Staff Picks

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

November 18, 2013

Still Life

Still Life
by Penny, Louise

When selecting a book for recommendation on the library web site, our guidelines encourage us to select something “to pique the interest of the reading public.” In other words, select a book that’s out of the ordinary, not necessarily a blockbuster bestseller. The mysteries in the Chief Inspector Gamache series by award-winning Canadian author Louise Penny are, in my opinion, definitely superior. I’ve just finished reading How the Light Gets In, the ninth book about the man who leads an elite group of homicide investigators in the Surete du Quebec. The adjectives that I would use to describe the book include original, complex, gripping, and satisfying. I had to restrain myself several times to keep from rushing ahead to see what was going to happen. Also, the characters are ones that I’ve come to care about during the course of the series. Gamache is strong, principled, and devoted to his colleagues, his family, and his friends in the almost magical village of Three Pines which is somewhere south of Montreal. This is where the reader meets him on his first case, and this is where you must begin with Louise Penny’s first Inspector Gamache book, Still Life.

In Still Life, school teacher Jane Neal is found dead in the woods near the village, and her death is assumed to be a hunting accident at first. But something is suspicious, and Inspector Gamache and his right hand man Inspector Beauvoir are called to Three Pines from the city to investigate. This is just the beginning of a great reading experience.

Click on the title link at the top of this review, and when the box opens, click where it says Excerpts, and you can read the opening passages of Still Life, which is as well-crafted as all of the others in the Gamache series. Most of the books in the series are available from the library in some alternative format--in large print, as downloadable audiobooks or e-books, or as audiobooks on CD.

                                   — Recommended by Georgia Silvers, Warren Library


November 4, 2013

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941
by Olson, Lynne
940.531 OLS

Ms. Olson’s richly detailed story tells us of a Democrat re-elected to the Presidency by a big margin, along with an increased Congressional majority, whose conceit leads him to alienate the Congress. When the Supreme Court continually strikes down his New Deal programs as unconstitutional, he proposes to add six more (compliant) justices, but a Congress resentful of his arrogant behavior rejects his proposal overwhelmingly. Thus humbled, he tries never again to outpace public opinion, so when he wants to support the Allies fighting the Nazis, he moves slowly and relies on surrogates to make the public arguments.

Opposing him is the American hero, Charles Lindbergh, and on both sides are many interest groups, with members often changing sides. As Roosevelt runs for an unprecedented third term, outsiders including the German Embassy which secretly provided train tickets for isolationist delegates, manipulate both party nominating conventions and help to make it one of the nastiest election campaigns of the century.

Even after his re-election, Roosevelt continued leading from behind, frustrating his supporters after each bellicose speech by weeks of dithering without action despite Gallup polls showing majority support. In the end, only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought us to war and united the country.

                                   — Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Library


October 28, 2013

The Professionals

The Professionals
by Laukkanen, Owen

It started as a joke.  Four college grads with no job prospects decide that their choices come down to robbing a bank or serving lattes.  Bank robbery being a risky and low-return-on-investment endeavor, they decide that ransoming the bankers themselves might be a better source of money.  But not for big bucks, that gets police involvement and media attention.  Fifty or sixty thousand dollars is chump change for these guys, so they’re unlikely to raise a ruckus or demand retribution.  The first time is a lark: Can we do it?  Then it’s: Can we do it again?  Until a couple of years go by and the four friends have a long string of successes, are halfway to their retirement goal.  But one day they kidnap the wrong man, one with mob connections, and, suddenly, the police aren’t their biggest worry.  Laukkanen has not only written a terrific book—the biggest problem I had with it was turning the pages fast enough to keep up with the story—but has also given a compelling illustration of how one bad decision can set events in motion from which there is no turning back.

— Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library


October 21, 2013

The Luminaries

The Luminaries
by Catton, Eleanor

My girl has won! I gushed about The Luminaries, last month, in a Reader's Connection post; and now Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker Prize.

She has called the novel an "astrological murder mystery," so the library may shelve it with mysteries. I think we should buy 12 copies for each branch, assign each copy to a different sign of the zodiac, and shelve them in the duodecimal sectors into which the branch has been divided.

If you don't have the stamina to click on the above link and go to my review, I'll tell you that the story is set during the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860's. One fellow has disappeared, another has died under suspicious circumstances, and twelve men have gathered to discuss what can be done about crimes that may have been committed. The novel is 800-some pages long, and as Alice Jones wrote in The Independent, "What sets it apart, and presumably dazzled the [Man Booker] judges, is its fiendishly intricate structure . . . "

At 28, Ms. Catton is the youngest author to ever win the Booker. I wish her a long and prolific life.

— Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


October 14, 2013

Loving Frank

Loving Frank
by Horan, Nancy

Historical fiction well done. Author Nancy Horan tackles the scandalous love of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. By writing as fiction, the author has the liberty to grace our characters with feeling and conversation, while Horan’s well-researched adherence to the very public couple’s tumultuous history makes the story seem more biography than fiction.

Frank and Mamah both fell in love and left their respective spouses and children for one another. Both knew what they wanted from life and were not to be bothered by the conventionalities of 1909 Chicago. After time in Europe, Frank designed their Wisconsin home, Taliesin. It was here, in 1914 that Mamah, her two children, and four others were murdered, as the home burned.

You can read many books about Frank Lloyd Wright, and in most, Mamah is but a footnote. The finest commendation for Loving Frank is that Mamah is given life again; and we as readers learn, she is a very modern woman, coping with the Gilded Age, and sometimes Frank.

— Recommended by Mike Hylton, Irvington Library