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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Family Reads: Staff Picks for a Themed Discussion

Posted by Staff

Whether you are going on vacation or staying at home, books can be welcome friends.  Often in summer, the family is spending more time together - how about spending some time talking about books?  One option is for everyone to read the same book and discuss it (try one of our book club kits).  A second option is to have everyone select a book within a theme and talk about the similarities and differences of their choices.  The staff have selected titles for all age groups that fall into various themes.  Our second two themes are:

MYSTERY SOLVED

Books for kids K-2nd Grade
Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood.  All the letters of the alphabet are concerned when they discover little "x" is missing.  Where could he be?  Why has he left?  Everyone sets off to solve the mystery.

Books for Kids 3rd-5th Grade 
Murder My Tweet: H. Chet Gecko Mystery.  Chet Gecko plunges into another troublesome case when his mocking bird sidekick, Natalie, is suspended for a crime she didn't commit.  
The Mysterious Benedict Society An ad appears in the newspaper "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?"  Dozens of kids apply, four are picked.

Books for Kids 6th-12th Grade 
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  Rory arrieves at her London boarding school just as a Jack the Ripper copycat begins terrorizing the city.  Who is the new Ripper and why is Rory the only one to have seen the prime suspect? 
The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence.  Set in 1st Century Ostia, Flavia and her friends embark on a mission to find the killer of her neighbor's dogs.

Books for Mom
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.  A mysterious death, an aristocratic family and decades-old secrets combine in this gripping novel. 
The Anatomists Wife by AnnaLee Huber.  When a house guest is found murdered at her sister's estate, Lady Kiera Darby reluctantly becomes a part of the insufferable Mr. Gage's investigation.

Books for Dad
The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard.  A murder mystery set at West Point in which a young Edgar Allen Poe (who did attend there) is the main suspect.

MAGICAL WORLDS
Books for kids K-2nd Grade 
The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt.  A fun, interactive guessing game all about fairy tale characters sure to excite many conversations.

Books for Kids 3rd-5th Grade
Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.  how Rumpelstiltskin found his name through a long journey through the kingdom after discovering his power to spin straw into gold (super adorable for parents, too!).

Books for Kids 6th-12th Grade
Gateway by Sharon Shinn.  A locally themed book about a girl working on an internship in St. Louis when she passes the a gateway (the Arch) to a magical world on the other side.

Books for Mom
The Ocean At the End Of the Lane by Neil Gaimen. A man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back.

Books for Dad
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Set in a future where the real world has gone to ruin and most people escape reality by immersing themselves in a virtual utopia called OASIS.  After the sudden death of the heirless creator, a contest begins to see who will inherit what he has left behind.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Staff Picks: Short Story Collections

Posted by Staff

Sometimes you don't want to read a whole book, but still crave a good story.  What to do?  Try a short story collection. Some authors specialize in shorts, but quite a few well known writers regularly create less wordy works.  If you are a fan of any of these author's novels, you will love the collections. Give one a try!

Alana T.:  The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson by Kim Stanley Robinson.  (Overdrive e-book).  Robinson is best known for his lengthy sci-fi novels, often part of very lengthy series.  An excellent storyteller, he is able to create interesting characters and gripping situations in much shorter formats.  This collection includes sci-fi, but also has some great general fiction.  Highly recommended.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaimen (Overdrive e-book).  A compelling collection of stories, mostly with a supernatural bent.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. One of the best classic-style ghost story writers today.  His novels are all great, and he is able to write compelling short stories that keep you hooked.  His gift for the shorter works is also exemplified by his Locke & Key graphic novels (jump to a previous post for a short review).


Riley W.: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell.  Short stories involving  vampires, people that turn into moths and other topics that captivate you, all while teaching lovely lessons about life struggles.

Susan C.:FaceOff (edited by David Baldacci).  Eleven stories featuring twenty-two authorsmembers of International Thriller Writers—who pair-off to present their characters together in the same story.This concept for an anthology is unique, and readers familiar with the characters will jump right into the stories like meeting a familiar friend. New readers will find the main players quickly defined and presented in full character. Recommended for all!

Below are two other highly rated collections that both staff and patrons have recommended:

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. In prose that is endlessly, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.

St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell.  Russell's stories are beautifully written and exuberantly imagined, but it is the emotional precision behind their wondrous surfaces that makes them unforgettable. Magically, from the spiritual wilderness and ghostly swamps of the Florida Everglades, against a backdrop of ancient lizards and disconcertingly lush plant life 'in an idiom that is as arrestingly lovely as it is surreal' Karen Russell shows us who we are and how we live.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The List of -ist

Posted by Alana T.

Recently, our catalogers and book purchasers have noticed a large number of titles ending with -ist.  There are fashions in book cover art, popular genres and titles; this seems to be the latest thing.   Listed below are some of the most popular titles (descriptions from Goodreads) with staff favorites marked.  All are rated 3.5 stars (out of 5) or better, so give one a try and let us know what you think of the latest fad.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Raschman.  Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachman’s wry, vibrant debut follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English language newspaper as they struggle to keep it—and themselves—afloat.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker(staff pick) Paul is having a hard time;  his career is floundering, his girlfriend left him, and he is thinking about the great poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and deserve to feel sorry for themselves. What unfolds is a wholly entertaining and beguiling love story about poetry. At the same time, Paul barely manages to realize all of this himself, and the result is a tenderly romantic, hilarious, and inspired novel.
The Illusionist by by Françoise Mallet-Joris and Terry CastleBored and lonely, 15-year-old Hélène decides to pay a visit to her father’s mistress. Within days, she is captivated by Tamara, a Russian émigré whose arts of enchantment include lingering kisses, sudden dismissals, and savage, rapturous reunions.

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead.  Verticality, architectural and social, is the lofty idea at the heart of Colson Whitehead's odd, sly, and ultimately irresistible first novel. The setting is an unnamed though obviously New Yorkish high-rise city, the time less convincingly future than deliciously other, as it combines 21st-century engineering feats with 19th-century pork-barrel politics and smoky working-class pubs.

The Informationist by Vanessa Monroe.  Vanessa  deals in information--expensive information--working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career from her home base in Dallas, she's never looked back. Until now.

The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer.  (staff pick) In the future, in a place called Satelite City, fourteen-year-old Cosmo Hill enters the world, unwanted by his parents. He's sent to the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys. At Clarissa Frayne, the boys are put to work by the state, testing highly dangerous products. At the end of most days, they are covered with burns, bruises, and sores. Eoin Colfer has created an eerie and captivating world-part Blade Runner, part futuristic Dickens-replete with non-stop action.

The Archivist by Martha Cooley.  (staff pick)The Morgan Library in New York recently acquired letters written by Thomas Pynchon to his agent, but the head librarian decreed that this correspondence will not be available to scholars during the author's lifetime. A few miles south, in Princeton, New Jersey, there's another potentially explosive series of letters that are locked up until the year 2019 -- ones that renowned poet T. S. Eliot wrote to a woman named Emily Hale. The situation and wacky characters are fictional, of course, but nonetheless you will be riveted by this marvelous first novel.

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho.  (staff pick) This enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. The story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids.

The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton.  Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

The Absolutist by John Boyne.  The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.

And last, not quite fitting the ..., The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist's spell.