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Archived Staff Picks - December 2013


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Archived Staff Picks - December 2013

Christmas Cottage
DVD - Directed by Michael Campus
Recommended by Kathy 

This is the story of Thomas Kinkade, the artist known as the "Painter of Light" and the event that inspired him to become a professional artist.  Thomas Kinkade, played by Jared Padalecki (The Gilmore Girls), was also co-author of several "Cape Light" novels.

In the time just before Christmas in 1977 Maryanne Kinkade, (Marcia Gay Harden:  Law & Order:  Special Victims Unit), living in Placerville, California fell behind in making her mortgage payments.  Her son, Thomas Kinkade, home from college, and taking the advice from the famous painter and his mentor, Glen (Peter O'Toole) who lives next door accepts the job of painting a mural in his hometown.  Along the way to finishing the mural, and in doing so raising funds to help catch up on his mother's mortgage payments, Kinkade finds inspiration for his painting in his hometown and the people who live there. 

This title is available in DVD format.

There Was an Old Woman
By:   Hallie Ephron
Recommended by Yvonne

First Lines:  "Mina Yetner sat in her living room, inspecting the death notices in the Daily News.  She got through two full columns before she found someone older than herself."

The story begins with Evie Ferrante's discovery that her alcoholic mother has been hospitalized, she returns home to find her childhood house in neglectful disarray.  Sorting through her mother's things, Evie discovers items that don't quite belong (envelopes of cash, cat food and a new large screen television) and begins to have questions with every new puzzling discovery.  She rekindles a relationship with elderly neighbor; Mina Yetner, who may have insight about her mother's current situation, unfortunately Mina is having her own problems.  Mina's nephew Brian is trying to convince her to move out of her home and into an assisted living community.  As Evie investigates her mother's circumstances a darker conspiracy involving Mina surfaces.

While I enjoyed the mystery (secrets revealed) that unfolded in this novel, it was not highly suspenseful.  I would categorize it more as a drama; with a light smattering of romance and history. 

Hallie Ephron is the award-winning mystery reviewer and author of Never Tell a Lie and Come and Find Me. 

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

Gorky Park
By:  Martin Cruz Smith
Recommended by Robert

It is Moscow of the late 1970's before the breakdown of the Soviet Union.  Arkady Renko, the chief homicide investigator for the Moscow Police, has been summoned to the scene of a brutal but curious crime. Three bodies are found frozen in a park with their faces carved away, their fingertips removed and all means of identification removed.   One of the bodies is found to have undergone "Western" dental work. Another, that of a young woman, is wearing ice skates. The cynical Arkady, a somewhat less than good party member, has little to go on. Nevertheless, the detective begins to probe the city's foreign visitors, the movie making community and the elements of the black market in stolen icons. Renko's hunches lead him to believe that a well-connected American importer is responsible for the crime. Eventually the detective determines the identity of those murdered; two Siberian nationalists and an American student. In the course of his investigation, Arkady becomes romantically involved with Irina, a friend of the murdered girl.  Renko also runs into the American student's brother, a New York City detective who challenges Arkady's Russian methods of detection. The continuing investigation leads Arkady into a collision with and eventual arrest by the KGB. The KBG gets Renko fired and he and his new girlfriend sent to the United States to help reverse what the Russian really feared to lose, their control of the lucrative sable trade to the American importer.
While the plot is quite complicated, the action does heat up into an exciting shoot-em up. In this novel, the plot is only part of the story.  We see a Soviet Union of the Cold War, where one's connection to the Communist Party will always dictate where you are going in your life. Martin Cruz Smith is very effective in painting in bleak tones a post-Stalinist Soviet Union. In the future, we will see Arkady Renko find his way in new adventures as the Soviet Union disintegrates and morphs into what it is today. This first of the Renko novels is a fine start.  Recommended.

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

The Paladin Prophecy
By:  Mark Frost
Recommended by Pauline

Readers of I Am Number Four, The Maze Runner, and Legend will love this exciting new adventure series by the co-creator of the groundbreaking television show Twin Peaks, with its unique combination of mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.

Will West is careful to live life under the radar. At his parents' insistence, he's made sure to get mediocre grades and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team. Then Will slips up, accidentally scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam.

Now Will is being courted by an exclusive prep school . . . and followed by men driving black sedans. When Will suddenly loses his parents, he must flee to the school. There he begins to explore all that he's capable of--physical and mental feats that should be impossible--and learns that his abilities are connected to a struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for millennia.

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


After Her
By:  Joyce Maynard
Recommended by Marilyn

The New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day and The Good Daughters returns with a haunting novel of sisterhood, sacrifice, and suspense. I was always looking for excitement, until I found some ... Summer, 1979. A dry, hot Northern California school vacation stretches before Rachel and her younger sister, Patty--the daughters of a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective father and the mother whose heart he broke. When we first meet her, Patty is eleven--a gangly kid who loves basketball and dogs and would do anything for her older sister, Rachel. Rachel is obsessed with making up stories and believes she possesses the gift of knowing what's in the minds of people around her. She has visions, whether she wants to or not. Left to their own devices, the sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the mysterious neighbor who moved in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that looms behind their house. When young women start turning up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is put in charge of finding the murderer known as the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life slowly unravel as months pass and more women are killed, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet ... using herself as bait to catch the killer. But rather than cracking the case, the consequences of Rachel's actions will destroy her father's career and alter forever the lives of everyone she loves. Thirty years later, still haunted by the belief that the killer remains at large, Rachel constructs a new strategy to smoke out the Sunset Strangler and vindicate her father--a plan that unexpectedly unearths a long-buried family secret. Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case that terrorized Marin County, California, in the late 1970s, After Her is part thriller, part love story. Maynard has created a poignant, suspenseful, and painfully real family saga that traces a young girl's first explorations of sexuality, the loss of innocence, the bond shared by sisters, and the tender but damaged relationship between a girl and her father that endures even beyond the grave.

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


The Bride Quartet (Series Title)
By:  Nora Roberts
Recommended by Kim

Traditional romance novels are usually about one woman getting her Happily Ever After. Sometimes she has a friend, co-worker or family member who falls in love in the same book, but as a rule, it is the romance between one hero and one heroine that is the main focus. It is rare to find romance novels where the heroine's friends are as much a part of a woman's story as her hero is. However, Nora Roberts has created just this with her outstanding series the Bride Quartet.

In these books, readers get to know the inner workings of four dynamic characters - Mac, Emma, Laurel and, the binding force behind them all, Parker. These women have been best friends since they were little, and have recently come back together to create a business where each of them is an equal partner. The series starts with the Quartet, as the women are called, living together on an estate outside of New York City planning weddings for bridezillas and loving every second of it. During each of the stories, one of the ladies finds true love, but at no point does this love get in the way of their deep and abiding sisterhood.

Book 1 -Vision in White - Mac's story
This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, downloadable eBook and Audiobook formats.

Book 2 -Bed of Roses - Emma's story
This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, Downloadable eBook and Audiobook formats.

Book 3 -Savor the Moment - Laurel's story
This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, Book on CD, Downloadable eBook and Audiobook formats.

Books 4 -Happy Ever After - Parker's story
This title is available in Regular Print, Downloadable eBook and Audiobook formats.

I know that a lot of people think that these books are just fluff - they are right, but to be honest these books are a very entertaining fluff.  An enjoyable light read.


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