Staff Choices

Posted by Ultra Violet on 04/22/14
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If you hate math as much as I do, but have an interest in astronomy and physics, this is the book for you. Tagmark clearly explains his theories of a multiverse and how our physical reality is mathematical in nature, without being boring or overly academic. The math is presented in a manner that enables you to see it in a whole new way. This book is a synthesis of popular science, hard science and autobiography.
 
Tagmark's obvious exuberance about his subject shines through and stokes the reader's excitement about these facts and theories as well. Not only is Our Mathematical Universe a fun book to peruse if you are a novice science geek, like me, but someone with a serious interest and understanding of astrophysics could read it cover to cover and have quite a bit of food for thought.
Posted by Kelley M on 04/18/14
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“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”
 
This book is loosely based on the real lives of two abolitionist sisters, Sarah & Nina Grimke.  Sarah & Nina grew up in Charleston, South Carolina during the decline of the plantation era.  The novel spans over 35 years & tells the story of not just Sarah & Nina, but also the slaves that their family owned.  We watch as Sarah, Nina, and Hetty “Handful” Grimke (their slave) move past the social barriers placed upon them (the Invention of Wings), being ostracized along the way.

The author, Sue Monk Kidd, adds fictional dimensions to the history of the Grimkes.  Through these fictional accounts, we learn a lot about actual history.  We become acquainted with the relationships between children slaves & plantation owners’ children, religious dynamics of the era, family relationships, the lives of slaves and the abolitionist movement as the story progresses.  The plot, while slow to start, really picks up momentum about halfway through. 

If you liked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom or Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini, you might want to give this read a try…
 
Posted by bpardue on 04/17/14
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All is Lost (also available in Blu-ray) could also be subtitled "just when you think it can't get worse."  Robert Redford's unnamed solo sailor is in full crisis-management mode after his sailboat is severely damaged by a collision with a drifting cargo container. He's a resourceful guy, and he systematically (and wordlessly) goes through the process of doing what's necessary to manage the crisis. However, some crises just can't be managed. Pretty soon, it's just an all-out struggle to survive in the face of dwindling supplies, bad weather and even a few sharks. Despite having only one character and almost no speaking (apart from a few well-placed expletives and pleas), All is Lost holds your attention through its harrowing and (presumably) realistic depiction of being held hostage to the sea's whim. Frankly, I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did, but I was glad I watched.
Posted by jfreier on 04/12/14
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King and Maxwell are back for the sixth book in this series by David Baldacci.
Tyler Wingo a teen is given the tragic news that his father was killed in Afghanistan, but later hears from him after his supposed death. Tyler hires Sean and Michelle to investigate and it leads to a larger and more dangerous conspiracy that puts all three in danger.
 
The two are lead to higher ups in the Pentagon and to the White House in this typically fast paced style of Baldacci, the relationship of Sean and Michelle deepens and actually adds to the story, as does their protection of Tyler, a bit of a slow start, but the pace picks up and is another easy but escapist read. Sorry to hear the T.V series King and Maxwell was cancelled.
Posted by dnapravn on 04/10/14
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Every once in a while I get ambitious about cooking, much to my family's delight (or dismay...I'm not 100% sure). So when I discovered 200 Skills Every Cook Must Have: The Step by Step Methods that Will Turn a Good Cook into a Great Cook by Clara Paul and Eric Treuille, I was intrigued. How many of those skills did I already possess and what new skills could I learn?
 
200 Skills Every Cook Must Have is an illustrated guide laid out in a simple step-by-step format. The book concentrates on skills rather than recipes, although it does contain its fair share of basic recipes for sauces and such. Organized by topic, it covers a wide range of cooking skills from very basic skills such as separating eggs and peeling and dicing, to more challenging skills like steaming lobster and making soufflés.
 
The book contained many skills I already knew how to do (thank goodness!), as well as things I know I will never need to do, such as spatchcocking a chicken, which is to remove the back and breast bone so the chicken can be laid out flat. Seriously? More importantly though, it was filled with tips and tricks I'd like to try, as well as things I've done once or twice but am certainly no expert at, such as making gravy or hollandaise sauce.
 
All in all, I found that this book has something for everyone and proves to be a great guide for all skill levels. Bon appétit!
cooking
Posted by lsears on 04/07/14
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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mojave, California to the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon is not for the faint of heart.  A chance encounter of purchasing a trail guide sparked a quest that changed the author’s life.

