Staff Choices

Posted by DavidO on 08/04/11
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The novel opens with Christine waking up in a bed she does not remember, next to a man she does not recognize.  As she enters the bathroom and looks into the mirror it takes her a few moments to realize that the person looking back is a version of herself much older than she can remember going to sleep as.  She also cannot remember the various other moments of her life captured in the photographs taped all around the bathroom.
At the advice of her doctor, Christine has started a diary to keep track of the events that happen to her on a day by day basis in the hope that she will begin to remember her past.  The majority of this book is told as Christine reads through her former diary entries and tries to mentally piece her life back together.
As Christine starts to read these past diary entries, she begins to question herself and all the events that have happened to her since the accident.  She also begins to notice discrepancies between what she is being told and what she has already written in her diary about her past.  Should Christine trust her husband or her doctor, who is telling her the truth?
Before I Go to Sleep is at its core an amnesia story, but also does a good job of continually building suspense as Christine’s layers of old memories unravel.
Posted by Uncle Will on 08/01/11
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What a cleverly conceived question for a mystery book premise:  "...Is it more difficult to think of the solution to a problem yourself or to ascertain if someone else's answer to the same problem is correct...?"
Yasuko is a divorced mother who is trying to piece together her life and her teenage daughter's after surviving an abusive marriage.  Constantly changing living locations and livelihoods couldn't stop her ex-husband from tracking them down.  The latest confrontation causes the daughter, Misato, to accidently aid in the killing of her father while she's defending her beaten mother. 
It seems that once again life has beaten down this pair.  In a panic they turn to a neighbor who has a secret crush on Yasuko.  He is a genius math teacher and lives in the apartment across the hall.  He views the murder as a mathematical  challenge.  He convinces the mother and daughter to follow his exact instructions and swears that they will not be implicated in the ex-husband's death.
Thus begins the mouse and cat game betwixt the math scholar formerly known as The Buddha and his long lost college friend, Dr. Yukawa, known affectionately as Detective Galileo by the homicide detectives he sometimes aids in their investigations. 
Higashino is one of the most widely known and bestselling novelists in Japan.  To date, he has at least five TV movies and three TV series to his credit.  His characters are all sympathetic.  This plot, based on a famous math premise, is similar to reading  the play-by-play of a chess game between two masters.
English majors need not hesitate from picking up this book even though math whizzes will be in undoubtedly cast into the calculus clouds.
Posted by mingh on 08/01/11
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When Beatrice Hemmings learns that her younger sister has gone missing in London, she hurriedly returns to her home country to comfort and assist her mother and the investigation. Tess is found one week later in circumstances that suggest suicide. Beatrice is unbelieving and so begins her search for the truth in her sister's life.
Beatrice tells the reader the story of her life with and without her sister. As they grow, Tess becomes the bohemian artist and Beatrice the suited New York consultant. What drove them to the choices they made? Beatrice reflects on their life together and why she is so sure her sister would not commit suicide.
Beatrice begins to understand that there was so much about her sister's life that she never knew. When Beatrice learns that Tess was pregnant and undergoing experimental gene therapy for her cystic fibrosis fetus at the time she went missing, she tries to learn everything she can about the therapy and the major pharmacy company that is underwriting it.
But Tess has also complained about menacing phone calls in the days leading up to her disappearance. And who is the father and what is his role in the story? Although the police are sympathetic, unless Beatrice can find evidence of some wrong-doing, they are reluctant to investigate. So it is up to Beatrice to find out.
Sister is part mystery, psychological suspense novel, and medical thriller all rolled into one. There are twists and turns in this novel that keep it moving at a good pace. Book discussion groups that like mysteries that delve into family relationships are sure to like this one.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 07/29/11
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Beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash is the toast of the town.  She is probably the most wealthy and eligible young heiress of the Gilded Age in America, since her father is one of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, making his mark in flour.  Their family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, puts the Vanderbilts’ down the street to shame.  Her mother’s every move is in gilded and diamond-studded excess, so that there is no doubt who has the most money in town.  Mrs. Cash has determined that the most ideal marriage for her daughter would be to a British nobleman – say, a duke, perhaps.  So Cora and her mother are off to England to find a titled husband for Cora.  Literally, quite by accident, she meets the dark, handsome and mysterious Lord Ivo Maltravers, the Duke of Wareham.  In no time flat, he asks her to marry him.  Everybody’s happy – end of story.  Right?
Not so fast . . . there are a few things not quite right here.  For one thing, our handsome Duke is broke.  So did he marry Cora only for her money?  Does he really love her?  For sure, Cora is madly in love with her husband, which is also problematic.  Since there appears that Ivo might be having an affair under Clara’s nose.  Clara soon finds out that money can’t buy happiness, especially under the critical eye of the “Double Duchess,”  Ivo’s jealous and deceitful mother.  The rigid traditions of Victorian-era British aristocracy make mincemeat of Clara’s attempts at making a name for herself in the London social scene, to the point of humiliation.  Can this marriage possibly be saved?

