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Archived Staff Picks - January 2014


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Archived Staff Picks - January 2014

Cross and Burn
By:  Val McDermid
Recommended by Marilyn

Internationally best-selling crime writer Val McDermid's work speaks for itself: her books have sold millions of copies worldwide, won numerous accolades, and attracted a devoted following of readers around the globe. Her latest, Cross and Burn, picks up where The Retribution left off: following the best crime-fighting team in the UK-clinical psychologist Tony Hill and police detective Carol Jordan-who when we last saw them were barely speaking, and whose relationship will now be challenged even further.
Guilt and grief have driven a wedge between long time crime-fighting partners psychologist Tony Hill and ex-DCI Carol Jordan. But just because they're not talking doesn't mean the killing stops.
Someone is killing women.  Women who bear an unsettling resemblance to Carol Jordan.  And when the evidence begins to point in a disturbing direction, thinking the unthinkable seems the only possible answer. Cornered by events, Tony and Carol are forced to fight for themselves and each other as never before.
An edge-of-your-seat page-turner from one of the best crime writers we have, Cross and Burn is a chilling, unforgettable read.
"Smooth. Confident. Deeply satisfying. What else can you say about McDermid's writing? . . . The Jordan-Hill relationship remains the star of the show. . . . It's a match made in heaven amid hell on earth."- (Amazon review)

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

An Untamed Heart

By:  Lauraine Snelling

Recommended by Ann

Twenty-year-old Ingeborg Strand is certain she is destined to be an old maid. She's had several suitors but none she deemed worthy of spending her life with. That is, until she meets a university student from Oslo, and feelings stronger than friendship begin to develop between them. But tragedy strikes, and the future begins to look bleaker than ever.
Grief settles heavily over Ingeborg, and her mother suggests that she leave Norway and start afresh in America, as so many others have done before her. But how will she accomplish that with little money and no one to accompany her?
It isn't long before she meets Roald Bjorklund, a widower who has been planning to go to America for some time, lured by the promise of free land. He's a good man, a hard-working man--and he has a young son who desperately needs a mother. He's clearly interested in Ingeborg, but is he the answer to her prayers? And what about love? This isn't how she's always imagined it.
Ingeborg Strand has a heartrending decision to make...


Having read the Red River of the North series I was pleased to see the prequel to it.  This is an interesting thought provoking enjoyable read.


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

By:  Emma Donoghue
Recommended by Robert

When I started to think about writing this review, I was torn about how I would do so without providing a "spoiler alert".  Examining other reviews, I discovered that most critics covered the entire story. If you don't want your story spoiled, do not read past the third paragraph of this review.
This novel won Irish transplant (to Canada)  Emma Donoghue the 2010 Man Booker award. The narrator, 5 year-old Jack, lives with his mother in an 11square foot room.  Kidnapped at nineteen, the mother has created for Jack, the child born to her in captivity,  the best life she could for a child who has had no contact with the outside world . Jack spends his nights in the "wardrobe", avoiding the periodic nocturnal visits of "Old Nick". In the beginning, Jack sees the "Room" as his entire universe and does not connect what he sees on television to reality. Gradually, the curious and intelligent child begins to realize that he and his mother are not just recipients of "Old Nick's "Sunday treats but an enemy which they must try to avoid. After Jack attracts "Old Nick's" unpleasant attention, his mother begins to plot their future escape.
Jack and his mother escape from the "Room" to a world which he find very foreign. At first, medical staff addresses the significant psychological trauma which they have suffered. Jack misses toys and other "Room" items that had been important parts of his world. Showers, grass and trees are new to him and are part of a scary "Outside" world.  While Jack looks backs with fondness at the intimacy which he had with Ma in the Room, his mother wants to forget everything associated with her nine years of captivity. Yet, Jack proves to be resilient as he gets used to his mother's family and the rest of the world. It becomes clear that he will have to be the pillar of strength that his severely wounded mother will have to lean upon.
This novel can be divided into two parts: life in the "Room" and outside. Part one moves quickly as the reader wants to know whether our heroes will make it out of their prison alive. As they return to the outside in Part 2, they are challenged by the expectations of police, medical staff, the media and family members. It is a labyrinth that they must pass through to find their way to a normal life. Donoghue challenges us all to see this process through the eyes of a young child. It ends up being a unique and intriguing read.

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

Kon Tiki
DVD  2013
Recommended by Kathy

Once "Kon-Tiki" gets out to sea, it delivers several thrilling set pieces that keep the film on a steady course.  Donald Liebenson,

On the 28th of April 1947, Thor Heyerdahl leaves his wife and children behind to cross the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft called 'Kon-Tiki', with five inexperienced crew members. The Norwegian anthropologist and adventurer travels on the raft from Peru to Polynesia to prove that people from South-America settled in Polynesia instead of people from Asia, as was believed at the time. The crew did not pack any modern technology on board of the raft, except for a simple radio, and were companied by only each other and a parrot. With the world media watching, the crew navigates the Kon-Tiki across the Pacific Ocean using the stars and being driven by the currents and wind.
While taking on thunder storms, sharks and the dangers of the wide open sea, it's six brave men against nature trying to get the Kon-Tiki across to the Polynesian shore. After gambling all he has, including his marriage, Heyerdahl is determined to succeed.  

