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Archived Staff Picks January 2013


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                       Archived Staff Picks - January 2013


A Beautiful Place to Die
By: Malla Nunn
Recommended by Pauline

Award-winning screenwriter Malla Nunn delivers a stunning and darkly romantic crime novel set in 1950's apartheid South Africa, featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper -- a man caught up in a time and place where racial tensions and the raw hunger for power make life very dangerous indeed. In a morally complex tale rich with authenticity, Nunn takes readers to Jacob's Rest, a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. It is 1952, and new apartheid laws have recently gone into effect, dividing a nation into black and white while supposedly healing the political rifts between the Afrikaners and the English. Tensions simmer as the fault line between the oppressed and the oppressors cuts deeper, but it's not until an Afrikaner police officer is found dead that emotions more dangerous than anyone thought possible boil to the surface.
When Detective Emmanuel Cooper, an Englishman, begins investigating the murder, his mission is preempted by the powerful police Security Branch, who are dedicated to their campaign to flush out black communist radicals. But Detective Cooper isn't interested in political expediency and has never been one for making friends. He may be modest, but he radiates intelligence and certainly won't be getting on his knees before those in power. Instead, he strikes out on his own, following a trail of clues that lead him to uncover a shocking forbidden love and the imperfect life of Capatian Pretorius, a man whose relationships with the black and coloured residents of the town he ruled were more complicated and more human than anyone could have imagined.
The first in her Detective Emmanuel Cooper series, "A Beautiful Place to Die" is a tale of murder, passion, corruption, and the corrosive double standard that defined an apartheid nation.

This title is available in Book format.

Black Hills
By: Dan Simmons
Recommended by Robert

What first drew me to Dan Simmons novel, Black Hills, was its setting. Having travelled to many of the locations where the action takes place in the novel, I was intrigued by how the author would weave a story that captured the spirit of the Old West. We are introduced to a reluctant eleven year old Sioux warrior named Paha Sapa, whose name actually means Black Hills in English. Drawn into the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Paha Sapa finds himself infiltrated with the spirit of Colonel Custer just as he is counting coup over the dying soldier. For the rest of his life, Paha Sapa must listen to Custer ranting lustily of his wife Libbie and giving his opinion for every action he takes. Paha Sapa soon discovers that he also has the powers to see into the minds and memories of the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse and by the 1930's, Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore. Evading the murderous punitive expeditions of U.S. forces, Paha Sapa experiences a dramatic vision that he may one day reverse the destruction of the world of America's native peoples. Meanwhile, Paha Sapa finds himself as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, at the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and as an explosives expert for Gutzon Borglum as he crafts Mount Rushmore upon the Sioux's most sacred mountain. After he experiences the short-lived joys of life with a loved wife and son, Paha Sapa carefully plans to take back Mount Rushmore when President Roosevelt and other dignitaries come to unveil Thomas Jefferson.
Having visited the Black Hills and the Little Bighorn battlefield, I am quite impressed with the author's descriptions of this part of the world. We are reminded of the two competing visions of what this land is about and its relationships with the people who inhabit it. Paha Sapa has lived in both worlds, has experienced great loss, and is trying to show his ancestors that he can make it right again. Noted for his horror novels, the author has infused fantasy into a story of the conflict between native peoples and the descendants of Custer. Recommended to readers of historical fiction who enjoy a touch of the fantastic.

This title is available in Book, Book on CD and Downloadable Ebook formats.

Notorious Nineteen
By: Janet Evanovich
Recommended by Kim

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is certain of three truths: People don't just vanish into thin air. Never anger old people. And don't do what Tiki tells you to do.
After a slow summer of chasing low-level skips for her cousin Vinnie's bail bonds agency, Stephanie Plum finally lands an assignment that could put her check book back in the black. Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton's premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it's on Stephanie to track down the con man. Unfortunately, Cubbin has disappeared without a trace, a witness, or his money-hungry wife. Rumours are stirring that he must have had help with the daring escape ... or that maybe he never made it out of his room alive. Since the hospital staff's lips seem to be tighter than the security, and it's hard for Stephanie to blend in to assisted living, Stephanie's Grandma Mazur goes in undercover. But when a second felon goes missing form the same hospital, Stephanie is forced into working side by side with Trenton's hottest cop, Joe Morelli, in order to crack the case.
I have been reading the "Stephanie Plum series" by Janet Evanovich for a long time and have always looked forward to getting the next book. I realize that these books are not great literature but they are always a lot of fun to read. Who else can write a mystery that makes you laugh from beginning to end (until these books I always thought that murder had to be serious business). Also when you throw in characters like Lula, Grandma Mazur, Morelli and Ranger what more could you ask for. For those of you who have not read this series start with the first book titled "One for the Money" and I think you will be hooked.

