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Archived Staff Picks - May 2015

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The King of Shanghai (Ava Lee #7)
By Ian Hamilton
Recommended by Pauline

The seventh novel in the Ava Lee series finds Ava getting caught up in the election for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies.

Ava steps into her new business with May Ling Wong and her sister-in-law, Amanda. On a trip to Shanghai, Ava meets with Xu, a young man Uncle had been mentoring and who is also the head of the Triad in Shanghai. Xu makes an audacious business prop

The seventh novel in the Ava Lee series finds Ava getting caught up in the election for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies.

Ava steps into her new business with May Ling Wong and her sister-in-law, Amanda. On a trip to Shanghai, Ava meets with Xu, a young man Uncle had been mentoring and who is also the head of the Triad in Shanghai. Xu makes an audacious business proposal that she and May are compelled to consider. Meanwhile, separately and privately, he confides to Ava that he intends to run for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies and attempts to recruit her as his adviser and confidante.

Against her will, Ava becomes enmeshed in Triad warfare and her future is threatened . . .

This title is available in Regular Print, Downloadable Audiobook and eBook formats.

Full Measure
by T. Jefferson Parker
Recommended by Marilyn

Near the end of his most famous speech, Abraham Lincoln talks about honoring those who fought at Gettysburg, the ones who "gave the last full measure of devotion" so that the nation might survive the Civil War. In his frequently stirring new novel, "Full Measure," T. Jefferson Parker offers a similar tribute to those who have served in our most recent wars.

If the book sounds patriotic, it is, but not in a flag-waving, "Support Our Troops," bumper sticker kind of way. It goes deeper than that, challenging the reader to ponder not just what happens when we send young men and women across oceans and continents into combat, but what happens when they come home. To ponder what loyalty means -- to ourselves, to our loved ones, to our country.

The book is set in Fallbrook, where Parker lives. It opens with Patrick Norris, a Marine "wounded on the inside only" returning from Afghanistan with his ghosts and his survivor's guilt. "There were heroes but I'm not one of them," he tells his brother as they're riding home from the airport, and just when you think Patrick is full of false modesty, he unloads this:

"That war was a waste. It sounds like I'm against my country but I'm not. I would have died for my guys. Some of them died for me. But it was supposed to mean something bigger and it didn't. Just a lot of death for nothing.   Just a lot of Marines getting shot at and blown up."

The story gets more complicated, and interesting, as the pages go by. For all his misgivings about the war, Patrick thinks often about going back to Afghanistan. He felt needed there. The work was honest and selfless. He belonged. Back home, he's delivering pizzas.

"This was what he hated most about civilian life -- the incredible slowness; the numbing discussions; the goop-thick assumptions that there was plenty of time for all things to be considered, no matter how idiotic and useless and destructive they might be; the truly awful belief that everyone had a right to express themselves anytime they felt like it, to unscrew themselves from the world if they wanted to. In civilian life, how long did you have to wait for a thing or a moment to truly matter? In Sangin the way you tied your boots could decide whether you lived or died. And those around you.

Patrick isn't the only one struggling to fit in. His brother, Ted, older but a lot less wiser,has been kicked out of college. Almost everything he tries to do he messes up, and his floundering sends him in the direction of a neo-Nazi group. (Shades here of White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger, who used to live in Fallbrook.)

Their father, Archie, fears losing the family's 60-year-old avocado farm, recently decimated by a wildfire. He doesn't know if the trees will recover, and no bank will loan him money amid the uncertainty. He can't figure out what he's done to make God so mad at him. (review by John Wilkens)

And it's not just the people who have identity crises. Fallbrook emerges as a key character, too, wrestling with questions about what kind of town it should be, what kind of people it wants living there. Parker sprinkles the story with fond nods to real places.

"Full Measure" is a significant departure for Parker, who for the past 30 years has been one of the country's best, most thoughtful mystery writers. (He's twice won the Edgar Award for top novel, something that only Dick Francis and James Lee Burke also have accomplished.) Here, the plot stew is heavy at times, which may be a carry-over of his crime novelist's instincts to keep things busy so the reader will keep the pages turning. The ending feels a little rushed.

But it also feels real -- messy, tragic, sad, hopeful. Life and war are like that.

This title is available in Regular print, Book on CD, Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

Unwanteds
By Lisa McMann
Recommended by Rachel

 

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret--behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.
But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

 

Unwanteds has been described as hunger games meets Harry Potter and I couldn't agree more! It's a fantastic family series that have you hooked within the first few pages! 

 

This title is available in Juvenile fiction, Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

 

Review from fantastic fiction.

The War that Ended Peace
By: Margaret MacMillan
Recommended by Robert

It is probably no great surprise that the centennial of the beginning of World War I would be accompanied by a plethora of tomes on this topic.  After having produced a wonderful book on the aftermath of World War I, noted Canadian scholar Margaret MacMillan has produced her own portrait of Europe from 1900 to the outbreak of war in 1914. This work is not for the faint of heart:  Over 700 pages of text and footnotes plunge deeply into European pre-war history. MacMIllan has provided detailed descriptions of most of the important personages that brought Europe to global war. These include military leaders, politicians, diplomats, bankers and the interrelated royalty who were all unable to stop two mighty alliances from nearly creating Armageddon. Major and minor powers are portrayed in depth, showing how complicated historical relationships created a perfect storm in 1914.

We all know how Gavrilo Princip's assassination of the Grand Duke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo started  the chain of events that made war inevitable.  This historian makes it clear that a combination of alliances, historical enmities, powerful people and empirical ambitions were the underlying reasons for the Great War. The crumbling Ottoman empire and the absorption of some of its parts by an unsteady Austria-Hungarian empire stirred nationalism in the Slavic world. Other crises in North Africa between France and German in Bosnia between Russia and Austria-Hungary after the turn of the century almost exploded into full war.

The European powers believed that any future war would be quick and decisive. Very few military leaders anticipated stalemate and trench warfare eating up millions of lives. MacMIllan reveals that, in fact, many of today's conflicts saw their origin in the period prior to World War I.  Her excellent portrayals of many of the period's fascinating personages will be well received by readers of world history. Her examination of the failure of death of individuals who may have prevented war is really valuable.  MacMillan proves to be adept at putting life into the complicated diplomatic events of the time.  Recommended to those who appreciate well-written history.

This title is available in Regular print format.

Gil's All Fright Diner 
By: A. Lee Martinez
Recommended by Rachel

Bloodier than Fried Green Tomatoes! Funnier than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Welcome to Gil's All Night Diner, where zombie attacks are a regular occurrence and you never know what might be lurking in the freezer. . .

Duke and Earl are just passing through Rockwood county in their pick-up truck when they stop at the Diner for a quick bite to eat. They aren't planning to stick around-until Loretta, the eatery's owner, offers them $100 to take care of her zombie problem. Given that Duke is a werewolf and Earl's a vampire, this looks right up their alley.

But the shambling dead are just the tip of a particularly spiky iceberg. Seems someone's out to drive Loretta from the Diner, and more than willing to raise a little Hell on Earth if that's what it takes. Before Duke and Earl get to the bottom of the Diner's troubles, they'll run into such otherworldly complications as undead cattle, an amorous ghost, a jailbait sorceress, and the terrifying occult power of pig-latin.

And maybe-just maybe-the End of the World, too.
Quirky and strange this is the perfect laugh out loud fun read.

This title is available in Regular print format.

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Trenton, ON
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