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Archived Staff Picks August 2014

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Archived Staff Picks - August 2014

 

Flee, Fly, Flown
By: Janet Hepburn
Recommended by Kim

Janet Hepburn's first novel could be dismissed as simply Thelma & Louise for the Canadian geriatric set: two elderly women escape from their nursing home in Ottawa, pick up a young male vagrant, and embark on a cross-country road trip in search of freedom and adventure. Hepburn's skilled and often humorous development of her octogenarian protagonists, however, and the novel's subtle nod to issues involving the treatment of those with dementia, infuse the story with a surprising complexity.

Lillian, the novel's narrator, and her flirtatious friend, Audrey, suffer from Alzheimer's disease. They struggle to maintain their tenuous grip on the present, but resent the restrictive world of Tranquil Meadows Nursing Home with its endless pills, condescending staff, and rigid schedules. "I eat when they tell me, sleep when they tell me, play bingo when they tell me," says Lilian. "Jeez, I even have a poop when they tell me."

As the unlikely trio heads west toward their ultimate destination, B.C.'s Rocky Mountains, memory lapses, incontinence, a stolen car, an injured stray dog, distraught family members, and a missing persons report impede their progress. When the young man, Rayne, who has been placed in charge of driving, decides to abandon the trip, the two women carry on alone. Their vulnerability becomes apparent when they are mugged in a parking lot and Audrey's purse is stolen.

Hepburn is careful not to romanticize Lillian and Audrey's journey: this is no joy ride, though there are certainly moments of delight and laughter. The unexpected relationship that unfolds between the women and Rayne, as he becomes their caretaker and, ultimately, genuine friend, is especially moving. As she marvels at the intricacy of a sunflower, Lillian observes, "Things are so different when you look more closely at them." This applies not only to these two remarkable women, but to the elderly in general and certainly to this fine novel.

I found this title when I was looking at the 2014 Evergreen ™ Nominee's.  I thought that the summary was interesting so I decided to read it.  I am really happy I did - I laughed and I cried.  I am not sure how Janet Hepburn is going to top this first novel.

This title is available in Regular Print format.

This review is from http://www.quillandquire.com.

Orphan Train

By: Christina Baker Kline
Recommended by Ann

Orphan Train  

I have found my new favorite book.  A very compelling story!

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to...moreThe author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

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

The Purchase
By: Linda Spalding
Recommended by Robert

Recently, I mentioned to another reference librarian that I had read Linda Spalding's "the Purchase" and her response was immediate. The novel was so depressing that she had to put it down. While she was certainly correct, I guess that I don't require a happy ending to enjoy a novel. Spalding, a transplanted American who won the 2012 Governor-General's award for this work, has certainly produced a bleak, but beautiful novel. The story begins with the newly widowed Pennsylvania Quaker Daniel Dickinson forced to move with a hastily married fifteen year old orphan and his five children to rural Virginia.  While buying supplies in a nearly town one day, Daniel finds himself the unexpected owner of a young slave boy, Onesimus. Hoping to eventually trade him back for a horse that he lost in the deal, Daniel, a devout abolitionist, is now a slave owner. While Dickinson works hard to maintain Quaker values in a slave owning milieu, he finds it difficult to do so and comes into conflict with neighbours who have no intention to treat slaves in a humane fashion. Torture and death ensue as his family forms connections with the neighbours and their slaves. The eldest and most cherished daughter, Mary, finds her black friends torn from her.  As the years pass, Quaker values have been eroded and family members begin to make their own choices. Meanwhile, the blacks begin to see escape to the north as a risk worth taking.  Will some family members and slaves find new lives? The answer may be in the reading.

The story of slavery in America is not a happy one. A Quaker in late 18th and early 19th century Virginia will have a difficult time living in a society that uses slaves. Can Dickinson and his family remain virtuous? Linda Spalding gives us an opportunity to ask and try to answer this question.  Recommended for those who appreciate difficult questions.

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

Her
DVD  2013
Recommended by Kathy

"Her" works as a real romance, and as a commentary

on the ways technology connects everyone to the world but

also isolates us from legitimate, warm human contact.

