Staff Picks

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

July 25, 2016


by Frank, Scott

There’s a cliché about writing that it’s the first few pages that get people to read the book; it’s the last pages that get them to read the author’s next book. So I debated—a lot—about whether to recommend this book. It’s 335 pages long, 333 of which were incredibly good. The writing seemed almost effortless, the story compelling, the characters came with flesh and bone and character and flaws. The LA earthquake that made Roy Cooper’s best laid plans go awry. Kelly Maguire, a good cop with a lot of baggage, trying to find her way. Science, determined to make his mark in a city filled with gang violence. On and on the characters go. That’s usually a deterrent for me, I can never keep them all straight. But Frank made each one an individual, pulled their stories along, wove them together with a deft hand that gradually let the big story unfold. Frank is a screenwriter: Get Shorty, Marley & Me, Minority Report, to name a few. So he’s no newcomer to the writing world even though this is his debut novel. Still, those last couple of pages left me wondering what I’d missed earlier that had presaged that ending. Ultimately, I decided that the book was so good overall, that it deserved a mention. But if you read it and can explain those last couple of pages, let me know, okay? Shaker is also available as an eBook

                  --Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Branch


July 18, 2016

Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender

Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender
by Silver, Tosha
299.93 SIL

There is a reason true storytellers are so mesmerizing. They can paint picture with words and place a mirror to the soul in a reader’s hands. Consummate teller of tales Tosha Silver offers a liberating view of life that models an openness to what may be.

In Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender, Ms. Silver uses the skills of a master storyteller to open the mind and heart and lift the soul. Opening a window into her experiences gives the reader a delightful opportunity to realize integral truths in buried in daily life. The quirky humor of her perspective is a definite plus and adds color and texture to the narrative.

Her openness to ‘the Divine One’ leads the reader gently to a place where the storms of life become opportunities rather than liabilities. She ends each tale a poetic prayer to the Divine in clear, understandable terms that fit the situation.

The second half of the book offers prayers arranged by subject in alphabetical order – just in case the reader finds that need. However, she stresses that anyone can compose their own odes to the Divine at any time. Indeed, Divine Wisdom is open to all.

             — Recommended by Mary Kay Greenawalt, Central Library


July 11, 2016

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
by Walter, Jess

This is terrible. I'm the person who schedules the adult Staff Picks reviews. Nobody is supposed to review books that are already at the center of attention, and I'm reviewing a book that is being made into a movie. Selector Jessica Lawrence included this title in a Before You See the Movie blog post back in 2014.

And the book is being discussed at the Irvington Branch on Thursday, July 14th. 

But I couldn't stop reading it, once I had started; and I'm vocationally incapable of reading a book and not yakking about it on the web. So here goes.

Beautiful Ruins begins in Italy in 1962, when the disasterous Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton film Cleopatra was being created there. Pasquale Tursi operates an unsuccessful hotel in an almost uninhabited fishing village, and a beautiful actress shows up, in flight from the Cleopatra set. She is ill, but the nature of her illness is a point of confusion.

The novel jumps in time to the recent past and the not so recent past, circling back regularly to 1962 and Pasqule's predicaments. One minute you're reading a chapter from an unfinished World War II novel, and the next minute you're reading a movie pitch about the Donner Party. Modern-day Hollywood hustlers interact with folks we've met in 1962. 

I love the time and format jumps, and I recommend the novel with all my heart.

If you're interested in the movie, here's a nice trailer. In fairness, I should say that it begins as a movie trailer but is really sort of a trailer for the novel. The movie advertised here was to have been directed by Ang Lee, but I don't think that's happening. 

Todd Field is directing the movie, now. Or maybe two different versions are being filmed, one by Todd Field and one by Ang Lee. I have no idea how either director will take the mash-up of novels, movie pitches, memoirs, plays, and straight narrative, and make it into a film.

And in fact another film called Beautiful Ruins was scheduled to be released back in March. I'm pretty sure that one has nothing to do with the Jess Walter novel.

Confused? Read the book. It's like having a bunch of movies showing in your head, and watching them come together gloriously.  

Beautiful Ruins is also available as an eAudiobook and an audiobook on CD.

STAFF PICK BONUS FEATURE #1 If you feel that author Jess Walter is having too much fun with the cross-eyed Italian priest in Beautiful Ruins, listen up here where Walter answers questions from GoodReads, and, when discussing his love of basketball, claims to be "the best one-eyed point guard of my size and age."

STAFF PICK BONUS FEATURE #2 "[Dick] Cavett's four great interviews with Richard Burton were done in 1980 . . . Burton, fifty-four at the time, and already a beautiful ruin, was mesmerizing." -- Louis Menand. That quote from The New Yorker appears at the beginning of Beautiful Ruins. Here are the interviews. I think all four are there.

              — Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Communications Department


July 4, 2016

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
by Golden, Arthur

This is a beautiful tale of the life of a little girl named Chiyo, telling her story on growing up to become a Geisha. Chiyo gets sold to a Geisha house when she is very young, and she can either be working in the house like a slave all her life or take the chance and become a Geisha herself. Before, during and after World War II, she goes through her struggles with school, and with trying to make a reputation for herself while competing with the other Geishas in Kyoto. The saying “Pain is pretty” is an understatement when it comes to this story.

Memoirs of a Geisha is also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

         --Recommended by Mikaela Smith, Garfield Park Branch


June 20, 2016


Hoosier Public Enemy: A Life of John Dillinger
by Beineke, John A.
B Dillinger, John BEI

The Great Depression was a time of hardship and bleakness… except when America’s favorite criminal made news! John Dillinger’s swash-buckling ways, smooth good looks, and his care for the poor farmers – leaving their money on the counter when robbing the banks – won the hearts of Hoosiers and Americans everywhere. For a period of fourteen months, John Dillinger’s escapades lifted the average American from their despair.

This book, with historic photos generously splashed through the pages, gives us a fascinating look at Indiana during the Dillinger years (from Johnnie’s childhood through 1934). Fast-paced and full of Dillinger’s sparkling personality, it shows us Dillinger’s early childhood in Indianapolis and Mooresville, and escorts us through his escapades – and thrilling escapes – in a time when fast cars and new modern crime-fighting techniques were finding a place in current culture.

As a part of our Adult Summer Reading Program, this book will be discussed at the Sun King Brewery (135 N. College Ave.) at 5:30 p.m. on August 29th.

Hoosier Public Enemy is also available as an eBook.

             — Recommended by Deb Ehret, Spades Park Library