Staff Choices

Posted by SherriT on 01/27/17
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Graham Moore's page-turning legal thriller, The Last Days of Night, takes us back to the Golden Age of New York City.
In the late 19th century, as Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse began wiring America for electricity, the titans locked horns over which electrical standard would prevail—Westinghouse’s AC (alternating current) or Edison’s DC (direct current)—in a struggle that came to be known as the “War of the Currents.”

Moore tells the story from the point of view of Paul Cravath, the young attorney charged with defending Westinghouse against a potentially devastating one billion dollar patent lawsuit brought by Edison. The key to winning, Cravath decides, is to get Nikola Tesla—the quirky and elusive inventor —to invent a better lightbulb. This plan is met with many obstacles.

A devastating lab fire! An inexplicable disappearance! A beautiful diva with a mysterious past! An attempted murder! An electrocuted dog! This story has it all! The novel’s action takes place against a backdrop rich with period detail.

As Cravath embarks on his long-shot representation of Westinghouse, he begins to rub noses with the elite of New York society, including Edison’s investor J.P. Morgan and popular singer Agnes Huntington (who later becomes Cravath’s love interest). Everyone has his or her own agenda and no one can be trusted.  Cravath needs to figure out what motivates each player and how to be the best at a game he does not fully understand.

This is historical fiction at its best. The Last Days of Night - with its glowing, burnished book cover- informs, entertains, teaches and leaves a reader with much to consider. Eddie Redmayne has signed on to star as Paul Cravath in the 2018 release of the film adaption of the book. Last Days of Night shines brightly indeed.
Posted by bpardue on 01/26/17
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A team of chefs from the US have just won the prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition for the first time ever. Andrew Friedman's Knives at Dawn (2009) recounts the 2008 effort to try and make the US team a serious contender in the annual event, despite never having finished better than sixth place. In her previous review of Knives at Dawn (print edition), mingh stated:
This is the story of what it took to compete with the tremendous dedication, creativity, and stress that comes with a competition of this stature. Andrew Friedman has access to all of the players involved and you read about the evolution of a dish from something plain to something magnificent.

A wonderfully engaging book about the haute couture of food competitions. If you like food challenge shows such as Top Chef, this may also pique your interest.
This edition is an eAudiobook, available immediately (no holds needed) through the library's subscription to hoopla digital.
Posted by ahenkels on 01/20/17
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As a fan of the Mortal Instruments series, I was excited to hear that Cassandra Clare would write another series in the Shadow Hunter World. The Dark Artifices series begins with Lady Midnight and Clare does not disappoint.

The story follows Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family. After Emma’s parents are brutally murdered, the Blackthorns adopt her.  She trains to be a shadowhunter alongside her parabati, Julian. When murders are happening throughout LA the same way her parents were murdered, it is up to Emma and Julian to solve the mystery. If they are able to solve this, then they will be able to have Julian’s older brother, Mark, return home after being captured by Faeries.

The Shadowhunter world is fascinating to me. There are vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and other supernatural beings and it is up to the Shadowhunters (humans with some angel blood) to protect humans from the supernatural world. Clare brings back characters from other series of the shadowhunter world and ties all the stories together. This book is a must read if you are a fan of Clare’s other books.
Posted by lbanovz on 01/17/17
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It’s now January, and we’re in the throes of winter. As the grey firmly sets in outside, I cannot help but dream of palm trees and white, sandy beaches. Enchanted Islands by Alison Amend is exactly the sort of novel you need as the thermometer hovers in teens. Based on the remarkable memoirs of Frances Conway, Amend has crafted a lyrical story that traipses from Duluth, Minnesota to the golden coast of San Francisco and even further out to the mystical Galapagos Islands.
We follow Frances as she grows up in the Midwest with her best friend, Rosalie, before the two girls’ lives take startling different paths. Rosalie becomes a socialite, while Frances takes a job working for Navy Intelligence as secretary in California. One day, at the age of 50, in the midst of WWII, Frances finds herself assigned to a new mission: marry Ainslie Conway – one of the Navy’s intelligence officers – and move to the Galapagos as his wife to spy on the Germans. Which sounds crazy, except for the fact that it really happened: the real Frances did marry Ainslie and move to the Galapagos, all on orders from the U.S. Navy. A completely incongruous couple, Frances and Ainslie settle (somewhat) into their life together.
Granted, Amend has taken liberties with the historical accuracy of the story, but it makes for a compelling read. The meat of the story is really Frances and Rosalie’s relationship, but I loved that Amend allows the Galapagos a life of its own, making it a central character in and of itself. Readalikes include The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, a beautiful historical fiction about a strong women that centers around nature, and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, for its depiction of fierce female friendship.
Posted by jonf on 01/10/17
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 Virgil Flowers is back in John Sandford's newest thriller. Two rare Amur tigers have been stolen from the Minnesota zoo and
 Virgil is called in to locate them before it's too late. A local doctor who sells medicine made from rare animals to sell to China
 is working with locals known to Virgil. The case has a few surprises and a side mystery with Virgil's girlfriend Frankie.
 All said this is a very satisfying book, fast and often funny. Virgil is a nice contrast to Sandford's Lucas Davenport series.
Posted by BARB W on 01/06/17
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Lady Gaga’s latest CD, Joanne, is another stunning addition to the artists already complex and varied musical collection. She continues to add new sounds and styles to her repertoire, and reveal fresh sides of her musical nature.

