Staff Choices

Posted by BARB W on 04/09/17
The film Uncommon Grace: The Life of Flannery O’Connor is a revealing portrait of one of the most remarkable authors of the 20th century. O’Connor died at age 39, but in her short life, she left behind a series of stories that continue to captivate her readers and draw the attention of scholars and devotees alike.

The reason? A body of short fiction that will knock the wind out of you. A Southern Catholic in a primarily Protestant region, O’Connor‘s questions of faith are always at the root of her stories. Her characters will be familiar to you: mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children. She will lure you in with these characters, and as she reveals their eccentricities, get ready for these stories to take you to some very dark, violent places in their search for faith and redemption.

Before you watch this, you might want to check out one of her short story collections, Everything That Rises Must Converge, or A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. There was also a film made from one of her two novels, John Huston’s Wise Blood, with Brad Dourif in the starring role of Hazel Motes, a crazy character in conflict with his faith.

From the violent encounter between Grandfather Fortune and Granddaughter Mary Fortune Pitts in A View of the Woods, to the bible salesman who steals Joy’s leg in the barn loft in Good Country People, you will be drawn into the peculiar and curious world of Flannery O’Connor. Indulge yourself with these flawless stories. 
Posted by SherriT on 03/27/17
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It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany packs a lot of emotional impact into a relatively short read. The story centers around two best friends, Tyler and Amber, who have helped each other through rough times in their lives. You meet them as teenagers dealing with issues like body images, eating disorders, anxiety, broken families and strained relationships, and unrequited love. The story is told from both perspectives so you see the characters grow up and their friendship expand over the years, as they get older. Then one horrible night in their twenties, something happens that changes not only their relationship but also their lives forever.

For me, this book read as a very real story. The blurry details, the guilt, and the emotions -- the reader feels all these things from both characters. Unfortunately, this story happens all over the world and is often never reported nor discussed. The topic of consent is one every parent must discuss with both their daughters and their sons. This novel vividly highlights the strength it takes to move beyond an assault. The pages Hatvany wrote capture the emotional toll that rape takes on an individual, their family, and sometimes their assailant.

Hatvany describes what it is like to be on both sides of the date rate spectrum, and her story drives home why it is so important to have conversations with both our sons and daughters. Every high school and college student should read this book to see how one very serious act could ruin the lives of both involved.
Posted by jonf on 03/26/17
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 Nick Mason is in Terre Haute federal prison serving 25 years to life for covering a friend who killed a federal agent. Nick then gets an offer he can't refuse, Chicago cartel kingpin, Darius Cole offers him his release and conviction overturned if he will sign his life over to him for 20 years. Nick must answer his special phone and perform whatever task Darius demands.
Nick is set free and set up in a Lincoln Park townhouse with a vintage mustang and 10 grand a month.
The first call Nick gets reveals how deep he is in with the Cole empire and his handler Quintero, the story brings Nick back to his days in Canaryville and to the man he covered for. Great story, realistic Chicago locales and Steve Hamilton is just a great storyteller.
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/24/17
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Trevor Noah was born in South Africa to a black mother and a white father at the time when a union such as that was a crime under Apartheid rule. Noah's mother had to hide and shelter him for much of his childhood. In a place where Browns were only allowed to live with other Browns; Black only with Blacks; Whites with Whites; etc., a light-skinned African was a beacon of hatred and persecution. Young Noah did not make things easy for his mother, but she taught him to be proud and devout. Most times, she would have to chase him down and beat some sense into him, but his love for her never wavered. This book is humorous and sometimes sad. I had no idea who Noah was before reading this book and wasn't aware that he is a stand-up comic and that he has his own late night TV show in America. Add successful author to his resume. This book has a nice flow to it. I picked it up in our Marketplace just to review it and ended up not being able to put it down. 
Posted by Lucy S on 03/09/17
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Lillian Boxfish was always drawn to the thriving energy of New York City and to the lure of poetry and words; her imagination sparked by postcards her Aunt Sadie mailed to her when she was a child. She moved there as soon as she could despite her mother's disapproval. It is now 1984, New Year’s Eve and Lillian is an elderly woman in years but not in her outlook. She is planning to eat dinner alone, her son far away in Maine with his family.
As she walks across Manhattan on her way to accept a new friend’s party invitation, she meets several people along the way. Not every encounter is pleasant and she handles it in her direct, no-nonsense manner. Life in her beloved city is told through flashbacks. A journey from the Jazz Age to her work writing advertising for R.H. Macy to being a published author of poetry to her marriage and to her grappling to maintain her identity. 
Don’t rush through life seems to be the predominant message but the tone is a little bittersweet to me. I always like a strong female character in a novel who still has vulnerabilities. Her reminiscences reveal how much living can go on in one person's life.
Author Kathleen Rooney lives in Chicago, teaches at DePaul University and has written several books.
Posted by ahenkels on 03/06/17
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Two by Two is the latest novel by Nicholas Sparks and to me, it did not disappoint. I’ve been a fan of the author since I was in middle school, when I first read A Walk to Remember and The Notebook.  When I picked up Two by Two, I expected something just like Sparks’ other novels, but this one was different for me.