This title is available in Book and Downloadable Audiobook formats. The Book on CD and Large Print formats are on order.
Parts of this review are from

This title is available in Book format.

Amazing Spider-Man
Recommended by Kathy

Marvel Comics began publishing Spider-Man comics in 1963. After almost 50 years later, yet another film is released following the adventures of Spidey.
This movie follows the adventures of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as a teenager. Garfield (Never Let Me Go) plays the role of a high-school outsider, who after being bitten by a spider, develops extraordinary talents. Living with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) after his parents are killed in an airplane accident, Parker learns through reading his father's documents that he worked for Oscorp.
It is while visiting his father's colleagues at Oscorp that Parker is bitten by the spider. After being bitten Parker discovers that he has super human strength and speed and the astonishing ability to stick to things. His father's partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) has continued his research into genetically modifying animal and human DNA in order to cure illnesses. After some promising research, connors uses the untested serum on himself to attempt the regrowth of a lost limb. The resulting lizard creature that Connors morphs into wreaks havoc onto the citizens of New York City.
Helping Parker in his attempts to halt Dr. Connors' continuing rampage, is Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone (The Help). Stacy is the daughter of one of New York's police captains and a fellow student at Parker's high school. Obstructing Parker's attempts to locate and stop Connors, is Emma's father (played by Denis Leary). The final battle between Spider-Man and the lizard occurs atop the Oscorp building, where Captain Stacy loses his life and Spider-man defeats Connors and saves New Yorkers from further harm.

This title is available DVD format.

The Host
By: Stephanie Meyer
Recommended by Rachel

The author of the Twilight series of #1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake.
In "The Host", earth has been invaded by a species of aliens who cannot live on their own, and must take over host bodies to live. They've already colonized other worlds, but earth has some of the best hosts - humans. Humans feel emotions and experience things like no other species that Wanderer, who has lived on more worlds than any other "soul" she knows, has been.
On earth, Wanderer is given the body of Melanie Stryder, a young woman who was part of the fading human resistance. This is expected to be a difficult body to inhabit, but Wanderer is shocked at Melanie's strength. Most hosts just fade away, erased from their own minds, as the alien soul who is attached to their brains takes over. Melanie refuses to go away, though, over a period of long months over which it is believed that any other host would be subdued.
Why? Well, Melanie's strong, of course, to have survived human for so long, but much of it is love, longing, and a promise she can't break. Jared, the man she loves, and Jamie, her younger brother, were Melanie's only company for a long time, and she loves them both too dearly to let an alien take possession of her without a fight. Melanie promised that she would come back to them, and so she will. She fills Wanderer's thoughts with her love, especially for Jared, until Wanderer is all so consumed with the desire to return to these people she has never met. It changes Wanderer, but will that change be her destruction or her salvation? And what of Melanie, who refuses to stop existing? And of Jared - the man they both now love.
This review is from a combination of sites:

This title is available in Book, Downloadable EBook and AudioBook formats. The book on CD is on order.

The Last Convertible
By: Anton Myrer
Recommended by Marilyn

I am reading "The Last Convertible" by Anton Myrer. It was published in 1978 and still remains on our shelves. It tells the story of five Harvard men, the women they loved and the elegant car that came to symbolize their romantic youth. It is also the story of their coming-of-age in the dark days of World War II, and their unshakable loyalty to a lost dream of Camelot.
This is a book that my friend has read numerous times during her summer vacation, including this year. When I asked her why she had read it more than once she said it reminded her of her and her husbands time at their university in Chicago.
It is a good read and the characters who come from various backgrounds are well developed
I would recommend this book.

This title is available in Book format.

Call the Midwife
By: Jennifer Worth
Recommended by Ann

Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction.
Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns.
An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman.
Her name is Jennifer Worth and this is her story.

This title is available in Book on CD and Downloadable Audiobook format. Belleville Public Library had the TV series on DVD that is based on the book.


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