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Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

September 16, 2013

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Goodnight, Sweet Prince
by Dickinson, David
MYS DIC

It is the autumn of 1891, and the ugly whiff of blackmail has reached the dissolute Prince of Wales. The Crown asks Anglo-Irish Lord Francis Powerscourt to make a discreet investigation. Seasoned by years of military intelligence work, Powerscourt enlists the help of his longtime comrade in arms, Lord Johnny Fitzgerald, and together the two embark on the search for the blackmailer. When the Prince of Wales’ son, young Prince Eddy, is murdered, the nervous authorities cover up by officially reporting that he succumbed to influenza. Meanwhile, Powerscourt and Johnny search for the killer—and the blackmailer.

This is the first volume of the richly written Lord Powerscourt series of historical mysteries, noted for its beautifully drawn, engaging characters. While later books are concerned with obviously fictional events, in Goodnight, Sweet Prince, Dickinson plays with alternative history. Prince Eddy, according to the official record, did die of the flu. But suppose, just suppose, he was murdered…

          — Recommended by Miriam Guidero, Glendale Library

 

September 9, 2013

I, Iago

I, Iago
by Galland, Nicole
FIC GAL

The premise of I, Iago, a prologue to and re-telling of Shakespeare’s Othello, seems like something from a sadistic contest deliberately meant to frustrate the writer: “Create a riveting story that can captivate a reader who already knows how everything is going to end. The end, of course, being defined in the classical tradition of Shakespearean tragedy as ‘The death of near-about-everyone involved’. (Uh. Spoiler alert, I guess. But come on…) Also the protagonist you have to get your readers to relate to is one of the most reviled villains in literature. Have fun!”

Fortunately, Nicole Galland proves herself worthy of the challenge. While the old “Let’s take a classic story and write the bad guy’s side of it!” bit has been done before (Wicked; The True Story of the Three Little Pigs; Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, etc…), the stakes were never so high as they are in I, Iago. Rather than taking an approach that tries to explain the villain’s infamous deeds as simply a series of goofy misunderstanding twisted by the press, Galland digs deep into the emotions and formative events that can lead an honest and well-meaning person to do evil, without diminishing the gravity of the crimes that the protagonist(?) eventually contributes to.

This is not to say that the book is brooding, as it’s actually surprisingly fast-paced and full of rapier wit (quite literally – we’re talking 16th century Venitian high society here). However, you do have to be in the mood for bawdy innuendoes and barbed compliments delivered in flowery noble speech to enjoy the humor.

I would say it’s more enjoyable to someone who has only read the general gist of the original Othello. You don’t want to go in blind, but as a reader who only remembered the overall premise of the play from my rather disinterested reading in high school, I enjoyed being surprised by the twists and turns that arose in the latter quarter of the book (when the events of the play begin to transpire).

It is certainly more accessible than the original Shakespeare, which admittedly isn’t saying a lot. There are points where the reader who isn’t well versed in one of the three subjects of history, Italian, or Shakespeare will have to decide whether to look up a word like “Doge” or “Fluxus”, or just charge on and assume its meaning through context. Fortunately, the latter is still a perfectly viable strategy!

                                  — Recommended by Daniel Perez, East 38th Street Library

 

September 2, 2013

The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time
by Pollock, Donald Ray
FIC POL

Willard Russell is a veteran returning from the war in the Pacific in World War II. He has seen some horrible things done to his fellow soldiers, and this has scarred him for life.. There are a lot of religious overtones in this book. Willard seems to be obsessed with the crucifix. The book is full of characters but it’s not difficult to follow. A pedophile and his partner, a shyster, repeatedly test their faith. One of the most poignant characters is Willard’s wife, who is wasting away from cancer. Willard tries everything in his power to keep his wife alive, including sacrifices. Other characters in this book try to find redemption in many ways, but no matter how hard they try it seems to escape them.

Inner peace evades them. Willard and the other characters seem to think that if you have faith and religion, you will have smooth sailing without problems or worries. Most people will have empathy for Willard and the rest. This is a great book that will keep your attention for the duration.

                                           — Recommended by Gregory Hill, Decatur Library

 

August 26, 2013

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures
by Preston, Caroline
FIC PRE

This is an utterly delightful book you will want to read twice: once to admire the exquisite scrapbook memorabilia, the second time to read Frankie’s journal entries. The scrapbook starts in 1920 with Frankie’s high school graduation and chronicles her adventures, romances and career over the next eight years, all of which play out against the backdrop of the roaring 1920s. For those readers who love scrapbooking, vintage artifacts, a great love story and an engaging heroine, look no further; this novel is all of that wrapped in one package. Check out the author’s website for more information on how she created the novel and her inspirations for Frankie at www.carolinepreston.com

— Recommended by Nicole James, College Avenue Library

 

August 19, 2013

Neither Dead Nor Sleeping

Neither Dead Nor Sleeping
by Sewall, May Wright
133.9 SEW 2008

May Wright Sewall (1844 – 1920) was a leading citizen of Indianapolis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A well-known colleague of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she worked tirelessly on behalf of women’s suffrage, education, and the peace movement. With her devoted husband, Theodore Lovett Sewall, she founded the Classical School for Girls in Indianapolis, while also establishing the Indianapolis Women’s Club, the Indianapolis Propylaeum, and the Art Association of Indianapolis (later the Indianapolis Museum of Art). She was a true pioneer of social progress.

In 1918, toward the end of her life, she asked her friend Booth Tarkington to review the manuscript for the book she was writing – an account of her continuing contact with her dead husband for the preceding twenty years.

Booth Tarkington wrote in the preface to Neither Dead Nor Sleeping, “The amazing thing was, first, that it was written by Mrs. Sewall … It was to me dumfounding to find that for more than twenty years, this academic-liberal of a thousand human activities, Mrs. Sewall, had been really living not with the living, so to put it. And as I read, it seemed to me that I had never known so strange a story.”

To say that May Wright Sewall was initially scornful and dismissive of spiritualism is an understatement. But once she became convinced of the reality of other dimensions of life, ostensibly through the indefatigable efforts of the spirit of her dead husband, she became a medium herself, no longer requiring an intermediary between her and the spirit world.

The book scandalized Mrs. Sewall’s supporters and tarnished her reputation, as she knew it would. Her spiritualism is usually relegated to a footnote in her biographies, if it is mentioned at all.

May Wright Sewall dedicated her book “to all honest souls who have hitherto believed the grave to be a chasm and who would be comforted to know that it is a gate that swings both ways and can be unlocked by humans on both sides of it – to such I speak.”

She continued: “Mind, heart, and spirit – the power to know, the capacity to love, the tendency to aspire … These three elements being separable only from the body, their mortal vestment, are never separable from one another.”

This is a strange story, indeed – one that will leave you questioning your own assumptions about the nature of reality.

— Recommended by Deborah Jones, Franklin Road Library