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Archived Staff Picks-September 2014


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Archived Staff Picks - September 2014

The Bird House
By: Kelly Simmons
Recommended by Pauline

Family secrets of infidelity drive this domestic tale set in Gladwyne, PA, and narrated by 70-year-old Ann Biddle. Her short-term memory is not as sharp as it once was, but she is still able to recall the skeletons in her relatives' closets as she bonds with her eight-year-old granddaughter, Ellie, and helps her complete a family history class assignment. This stroll through the mists of time allows the reader to learn about tragic events that occurred in 1967. Tensions between Ann and Tinsley, Ellie's overprotective mother and Ann's daughter-in-law, drive the plot. It is Ellie, the observant child, who is stuck in the middle of the family strain.

Simmons's second novel (after Standing Still) is a great title for book groups that enjoy fiction with strong female characters.

This title is available in Regular Print format.

Soul Flame

By: Barbara Wood
Recommended by Ann

Selene. She was gifted, brilliant, beautiful and dedicated to the healing arts. But in the ancient Roman World of the First Century, the idea of a woman as a physician was unthinkable -- until Selene dared to challenge and break all the taboos.

Selene is a girl in a desert town of Antioch who becomes a healer and uses herbal and sensible remedies to help people. She is a highly sympathetic character. Medicine in this part of the world was more advanced than in Europe at this time. Or course there are many afflictions that she cannot heal.

Soul Flame is the story of Selene's apprenticeship to her folk-healer mother ... of her relationship with a passionate man of healing. .. and of her odyssey through the cities of the ancient world -- Antioch, Babylon, Jerusalem, and Rome -- through danger and intrigue, treachery and seduction ... as she followed the call of her desire and destiny as a woman and a doctor.

At the deepest heart of Selene's story is her quest to discover her true identity, for the woman named Mira, whom she thought was her mother, was in fact the midwife who delivered Selene one omen-filled night, as an aristocratic couple, pursued by Caesar's soldiers, sought refuge in Mira's humble house.

Mira believed the child was born of the gods.

I really enjoyed this book, which is a much easier read than we might imagine from reading the blurb.

This title is available in Regular print format.

Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars.
By:  Tim Cook
Recommended by Robert

When one hears the term "warlord", the first thing that usually comes to mind is a swashbuckling, aggressive military leader leading his troops on the battlefield. It is not the term that one would normally use to describe either of Canada's wartime prime ministers, Sir Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Award winning Canadian historian Tim Cook clearly extends the definition to something quite different. In "Warlords", we are introduced to two political leaders who guided Canada through the 20th century's two world wars. Robert Borden's military experience was marginal, limited to a short time spent in the reserves in Nova Scotia. Nevertheless, Cook makes it clear that World War I defined Borden's period as prime minister. Buoyed by English Canada's desire to defend the British Empire, Borden found himself at the hub of dramatic actions making Canada an important war partner. Building a war infrastructure from scratch, Borden relied upon the erratic but effective Sir Sam Hughes to build an army ready to defend the British Empire. Canada began as an automatic participant working under English command, but by its end, was well on its way to true independence. Borden is shown to be a parochial political realist who evolved into an idealist who would sacrifice unity for victory.

Mackenzie King proves to be an even more complex "warlord". A man who cautiously steered Canada through the Depression, King had little interest in anything military and only brought Canada into World War II when no other course was possible. Nevertheless, he also built an effective government team which quickly readied the country for another full effort. When King was obliged to introduce conscription at the end of the war, he carefully weathered the storm of Quebec's opposition.  King was far more interested in the war at home and keeping Canada together. His astute political machinations   avoided total schism and in doing so, was able to keep the Liberal Party in power. While the author alludes to King's involvements in the supernatural, he assures the reader that this prime minister often used this interest to support already determined decisions. Cook shows how each leader was adept in facing the complexity of world war. Their governments ushered great changes such as income tax, health care, industrialization, enfranchisement and raised effective military ranks from a civilian population.   Cook provides a fascination examination of how two very different individuals guided our nation through perilous times.

