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Staff Picks

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

May 20, 2013

Glass Houses

Glass Houses
by Caine, Rachel

College freshman Claire Danvers thought her parents were being too overprotective by sending her to Texas Prairie University instead of letting her attend MIT. Protecting their daughter from growing up and experiencing life is the least of the Danvers’ worries when Claire learns that Morganville is a haven for vampires.

When living in the dorm becomes too much (and too dangerous), Claire moves off campus and into Glass House, a house owned by Michael Glass, who readers quickly learn has secrets of his own. Claire makes friends with house roommates Eve and Shane, a couple of Morganville locals, who teach Claire how to stay out of harm’s way and survive in a town where the impossible is very much possible.

Glass Houses is the first book in Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series. Caine does a good job of character development and explaining just what makes Morganville tick in the first couple of books. Further into the series readers will learn about Morganville’s history and just how deep Claire’s involvement with the town will run. This series is a good one to pick up for those who enjoy reading paranormal fiction such as the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.

                            — Recommended by Aimee Bittle, Garfield Park Library


May 13, 2013

Summer Lies

Summer Lies
by Schlink, Bernhard

Currently, short stories abound, fitting perfectly into our fast paced lives, but I've found none so deeply satisfying as Bernhard Schlink's Summer Lies. Each finely tuned scrumptious tale begged to be reread. This set of seven stories has been translated from German and all have European travel in common, with the characters maneuvering precarious social situations. After reading about the persons you will meet--- playwright, writer, musician, househusband, grandmother, murderer, father, son--- our own relationships may seem less complicated, more successful!

A musician and trust fund baby meet while on vacation and engage in a mutually deceitful yet satisfying affair. Upon returning home, they make decisions based on reality, not fantasy.

A woman author has a househusband who has begun taking controlling behaviors to an extreme. What steps will he take to prevent her fame from disrupting their idyllic life in the country?

While on an all night flight, imagine yourself seated next to a passenger who unburdens himself, confessing a murder. The murder that he committed while involved in human trafficking. Upon arrival, you notice that your wallet is missing. There are so many ways this story can go….identity theft is one of them, but Bernhard has a surprise in store and I will not disclose it!

An estranged father and son take a trip together-a music festival-will they finally be able to finally discuss the issues left unanswered for decades? Will they be able to translate these emotions with the help of music?

How does a grandmother cope with the loss of love for her own grandchildren? Her granddaughter tries to encourage her to try to reconnect with pleasurable memories from youth, only to find that her youthful actions were alienating for others then, also.

If you enjoy these stories, rush out and top them off with a copy of Schlink's more famous book, The Reader, which will not disappoint. Caution: if you begin to devour a story before bed, your sleep may be postponed!

                                        — Recommended by Sharon McKittrick, Lawrence Library


May 6, 2013

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools
by Brill, Steven
371.01 BRI

I had not known who Steven Brill was until encountering his terrific piece "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," a special report which Time magazine published on March 4th of this year. I found the writing to be clear, accessible, and willing to stake out a position (which is something journalist writers often seem to struggle with).

Brill displays all of those traits in this book as well. Structured as a kind of annotated timeline (from January 2009 to Winter 2011), Brill takes a look at Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top program, the Harlem Success Academy charter schools, then-New York School Chancellor Joel Klein, then-Chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system Michelle Rhee, and current president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten.

Brill controversially identifies teacher unions as the most conservative and problematic player in education reform. Initially he is able to marshal the work of skilled charter school teacher Jessica Reid as well as researcher Thomas J. Kane to his cause. By the end of the book, however, Brill comes to realize that the problem is too large to solve without the union’s help.

This debate has continued at the local level as well. From conservative Democrat Glenda Ritz defeating Republican reformer Tony Bennett for State Superintendent of Education, to far-right republicans advising that the state abandon Common Core standards, education is one issue where it can be hard to identify who believes what. Hopefully you attended the Library’s recently concluded series “Conversations about Education”, held at the Central Library. You can be sure that this will continue to be a heavily discussed issue both nationally and locally.

                                                      — Recommended by Chris Murray, Central Library


April 29, 2013

The Art Forger

The Art Forger
by Shapiro, B. A.
641.37109 VAL

This is a clever novel with many twists, both a mystery novel and a rumination on art and reality, with a sidelong glance at romance. The “Art Forger” is a talented young painter named Claire Roth, blackballed from major art shows by tragic circumstances having to do with the death of a former lover. To make a living she has been painting openly-acknowledged reproductions of classic works for sales to collectors. Aiden Markel, the owner of the most prestigious art gallery in Boston comes to her with a proposition – if she will forge a copy of an art piece for him and NOT publicly acknowledge it as a reproduction, he will give her a show in his gallery and help re-launch her career.

When Aidan brings the art piece to her apartment, she is shocked to discover that it appears to be a famous Degas painting stolen from a local museum in the largest unsolved art theft in history. Or is this painting itself a forgery? If you have a painting that looks as good as the original and everyone thinks it IS the original, should you be satisfied?

Shapiro gives us many details and history on real art forgery, which is fascinating. And I liked her thoughts on the obsessive devotion of artists and art collectors. But what really makes the story work is how she reveals the story of Degas, the painting, and Clair’s own history layer by layer, like a painter gradually removing the paint from an old canvas and meticulously building a new painting with careful brush strokes of color and varnish. The details of the forgery and even the painting techniques are doled out by the author in just the right amount to keep your curiosity, but without diminishing the accelerating plot as Claire’s life starts to come apart.

Shapiro has written several suspense novels as “Barbara Shapiro,” but this is her first major success.

                   — Recommended by Steve Bridge, Irvington Library, where this book will be discussed on May 16


April 22, 2013

The Rook

The Rook
by O'Malley, Daniel

Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas is born in the rain, surrounded by corpses in latex gloves. A helpful letter in her pocket informs her that the previous inhabitant of her body was just forcibly erased by enemies who will not be inclined to mercy just because the new Myfanwy has no idea what's going on. Luckily, the previous Myfanwy was warned of her upcoming unmaking by several psychics, and left highly detailed instructions to help her replacement cope. This requires quite a lot of letters, since Myfanwy 2.0 must deal with her powerful supernatural abilities, her job in a secret pseudo-governmental organization that handles uncanny (and generally icky) phenomena, and the conspiracy threatening them all. The richly-detailed world, riveting mystery, and likable heroine(s) result in a highly imaginative, frequently hilarious, and deeply satisfying novel.

                                            — Recommended by Sarah Walker, Glendale Library