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Set in the Los Angeles of the slight future, "Her" follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet "Samantha," a bright, female voice, who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.

From the unique perspective of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Spike Jonze comes an original love story that explores the evolving nature--and the risks--of intimacy in the modern world.

Review is taken from   http://www.herthemovie.com/#/about

Russian Winter
By: Daphane Kalotay  
Recommended by Pauline

A mysterious jewel holds the key to a life-changing secret, in this breathtaking tale of love and art, betrayal and redemption.

When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead, the former ballerina finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed the course of her life half a century ago.

It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of the theater; that she fell in love with the poet Viktor Elsin; that she and her dearest companions--Gersh, a brilliant composer, and the exquisite Vera, Nina's closest friend--became victims of Stalinist aggression. And it was in Russia that a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal--and an ingenious escape that led Nina to the West and eventually to Boston.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest: Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that a unique set of jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together these unlikely partners begin to unravel a mystery surrounding a love letter, a poem, and a necklace of unknown provenance, setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.

Interweaving past and present, Moscow and New England, the backstage tumult of the dance world and the transformative power of art, Daphne Kalotay's luminous first novel--a literary page-turner of the highest order--captures the uncertainty and terror of individuals powerless to withstand the forces of history, while affirming that even in times of great strife, the human spirit reaches for beauty and grace, forgiveness and transcendence.

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


These Broken Stars
By: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Recommended by Rachel

Don't let the book jacket fool you! This story is not all love and tragic romance it is more about survival on a lost planet. Some reviews are comparing it to the space equivalent of Titanic but I can't disagree more! I was hoping for a bit more action and adventure but for the first in a new series I think they really have a great idea!  I am eagerly awaiting the next one.

 

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other's arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder--would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won't be the same people who landed on it.

This title is available in Regular Print format.  
Book summary from book jacket.

The devil on her tongue
By Linda Holeman
Recommended by Marilyn

A spellbinding story of loss, romance and betrayal set in 18th-century Portugal, from internationally bestselling Canadian historical fiction author Linda Holeman.

Diamantina is 13 when her father, a Dutch sailor who washed up on the Portuguese island of Porto Santo, abandons her and her African-born mother and sets off for the New World. Unbaptized, tainted by her mother's witchcraft and her foreign blood, the girl is an outcast who seems doomed in her struggle to survive. Diamantina refuses to accept her destiny and vows to escape her circumstances and forge a life of her own, no matter the cost. But as the price of her desires rises, can she live with the choices she has made? Diamantina's odyssey to change her life is a sweeping narrative of starvation and plenty, cruelty and love, disaster and triumph.

I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed this novel by Linda Holeman. The plight of Diamantina at times is heart-wrenching, but with resilience and courage, she perseveres to make a better life for herself. Born poor, the daughter of a witch who is ostracized by the villagers, and later abandoned by her father who reluctantly leaves them for the New World, the heroine faces numerous conflicts as she fights to make her own way and live life on her own terms.

Beautiful prose and compelling characters made this a wonderful read! It is very much a story of extremes - wealth vs poverty, love vs hate, honesty vs deceit, cruelty vs generosity, and much, much more. This lush story set in beautiful, exotic setting, swept me away. It is women's historical fiction at its best - moving, compelling, and engrossing. Read it and see for yourself. (Amazon review)

This title is available in Regular Print and Downloadable eBook formats.
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About Time
DVD - 2013
Recommended by Yvonne

I really enjoyed this feel good "comedy, drama, science fiction" movie co-starring our Canadian girl Rachel McAdams as Mary.  The movie premise is: a 21 year old British man named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is taken aside by his father (Bill Nighy) and invited in on the family secret: the men in the family can travel back in time; Tim can't change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life.  First on Tim's "travel back to-do list" is...getting a girlfriend.  Enter Mary (Rachel McAdams) -I know what you're thinking...time travel...really...hasn't Rachel McAdams been there done that? ("The time-travellers wife")  But "About Time" is essentially a comedy about love and family and the bonus of time travel that gives Tim the power to do better and get things right ie. perfecting his romantic marriage proposal.  The film also highlights the ups and downs families face making it in my opinion more than just another romantic comedy.

This title is available in DVD format.

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