I normally do not read romance novels, but the vivid details of this period in history, the costumes, customs, food, and social lives of the upper class of the Gilded Age really drew me into the story.  The author deftly used the culture clash of American new money vs. Victorian tradition to move the plot along.  There were plenty of twists and turns in the plot, so that you were always second-guessing what you thought was going to happen.  The cast of supporting characters was delightful, including Prince Bertie himself.  The American Heiress is Daisy Goodwin’s debut novel, which came as a surprise to me.  Her writing is excellent and mature.  This was really a fun summer read.
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/27/11
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This modern Mephistopheles has an exotic twist.  Set in a secluded section of the Smoky Mountains, two animal activists are in the process of relocating their sixty large, rescued, endangered, wildcats to land that they recently purchased.  They are going to build their dream sanctuary.  Little does the husband and wife team realize that their new property is on the border of a place that has a history of victims being terrorized by some foul force.  
The town drunk is well aware of this foul force.  He has erected a towering lighthouse in the middle of his property that, from dusk till dawn, beams a blinding beacon of light into the dense forest.  So fearful of the dark, Wyatt French has chosen to live in the top of his lighthouse. 
The local deputy sheriff, Kevin Kimble, reluctantly partners with the town's local reporter, Roy Damus, in attempts to solve the mystery to a pattern of present and past accidental deaths.   Has a pact been made with a demon?  Could unspeakable evil be behind blatant disregard for human life?  One thing is certain.  The large cats are hip to what's happening.  They just need to be asked. 
By combining unsuspecting characters with big game action; while set in the backdrop of moody, misty mountains, Koryta has once again created an atmosphere of eeriness and terror.  What is that old saying about dancing with the Devil? 
Posted by Pam I am on 07/27/11
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This is NOT another Marley and Me dog story.  Even though, Hola, the enormous untrained Bernese Mountain Dog is the main subject of this memoir, this book offers so much more.  Martin Kihn struggles to control Hola, but this memoir focuses on Kihn's struggle with alcoholism and recovery.  Kihn is on the verge of losing it all, his job and his wife because of his out of control drinking.  He is brought into the world of addiction recovery and very poignantly reveals his personal struggle.  At the same time, he dives head first into the world of dog obedience training and attempts to get Hola to pass the Canine Good Citizen test.  This is a great, if not obvious, metaphor in his way through the "steps" of a program and his way through the "steps" of canine good citizenship.  Kihn's writing is thoughtful, funny and touching. 
Posted by mingh on 07/23/11
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Thad Roberts could never fit in anywhere. He was bullied at school and his teachers felt he wasn’t applying himself. He should be working at genius level. But Thad found a wonderful girl who loved him. When his strict Mormon parents find out about the relationship they make Thad marry and kick him out of the house. His wife works while he finishes his degree in Life Sciences.

Always dreaming of being an astronaut, Thad gets accepted into the Intern program at Johnson Space Center. He knew that all of the shuttles had pilots from the military. But there was always a scientist or two on the shuttle missions and he wanted to be one of them, or God willing, one of the first people on Mars. So leaving his wife to work in Utah, he went to Houston to start his Internship.

Because of his degree in Geology Thad was assigned to the unit that worked with the lunar samples. Due to the long distance between them, his relationship with his wife falls apart. Thad falls in love with another Intern in the program and plans to steal the moon rocks and sell them for millions of dollars so that he and his love can go away and live their own lives. One problem: it is illegal for individuals to own moon rocks in the United States.

