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Archived Staff Picks - September 2015

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The Burning Air
By Erin Kelly
Recommended by Marilyn

The ultra-respectable MacBride family in their beautiful cathedral city home is central to The Burning Air. Matriarch and magistrate Lydia MacBride has died unexpectedly and the family gathers at their second home in Devon to scatter her ashes, including her three children.

Tara is a single mother deeply in love with partner Matt; Sophie is a mother-of-three with a new baby and troubled marriage while Felix is the runt of the litter, so everyone is surprised when he brings along the stunning Kerry.

Enigmatic (actually, more space cadet) Kerry is a natural with baby Edie, so Sophie leaves Kerry to babysit while she goes to a festival with her family.

When Sophie returns home Edie and Kerry are gone, sending the family into a frenzy. The actions of the past ("a lapse of judgment" in order to save her family) written about by the late Lydia in her secret diary at the start of the novel, start to become clear.

I did not know what was coming after the baby disappeared and I wouldn't want to spoil it for you. Suffice to say that The Burning Air is a classic of the psychological thriller genre and puts Kelly firmly into the same league as Ruth Rendell writing under her Barbara Vine pseudonym; both women showing a great gift for characterization and a mastery of understanding human nature's twisted desires.

As one who is good at bearing a grudge myself, I loved it and found myself emitting a good few panto-style "ooohs!" and "aaahs!" at the unexpected twists; always a good sign.

Erin Kelly puts a satisfying contemporary spin on her genre, showing a sympathy for all her characters, even the supposed "baddies", and a love of a moral dilemma which could happen to any one of us. It is this realism, a hand-grenade thrown into uneventful and supposedly comfortable lives, which makes The Burning Air such an involving read.

This title is available Regular Print and Downloadable eBook formats.

A Memory of Violets
By: Hazel Gaynor
Recommended by Rachel

Step into the world of Victorian London, where the wealth and poverty exist side by side. This is the story of two long-lost sisters, whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.

1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden's flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by each other's presence. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.

In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw's Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London's flower girls--orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie--a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie's pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

"For little sister. . . . I will never stop looking for you." If you have a sister weather you love her or hate her this will be a very moving book

This title is avaliable in Regular Print.

Review from back of book.

The Grantchester Mysteries (DVD)
By: James Runcie
Recommended by Pauline


Sidney Chambers and the shadow of death
Sidney Chambers and the perils of the night
Sidney Chambers and the problem of evil
Sidney Chambers and the forgiveness of sins
Grantchester ( DVD)

The series is set in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester and  takes place from 1953 to the mid 1970s.

The principal character is Canon Sidney Chambers, 32-year old, unmarried Anglican vicar. The recipient of many a secret, but always willing to think the best of people, Sidney can go where the police cannot.

Sidney Chambers develops a sideline in sleuthing--with the initially reluctant help of grumpy, overworked Detective Inspector Geordie Keating.

This title is available in DVD format. Some of the above mentioned titles are available in Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

The Longest Ride   DVD
Novel by Nicholas Sparks
Recommended by Kathy

Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke (Scott Eastwood), a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia (Britt Robertson), a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and fateful connection with Ira (Alan Alda), whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, The Longest Ride explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.

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

The Melody Lingers On

By Mary Higgins Clark

Recommended by Kim

 

As the sole assistant to a famous upscale interior designer, Lane Harmon, mother to five-year-old Katie, is accustomed to visiting opulent homes around the tri-state area. A born optimist, Lane finds the glimpse into these gilded worlds fascinating, and loves the reward of exceeding the expectations of their often-demanding owners. When she is called to assist in redecorat As the sole assistant to a famous upscale interior designer, Lane Harmon, mother to five-year-old Katie, is accustomed to visiting opulent homes around the tri-state area. A born optimist, Lane finds the glimpse into these gilded worlds fascinating, and loves the reward of exceeding the expectations of their often-demanding owners. When she is called to assist in redecorating a modest townhouse in Bergen County, she knows the job is unusual. Then she learns the home belongs to the wife of a notorious and disgraced financier named Parker Bennett.

Parker Bennett has been missing for two years. He dropped out of sight just before it was discovered that the $5 billion dollars in the fund he had been managing had vanished. Bennett had gone out on his sailboat in the Caribbean. Was it suicide or had he staged his disappearance? The scandal around his name has not died down. His clients and the federal government all want to trace the money and find Bennett if he is still alive.

