Archived Staff Picks - April 2013
The Light Between Oceans
By: M.L. Stedman
Recommended by Rosemary
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman was a recommendation from a dear, sentimental friend who knows perfectly well that I don't care for sentimental books. But it was historical, set in Australia at the end of World War I, and for that reason, held some promise.
Tom Sherbourne is traumatized after surviving four years on the Western Front. He returns to Australia and takes a position with the Lighthouse Service, drawn to the meticulous nature of the work, and its isolation. His post is on Janus Rock, a fictional square mile of green that "dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica." It is a tough lonely post but Tom is content. The closest community is Point Partaguese, half a day's journey by the supply boat that comes once a season. There Tom meets and marries Isabel, a lively and bold young woman unafraid of the challenges of living an isolated life.
The lonely life on Janus may be just the ticket for Tom and his demons, but it turns out to be less comforting for Isabel, who after two miscarriages and a stillbirth is experiencing her own trauma. One day, they discover on the tiny beach, a boat with two passengers, one an infant girl, the other a dead man. For Isabel, this is "a gift from God" but for Tom it marks the unravelling of a carefully constructed life. He wants desperately to report the discovery but Isabel has taken the baby as her own. The consequences of their actions will reverberate for years to come.
This is a breathtaking and heartbreaking book, beautifully written, that challenges our very sense of what is right and just. The reader is swept up in the story of these two compelling characters and makes us think hard about the moral choices presented.
I will confess to shedding quite a few tears at the end of this story, not something I do often. A heartbreaking and transcendent novel, highly recommended.
This title is available in Book format.
By: Tim Wynne-Jones
Recommended by Rachel
Mimi Shapiro had a disturbing freshman year at NYU, thanks to a foolish affair with a professor who still haunts her caller ID. So when her artist father, Marc, offers the use of his remote Canadian cottage, she's glad to hop in her Mini Cooper and drive up north. The house is fairy-tale quaint, and the key is hidden right where he dad said it would be, so she's shocked to find someone already living there -- Jay, a young musician, who is equally startled to meet Mimi and immediately accuses her of leaving strange and threatening tokens inside: a dead bird, a snakeskin, a cricket sound track embedded in his latest composition. But Mimi has just arrived, so who is responsible? And more alarmingly, what does the intruder want? Part gripping thriller, part family drama, this fast-paced novel plays out in alternating viewpoints, in a pastoral setting that is evocative and eerie -- a mysterious character in its own right.
I have to admit that this is the first memorable Canadian author that I have read in a long time! I loved the descriptions of the scenery and the realism of the characters. Best of all I wasn't able to predict the plot twists so I really enjoyed seeing how it played out.
This title is available in Young Adult Fiction and downloadable Audiobook formats.
This review is from our website.
The Pillars of Hercules
By: Paul Theroux
Recommended by Robert
You may have noticed it on occasion, but this reviewer does not restrict his reading choices to new releases. While perusing my branch's travel section, I picked up Paul Theroux's "The Pillars of Hercules: a Grand Tour of the Mediterranean". The result of Theroux's decision to travel along the coastline of this sea is a book which chronicles his adventures as he negotiates his way among the peoples that inhabit these ancient lands. The author begins his journey at one of the "pillars", the Isle of Gibraltar. He set off from this vestige of the British Empire with its old world ways and its protected apes to cruise along the Spanish and French Rivieras, abhorring tourists and "tourist places" alike. On numerous occasions, he travels inland, searching for those towns and villages that capture the spirit of that region. He does not stray too far from the coast: he realizes that the sea has little effect on the daily life of those who live inland. Theroux travels by foot, train, bus and even cruise ship to the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the coast of Italy, painting a vivid portrait of the peoples he meets along the way.
Since he is travelling in 1995, the author sees the aftermath of war in the Balkans and has to evade areas that continue to be dangerous. He visits ancient sites on the coast of Turkey and senses the simmering animosity which continues to exist between Greeks and Turks on the isle of Cyprus. Theroux negotiates his way in the Middle East, gaining insight on the plight of Egyptians, Palestinians, Syrians and Israelis. Avoiding very dangerous Algeria, Theroux cruises to Tunisia and ends his trip at the second pillar, Tangiers. The author makes a point of visiting areas associated with other travelers such as Homer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, Carlo Levi and Lawrence Durrell. He also visits with Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, recovering from an assassination attempt in Cairo and an aged Paul Bowles in Tangier.
The Pillars of Hercules is more than a sightseeing guide. Paul Theroux makes a point of visiting out of season and using a variety of means of transportation to meet as many interesting people as he can. His travelling companions are sometimes as interesting as the attractions they view. When one reads an eighteen year old travel book, one gets a picture of what the Mediterranean areas were going through at that point of history. If you are interested in learning about the "people" element in world travel, you will enjoy this book.
This title is available in Book and Downloadable Ebook formats.
The Lost Garden
By: Helen Humphreys
Recommended by Yvonne
Written by Canadian poet and author: Helen Humphreys, The Lost Garden introduces us to Gwen Davis, an introverted horticulturist who leaves London during the Blitz in 1941 to volunteer as a Women's Land Army supervisor. While in charge of the Land Girls, growing food (potatoes) for the war effort; it becomes obvious that Gwen is not a typical heroine nor is this story about growing potatoes. The story is told in layers flush with botanical information with themes including longing, loss and love growing and taking root among the friendships that develop between Gwen, the Land Girls and nearby Canadian men waiting to be deployed.
Awkward and lonely Gwen reveals all as her story unfolds after her discovery of companionships with Jane (Land Girl) as well as Captain Raley: but unremittingly reverts to the comfort of her solitary self-reliance. Some mysteries develop around characters' pasts, stolen chickens but mostly, Gwen is trying to learn the secrets hidden in the lost garden. With a leisure pace the author reveals a poetic but universal tale of love's pursuit, enduring loss and passionate longing. Extensive descriptions of horticulture, plants and gardening are weaved throughout the novel, adding a feast for the senses that allows us, the reader to understand and sympathize with un-heroic Gwen and her fellow heart-breaking characters.
Not a book to read if you are looking for edge-of-your-seat excitement, however it is beautifully written, wonderfully descriptive, unexpected story of love, loss and longing. Fans of historical fiction will be surprised by the extensive amount of savoury detail Humphrey's is able to give for us, in what is considered a short historical fiction novel. I suggest you read this book slowly, let it pull you back in time, behind the yews and into the hidden garden.
This title is available Book and Downloadable EBook formats.
Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki
Recommended by Kathy
Gere's performance in Arbitrage is too good to ignore. Peter Travers - Rolling Stone.
Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere (Robert Miller) and Susan Sarandon (Ellen Miller) was written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki. Gere portrays a hedge fund manager who is praying that the sale of his company is accomplished before his bad investment in a mine is discovered by the potential buyers. Complicating his life and business is a soon-to-be-deceased mistress, an unusual accomplice, a daughter who serves as his company's Chief Accounting Officer, and a wife who resorts to blackmail. Posing further difficulties for Miller is NYPD detective (Tim Roth) who is investigating the death of Miller's mistress, Julie and who senses there is more to Miller than meets the eye.
Will Miller manage to finagle his way out of his predicament? Watch this thriller and find out!!
This title is available in DVD format.
By: Marie Lu
Recommended by Pauline
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbours. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old
Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths -- until the day June's brother, Metias is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this NY Times Bestseller post-apocalyptic novel for teens and older is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
Watch for the sequel, Prodigy (Legend 2)
This title is available in Young Adult Fiction and Downloadable Audiobook formats.