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July 2014 archived staff picks

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Archived Staff Picks - July 2014

China Dolls
Lisa See
Recommended by Pauline


The author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and Shanghai Girls has garnered international acclaim for her great skill at rendering the intricate relationships of women and the complex meeting of history and fate. Now comes Lisa See's highly anticipated new novel, China Dolls.
 
It's 1938 in San Francisco: a world's fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest with nothing but heartache, talent, and a pair of dancing shoes. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she guard her reputation like a piece of jade. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition.
 
The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.

This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, Book on CD, Downloadable eBook and Audiobook formats.

Lost Lake

By: Sarah Addison Allen
Recommended by Rachel

 
The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake; it was a picture on a postcard. Just an old photo and two words. But when she saw it, she felt she was seeing her future. That was a long time ago and now Lost Lake is going to slip into Eby's past. Her husband's long dead; most of her family is gone. All that's left are lakeside cabins succumbing to the southern Georgia heat and damp and very few of her faithful summer regulars drawn back to Lost Lake year after year.

Eby has decided to call this the final summer at the lake, and sell the property to a developer, but then one last chance at family knocks on her door.

Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer, before she learned of loneliness and heartbreak. Now a year after losing her husband she is finally pulling herself out of her grief and taking her daughter Devin to experience the magic that is summer on Lost Lake. Perhaps at her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer...and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that she lost long ago...

One after another regulars and people from the surrounding town return to the lake for one last party. Some looking for something that they didn't know they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. But will they all find it before Lost Lake is really lost to them forever.

Sarah Addison Allen always finds a way to weave a little magic into her books and this one is no different. They are always moving and well written with characters you can easily get attached to. There is just something about her writing that I find I speed half way through needing to know what happens next then I slow down not wanting it to be over! If you're looking for a nice spring read that will leave you with a warm happy feeling even on the rainiest of days I highly recommend Lost Lake.

This title is available in Regular Print and Book on CD formats. 

The Weight of Blood
By:  Laura McHugh
Recommended by Yvonne

First Line:  "That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body."

This book is author Laura McHugh's debut novel and I agree with what Publishers Weekly says: "a clever, multilayered debut....This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere."

Set in Henbane, a small Ozark Mountain town, the novel opens with Lucy Dane remembering her friend Cheri who disappeared a year earlier, and is found murdered.  This event is a painful reminder of Lila's (Lucy's mother) mysterious disappearance many years ago.  As the story unfolds, we toggle between the present day Lucy's' perspective; as she sets out to uncover the truth about the disappearances, and Lila's story.  Family secrets begin to be revealed as Lucy seeks answers to what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.

There are fascinating (and alarming) supporting characters that really help paint a vivid understanding of the dark side of this secluded community.  The Weight of Blood allows us a glimpse into a world of secrets, power and of being vulnerable in an evil society.

If you enjoyed this book, you may enjoy: Crooked Letter  by Tom Franklin.

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

The Weight of Silence

by Heather Gudenkauf
Recommended by Ann

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

This novel is suspenseful and very well written.  It follows the characters in individual chapters therefore the story is told from many points of view.  This is a good read.

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

The Cat's Table
By  Michael Ondaatje
Recommended by Robert

One expects a Michael Ondaatje novel to be written in a "lyrically wrought" style, but his latest Giller Award winning title deviates from this mode. The "Cat's Table" is the enthralling tale of a young boy's twenty-one  day ocean journey from 1950's Ceylon to England. Sent to reconnect with his mother in England,  11 year old Michael finds himself seated for meals at the Cat's Table, the least advantageous spot in the Oronsay's dining room.  He meets up with two other unsupervised children, the quiet Ramadhin and the hell raiser Cassius. The three new friends proceed to find many opportunities for adventure on the ship. These include Michael helping a burglar enter cabins and even some resulting in death. We meet other adult members of the cat's table and a motley assortment of passengers. These include a troupe of gymnasts and a haggard prisoner and his guards. They suffer through a severe storm and see more passengers lost forever.  Lodged in a higher class berth, Michael's older cousin Emily and others gives him a view of how one's life may evolve into adulthood. By the time the trio is ready to disembark, the trio has a vault of experiences that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

Ondaatje moves the reader to the reader's adult years where Michael tries to reconnect with some of those he met on the voyage. It is clear that the innocence of youth has been lost and that a number of surprises are in store for the author as he learns about some of the secrets that were left aboard the ship.

A Michael Ondaatje novel is always a work of poetry. This time, the author has also given us a coming of age story set on a boat taking a group of Eastern newcomers to the West. The author relates their experiences with lyrical clarity. This proves to be one of Ondaatje most approachable works.

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

August:  Osage County 
DVD  2013
Recommended by Kathy

Based upon the play written by Tracy Letts (who also wrote the screenplay) August: Osage County tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) are the three Weston sisters.  They return to their childhood home in the wake of their father's disappearance, where they find themselves immersed in the awkwardness and tribulations of their dysfunctional family and having to cope with their father's ultimate death and their mother 's (Meryl Streep) illness, addiction, and acerbic tongue.  Added to the mix, are husbands, in-laws, children, and cousins.   Directed by John Wells (Company Men), August:  Osage County is a sometimes humourous glimpse into an emotional, troubled family and their interactions with each other.

Part of this review is taken from   http://augustosagecountyfilm.com/#/synopsis

This title  is available in DVD format.

The Steady Running of the Hour
by Justin Go
Recommended by Marilyn

In this mesmerizing debut, a young American discovers he may be heir to the unclaimed estate of an English World War I officer, which launches him on a quest across Europe to uncover the elusive truth.

Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr. J.F. Prichard of Twyning Hooper, Solicitors, in London and news that could change Tristan's life forever.

In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt. Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months.

In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt. Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realizes. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley's fortune but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes.

The Steady Running of the Hour announces the arrival of a stunningly talented author. Part love story, part historical tour de force, Justin Go's novel is utterly compelling, unpredictable, and heartrending.

I enjoyed this book.

This title is available in Regular Print format.

Where We Going Daddy
By:  Jean-Louis Fournier
Recommended by Janet

"Life with Two Sons Unlike Any Others".

With a good dose of humour and very mixed emotions (sometimes despair) the author gives us a glimpse into the unimaginable life of parenting two disabled children.

The sad realization that they would never know what life could have been like for them had they been normal is heartbreaking and often overwhelming.

This is a little book with a big heart - a story many could relate to.

This title is available in Non-fiction Regular print format.

The Collector
By: Nora Roberts
Recommended by Kim

When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one. . . .

Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn't capable of violence--against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her. But their investigation draws them into a rarified circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away, and stolen, where what you possess is who you are, and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession. . . .

Not quite as fast paced as I usually expect Nora Robert's books to be but good none the less.  If you want a good summer read that has a little romance, a little suspense this would be the book for you to read.  Enjoyable.

This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, Book on CD and Downloadable eBook formats.

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