Joanne is scaled back, softer and more acoustically inclined than most of her works. The ballads are soulful, and open a window into a very personal side of Gaga. There is an elemental power in these songs, an earnestness that is in contrast to some of the other more sensational facets of this richly talented woman.

If you are not already a fan, this might be the time to reach deep into your soul and give this dynamic artist a chance.
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/28/16
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I used to work with emotionally disturbed boys many, many years ago. That is what they were labeled back in the '70's. What these 8-18 year olds were was basically unloved. I met many boys that were like, Ricky Baker, the main character in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Ricky becomes the key figure in a New Zealand national manhunt when he disappears into the "bush" with his new foster parent, Sam Neill. This film already has won 13 international awards and is arguably the feel good movie of the year.
     The cast is perfect. The humor is dry. The sets are lush. The writer/director is Taika Waititi, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his 12-minute short film in 2005, Two Cars, One Night; which can be viewed in the "special features" that's included in the DVD of another one of his films - Boy.  Waititi also co-wrote and co-starred in last year's hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows.
     This type of film is usually referred to as "art-house cinema."  It's warm and humorous and is a great film for the holiday season - when sometimes things can a little heavy.
Posted by SherriT on 12/20/16
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" If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." - Dr. Martin Luther King

Jodi Picoult’s bold new book, Small Great Things, is my favorite book of 2016. We have a white author bringing to us a story depicting what racism looks like and trying to tell those of us who are not black, what it feels like. But anyone who has read  Jodi Picoult's books knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult to discuss topics.

Ruth Jefferson is a nurse in a New Haven hospital. She’s good at her job, well-liked, a devoted mother. Turk Bauer and his wife Brit are new parents, anxious, tired and full of love for their baby son. They also happen to be White Supremacists and Ruth happens to be Black. Because of skin color, Ruth is deemed unworthy of taking care of their son and they demand she is removed from their case. Instead of standing with their employee, the hospital acquiesces to the demand and Ruth is removed from the case. However, when a simple procedure turns tragic, Ruth is the only nurse in the room. As the Bauer baby goes into distress, Ruth's split-second hesitation results in accusations of both neglect and conspiracy, and Ruth finds herself on trial for murder. When middle-class, white public defender Kennedy McQuarrie takes Ruth’s case, she insists that race never be mentioned in the courtroom as a strategy for success. Both women are forced to tackle a lifetime’s worth of history, prejudice, insults and privilege in order to trust each other in the hopes of victory in court and redemption in life. The author tells this complex story through the alternating views of Ruth, Turk and Kennedy.
This book is not only well written, but insightful and compelling. It was easy to follow the alternating points of view and the characters were so well-developed. As usual I can tell how much research went into this book. Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me with how she can both entertain and teach me with her books.
This book was written at a racially-charged time where discussion is sorely needed.  It should be on everyone’s 2017 book club list. Although Small Great Things is tough to read at times, I think it's an important read and I highly recommend it.
Posted by Lucy S on 12/10/16
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A political revolution has displaced Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov from his seat of prominence. Because a published poem attributed to him was deemed as a call to action, the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs exiles him to the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. Previously residing there in a luxurious suite of rooms his living space is reduced to a mere 100 square feet  in the attic. He is to never leave the grounds of the Metropol. Little does he know that, in time, he may come to consider himself the luckiest man in Moscow.
Years pass and Alexander, former aristocrat, is now the head waiter in the hotel’s restaurant. He forms a tight group of trusted friends amid the hotel workers. Here is where his impeccable manners serve him well as the hotel still bustles with activity, foreign visitors, military and political figures, and an enemy amongst the staff. Unexpectedly, a six-year-old child comes into Alexander’s life. Sophia is a breath of fresh air with her youthful innocence and becomes his responsibility when her mother never returns. The hotel also becomes her community as she grows up there.

This novel is about the measure of a person under circumstances out of their control. How can you outwit an adversary or use their predictability to your advantage? Alexander finds himself in a desperate situation that requires a desperate response. The nuances of etiquette and language are used to great effect here. I found Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow to be a very satisfying read, intelligently written, and filled with gentility and manners in an ugly world.


Posted by BARB W on 12/03/16
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In her 2016 novel Everfair, Nisi Shawl tackles a complex and seldom visited period in world history, the colonization of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium. The story of the massive slaughter and dehumanization of the Congolese was repressed for many years, and now Shawl brings it to life in a unique and spectacular way. She avoids bland academic interpretations and passive retrospectives and instead takes us on a journey through the Congo as she rewrites history with a fresh expression, using the steampunk genre as her vehicle.

As with all speculative fiction, you must immerse yourself in the “what if”, and the alternate reality she proposes. What if steam power were available much earlier in the Congo? Would this have given them the power to support and protect their people? Would it be possible to create a safe haven, and would this Utopia be enough to withstand the pressure and exploitation from challenging sources?

But it is in the telling of this story that Shawl really shines. There is no single perspective here; the characters telling the story are male, female, Europeans, Americans, Africans, and Asians, they are kings, servants, politicians, nurses and scientists, and this fascinating blend of voices contributes deeply to the rich tapestry of this tale.

Enough said. I have revealed more than I should.  Check this book out and go on a remarkable journey with a unique voice in speculative fiction.
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