This title is available in Regular Print format.

By : John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard
Recommended by Rachel

Syl Hellais is the first of the Earth-born Illyri, a beautiful but ruthless alien species very similar to humans who have taken over control of Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father's diplomatic stronghold, hated by the humans she longs to adventure, but it is anything but safe for the alien invaders. Humankind is not giving up easily,the Resistance a group of humans raging war on the invaders is largely made up of the younger generations. With the Illyri race is divided into two, Military and Diplomatic Corps who are in a constant war among themselves they may have to find a way to work together if they wish to overcome the Resistance.

On her sixteenth birthday, Syl will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save two humans. Aiding the enemy especially one who is prominent in the Resistance is punishable by death. With only one hope to save her self Syl pledges to join the Nairene Sisterhood a very selective group of female Illyri who are more than eager to accept Syl into their fold. Syl's father and her protectors aren't about to let "the witches" have her and they hatch an escape plan that will inevitably drastically change all of their lives and decide the fate of every human soul.

Conquest is my first adventure into science fiction in quite some time and although it was a bit rough with a few plot holes it certainly rekindled my love affair with the genre. I am looking forward to the rest in the series but really hope the two authors can come together to make the writing flow and move more fluidly.

This title is available in Regular Print format.

By Chris Struyk-Bonn
Recommended by Marilyn

Struyk-Bonn's debut offers a darkly hopeful take on the universal themes of family and identity.  

Born with a cleft palate and exiled to the wilderness of an unnamed country for 15 years, Whisper has made a ragged family of her fellow outcasts, all of whom bear some disfigurement. Upon her mother's death, her abusive father comes to claim her for a slave. With nothing but a violin, a veil, and the memories of her mother and makeshift family, Whisper discovers that she has a rudimentary power over the society that scorns her. Class and gender questions arise: Is the omnipresent SWINC corporation responsible for a rise in genetic defects? Why do disfigured boys remain in their villages? She soon lives hand to mouth as a busker for Purgatory Palace, a ribald community of misfits where the threat of prostitution or capture is never far. Whisper's somewhat fairy-tale luck in finding benefactors--a fatherly music professor and a surgeon among them--is tempered by her literally brutal realization that she bridges two worlds and doesn't belong completely in either. Thus, her dilemma is agonizing: If the surgeon could cure Whisper and her family, would she agree? The author's vivid characterizations give this common trope urgency and nuance, and Whisper's answer resonates with hard-won conviction. (Kirkus Review)

I really enjoyed this book and it was written by my cousin.

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

Power Play
By Catherine Coulter
Recommended by Kim

#1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter returns with the newest full-throttle adventure in the FBI series featuring Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock. 

Natalie Black, the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James, has returned to Washington, her job in jeopardy. Her fiancé, George McCallum, Viscount Lockenby, has died in a car accident, and mysterious rumors that she's responsible begin to surface: she broke off the engagement and, heartbroken, he killed himself. Then someone tries to force her off the M-2 outside London. Again, rumors claim it was a sympathy ploy. When she returns to the United States, she's nearly killed when a car tries to mow her down while she's out for a run. No one believes her except FBI Special Agent Davis Sullivan.

Meanwhile someone is following Sherlock. A stalker? Then someone tries to shoot her from the back of a motorcycle, but the assailant gets away. Sherlock next gets a call from an Atlanta mental hospital warning her that Blessed Backman has escaped. This is not good news. Blessed is a talented psychopath out for revenge against the agents, primarily Sherlock, whom his dying mother begged him to kill since she and Savich brought down her cult.

How to find out who's trying to kill the ambassador to the U.K.? How can they get their hands on Blessed Backman before he succeeds and kills Sherlock? The clock is ticking and the danger intensifies...

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

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