Staff Picks

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December 29, 2014

The Ways of the Dead

The Ways of the Dead
by Tucker, Neely

There are few things that this mystery reader likes more than to get to the final pages of a mystery and do a palm slap to the forehead and exclaim, “Why didn’t I see that?” The writer has played fair, given all the clues, and yet somehow worked them in so adeptly that they were overlooked. Steve Martini accomplished that feat in Compelling Evidence, and now Tucker has done the same. That slap is going to leave a bruise. That Tucker is an accomplished writer is a given: 25 years as a journalist, 14 of them with The Washington Post. No surprise that his main character, Sullivan Carter, is a reporter. But Carter has an edge to him. He’s reported from some war-torn countries, seen and done some things that have left him torn and battered. Now he’s based in Washington, D.C. where the waters can be nearly as treacherous to navigate. A judge’s daughter is killed and the city is outraged, on edge. Tensions are mounting, racial divides widening. Sully’s sources are telling him one thing, while the police investigation goes in a different direction. They have the culprits, but Sully is not so sure, so he digs deeper, believing there is a serial killer operating in a closely-defined area. All he needs now is proof. Fighting his own demons, he delves deeper and deeper into his own investigation, and what he finds will threaten his own belief system. Tucker has performed that most magical of writing tricks: he has not only hidden his clues masterfully, he has kept me thinking about his book long after I read the last page.

                 --Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library


December 22, 2014

Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems

Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems
by Carter, Jared
811.54 CAR

I had already read many of the poems that are gathered in this collection--in books I had bought or checked out from the library, or in the chapbooks that Jared Carter brought to me when I was a librarian at his neighborhood branch. But the book is still a revelation, and (Pulitzer Prize-winner) Ted Kooser has done us a great service in initiating the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry series, and in making this its first volume.

I would have liked to reprint "Galleynipper" and "Wind Egg" on the Reader's Connection blog. You'll have to seek the poems out yourselves. "Galleynipper" grows unmistakably out of Carter's Indiana upbringing, but it explores different aspects of human consciousness in a way that "would carry me high above" state boundaries, high above this website. (Hey, wait. Click here to read it on the Poetry Foundation website. When you get to their website, make sure you use their arrow to get to page 348 and the rest of the poem.) And "Wind Egg," with its egg-slick barnyard mythos, would have given me another poem for my Year of the Horse collection.

I'm sad to say that there's a misprint in "Ditchweed," which had been my favorite poem in Carter's villanelle collection. With all those repeated lines, though, you'll be able to spot the misprint in a snap. There's another misprint, somewhere, but I forget where. You'll have to find it.

Jared Carter is a great poet. Happy Holidays.

              --Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


December 15, 2014

Who Asked You?

Who Asked You?
by McMillan, Terry

Author Terry McMillan is back with another great realistic fiction titled Who Asked You? This is her eighth title and it is a good one. Throughout this story the reader is taken on a family journey that many can relate to. Set in Los Angeles, California, the story opens with matriarch Betty Jean being left to care for her two grandsons by her daughter Trinetta. This adds to Betty Jean interesting life with the drama of her two other adult children, two sisters that love giving advice, and an ill husband to care for. Not to mention her 9 to 5 working as a hotel housekeeper. How does she keep everything together you will have to find out by reading Who Asked You?

Who Asked You? is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook, and is on order in large print.

                   --Recommended by Denyce Malone, Flanner House Library


December 8, 2014

My Story

My Story
by Smart, Elizabeth
364.154 SMA

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night to a man with a knife standing over your bed? He tells you not to say a word and leads you out of your house and into the mountains. Most of us are lucky enough to have never felt the terror of being kidnapped, so we really do not know how we would react. In 2002, the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping made national news. Televisions were filled with information about the kidnapping and search for Elizabeth. People questioned how this fourteen year old girl was taken from her house while her sister was sleeping feet away from her bed and her parents were right down the hall! Why had Elizabeth not screamed out to alert her parents? After Elizabeth’s return to her family in 2003 people questioned what had happened to her; why had she not tried harder to get away? Did she experience Stockholm syndrome or brain washed? People had given her the opportunity to speak out and tell them who she was, but she had remained silent.

In her book My Story, Elizabeth Smart gives readers the opportunity to experience her kidnapping and return home alongside of her. Readers are given insight into not only the fear and abuse Elizabeth experienced, but her strength to endure and survive. Elizabeth explains the guilt and shame she felt after her return and the determination she had to not let her captors win. My Story is an inspirational account of a girl who discovered her true strength after waking up one night to a nightmare.

My Story is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook and an audiobook on CD, and is on order in large print

            --Recommended by Elizabeth Williamson, InfoZone at the Children's Museum


November 28, 2014

The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America
by Roth, Philip

In today's Reader's Connection post, I recommend a  book about Franklin Roosevelt and World War II. Passages in that book, about Charles Lindbergh's pro-Nazi speeches, reminded me that Philip Roth had written a novel, ten years earlier, in which Lindbergh is elected President of the United States. Our country doesn't enter the war, and our Jews have a rough time of it.

The narrator, a fictional version of Philip Roth, is seven years old when Lindbergh is nominated. Roth's mom and dad are the book's heroes, and The Plot is, in its left-handed way, a companion volume to Roth's Patrimony, which was a funny, moving memoir about his father. I assume that some family members here--such as Aunt Evelyn, who proudly dances with Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop when that Holocaust-enabler is invited to the White House--were invented for this tale.

Alternative-history novels aren't a specialty of mine. Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, set after the U.S. loses WWII, is thought of as a classic; and I thought it was okay. But Roth's book is more heartful, more suspenseful--I cared much more while reading this novel.

Next Monday, December 1st, the Wayne Library is hosting a discussion of Melanie Benjamin's 2013 novel The Aviator's Wife, a fictional treatment of the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In The Plot Against America, Roth presents his own wacky/horrid theory as to why Lindbergh became the Nazi-tolerant figure that he did.

Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology