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Archived Staff Picks - May 2016


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The Penderwicks
By:  Jeanne Birdsall
Recommended by Suzanne

In 2009 I came across a news article of Barack Obama with a children's chapter book in his hand and as a Children's Librarian I figured I should take a closer look at the title. What a treat I had in store! The US President and his two daughters were stuffing backpacks for the children of military personnel with school supplies, juice boxes, goodies and books. One of his picks was "The Penderwicks" by Jeanne Birdsall. If you are looking for an old fashioned tale of summer adventure to share with youngsters in your life this would make a fine choice.

The Penderwick family comprises of four sisters and a gentle but absent minded father. The girls have very distinct characters ranging from the eldest and very responsible sister, Rosalind, to Batty the youngest who is always found wearing a pair of butterfly wings and hanging out with the loyal family dog, Hound.

The story takes place as the family enjoy their summer vacation at a cottage on the grounds of a large manor house. It is here that they meet the mysterious Jeffrey and his disapproving mother.

I would hugely recommend this book to children 9-12 years old or as a read aloud to younger children. And one advantage is that if you don't want to say goodbye to the Penderwick family at the end of this book you don't have to! The book was such a success that there are three more titles in the series.

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

Two if by Sea
By Jaquelyn Mitchard
Recommended by Marilyn

Mitchard's (The Deep End of the Ocean) latest combines elements of science fiction and suspense with a heartfelt meditation on family and grief, to mixed results. When a tsunami devastates the Australian coast, Frank Mercy loses his pregnant wife and her entire extended family in the span of a few moments. Bottling up his grief, he reports for duty as a first responder and pulls a three-year-old boy named Ian from a half-submerged van. Frank feels strangely compelled to take him under his wing, and the pair flee Brisbane for Frank's family's horse farm in Wisconsin. It's soon apparent that Ian is special: he can speak to animals in a way that calms even the most skittish horses, and he can convince people to do whatever he wants (which, since he's three, generally means buying him sweets and toys). As Frank and Ian's bond becomes stronger, both begin to heal, but just as they become comfortable, figures from Ian's past catch up to him, and his mysterious origins become clearer, as does the danger he's in. Mitchard's usual strong characters and emotionally resonant prose are evident here, but a few predictable twists and a shoehorned-in love interest drag things down. This won't grab new readers, and longtime fans may feel frustrated by the change of style and pace. 

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

The Winter Palace
By: Eva Stachniak
Recommended by Robert

It becomes clear that after reading Eva Stachniak's award-winning "The Winter Palace", the Tudors had nothing over the court intrigues of the Russian Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine. The Polish-Canadian author has recreated through the eyes of a young personal maid a Russia where two women, Elizabeth and Catherine" found themselves at the hub of the Tsarist Empire.  Barbara (Varvara in Russian) is an orphaned daughter of a shoemaker who has found a position as a lowly maid in the Winter Palace, the less than comfortable home of the 18th century Russian aristocracy. The Russian chancellor Bestuzhev notices her reading a foreign language and soon enlists Barbara as a spy. As Varvara ingratiates her to Empress Elizabeth, her status begins to grow and her connection to Bestuzhev wanes. When Sophie (her named is changed to Catherine), a young daughter of impoverished Prussian nobles, is brought to Russia to marry Crown Prince Peter, Empress Elizabeth encourages Varvara to become close to Catherine (more spying here again). After the annoyed Bestuzhev effectively banishes Vavara by marrying her off to Egor, an officer of the Palace Guard, Catherine herself finally marries a less then interested Crown Prince.  While Varvara soon gives birth to a daughter, Catherine looks in other directions for sexual liaisons. With Empress Elizabeth's eventual death comes chaos as Crown Prince Peter ascends the crown without a legitimate heir. More intrigue ensues as Catherine, aided by the now returned Varvara, has evolved from a naïve teen into powerful leader herself. All of this occurs as the Winter Palace is rebuilt into an impressive palace and Russia wages a costly war with Prussia.

