Staff Choices

Posted by jdunc on 09/30/14
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From the bestselling author of the Husband’s Secret, comes the latest novel from Liane Moriarty. Big Little Lies follows a cast of characters that interact as parents of kindergarten aged children at Piriwee Public School on the coast of Australia. Moriarty provides witty and funny characters that all have dark lies. At the center of the story is a death that occurs during trivia night to raise money for the school. The book begins 6 months earlier and intersperses police interviews with other parents into the narration. The reader is not only guessing who the murderer is, but also who was murdered for much of the story, with a twist in the last 50 pages.
The novel focuses on three mothers who form a quick, tight friendship. Jane is a plain, shy, young single mother who seems to be hiding a secret. Madeline is a flamboyant, outspoken mother of three on her second marriage. Celeste is a beautiful, wealthy mother of twin boys who seems to have a perfect life. Each carries their own big, little lie. While the plot is somewhat dark, Moriarty has the ability to seamlessly include humor which results in both disturbing and laugh out loud moments. At its heart, Big Little Lies exposes the "little" lies we tell ourselves and others to keep us going through life.
Posted by lsears on 09/27/14
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Recently fired from a high-profile law firm in Miami, FL, lawyer Kevin Wylie finds himself facing life-changing decisions directed by several outside forces.  His Type-A, career-driven girlfriend is making demands upon him.  His estranged father’s longtime companion contacts Kevin out of the blue to encourage him to re-establish a relationship with his ailing father.  A childhood friend needs his legal expertise.  All of these events converge to revolve around the Alligator Man, a reviled business owner who bilked his employees and investors and the mystery of how he ended up in a swamp one dark night.
As a legal courtroom thriller, I enjoyed the story because it is not overtly graphic in describing violent acts. The book focuses more on the details of the investigation and the sub-plot elements of Kevin’s inner struggles with professional integrity and his personal relationships.  Kevin does not work alone and the characters who assist him with his detective work are dedicated to honesty and truth. Some of the plot twists really drew me in and left me wondering what will happen next.
Author James Sheehan’s real-life experience as a trial lawyer gives the courtroom scenes a credibility that someone in the profession can really convey.
Posted by Ultra Violet on 09/17/14
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Powerhouse of rock and roll energy straight out of Chicago.
Ezra Furman's earlier work, "Mysterious Power" 2011 and "Year of No Returning" 2013, were both great in different ways. The first being more Bob Dylan-ish and the second being a bit darker and hard to classify, but "Day of the Dog" is an intense, beautiful, hard-edge melodic masterpiece. Furman's lyrics are fascinating enough to hold up to multiple listenings; each time you catch a bit more of his poetry. Having read that he was inspired by Lou Reed, it became appearant, but Furman's much higher voice gives that style of music an entirely different sound. I would liken it most to the Violent Femmes or the Pixies.
The songs on this album and his others are all so different, that if you don't care for the first one, give another one a try. "My Zero" is a particularly lovely, mellow song, while "I Wanna Destroy Myself" is a straight-up punk song. It's always exciting to me to find a new favorite performer, but even more so when it is a Chicago native.
Posted by jmurrow-res on 09/17/14
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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe, best known for his web comic XKCD, which covers everything from advanced mathematics to romance and Internet memes, is a hilarious, subversively intelligent book that more than lives up to its title and was almost impossible for me to put down.  Beautifully illustrated, with the author’s trademark stick figures and infographics, What If? answers such important questions as “What would happen if you pitch a baseball at 99% the speed of light (hint: explosions), “If everybody in the US drove west, could we temporarily halt continental drift?”, and “Could a person walk the entire city of NY in their lifetime? (including inside apartments)?” (hint: you could, but the prison sentence for trespassing would be a bit of a pain). 
As a bit of a geek, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it for the lighthearted scientists in your life. Or those slightly odd friends, whom everyone looks at askance when they wonder aloud whether Yoda could use his Force powers to generate electricity.
Posted by bpardue on 09/17/14
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The MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award" Fellowships were announced today. With that in mind, why not take a quick listen to some cutting edge jazz from 1999 local Fellowship recipient, Chicagoan Ken Vandermark? "Free Jazz, vols. 3 & 4," with his ensemble the Vandermark 5, celebrates the music of saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The pieces start with the original melody, quickly swirling off into energetic free explorations.  Thrilling, challenging stuff.
