Staff Choices

Posted by jfreier on 03/26/15
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 A moving story of nine members of the U of Washington rowing team who overcame many obstacles and challenges to compete for America in the 1936 Olympics. The story is told through the eyes of Joe Rantz a poor young man who was orphaned twice and must manage to make the team , pay for college and feed and cloth himself all during depression era America. The rowing team is led by an enigmatic coach Al Ulbrickson and Tom Bolles, and has it's boats built by the fascinating English boatmaker George Pocock.
Daniel James Brown alternates the story of the rowing teams struggles and the challenge of beating U of California and the elite east coast teams, Harvard. Princeton, Navy and others with the narrative of Nazi Germany setting the stage for the Olympics. The descriptions of how Hitler, Goebbels and his architects passion to show the world how modern and beautiful Germany is adds a great contrast to the depression and dust bowl America.
A well written and inspiring and moving book, good for all ages and both men and woman.
Posted by bweiner on 03/22/15
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Travel to the distant future in Time To Expire, a world where technology and scientific discovery have eliminated disease and lengthened the duration of human life. The decrease in mortality has also minimized other damaging aspects of society, weakening their destructive effects in this new world.
Who becomes the savior of civilization?  The answer is LifeSpan, a technology company responsible for the dramatic turn of events. In addition to the eradication of disease, the company is able to pinpoint the exact time of death for all people and facilitate their exit from the world. Families are able to anticipate the death of their loved ones and be present as they spend their last moments on Earth.
We follow Cole, who has taken a job with a bright future at LifeSpan. His security is threatened by an underground movement that challenges the ethics of  LifeSpan’s authority.  Should they exercise such power over human existence? Does knowing make it easier to let someone go?
In his debut novel, Chris Ramos treats these questions with the respect and attentiveness they deserve. His characters are authentic; his action is crisp and complete. I am eager to see where this outstanding new author will take us next.
Posted by lsears on 03/17/15
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Growing up in a dysfunctional family caused author Andie Mitchell to have a dysfunctional relationship with food. Out of necessity her mother worked multiple jobs to try to keep up with expenses while her father spiraled downward into depression and alcoholism. Often left alone after school, food became a babysitter, a substitute for her parents; eating became an activity to keep her company and it became a problem.
During a college semester studying in Italy, Andie recognized she needed to change and she allowed herself to begin taking steps to become healthy. By the time she returned she had learned to cook and had lost a noticeable amount of weight. Realizing that this alone would not fix her, she had to address other issues and relationships that complicated her life.
What I liked about this memoir is that it is a success story and not just about weight loss. It is about one woman who took responsibility and took action to overcome something that affected her profoundly. Certain aspects of her life must have been very painful for her to share but it must also have been necessary so that she could heal and move forward.  So much so that she created a popular blog about her experience, to share recipes and to talk about body image. She also has spoken at an independently organized TEDx (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk event at Claremont Colleges consortium in California to help motivate others.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 03/10/15
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Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade, The Buried Giant is a magical tale about memory, forgiveness and isolation. This is a fantasy story, but it is fantasy in the highest literary sense. The magical creatures and sense of otherworldliness serves to strengthen the very real issues Ishiguro addresses.
After devastating war, Britain has settled into a peaceful era, but at the cost of something very dear. A fog hangs over the country which robs the inhabitants of their long-term memories.  An old couple, Axl and Beatrice, suddenly remember that they have a son. They can’t remember his name or where he lives or even why he left, but they are determined to search for him.
Their strange, difficult journey tests their love and devotion to each other. Ishiguro’s masterful writing gives the reader the sense of soporific confusion that the people in the story are experiencing. But that is not to say it is an unpleasant read. At the heart of it, this story calls into question how long we should remember the anger and pain of war and loss. At what point do we forgive without reserve? If we could forget wars, whether national or personal, would we want to?
Ishiguro is also known for the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.
Posted by Kelley M on 03/05/15
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I can honestly say that when my husband recommended this audiobook lecture series, Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are, I rolled my eyes, stating that it would be great to use to fall asleep at night.  But, knowing I will soon be traveling overseas, I decided to give the lecture series a try.  I am so glad that I did.  If everyone had to read something like this in school, we might have a better understanding of everyone around us. 