In this novel, Ms. Stachniak has told the story of how two strong women from very different backgrounds used palace intrigue to fend their way to the top of 18th century Russian society.  Her descriptions of sumptuous meals, elegant wardrobe and intricate palace politics bring the reader to a society which one has only heard about. This is the first book of a trilogy by Eva Stachniakl about Catherine the Great.  I would expect that the second, "Empress of the Night" will follow along the same fascinating trail.

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

As time Goes By
By Mary Higgins Clark
Recommended by Kim

In this exciting thriller from Mary Higgins Clark, the #1 New York Times bestselling "Queen of Suspense," a news reporter tries to find her birth mother just as she is assigned to cover the high-profile trial of a woman accused of murdering her wealthy husband.

Television journalist Delaney Wright is on the brink of stardom after she begins covering a sensational murder trial for the six p.m. news. She should be thrilled, yet her growing desire to locate her birth mother consumes her thoughts. When Delaney's friends Alvirah Meehan and her husband Willy offer to look into the mystery surrounding her birth, they uncover a shocking secret they do not want to reveal.

On trial for murder is Betsy Grant, widow of a wealthy doctor who has been an Alzheimer's victim for eight years. When her once-upon-a-time celebrity lawyer urges her to accept a plea bargain, Betsy refuses: she will go to trial to prove her innocence.

Betsy's stepson, Alan Grant, bides his time nervously as the trial begins. His substantial inheritance hangs in the balance--his only means of making good on payments he owes his ex-wife, his children, and increasingly angry creditors.

As the trial unfolds, and the damning evidence against Betsy piles up, Delaney is convinced that Betsy is not guilty and frantically tries to prove her innocence. A true classic from Mary Higgins Clark, As Time Goes By is a thrilling read by a master of the genre.

This title is available in Regular Print and Audiobook formats.
This review is from

Creed -  DVD
Recommended by Kathy

"In the end it's a movie about legacy, and it more than preserves the Rocky franchise's. It reminds you why it was great in the first place."  Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

 "Creed" reunites Coogler with his "Fruitvale Station" star Michael B. Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed, and explores a new chapter in the "Rocky" story, starring Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone in his iconic role.

Adonis Johnson (Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there's no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed's legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa.

Once in the City of Brotherly Love, Adonis tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer. Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo--the fierce rival who became his closest friend. Agreeing to take him on, Rocky trains the young fighter, even as the former champ is battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring.

With Rocky in his corner, it isn't long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title...but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?

"Creed" also stars Tessa Thompson ("Selma," "Dear White People") as Bianca, a local singer-songwriter who becomes involved with Adonis; Phylicia Rashad (Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias") as Mary Anne Creed, Apollo's widow; and English pro boxer and former three-time ABA Heavyweight Champion Anthony Bellew as boxing champ "Pretty" Ricky Conlan.

This title is available in DVD format.
Review taken from

The Princeling of Nanjing: The Triad Years
By:  Ian Hamilton
Recommended by Pauline

This is the 2nd novel of the Ava Lee sub-series called the Triad Years, where the formidable forensic accountant has moved on from her debt collection years with Uncle and is instead running the Three Sisters investment firm with her friend May Ling Wong and her sister-in-law Amanda Yee while also lending support to her new ally/silent partner, the Triad chairman Xu.

Ava Lee is in Shanghai for the launch of the PÖ clothing line. She has invited Xu, and over the course of the glitzy event and a late-night dinner, she detects a certain hesitancy in him. He confides that the Tsai family, headed by Tsai Lian, the governor of Jiangsu Province and a "princeling" - he is the son of a general who was on the Long March with Mao and a member of China's power elite - is trying to force him and his Triad organization back into the drug business.

Xu is already paying millions of dollars a year to various Tsai businesses, but the family wants more and thinks the new venture can deliver it. Xu believes this move would lead to his eventual destruction and feels he has nowhere to turn. If he opposes them, they will crush him. If he goes along with them, he thinks that inevitably the police and military will hunt him down.

Ava sets out to help Xu deter the Tsai family. As she digs into the breadth and depth of the family's wealth and corruption, she gets caught up in a huge tangled web, extending all the way to the U.S. and the U.K., where it reaches the top echelons of political power.

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


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