This true story is mainly a character study, but the action runs at a steady clip. Thad Roberts shared his story with Mezrich including the events that led up to the most amazing heist in history. Sex on the Moon is a highly readable story of a terribly misguided young man who desperately wants to be accepted and loved and is willing to do anything to get it

Posted by jfreier on 07/22/11
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The year is 2030 and America is broke and reeling from terrorist attacks and a mega earthquake that levels Los Angeles, to further the mess in 2014 a cure for cancer has the population living ever longer and causing a rebellion from those under 40. This satirical look at how the president and Americans deal with these not unlikely problems leads to an unusual alliance and somewhat hopeful resolution. I think this book would also appeal to all Albert Brooks fans as his humor shines through his writing.
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 07/22/11
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"See, we love each other.  We just don't happen to like each other very much."  This statement is announced on the front cover, before you even open the book.  At first glance, the Andreas family appears to be no more dysfunctional than the average American family.  Dad is Dr. James Andreas, Shakespearean scholar and professor at a Midwestern college, who communicates largely in Shakespearean verse.  Mom is a little spacey - not so unusual - right?  The three Andreas daughters were, of course, named after characters from favorite Shakespeare plays - Rose (Rosalind from "As You Like It:); Bean (Bianca from "The Taming of the Shrew"); and Cordy (Cordelia from "King Lear).  While other kids were into normal kids' stuff - T.V., sports, shopping, etc. - the Andreas girls were into books and the unrealistic fantasy world they provided.  That's not to say that they didn't totally fulfill the characteristic traits set forth by their birth order.  Rose, the eldest, was the responsible one, to a fault.  Bean, the middle child, starved for attention, became hooked on living an exciting life.  Cordy, the youngest, was classically irresponsible and seemingly carefree.  That is until Mrs. Andreas became gravely ill with cancer.  This gave them all an excuse to come home, bad baggage and all.
Once under the same roof again, they picked up right where they left off.  Ever the martyr, Rose feels that no one can get along without her help, and has trapped herself inside a "mental circle with Barnwell at the center of it."  Bean has escaped her glitzy life in New York City with embezzlement charges pending against her by her previous employer.  And Cordy appears out of nowhere, pregnant and adrift.  All the while, Dad is spewing sonnets in lieu of advice like "The Bard" himself.
With a great caste of supporting characters, The Weird Sisters is funny and poignant at the same time.  The dialogue is smart, the character development spot on.  Eleanor Brown's debut novel deftly explores family roles and how traditional sibling rivalry can grow into mature relationships, helping each other to  finally make smart choices.  
Posted by mingh on 07/21/11
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In 2002, Miranda Kennedy decides to live in India to become a freelance journalist in that part of the world. She has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and was asked to travel to the Middle East as well as Indonesia. So India worked well for her as a base. Kennedy chooses to move to Delhi and start her adventure there.
Her own challenges when dealing with love force her to look at how women in India are dealing with love. Some have arranged marriages, some have love marriages, and some have a variation of both. She makes friends with a number of women, both Hindu and Muslim and is able to observe their lives. Marriage is the biggest event in a daughter’s life. Depending upon the faith of the family, the event may take months, the planning starts the minute a girl is born.
This is a fish-out-of-water story. One of the changes, Kennedy experiences is to put aside her independence and ego and hire maids. At first she doesn’t want maids, because she feels she is subjecting the women to this work. However, others convince her that the women need this work to survive. One of her maids is a member of the Dalit (Untouchable) caste and the other is a Brahmin, representatives of the highest and lowest castes. Kennedy finds both of their opinions valid and learns much about India and its people from them.
Some reviews have suggested this book as a read-alike for Eat, Pray, Love. Although there is a lot to learn about love and relationships in India in this book, it is more a memoir of the author's life living and working in a new country. Everything from purchasing groceries and riding the overcrowded buses and trains is included. As a Westerner you can see yourself making the same mistakes that Kennedy makes.
The story of a young woman moving to a different culture and seeing herself in the eyes of young women everywhere, who all are looking for a  love to share, a supportive family, and a place to call home. How each culture manages this and the opportunities it presents make this an interesting read. 
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