Posted by bpardue on 09/11/14
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Codona was the trio of sitar/tabla/dulcimer player Colin Walcott, legendary free jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Nana Vasconcelos. In July 2013, The Wire music magazine went so far as to ask "Could this be the most influential group of the last 30 years?" Certainly not by sales, but they certainly anticipated the coming wave of interest in world music in the three very special albums they created between 1978 and 1982. However, their vision of world music was a unique hybrid that spanned continents, with any given song featuring a mix of instruments from India, West Africa or Brazil, along with jazz trumpet and singing/chanting. This is music simultaneously from nowhere/everywhere. It runs from experimental ("Trayra Boia") to playful ("Colemanwonder," which includes a snippet of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke") to ritual ("Mumakata"). It might be a bit much to sit through all three albums in one package, but there's a lot of beauty in this set, and it's well worth a listen. Find it via the hoopla music/video/audiobook service.
Posted by dnapravn on 09/09/14
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A Man Called Ove is the debut novel of Swedish author Fredrik Backman and is, in my opinion, a real gem. I laughed out loud, cried out loud, and seriously did not want this book to end.
Ove is, in a word, grumpy. He likes things his way and only his way. He drives a Saab and has no patience for anyone that doesn't. He is a rule follower and expects all others to be as well. He spends hours patroling the grounds of his housing community. He is a cat-hater and is not too crazy about kids either. So why does a mangy cat that he refers to as Cat Annoyance keep showing up on his doorstep?
When Ove is forced into early retirement, the recently widowed 59-year-old devises a plan to deal with the emptiness in his life. He doesn't figure on the new neighbors, a stray cat, old friends, and a mail carrier, among others, to mess up that plan.
This is a story about love and loss, life and death, loyalty, doing the right thing, crazy neighbors, and a whole lot more. I loved this novel and its quirky characters. This is, by far, one of my favorite reads of the year.
Posted by Kelley M on 09/03/14
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Having enjoyed other books by award winning novelist Jon Krakauer, I decided it was way past time to read this book.  I have always appreciated reading about other cultures & religions, regardless of how “on the fringe” they might be.  Under The Banner Of Heaven delves into the world of religious extremism.  The book is about the extremist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints/Mormonism).  It truly is a whole other world, full of prophecies, power struggles, polygamy and more.  So interesting to read about things I know nothing about!
Through the story of two brothers (Ron & Dan Lafferty), who commit murder because of prophecy, we learn more about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Sometimes, I pick up a non-fiction book & struggle to make it through.  Jon Krakauer makes non-fiction truly reader-friendly.  If you like this book, check out the author's other books Into The Wild and Into Thin Air.  Both are non-fiction but totally different than this book.  That's the great thing about this author, every book is totally different.
Posted by crossin on 09/02/14
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I have always loved this time of year.  I was one of those kids that couldn’t wait for school to start—I looked forward to shopping for school supplies, getting my class schedule and feeling autumn in the air.  I now live close to a high school, and when I heard the marching band practicing last month, I waxed nostalgic for my school days.  I decided to share a couple of my favorite teen movies, Footloose and The Breakfast Club, with my daughter—I think she enjoyed them as much as I did when I was young.  If you’re in the mood to relive a bit of your high school years, check out one of my eleven (no, I couldn’t narrow it down to ten) favorite teen films.
Posted by jfreier on 08/28/14
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 A great look at the pinnacle of hotel luxury, the Hotel Ritz in Paris from it's opening in 1898 until the present with much of the book focusing on the years of the Nazi occupation. The portion of the book during the occupation is perhaps the most interesting, the Nazis occupied one wing and left the adjoining older building to the rich and famous, Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Edgar Degas and many others.
Joseph Goebbels demanded that the party must go on and even the German army was not to wear uniforms while in bar or dining rooms. There are tales of wild parties, intrigue, and even romance and leads up to the night Princess Diana left on her last night and up until present.
A romantic look at the famous hotel with great gossip and wild stories, some of which are hard to believe, but an entertaining read.
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