The story is about Russell Greene, a 32 year old marketing executive who thinks he has it all. A beautiful wife and daughter and a great job. This is the story of how it all falls apart for Russ and how he pulls everything together. There is a little bit of everything in this story: love, second chances, betrayal, family values, and successes. It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once I was hooked, it was totally worth it. By the time I was halfway through the story, I could not put the book down. 

The next time you want to grab a book that will touch you in an unexpected way, check out Two by Two. You will not be disappointed.
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/22/17
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One of my friends in our Monday Mystery Discussion Group suggested I read Lock In. She said that it was both a mystery and a sci-fi novel; which in itself is novel. John Scalzi is the award winning author of the Old Man's War Novel Series:
Old Man’s War (2005)
The Ghost Brigades (2006)
The Last Colony (2007)
Zoe’s Tale (2008)
The Human Division (2013)
The End of All Things (2015)
Scalzi won the Hugo Award for his stand-novel Redshirts in 2013.
Lock in is a fast-read. It has a lot of dialog that is both witty and thoughtful. The main character, Chris Shane, is as unique a character that I have ever run across in literature. This mystery is a metaphor for future politics, race relations, science, economy, religion, and artificial life. I hope that Scalzi decides to write more books in this series since he only gets to describe the tip of the chunk of ice. 
Posted by bpardue on 02/21/17
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Guitar great Larry Coryell passed away on February 19. Through his early solo work on albums like Spaces and with his band The Eleventh House, Coryell was one of the core innovators of the jazz fusion movement, which merged jazz proficiency with the power and volume of rock and the cross-cultural influences of world music. His later work would turn more straight-ahead, but still commanded tremendous respect from jazz fans. For more of his albums, also check out hoopla.
Posted by Lucy S on 02/09/17
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Margaret Creasy has gone missing. Everyone liked her and everyone is worried. The summer of 1976 is hot and people are blaming erratic behavior on the weather, perhaps even her disappearance. Ten-year-old Grace attends church with a grandmotherly neighbor and decides that if she finds God she will also find Mrs.Creasy. She sets out to do this with her friend Tilly. Grace is the main narrator of the story but other neighbors’ viewpoints begin to add to our understanding that something happened nine years ago that has bound this block of neighbors together. Grace has a sweet naïve charm about her, always watching and observing the adults around her.
Another neighbor, Walter, has become a pariah. Is there something sinister about him or did the neighbors act without evidence? Is this life in a suburban neighborhood where they know each other too well or is there a bit of mob mentality involved?

The writing is lovely, I found myself re-reading sentences, light but direct, with humor interjected, and insightful despite a very serious incident/mystery that affects them all.

This is author Joanna Cannon's debut novel.
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/08/17
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The 1944 film, Laura  was adapted from the sensational mystery, Laura, written by Vera Caspary in 1942. The film was nominated for 4 Oscars and won one for "Best Cinematography, Black-and-White."
Besides being clever, witty, engrossing, endearing, and inspiring, Caspary's novel was unique for the fact that her narrative was written in 3 different points-of-view. This proved challenging for Preminger's film adaptation. He hired 2 women and 1 man to write the screenplay, which also was nominated for an Oscar. The novel is only 197 pages and the film only runs 87 minutes; however, the end product in both is forever memorable.
The film's theme was written by David Raksin & Johnny Mercer. It's been recorded over 400 times. Johnny Mathis' version on his CD A Personal Collection: The Music Of Johnny Mathis is sweet. 
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