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Staff Picks

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

September 21, 2015

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
by Yang, Kao Kalia
B Yang, K.K. YAN

What is Hmong?
Where is your country?
What are you doing here, in America? Are you ever going home again?

These were questions that were asked of the author, Kao Kalia Yang, since she came to the United States when she was six. Have you in your mind at least the curiosity about this people?

This book uniquely tells the story of Hmong people through the journey of the author’s family from escaping genocide in the Lao’s jungle to refugee camp in Thailand to coming to United States and their survivorship in a whole new set of hardships in this new country.

The story comes alive through different angles approached from the author’s experience to her mother’s to her paternal grandmother’s. It is a moving account of a family, a people, their resiliency and triumph. The interwoven Hmong folk tales and customs told through grandma’s story added texture to the Hmong culture.

It also reveals some facts about the Vietnam War unknown to many people, for example, the so-called “Secret War” where CIA recruited the Hmong to fight the communists and attack North Vietnamese supply lines. One third of Hmong men died during the war, another third were killed in the aftermath by the Lao Communist government in collaboration with the Vietnam People's Army during the ensuing Hmong insurgency.

This book gives a new understanding of the Hmong people at the least. It could also provoke thoughts and discussions on wars, politics, ethnic identity, survivorship and pertinent subjects. Reading groups might also find this a good candidate for discussions.

The Latehomecomer is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.

          --Recommended by Sailan Liang, Glendale Library


September 14, 2015

Turtleface and Beyond: Stories

Turtleface and Beyond: Stories
by Bradford, Arthur

Arthur Bradford’s short story collection Dogwalker (2001) featured bizarre, slightly surreal tales told in a straightforward and earnest manner. Bradford’s second short story collection, Turtleface and Beyond (2015), is much the same. The main difference is that this time all of the stories, while technically unrelated, feature a common narrator named Georgie. Georgie is a young man who seemingly does nothing but wander around the world and find himself in a number of strange situations, yet, despite numerous mistakes and errors in judgment, manages to come out emotionally unscathed and able to recount his exploits to the readers. Georgie has an affair with an Israeli woman in Thailand, loses part of his leg in a wood chipper, and watches the NBA Finals in a shack in a remote area of Vermont. Throughout the book he relates these stories in a charming, simple manner that is completely devoid of irony or cynicism.

              --Recommended by Adam Todd, Spades Park Library


September 7, 2015

Dreamer’s Pool: A Blackthorn & Grim Novel

Dreamer’s Pool: A Blackthorn & Grim Novel
by Marillier, Juliet

Growing up, I loved tales of mystery and magic. A well-crafted fairy tale was a treasure, and Dreamer’s Pool is just such a story. In this first book of her new series “Blackthorn and Grim,” well-established author Juliet Marillier entices the reader with elements of action, romance, vengeance, and morality. Set in the fictional kingdom of Erin, loosely based on medieval Ireland, main characters Blackthorn and Grim aren’t your typical hero and heroine. Both have literally tortured pasts that have left deep scars on their bodies and psyches. At the eleventh hour, Blackthorn is offered a deal by the fey nobleman Conmael. He will free her from prison and imminent execution, in exchange for her promise to use her skills as a healer in a small village, helping any in need who may come to her. She must also put aside her desire for vengeance against her tormentors for seven years. Though skeptical of Conmael’s motives, Blackthorn accepts the deal freeing both herself and Grim to make a new life in a faraway hamlet with more than its share of excitement. Enter a scholarly prince, villainous baker, traumatized lap dog, and an enigmatic giant whose stories are seamlessly woven into the main storyline of Blackthorn’s attempts fulfill her geas. I highly recommend this book for lovers of fantasy, dark fairy tales, historical fiction mystery, suspense, or anyone looking for a good yarn.

Dreamer’s Pool is also available as a downloadable e-book.

                    --Recommended by Katherine McFarland, Lawrence Library


August 31, 2015

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide
by Allison, Peter
916.88304 ALL

Allison began working as a safari guide as a teenager. His first job, however, was less than glamorous: it was his job to get alcohol to the camp for the tourists. Like motorists who become complacent with their drive to work, Allison let his guard down, didn’t listen to the warning “Ka-weeeeeee!” of the Grey Lourie. So he stopped to remove a pebble from his shoe, hopped around a bit getting it back on, and then rounded a fallen log, surprising a pair of massive lions. “The time it took for them to get from where they were to where I stood was too short for my life to flash before my eyes.” While he claims no heroic actions on his part, he does admit thinking—of all things—that if he drops the 24-pack of beer he’s carrying, it will get all fizzed up. But what he didn’t do was run. He stood his ground and lived to tell the tale. For me, roughing it is having to use a different brand of shampoo, so it’s a sure thing that I will never sign up for a safari in Botswana. But if I should ever find myself there, I would want Allison at my side—not only as a guide (and, let’s face it, protector), but also with the hope that he would share more of his wonderful stories of life in the Otovango Delta.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is also available as a downloadable e-book and an audiobook on CD.

         --Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library


August 24, 2015

The Graveyard Book: The Graphic Novel

The Graveyard Book: The Graphic Novel
by Russell, P. Craig, adapting Neil Gaiman's novel

I think you should usually read a book before you see the movie, but what about graphic novel adaptations? Should you always read the novel first, before you read the graphic version? I haven't read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, but I went ahead and read P. Craig Russell's 2-volume graphic adaptaion; and I loved it.

If you don't know the story: A child's family is murdered (a blood-dripping knife is the book's first picture) and, pacifier in mouth, the boy climbs from his crib, heads out the door, wanders up the street and into the graveyard, where he is adopted by spirits of the dead, much as Mowgli is adopted by animals in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

And there's Silas, who isn't the ghost of a dead person but who isn't quite a living person; and there are ghouls; and there's this underground thing called the Sleer; and, most unsettlingly of all, in some ways, there are live human visitors from the outside world.

Different artists illustrated different chapters, but P. Craig Russell brought it all together wonderfully. Here's a link to the second volume.

And the graphic Graveyard Book is available in Spanish: El Libro del Cementerio. Primer Volumen. Segundo Volumen.

        — Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology, but soon to be in our new Communications Department