This title is available in DVD format.

This review was taken from

We Are Water
By: Wally Lamb
Recommended by Pauline


We Are Water is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True.

After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh--wife, mother, outsider artist--has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets--dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.
We Are Water is a layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs--nonconformist, Anna; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest. It is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

With humor and compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience and the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.


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


By: Will Ferguson &
Revenge of the Vinyl Café
By: Stuart McLean
Recommended by Rosemary

I know this sounds odd for a librarian but I often struggle with reading at particular times.  The book has to be just right for the moment.  The book for bedtime reading, for example, has to be the right weight both in literary and physical terms.  A heavy book is too awkward to hold and an adventure or fantasy read will just have me reading on into the wee hours.  Likewise, when I curl up for that early morning read with my coffee, I can't have something too exciting or it will be a last minute rush to get to work!
The worst is figuring out what to read on vacation.  I went away for a week in November carrying a Kobo loaded with opportunities.  On the airplane, I decided to read 419 by Will Ferguson, reviews rife with the promise of an exciting adventure.  Ferguson has a reputation as a humourist and a travel writer, but of course, 419 was anything but humourous.  It follows the story of a copy editor, Laura, (I found her literary comments very interesting) from her lonely life in Calgary to the bloody streets and backwaters of Nigeria. There are four storylines to connect, starting with the car crash death of her father Henry.  It turns out that Henry had quietly been involved with an Internet scam that left him penniless.  Laura decides to take action and track down the men who destroyed him.
Into this scenario comes the stories of three young Nigerians.  Winston, the Internet scammer with no real future, Nnamdi, a fisherman's son from rural Nigeria whose ecosystem and way of life has been destroyed by oil drilling, and Amina, a pregnant  waif running away from her family in the north for a better life in the cities of the south.  Once the stories intertwine, the narrative becomes much more lively and I really became caught up with the stories of these 4 young people.  The descriptions of the landscape and action are very good.  The first half is a bit of a struggle but the last is worthwhile.  The criminal underworld of Nigeria, the rape of the land by big oil, the connections of family, all bring this novel to life.  Well worth reading if a bit disturbing and depressing.
After that I entered the dangerous world of the Vinyl Cafe!  Dangerous, you say?  The Vinyl Cafe?  Well, this was Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe, where Dave and Morley and their kids face their biggest fears, in a delightful assortment of stories.  Dave has to face his fear of dolls, germs and Mary Turlington and much else besides.  Imagine sewer monsters, car wrecks and ravenous bears.  Much of the tale comes from their childhood experiences, with the fears spilling over into adult life.  If you read nothing else, make time for "Tour de Dave", (Dave and the Bike).
I read 419 in the daytime and on the plane trip away.  It was a serious read, and a little scary.  The Internet is such a big part of life these days, and scams are a disturbing part of it.  More disturbing was the concerns about the disconnect we often see between the west and the Third World, witnessed here in the destruction of the environment and its impact on the social life of Nigeria.

I read Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe before bed, story by delicious story, cheered by Dave and his family, and ready to enjoy the small adventures of my trip away.  Highly recommended.

The title "419" is available in Regular Print and the title  "Revenge of the Vinyl Café" is also available in Regular Print.

Orr:  My Story
By: Bobby Orr
Recommended by Kim

One of the greatest sports figures of all time at last breaks his silence in a memoir as unique as the man himself. Number 4. It is just about the most common number in hockey, but invoke that number and you can only be talking about one player -- the man often referred to as the greatest ever to play the game: Bobby Orr. From 1966 through the mid-70s he could change a game just by stepping on the ice. Orr could do things that others simply couldn't, and while teammates and opponents alike scrambled to keep up, at times they could do little more than stop and watch. Many of his records still stand today and he remains the gold standard by which all other players are judged. Mention his name to any hockey fan - or to anyone in New England - and a look of awe will appear. But skill on the ice is only a part of his story. All of the trophies, records, and press clippings leave unsaid as much about the man as they reveal. They tell us what Orr did, but don't tell us what inspired him, who taught him, or what he learned along the way. They don't tell what it was like for a shy small-town kid to become one of the most celebrated athletes in the history of the game, all the while in the full glare of the media. They don't tell us what it was like when the agent he regarded as his brother betrayed him and left him in financial ruin, at the same time his battered knee left him unable to play the game he himself had redefined only a few seasons earlier. They don't tell about the players and people he learned to most admire along the way. They don't tell what he thinks of the game of hockey today. Orr himself has never put all this into words, until now. After decades of refusing to speak of his past in articles or "authorized" biographies, he finally tells his story, because he has something to share: "I am a parent and a grandparent and I believe that I have lessons worth passing along." In the end, this is not just a book about hockey. The most meaningful biographies and memoirs rise above the careers out of which they grew. Bobby Orr's life goes far deeper than Stanley Cup rings, trophies and recognitions. His story is not only about the game, but also the age in which it was played. It's the story of a small-town kid who came to define its highs and lows, and inevitably it is a story of the lessons he learned along the way.

I can remember watching Bobby Orr play for Boston when I was just a kid, I admired him then as a hockey player and I admire him even more after reading his story.

This title is available in Regular Print format.
This description is from


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