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Archived Staff Picks March 2013

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                             Archived Staff Picks - March 2013

Trust your eyes
By: Linwood Barclay
Recommended by Robert

Former Toronto Star columnist and winner of the Arthur Ellis and Evergreen awards, Linwood Barclay has now retired from the newspaper industry and devotes his time entirely to the writing of captivating mystery novels. In "Trust your Eyes", we are introduced to two adult brothers, whose father has just died as a result of what appears to be a garden tractor accident. The older Ray is a graphic artist who has temporally moved back to the family home in upstate New York to attend to his father's affairs and take care of his schizophrenic brother. Thomas, the brother, is a map-obsessed recluse with a photographic memory who uses Whirl360 (Google Street View) to memorize the streets of the world. Thomas believes that a catastrophe will destroy the world's computers and that the CIA will rely on Thomas's memory to recreate all the world's maps. While "working" one day, Thomas notices what appears to be a body with a plastic bag over its head in one of the upstairs windows of a New York brownstone. Thomas insists that his brother investigate the matter, which finds them stumbling into a deadly, political conspiracy.
Barclay also weaves a sub-plot on the nature of the brothers' father's accident. Ray begins to wonder whether his father had been pushed by an unknown assailant. Finding references to child pornography on his father's computer, Ray is tormented by what dark secrets he has uncovered. Was his father a molester or did he find out something that lead to his sudden death?
As the brothers learn more about the "woman in the window", they soon into contact with those who wish the woman was never revealed by Whirl360. Barclay provides numerous plot twists and it is only at the very end that both mysteries are solved. When Linwood Barclay received his Evergreen Award at the latest Ontario Library Association conference, he informed those present that Warner Brothers now owns the rights to a movie adaptation of his story. I am looking forward to a 21st century version of Hitchcock's "Rear Window" with a "Rain Man" component. Recommended to all those mystery readers who enjoy plot twists.

This title is available in Book and Downloadable Ebook formats.

Still Missing
By: Chevy Stevens
Recommended by Yvonne

"Still Missing" is Canadian author Chevy Stevens' debut novel. This fast paced and contemporary abduction novel delivers to suspense fans as the main character recalls her compelling story. While I was spellbound by the details revealed during her captivity and escape, the story takes a turn to the unbelievable when attempting to explain motivations for the initial kidnapping. Unfortunately, these improbable explanations detract from an otherwise gripping novel.
Set in British Columbia, this gritty and chilling suspense ride begins with our survivor heroine Annie O'Sullivan in her shrinks' office. Each chapter is a "session" as the story flits between her revealing sessions with her Psychologist and her narrative of the year-long chilling captivity. Realtor Annie was hosting an Open House on Vancouver Island when her nightmare begins. She is forced at gun point into her abductor David's van, is drugged and imprisoned in a remote cabin in the woods. Much of the story recounts her daily terror, which is described in detail and not for the faint of heart. "The Freak" as Annie silently describes her abductor, becomes her master and controller and Annie must numb to the horror forced upon her.
The plot twists once again as Annie begins dealing with the aftermath of her terrifying ordeal and readers will be shocked by the final storyline revelations. The story poses the question of how to return to "normal" life after such a disturbing nightmare and more importantly asks:who can you trust?
Verdict: Still Missing is a survival story that is gripping, suspenseful and does not disappoint until the final revelations leave us with more questions than answers. The essential Good vs. Evil storyline continues to surprise readers long after our heroine has escaped her abductor. Readers should be prepared for coarse language and graphic subject matter, both found liberally throughout this novel. While disappointed with the ending, this book was "utterly absorbing" and a worthwhile read for fans of the thriller/suspense genre.
"Grim and unsettling, Still Missing is a fast-paced read that is utterly absorbing" - Kathy Reichs, bestselling author.

This title is available in Book, Book on CD and downloadable Audiobook formats.

Gone Girl
By: Gillian Flynn
Recommended by Marilyn

Marriage can be a real killer.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favours with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media - as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents - the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behaviour. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter - but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence, Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.
I did enjoy this book and really worried that there were people who have such a vindictive streak that they could pull off something that required such an involvement. Perhaps we know people who are walking around who act so much that their true selves are never shown.

This title is available in Book, Book on CD Downloadable Audiobook and Ebook formats.
Part of this review is from
www.goodreads.com.

