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Archived Staff Picks - July 2015


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Archived Staff Picks - June/July 2015

Rebel Queen
By: Michelle Moran
Recommended by Marilyn

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi--India's Joan of Arc--who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.

Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies--one male and one female--and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita--Queen Lakshmi's most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army--Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life.

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

This review is from the authors website.

The Far Side of the Sky (Adler Family #1)

By: Daniel Kalla 
Recommended by Ann


November 9, 1938--Kristallnacht--the Nazis unleash a night of terror for Jews all across Germany. Meanwhile, the Japanese Imperial Army rampages through China and tightens its stranglehold on Shanghai, a city that becomes the last haven for thousands of desperate European Jews.

Dr. Franz Adler, a renowned surgeon, is swept up in the wave of anti-Semitic violence and flees to Shanghai with his daughter. At a refugee hospital, Franz meets an enigmatic nurse, Soon Yi "Sunny" Mah. The chemistry between them is intense and immediate, but Sunny's life is shattered when a drunken Japanese sailor murders her father.

The danger escalates for Shanghai's Jews as the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Facing starvation and disease, Franz struggles to keep the refugee hospital open and protect his family from a terrible fate.

The Far Side of the Sky focuses on a short but extraordinary period of Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish history when cultures converged and heroic sacrifices were part of the everyday quest for survival.

This novel is based on fact. The author has tried to capture a glimmer of those refugees very real and yet entirely surreal, circumstances.  This is a very interesting and well written novel.


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

Hector and the Search for Happiness
Recommended by Rachel


Hector (Simon Pegg) is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life style.  He feels like a fraud: he hasn't really tasted life, and yet he's offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happier. So Hector decides to break out of his routine driven life. Armed with buckets of courage and child-like curiosity, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. And so begins a larger than life adventure with riotously funny results. Based on the world-wide best-selling novel of the same name, Hector and the Search for Happiness is a rich, exhilarating, and hilarious tale.

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

This review from "Rotten Tomatoes". 

The Druid King
By: Norman Spinrad
Recommended by Robert

Yes, historical fiction has grasped this reader's attention again. This time, I picked up from our library's shelves Norman Spinrad's "The Druid King".  We are introduced to a young Vercingetorix, son of a Gallic  chief who had been executed through treachery. Vercingetorix is forced to flee and finds refuge with the druids, Northern Europe's influential Celtic priests. This part of the book has a sort of Star Wars feel to it.  Vercingetorix is trained in the fighting arts by Rhia, a very attractive and adept virgin warrior. ( sex is only offered if he is able to wound her (never happens, for now anyways). Eventually our hero encounters Julius Caesar, who is in the process of subjugating all of Gaul to Roman rule. Caesar is impressed by the young Gaul, and reintroduces him to his childhood love, beautiful Marah.  While Caesar hopes that Vercingetorix can become a client king in a peaceful conquest of Gaul, Vercingetorix soon realizes that his father's death had been orchestrated by the Roman and begins the task of uniting all of Gaul to resist the Roman conquest. As our Druid King succeeds in uniting most of Gaul, the inevitable occurs and a particularly bloody war erupts.

The author enlightens the reader on the nature of Druid mysticism, Gallic society and how they conducted war.  His portrayal of the various battles is superb. While Caesar's objective is victory in any way that's possible, the Gaul's method puts greater emphasis upon glory. Vercingetorix and his Gauls come very close to sending the Romans back home. Nevertheless, Caesar's superb tactics and use of Gaul's traditional Teuton foes resulted in the eventual and total conquest of Gaul. Caesar would later use this victory to propel himself to bigger things in Rome itself.

 I later discovered that this novel is actually derived from a movie script created by this same author. This did not surprise me. All the elements that an epic film require, great battle scenes, romance and the gutsy defense of one's homeland against an aggressor are found in this book. (Sort of the Braveheart of France). Recommended for those who enjoy adventurous historic fiction.

This title is available in Regular Print format.

Rudderless  2014
Recommended  by Kathy

"A rather strange but engrossing film with one of the more jarring twists of any film in recent memory."
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Sam (Billy Crudup), a former high-profile advertising executive, falls apart after the sudden death of his son. Living off the grid on a docked sailboat, he wastes away his days while drowning his pain in alcohol. When Sam discovers a box filled with his son's demo tapes and lyrics, his own child's musical talent is a revelation. Communing with his deceased son's dashed dreams, Sam learns each song and eventually musters the will to perform one at a local bar. When Quentin, a young musician in the audience, is captivated by the song, the unlikely duo form a rock band that becomes surprisingly popular and revitalizes both of their lives.

This title is available in DVD format.

Summary is taken from MetaCritic

The Kitchen House
By: Kathleen Grissom
Recommended by Krista

If you are looking for a historical fiction with a jam packed plot that blurs the lines of family, then The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is for you.  Set on a tobacco plantation, beginning in the 1790's it describes the intertwined lives of the kitchen house, the big house, and the fields.  The protagonist is Lavinia, an Irish girl who is indentured to a captain after being orphaned on her cross country voyage.  He brings her home to his lonely wife and children and places her in the care of the slaves in the kitchen house.  There she learns to trust and love Mama Mae, the grandma of the kitchen house and her adopted daughter Belle.  Problems arise while the captain is gone for long periods of time, leaving the cruel and controlling men in charge putting both his family and the slaves in jeopardy.  All of the characters struggle through challenging circumstances as they attempt to survive the best they can.

The majority of the book is told through the vulnerable and naïve eyes of Lavinia and although she is indentured she still provides a white point of view.  However, Grissom ingeniously interjects Belle's point of view every few chapters to offer the reader an important insight into the story's events that Lavinia doesn't know or understand.  We are also able to delve into the emotions of both characters and see the precariousness of their individual situations.

I really enjoyed this book's look at family and how it can be who loves and cares for you and not just blood or race.  I really like how Grissom used this style of the two women's views.  The plot was continually moving and there were many twists and turns.  This was an interesting and thought provoking historical fiction.

This title is available in Regular Fiction, Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

Falling in Love:  A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
By: Donna Leon
Recommended by Pauline

Donna Leon's Death at La Fenice, the first novel in her beloved Commissario Guido Brunetti series, introduced readers to the glamorous and cutthroat world of opera and one of Italy's finest living sopranos, Flavia Petrelli, then a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor. Years after Brunetti cleared her name, Flavia has returned to Venice and La Fenice to sing the lead in Tosca.

Brunetti and his wife, Paola, attend an early performance, and Flavia receives a standing ovation. Back in her dressing room, she finds bouquets of yellow roses - too many roses. Every surface of the room is covered with them. An anonymous fan has been showering Flavia with these beautiful gifts in London, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and now, Venice, but she no longer feels flattered. A few nights later, invited by Brunetti to dine at his in-laws' palazzo, Flavia confesses her alarm at these excessive displays of adoration. And when a talented young Venetian singer who has caught Flavia's attention is savagely attacked, Brunetti begins to think that Flavia's fears are justified in ways neither of them imagined. He must enter in the psyche of an obsessive fan before Flavia, or anyone else, comes to harm.

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


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