It is 1995.  Cheryl Strayed is 26 years old, suffering from a deep grief for her mother’s death, dealing with poor life decisions, experiencing a growing disconnection from her family and is newly divorced.  These events bring her to such a low point in her life that she begins this trek to walk 1,100 miles that will take her three months to complete.   The trail is rugged, remote and unforgiving.   She does not see another person for her first eight days on the trail.  She has never been so alone.  Dealing with nature’s elements and carrying the weight of everything she needs on her back take a physical and emotional toll.  And yet she presses on through extreme weather conditions, blisters, detours, inexperience, self-doubt, exhaustion and fear.  It’s as if she needed to purge everything from her past and punish herself while doing it so she could move ahead with her life. 

This memoir is beautifully written with honesty, sadness and a little bit of humor.  By the end I felt that I travelled the journey alongside the author.  Despite the harsh conditions, she also experiences nature’s beauty on the trail, friendships with other hikers, and an inner strength.  These qualities kept me reading and I wanted her to succeed.  In the end, I think she found what she was looking for.

 
memoir
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/07/14
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Lillyhammer is not just another fish-outta-water-story. It is more like a whale-outta-puddle-tale. 
 
Steven Van Zandt stars in this comedy series about a New York mobster-turned-informant who enters the Witness Protection Program and requests the title town of Lillehammer, Norway as his future home. What transpires is a hard man's adjustment to the simple, cold life of an idyllic Norwegian town (population 27,000) and the townsfolk's adjustment to his self-entitled "American" ways.
 
American gangster, Frank Tagliano, only knows one way of living his life. He fell in love with a remote village while watching the 1994 Olympics, which were hosted in Norway. Frank knows that his only hope for survival, after ratting out his new boss, is selecting the last place on earth that his enemies would guess that he is hiding. What he doesn't realize is that the climate is mostly frigid; the people are cordial, but like sheep; and the customs and norms are alien to his past experience. The by-product is a clever situation comedy where the plot outcomes are usually foreseen, but the process is worth the time expended in watching.
 
"Little Steven" Van Zandt, if you are not a TV fan of The Sopranos, is also the lead guitarist with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. This multitalented man even provides several soundtrack songs to his show. After checking out the first season, look for Season 2 to be in our catalog soon.
 
 
 
Posted by Kelley M on 04/02/14
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The story begins in 1912, when a Scottish, published poet named Elspeth Dunn, starts receiving fan mail from a young American named David Graham. Elspeth has a phobia for traveling & has been on the island of Skye almost her entire life. Through the continued correspondence of Elspeth & David, their fondness for each other grows. Elspeth, however, is married to a sailor/soldier. Will this alter a future for Elspeth & David?

We learn that Elspeth has a daughter & through her daughter’s letters, we learn more about Elspeth’s life. We find out that there is one lost letter that remains to help Margaret, Elspeth’s daughter, find out the truth about what happened to her family & her mother.

David goes off to France to drive ambulances during the war, to avoid the career his father demands. David’s storyline in France helps give a good framework for the letters & also helps us see what an impact war had on every day individuals like this. By telling the story through letters, you feel like you’re peeking into real peoples’ lives. The audio book version is delightful. It gives you a real feel for the characters. The author, Jessica Brockmole, describes historical aspects in delicious detail, helping transport the reader to that time.

If you liked The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, you might want to give this read a try.

Posted by jkadus on 03/31/14
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April signals the start not only of MLB, but also the start of the Cubs/White Sox rivalry.  No matter which team you favor, we've got plenty of material to keep you occupied between games.  Play Ball!

Posted by jdunc on 03/28/14
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Listening to Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding is like a visit from a completely irrational, but insanely hilarious old friend. In some ways, Bridget is the same Bridge we met almost 20 years ago------ drinking too many units of wine and clueless about the dating world, but with the added stresses of understanding Twitter, adjusting to being a single mum to two young kids, and dealing with the death of her husband, the much loved Mark Darcy.

The audio is read by Samantha Bond, perhaps better known as Rosamund Painswick of Downton Abbey. As I listened, I could picture Bridget obsessively checking for new “twitterati” and the complete chaos of her home. She has much needed support from her  friends, Tom, Jude, Talitha, and Daniel Cleaver. Bond does wonderful voices of all the characters, especially 6-year-old Mabel (lisp included) and 30-year-old boy toy, Roxster.  Bond's ability to capture Bridget’s hurt and loneliness at losing her husband made me tear up, but in true Bridget style I was laughing again by the next diary entry. As a Bridget Jones fan I really enjoyed this book and revisiting her life 20 years later. It was comforting to see Bridget is the same neurotic, obsessive, lovable woman we met so long ago. The audio was so much fun to listen to and I enjoyed every bit of it.
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