Lane is surprised to find herself moved by Mrs. Bennett's calm dignity and apparently sincere belief in her husband's innocence. Gradually, Lane finds herself drawn to Mark, the Bennetts' son, who is similarly determined to prove that his father is not guilty. Lane doesn't know that the closer she gets to the Bennetts, the more she puts her life―and her daughter's life―in jeopardy.

 

This is definitely my kind of mystery - the kind where they keep me guessing right up until the end.

 

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

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Alan Bradley

Recommended by Krista

 

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, with its interesting name and whose cover is a bird with a stamp through its beak, but I thought I should give it a try.  I was hooked from the start when the first line read, "The closet was as dark as old blood" as eleven year old Flavia de Luce tries to get herself out of a precarious situation.  Her older evil sisters have tied her up and trapped her in the closet but they are no match for her cleverness and determination.  Right from the start Flavia gives the reader the impression she can handle anything that comes her way.

The story takes place in Flavia's old English mansion where she has her very own chemistry lab.  One day she hears her father arguing behind closed doors and then that evening she finds a man taking his last breath in the garden.  Flavia uses her wits and resourcefulness to delve into her father's past to solve the mystery. The writing in this book is smart and full of imagery and the charming Flavia jumps off the page.   She is an original and interesting voice narrating the story.  This book is a great beginning to the Flavia De Luce series.

 

Fun fact: Alan Bradley grew up just down the highway from us in Cobourg.

 

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

The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt
Recommended by Robert

A number of reviewers have labelled the Pulitzer Prize novel by Donna Tartt as Dickensian.  After finishing this 771 page tome, I will certainly concur. We are introduced to 13 year old Theo Decker who is strongly attached to his beautiful and intelligent mother. While visiting an art museum together, the two are forever separated by a violent explosion which appears to have killed everyone but Theo. In the  ensuing turmoil, Theo grabs an enchanting 16th century Dutch painting of a goldfinch chained to a perch on a shelf and then returns to their apartment, hoping that his mother would be waiting for him. It never happens. Unable to contact a father who had left the family years ago, Theo is taken in by a wealthy Park Avenue friend and his family.  Meanwhile, Theo has taken great care to wrap and hide the painting.

Theo also begins to visit an antiques store where he finds the partner of a man who was killed in the explosion and a teenage niece who was severely injured in the blast. (She and Theo had noticed each other just prior to the explosion).  Throughout the novel, Pippa and Theo will reconnect at various times but will always find themselves separated. Eventually his long lost father and his girlfriend reclaim Theo and bring him to his home in Las Vegas.  While carefully hiding his special package, Theo tries to adapt to a new high school and his father's gambling lifestyle. A close relationship develops with Boris, a funny, hipster teen of Russian extraction who will prove to have a strong effect upon Theo's life.  When death again strikes Theo's family, he returns to New York and to work in the antique store. He meets a now unavailable Pippa and reconnects with what is now left of his foster family on Park Avenue.

On the surface, it appears that Theo's life is pretty uneventful. He is planning to marry his Park Avenue friend's kid sister and is seen as the important salesperson in the antique store. However,shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage containers and the black market for art eventually envelope Theo's life. Of course, his friend Boris has returned and excitement always erupts. All of these events are centered on the Goldfinch. What will its future be? Will Theo and Boris avoid prison or worse? The answers to these questions will be revealed by the end of Tartt's novel.

Theo has certainly lived a dysfunctional, but eventful life. As soon as his mother had pointed out to him the Goldfinch at the art gallery, Theo clings to the one thing that reminds him of her. It also carries him to the criminal world of art and antiquities. Theo wends his way form a world of comfortable affluence to one infested by mobsters. He himself is not guiltless and he is tempted by his friend Boris to view the necessity of bad actions to create a future good. Tartt's coming of age novel of loss and a sort of redemption is well researched and written. We learn much about the good and seedy world of art and antiques. Our hero uses the Goldfinch as a touchstone to get through some very trying situations. Those who enjoy these forms of literary treks will find "The "Goldfinch" a very worthwhile read.

This title is available in Regular print, Large print, Book on CD, Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

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