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Archived Staff Picks - March 2015


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Archived Staff Picks - March 2015

By: Kim Thuy
Recommended by Krista

Ru is a beautifully written novel that reads like a memoir.  It is the story of a woman who travels from a tumultuous Vietnam, to a precarious life in a refugee camp and then finally to the foreign land, Quebec.  The novel is written in vignettes moving through memories, time and place trying to gain a sense of belonging and to make sense out of change.  Thuy has an interesting way of making an ordinary (unremarkable) memory into a striking emotional insight that prompted me to rethink preconceived notions.  The author leaves space for the audience to read between the lines and fill in the blanks. I was struck by how the misconceptions and misjudgments of well- meaning people can create an unintentional weight on those they wish to help.  It is so strikingly written that it is hard to believe it was originally written in French and then translated by Sheila Fischman.  I really enjoyed this interesting quick read.

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

The Map of Time
By Felix J. Palma.
Recommended by Robert

I have never read a novel which blended as many genres as Felix Palma's "The Map of Time". These include science fiction, steampunk, mystery, romance and historical fantasy. Three intertwined plots are centred upon the noted science fiction writer H.G. Wells who is called on to investigate incidents of possible time travel. We are introduced to privileged Andrew Harrington, who has risked it all to love a future victim of Jack the Ripper. Will he be able to use Wells' time machine (from his novel of that name) to change history and save the object of his love?  Twenty-one year of Claire Haggerty is determined to meet and love a future savior of the world by taking a ride with Murray's Time Travel, a commercial venture which claims to offer its patrons the opportunity to see a devastated London in the year 2000. Will she be able to stow away and live a life with her hero of the future? In the third subplot, a London detective is convinced that only a weapon of the future could have caused the murders of recent victims. He believes that a visit to 2000 could nab the murderer. When famous novelists such as Wells, Bram Stoker and Henry James are summoned to meet a mysterious stranger, the fate of some items of classic literature seems to be in peril.

Time travel and the ability to change history are the main themes of this novel. We are never really sure whether we are following a well-fabricated con game or whether forces from the future can truly alter history.  While challenging the reader to examine such concepts as the fourth dimension and the possibility of time travel, he also offers adventure, romance and mystery.  I certainly look forward to reading the next book in this series, "The Map of the Sky".  Interesting concepts to ponder and a lot of fun.  Recommended.

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

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café:  No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (15)
By: Alexander McCall Smith
Recommended by Pauline

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency often helps people find things they have lost. But they have never had to help a client find herself--until now, in this latest installment of Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling and beloved series.
A kindhearted brother and sister have taken in a woman known only as "Mrs."--a woman with no memory of her name or of how she came to Botswana. And so it's up to Precious Ramotswe and her new co-director, Grace Makutsi, to discover the woman's identity.
Meanwhile, motherhood proves to be no obstacle to Mma Makutsi's professional success. As she settles into her role as partner at the agency, she also launches a new enterprise of her own: the Handsome Man's De Luxe Café, a restaurant for Gaborone's most fashionable diners. But even Miss 97 Per Cent isn't fully prepared for the temperamental chefs, drunken waiters, and other challenges that come with running one's own business. Help may come from an unexpected source, if only Mma Makutsi can swallow her pride and ask.
And next door to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is all too familiar with the difficult decisions of business owners. He is finally forced to make a tough choice, one that will bring major changes to both Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency--and that will require all of Mma Ramotswe's finesse and patience to sort out.
With sympathy and indefatigable good humor, Mma Ramotswe and her friends see one another through these major changes and discover along the way what true friendship really means.

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

The Confabulist
By Steven Galloway
Recommended by Yvonne

"The word "confabulist" does not exist in the dictionary. The closest words are "fabulist" and "confabulate." According to the dictionary, a "fabulist" is a person who invents or relates fables or a person who lies. The verb "confabulate" in psychiatry means to "replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true." The implied question in these words of what is real and what is an illusion lies at the heart of this book." (above quote from Memories from books)

The Confabulist tells the remarkable story of Ehrich Weiss aka Harry Houdini; the illusionist/escape artist, his relationships with his mother and his wife and his beliefs in magic entertainment vs. spiritual trickery.   Interwoven is the first-person account of the Montreal man; Martin Strauss who became involvedly in the great magician's life and death...twice.  Told in alternating chapters of Houdini and Strauss; young and old, this novel discloses Houdini's rise to fame (escaping handcuffs and water tanks) as well as the dangers he faced pursuing his passion of exposing mediums who claimed they could communicate with the dead.  Houdini was a captivating character and author Steven Galloway gives us some sense of who he was beyond his performances.  An interesting read about one of the great magicians/illusionists of our time.
"What no one knows, save for myself and one other person who likely died long ago, is that I didn't just kill Harry Houdini. I killed him twice."

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

Girl Runner
by Carrie Snyder
Recommended by Marilyn

Girl Runner is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.

When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario and her struggles to make an independent life for herself in the city.

Without revealing who they are, or what they may want from her, the visitors take Aganetha on an outing from the nursing home. As ready as ever for adventure, Aganetha's memories are stirred when the pair return her to the family farm where she was raised. The devastation of WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic, the optimism of the 1920s and the sacrifices of the 1930s play out in Aganetha's mind, as she wrestles with the confusion and displacement of the present.

Part historical page-turner, part contemporary mystery, Girl Runner is an engaging and endearing story about family, ambition, athletics and the dedicated pursuit of one's passions. It is also, ultimately, about a woman who follows the singular, heart-breaking and inspiring course of her life until the very end. (Goodreads)

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

The Nightingale
By Kristin Hannah
Recommended by Kim

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn't believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child's life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

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

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