information. Something crashed at Roswell -- it wasn't a weather balloon.

Posted by jfreier on 06/21/11
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A man awakes' on a cold, deserted beach alone and naked, nearby is a new BMW, filled with clothes and shoes that fit him and an I.D. of Daniel Hayes and a gun!. Is he Daniel Hayes? Why is here? What did he do?
The man is haunted by nightmares and the memory of an actress from a popular T.V. show. Does he know her? The mans I.D. says he lives in Malibu, so he sets off from what he finds out is the Maine coast to find out who he is and why the police and a very evil man want him. 
A great story with deep characters and a relentless pace. This is Marcus Sakey's most ambitious book yet and I think his best.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/20/11
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This book's jacket says that author Nesbo is a Norwegian musician and composer.  This helps explain why this book reads like listening to a great piece of Classical music.  The plot is multi-layered, as if recorded on a sound stage using talented musicians interpreting the score.  
Nesbo is a grand conductor.  A multitude of characters is no deterrent.  Each uniquely adds to  the coloring of this story.  In some series, reading in chronological order is paramount.  Not with Nesbo.  Back-story be damned.  He has so much to say and say well, that each book stands on its own.   If anything, each book leaves the reader wanting more - the ultimate compliment for anyone that creates art. 
The hero is Harry Hole.  He's an Oslo Police Inspector with more baggage than a train porter with six arms.  He is a recovering alcoholic who falls on and off the wagon more times than a toddler trying to hold onto a Radio Flyer racing on a rock pile.   He is tragic and sympathetic.  He's a person that is in need of being smacked upside the head at times, just to get his attention.  He is unlucky with women to a fault.  The fault is that women close to him all seem to die.  
In this book, Harry is juggling several investigations; some assigned, some assumed.  It doesn't help his peace of mind that he is trying to prevent becoming the prime suspect in one of these investigations.  
Harry Hole is a trapeze artist who is presently plodding through life without a safety net.  Readers should plan on getting to the circus tent early and bring plenty of popcorn. 
The act at center stage is remarkable, if not death-defying. 
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