Did you know most businesses in Denmark are closed the entire month of July?  How about that you should be punctual in Germany or you might be considered rude?  When in China, if you are at someone's home and eat something unpalatable, you're best to eat it anyway.  When in the Middle East, you may not want to offer your left hand to anyone, for anything.  When in Africa, it is best to make small talk and ask about the health and well-being of one's family before jumping into talk about business.  It's amazing how much smoother the world would work if we knew all these little nuances.
The author, Professor David Livermore, has written nine books on the topics of cultural intelligence and global leadership.  The lectures are divided into 30 minutes each, which I found to be just long enough to be informative, but not boring. 
Posted by bpardue on 03/04/15
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Jazz saxophonist Chris Potter leads a large chamber jazz ensemble in this thrilling new set of songs, the centerpiece of which is the four-part "Imaginary Cities" suite. Potter's compositions move seamlessly between moods, from muscular to brooding to exultant, and the ensemble playing is magnificent. There are hints of 20th century classical music, middle eastern and south Asian accents and straight-ahead funk-inflected jazz. The overall effect is very cinematic. One of potter's real accomplishments is the way he's worked the string ensemble into the arrangements. They don't merely sweeten the sound or add background for playing over, but rather become an integral part of the group, helping move the compositions along. Especially listen to Indian-influenced strings in the album's closer, "Sky." This will probably be on many jazz critics' "Albums of the Year" list. If the CD isn't on shelf, you can also borrow it on your mobile device or PC via hoopla.
Posted by crossin on 03/03/15
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With the winter dragging on, you and your children may be going a little stir crazy. Why not celebrate the cold? Use the weather as a great excuse to have a family movie marathon! Pick up a few DVDs from the library, put on your jammies, pop some corn and snuggle in for the day. To help you out, the folks at TimeOut recently shared their list of favorite kids' movies to watch as a family. Some may be obvious choices, but I'm sure there are several you haven't seen.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 02/17/15
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One hundred thousand years ago, at least six distinct human species coexisted on this planet. So why has Homo sapiens come to be the sole heir of our biological heritage?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is an amazing undertaking, covering the entire history of humans on Earth. Harari starts with our earliest evolutions and poses some interesting questions about why we ended up dominating the evolutionary landscape. Examining biological changes, social changes and the advent of technology, he explains what makes us so good at surviving.
The part of the book that I found most compelling was his analysis of the role of story and religion in our civilization. The idea that money, nations, religion, law and, in fact, most things that drive our society, are “fictions” that we have collectively developed over time to maintain order was fascinating. Harari goes on to speculate about our future evolutions and how we will almost certainly have a role in determining those changes.
Sapiens combines anthropology, sociology, history, economics and science to explain where we came from and where we are possibly heading.
Posted by lsears on 02/16/15
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Can you be an unwilling participant in the Witness Protection Program?
Jay Johnson discovers the answer when he is abducted by Federal agents who only identify themselves as Public and Doe. Waking from a drugged stupor Jay finds himself handcuffed in protective custody. The agents will not tell him why; they argue it is better if Jay tells them.  In short order, his previous life has been erased.  He is set up with a new life on Catalina Island with a faux family, a wife and daughter who are strangers to him.  Effectively, he is a prisoner on the island, powerless.  
In his former life, Jay had once worked for a company that used lab mice to conduct experiments. Is Jay part of an experiment? What is memory? Is he paranoid? Is he losing his mind? Is this mistaken identity? What does he know that can help the Federal agents’ investigation? Can he trust anyone?  As the story intensified and Jay schemed to free himself of this nightmare, I found myself asking the same questions baffling Jay.
Author Daniel Pyne’s artful storytelling in Fifty Mice had me waffling between believing Jay or believing the Federal agents.  The book drew me along on a suspenseful, gripping ride all the time wondering if this could really happen.
Mystery, Suspense
Posted by bweiner on 02/12/15
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There are support groups for almost everything these days. Join Dr. Jan Sayer as she facilitates therapy for people who have survived unspeakable trauma and continued psychologically painful experiences in Daryl Gregory’s new thriller, We Are All Completely Fine.
This is quite a cast of memorable characters: from Stan, who survived captivity with cannibals, although he sports a few less appendages, to Barbara, who carries secret messages etched on her bones courtesy of a scrimshander. Dr. Sayer is aware of their continued anxiety, and encourages the group to bond and work through their problems. Unfortunately, something dark and malicious is released through their sessions, and the danger escalates for the entire group…
Part horror, part psychological thriller, Daryl Gregory keeps us in uncomfortable suspense while managing to wrest a few chuckles along the way. If you like your horror fun, fast and frenzied, this is the book for you!
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