The Last Runaway
By: Tracy Chevalier
Recommended by Rosemary

I picked up The Last Runaway just after Christmas even though I knew I shouldn't. I had two other books, and an extended visit with the 15th month old grandson and his mom, Storytimes to plan, new programs to get ready, and on and on and on. Those things were shelved very quickly once I had read the first chapter. I apologize to my visiting family for neglecting them.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed this offering from Chevalier, a writer whose reputation was well established with The Girl with the Pearl Earring. This time, we are taken on a journey with Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman who crosses the Atlantic with her sister Grace, who is to marry a fellow Quaker immigrant now settled in Faithwell, Ohio. Honor has recently been jilted and is escaping the pity of her family and community. But her positive outlook vanishes on the arduous journey. She basically spends the entire voyage with her head over the rail and realizes that she will never be able to make the return trip.
Honor's plight worsens. On the overland journey to Faithwell, Grace contracts yellow fever and dies, leaving Honor alone, and increasingly uncertain of her future. She quickly finds herself at the mercy of others, including Belle, a milliner who gives Honor a home for a brief time and Donovan, a dangerous man who turns out to be Belle's brother, and then the unwelcome guest of her sister's betrothed and his sister-in-law. Ohio isn't the place she thought it would be, and her life is makeshift and uncertain. In time, Honor is swept up in the dominant issue of the time, slavery, and the existence of the Underground Railroad.
OK, I'm not giving any more away. The language of this book can be quite lovely, if not terribly complex. Same with the characters. I'm not sure the characters are all consistent in their behaviour, (there's an incident in a cornfield that I question. Read the book and you'll question it too, but I'm not telling!) and some are stereotypical (like the bad-tempered mother-in-law and the bad boy, Donovan). I like Honor, even though she can be quite judgemental and self-righteous. She knows she can't go back to England, but is too stubborn to open up to her new surroundings and is always comparing the harder life in Ohio to the glories of her old life.
Filled with little insights into Quakerism, the Underground Railroad and to quilting (Honor's particular talent), I found this a very readable and enjoyable jaunt into American history. Of course, Honor is the real runaway, and it was interesting to read how she comes to terms with there new life.

This title is available Book and Book on CD formats.

Divergent #1 / Insurgent #2
By: Veronica Roth
Recommended by Pauline

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue -- Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is -- she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation the follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are -- and where exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she has chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she kept hidden from everyone because she has been warned it can mean death.
Unrest and growing conflict threaten to unravel Tris' seemingly perfect society, and initiation day which should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction instead ends with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable -- and even more powerful.
Transformed by her own decisions but also by grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. And as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves -- and herself -- while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

This title is available in Young Adult Fiction, Downloadable Ebook and Audiobook formats.

 

The Odd Life of Timothy Green
DVD
Recommended by Kathy

"With just the right dose of magic and no shortage of sentiment, this inspirational parenting tale from writer-director Peter Hedges plays like "Mary Poppins" in reverse" Peter DeBruge (Variety).
The Odd Life of Timothy Green stars Jennifer Garner (Alias) as Cindy Green, and Joel Edgerton (The Thing) as Jim Green. The film also stars a delightful CJ Adams as the title character. Directed and written by Peter Hedges (About a Boy), this film is a Disney production.
Jim and Cindy, after being informed that they cannot conceive a child, put their wishes to paper for the type of child they want. They then place the papers into a box and bury it in their garden. That night a thunderstorm passes over the Green property and soaks the garden. The next morning, a dirty child appears in their house, claiming to be named Timothy Green. The strange thing is after cleaning him up, Cindy and Jim realize he has leaves growing from his legs.
As time goes on, Jim and Cindy also realize that Timothy has the exact characteristics that they wrote down and put into the box. He beguiles the people around him and each time he displays one of the characteristics his parents wished for in a child, he loses a leaf. When Timothy's leaves are almost gone, he tells his parents that he has to leave soon. With a crack of lightning during another storm, Timothy is gone.
As a result of Timothy's "visit" to their home, Jim and Cindy are approved by a state agency to adopt a child.

This title is available DVD format.

 

The Diviners
By: Libba Bray
Recommended by Rachel

After causing a small scandal Evie O'Neill is exiled by her parents from their quiet sleepy town to New York to live with her uncle Will. Will is professor and curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult -- also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." With no parents to control her and little to no rules Evie enjoys her carefree new life until a pattern of very disturbing murders take place and the police ask for her uncles expertise. Naturally a strong flapper girl like herself can't resist tagging along to offer her help and advice, but Evie doesn't realize just how valuable her secret gift will be to solving the case if she can just survive long enough. With no fear and no caution Evie and her friends are literally in a race against time and faced with danger.
I really like this book, although the first two chapters were a bit slow to start (lots of background and character building) its worth reading.

This title is available in Young Adult Fiction and Downloadable Audiobook formats.

 
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