Archived Staff Picks April 2014
Still Life With Bread Crumbs
By: Anna Quindlen
Recommended by Marilyn
"Rebecca Winter" remains a household name, thanks to the iconic photograph "Still Life with Bread Crumbs" that catapulted her art career into the public eye. But Rebecca Winter, the person, has changed significantly in the decades since she captured that domestic image of her kitchen counter after her husband and son retired for the evening. She's no longer married, for one. And it's been so long since she made a significant sale that she can no longer afford the upscale Manhattan apartment that contains the kitchen immortalized in that famous picture.
As a result, the 60-year-old Rebecca feels adrift when she sublets her home and moves into a rented cottage in rural New York. Each time a royalty check hits her bank account, the couple-hundred-dollar deposit leaves her feeling momentarily rich. Some other people in the small town are familiar with "Still Life" and consider Rebecca something of a celebrity, but she is often left to her own thoughts. That solitude gives Rebecca plenty of time to figure out whether her camera is still the best way to share what she sees with the world--and to determine who she is outside of the context of high-end art galleries and New York City.
In Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen deconstructs the typical form of a novel. Chapters toggle between Rebecca's present and the formative moments that brought her here, with each chapter title lending insight into the path Rebecca walks. The result is refreshing pacing; the story doesn't unfold in linear fashion, but in bits and pieces at a time.
Still Life is a journey of self-exploration, of getting to know who you are rather than who others expect you to be. It's a meditation on art, age and commercialism wrapped up in a delightful story--perhaps the best-selling author's finest novel yet.
Not a huge fan of chic-lit but not a bad book.
This title is available in Regular Print, Book on CD and downloadable eBook formats.
The headmaster's wager
By: Vincent Lam
Recommended by Robert
On the surface, Percy Chen seems to have it all. A wealthy headmaster of a language school in 1960's Saigon, Percy is proud of his Chinese heritage and enjoys the pleasures of gambling and prostitution. While he does have an aggravating ex-wife and a teenage son whom he loves dearly, he believes that he has the tools to negotiate 1960's Saigon. When local officials insist that his school offer courses in the Vietnamese language, Percy attempts to resist. His son, Dai Jai, publicly challenges these new policies and disappears. Percy is forced to use every one of his shady connections to get his son back. While doing so, Percy wins a beautiful mixed race Vietnamese prostitute in a high stakes mah-jongg game. Percy falls deeply in love with Jacqueline, whom he sets up as a steady mistress. Meanwhile, his son is returned to him. Fearing that there is no long a future for his son in Vietnam, Percy gets his mysterious associate Mak to help send Dai Jai to a "safe" China. Percy is so disconnected from the events of the world that he does not realize that 1960's China may be a difficult place for the son of a capitalist landlord such as Percy.
The Tet offensive of 1968 explodes all around Percy and his world. While he escapes assassination, he soon learns that the now very pregnant Jacqueline is not what he thought she was. In fact, the war is moving closer to him and shifting ideologies, treachery and paranoia is becoming a minefield for Percy to pass through. Percy now wants his son back and will do anything necessary to achieve that end. Gambling friends and other associates are finding ways to the exit the country and others are proving to be associates of the ever encroaching Vietcong. Nevertheless, Percy will stay until Dai Jai returns.
The author, a practicing doctor and former Giller Award winner, has produced a riveting tale of how a second generation Chinese resident of Vietnam responded to a revolution which affected every part of his life. Baby boomers heard about all the atrocities committed by America during the War in Vietnam, but much less was heard about the horrible deeds committed by the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army. In the Headmaster's Wager, Vincent Lam shows us that both sides inflicted serious pain on everyone in this tragic land. We see how a man obsessed with making money at all costs was blind to almost everything going on around him. Percy Chen is shown to be a true outsider: oblivious to everything but being Chinese and his adored son. I really enjoyed this book.
This title is available in Regular print, Book on CD, and Downloadable eBook formats.
By: Mary Lawson
Recommended by Ann
Road Ends did not grab my interest right away, but when it was done I was very sorry to see it finish. It is very well written and keeps the interest of the reader.
