Staff Picks

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

October 17, 2016

The Time In Between

The Time In Between
by Dueñas, María

Author María Dueñas spins a sweeping tale of dressmaking and intrigue, spanning the years 1935 to 1942.

The story begins with fourteen-year-old Sira Quiroga, an apprentice in a Madrid dressmaker’s shop. After several years, Sira’s life and fortunes are derailed by both the Spanish Civil War and an unfortunate romance. She finds herself in Morocco, alone, and destitute. Fortunately, her natural talents as a dressmaker will both become her salvation and will lead her toward peril.

With the passage of time, Sira finds herself now leading a double life…she has evolved into one of the most celebrated dressmakers in Europe, and complete with a THIRD identity courtesy of British Intelligence, now has access to pampered Nazi officer’s wives, their secrets, and all the accompanying dangers of being a spy during the end of the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of World War Two.

Author Maria Dueñas use of actual British Agents, Spanish politcos, and her marvelous descriptions of exotic 1930s and 1940s locales make for a very entertaining read. This novel has been called the “Spanish Downton Abbey”. I might describe this story as Casablanca meets Gone With The Wind.

The Time In Between is also available as an audiobook on CD.

             —Recommended by Mike Hylton, Irvington Branch


October 3, 2016

After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?

After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?
by Smith, Claire Bidwell
133.9013 SMI

Author Claire Bidwell Smith debuted with The Rules of Inheritance, a memoir that chronicles her experience losing both parents to cancer at a young age. Now in her 30s with a career as a grief counselor and some distance from her losses, Smith’s After This follows her exploration of the afterlife and the various beliefs and practices related to life after death. Through visits with psychics and mediums, psychotherapists, hospice workers and clergy members, Smith makes the reader feel like they’re along for the journey, which is as much a metaphorical trip as it is a literal trip crisscrossing the country. She mixes a healthy bit of skepticism with a deeply compassionate perspective and the book winds up being as informative as it is therapeutic.

After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go? is also available as an eAudiobook.

            — Recommended by Carrie Voliva, Pike Branch


September 19, 2016

When Fraser Met Billy: An Autistic Boy, a Rescue Cat, and the Transformative Power of Animal Connections

When Fraser Met Billy: An Autistic Boy, a Rescue Cat, and the Transformative Power of Animal Connections
by Booth, Louise
616.891658 BOO

Billy is a magic cat, although Louis Booth does not usually say this out loud. Dogs have a long and storied history as sometimes miraculous service animals, while cats – not so much.

Even Louise’s husband was initially skeptical. Yet from the moment Billy the Rescue Cat met their three-year-old severely autistic son, Fraser, he set about transforming this beyond stressed-to-the-limit household into a happier home for everyone.

Fraser has a meltdown? Billy sits down quietly in front of him or circles around him until Fraser gradually becomes calmer.

Hair-washing causing the outbreak of World War III? Magically, Billy appears, stretching his head as far as he can over the side of the tub to Fraser, getting soaked to the skin in the process, calmly wiping bubble bath off his whiskers with his paw: “Look, Billy doesn’t mind getting his hair wet, so why don’t you let me wet yours?” suggests Fraser’s father.

Fraser and his pal Billy have a mystical bond. They create their own language. They share their own world. And over time, this bond helps Fraser – who also suffers from dystonia, a rare muscle condition that makes his joints loose and floppy – to overcome the devastating prognosis doctors gave him at eighteen months old: Fraser would never attend a normal, mainstream school. He might never be able to walk.

Years later, after his first day of normal, mainstream school, six-year-old Frasier tells Billy – but not his Mum! – all about it: “Fraser sat with Zara … Then Miss told a story …” Then as Fraser realizes Mum is listening at the door, he moves in closer to his cat with a disapproving frown: “Sshh, Fraser is talking to Billy.”

--Recommended by Deborah Jones, Franklin Road Branch


September 12, 2016

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
by Albright, Madeleine
B Albright, M.K. ALB

Prague Winter is written by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This book is very well-written and surprisingly touching. It gives an excellent history of Czechoslovakia, of its fighting for and losing democracy 1937-1945. From an insider’s view, it provides an incisive account of how human nature, political and economic situations, the characteristics of leaders and the regional/ethnical history resulted in the tragedies to which the Czech people were subjected from Hitler’s occupation to the loss of their sovereignty to communism right after Nazi occupation.

This book is thought-provoking in many ways, particularly in the context of current unsettling global and domestic  events. It prompts thoughts about characteristics in leaders, and how circumstances create them; the weight of a leader’s action can move humanity to a higher plateau or, conversely, bring a country's people to a dark abyss and unimaginable suffering.

This book is an intimate family story of Madame Albright, of her upbringing and her father’s passionate pursuit of democracy for his country and his family. The richness of the Bohemian culture, history, legends and literature is deftly woven in. Readers come to appreciate the beauty of this country where castles have stood for thousands of years and where the peaceful Vltava river winds. Such beauty can only be fully rendered by the melody in Bedřich Smetana’s Vltava.

This book also would be excellent for people who are traveling to central Europe, particularly Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. With the background knowledge from it, they will have a deeper appreciation of the culture, the food and the way things are.

Prague Winter is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print

Recommended by Sailan Liang, Glendale Branch


August 29, 2016

Office Girl

Office Girl
by Meno, Joe

There are novels that tell epic tales of battlefield glory or high seas adventure or exploring outer space. And then there are novels that tell small, sad love stories that are seemingly of consequence only to their characters and readers. Office Girl by Joe Meno is the latter.

In the winter of 1999, Odile and Jack, two twenty-somethings in Chicago, find themselves creating what can alternately be called an awkward friendship, a rebellious art movement, and an apprehensive romance. They meet while working in adjoining cubicles at a business that sells Muzak for office waiting rooms and become fast friends, riding their bikes around the city and performing small acts of vandalism. As with most good fiction, the specifics of the characters may not exactly reflect your life experience, but the emotions are authentic and relatable. I imagine that most readers can relate to Odile and Jack’s feelings of loneliness, lack of direction, and unrequited love as they explore young adulthood. That isn’t to say, however, that Office Girl is an entirely dreary affair. There are many moments that elicit smiles and the book is peppered with sweet sentiments, odd little illustrations, and strange photographs.

Office Girl is also available as an eAudiobook.

           --Recommended by Adam Todd, Decatur Branch