He listened as their voices faded into the rumble of the falls. He was thinking about the lynx. The way it had looked at him, acknowledging his existence, then passing out of his life like smoke. . . It was the first thing--the only thing--that had managed, if only for a moment, to displace from his mind the image of the child. He had carried that image with him for a year. He listened as their voices faded into the rumble of the falls. He was thinking about the lynx. The way it had looked at him, acknowledging his existence, then passing out of his life like smoke. . . It was the first thing--the only thing--that had managed, if only for a moment, to displace from his mind the image of the child. He had carried that image with him for a year now, and it had been a weight so great that sometimes he could hardly stand.
Mary Lawson's beloved novels, Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge, have delighted legions of readers around the world. The fictional, northern Ontario town of Struan, buried in the winter snows, is the vivid backdrop to her breathtaking new novel.
Roads End brings us a family unravelling in the aftermath of tragedy: Edward Cartwright, struggling to escape the legacy of a violent past; Emily, his wife, cloistered in her room with yet another new baby, increasingly unaware of events outside the bedroom door; Tom, their eldest son, twenty-five years old but home again, unable to come to terms with the death of a friend; and capable, formidable Megan, the sole daughter in a household of eight sons, who for years held the family together but has finally broken free and gone to England, to try to make a life of her own.
Roads End is Mary Lawson at her best. In this masterful, enthralling, tender novel, which ranges from the Ontario silver rush of the early 1900s to swinging London in the 1960s, she gently reveals the intricacies and anguish of family life, the push and pull of responsibility and individual desire, the way we can face tragedy, and in time, hope to start again.
This title is available in Regular Print and Downloadable eBook formats.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire--DVD 2013
Recommended by Kathy
"Overall, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a worthy sequel to the original and a fitting setup to the finale of the series..." Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Jennifer Lawrence, starring as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson playing Peeta Mellark reprise their roles in this second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, based upon the series written by Suzanne Collins.
After their victory in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta return to District 12, just to have to leave it again for the "Victory Tour" of Panem. While touring the districts, Katniss and Peeta become aware of the uprisings that are occurring in the districts surrounding the Capitol. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), also aware of the dissidence, insists that Katniss and Peeta convince the nation that they are in love with each other and forces them to announce their engagement. When this tactic fails to quell the rumblings in the districts, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) announces a special edition of the Hunger Games, bringing back former champions to compete against one another. Aptly named Quarter Quell, former male and female champions from all the districts are drafted to compete until only one remains.
Also reprising their roles from the first installment of The Hunger Games are Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy) and Lenny Kravitz (Cinna). Directed by Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, I am Legend), Catching Fire's screenplay is written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine).
This title is available in Young Adult Fiction, Large Print, Book on CD, DVD and Downloadable Audiobook formats.
The Precious Stone Trilogy
(Ruby red, Sapphire blue and Emerald green)
By: Kerstin Gier
Recommended by Pauline
Gwen's life has been a roller coaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-travelling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travellers she's been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he's very warm indeed; the next he's freezing cold. Gwen's not sure what's going on there, but she's pretty much destined to find out.
The stunning conclusion reaches new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-travelling society and learns her fate.
These titles are available in Young Adult Fiction and Downloadable Audiobook formats.
By: Joe Hill
Recommended by Rachel
On the anniversary of the mysterious rape and murder of his beloved girlfriend Merrin Williams, Ignatius Perrish, wakes up to find that he has been transformed overnight. Suddenly there are knobby horns growing out of his head. When he talks to people they don't recoil at them, they feel compelled to tell their most unspeakable thoughts. Among those thoughts Ig hears is how his family blames him for Merrin's death, they still think he killed her. His grandmother can't stand him, his mother wishes he would just disappear, his father finds it best to ignore Ig's existence, and his brother knows more about her death than anyone would have guessed.
No one but Ig seems to remember the interactions after they happen in fact they completely forget that he has horns growing from his head, but one person is immune to Ig's new powers... Merrins real killer.
After being the only suspect in the murder of his love for so long, can Ig use his new gifts to hunt down her killer and dish out the revenge that now fuels him?
"Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. Now it's time for revenge... It's time the Devil had his due..." (Quote from the book jacket).
This title is available in regular print, Large print, Book on CD, downloadable audioBook, and Downloadable eBook formats.