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Archived Staff Picks May 2012


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Archived Staff Picks - May 2012


Patient Number 7 

by: Kurt Palka
Recommended by Marilyn

Patient Number 7 is a compelling story about World War II told from a uniquely Austrian point of view.  It provides a discerning look at the Viennese and how they coped during the volatile periods during the 1930's,'40s - and post-war years.
Canadian author Kurt Palka, who grew up in Austria, has over the years collected stories from people who once, long ago, saw Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph strolling through a Vienna park or fought in World War I.  He spoke with others who lived through the Depression and the post-Nazi period, when one had to prove absolution of any Hitlerian influence.  Palka also discovered his own family documents and together all these pieces allowed him to sketch the plot of Patient Number 7, his fifth novel.
Palka's lead character Clara Herzog has to learn to live with her psychic ailments, surviving as she does in a war-torn country.  We meet her first as a bright young philosophy student at the University of Vienna in 1932, absorbing wisdom from thinkers who actually worked in the Vienna of the time including psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, philosophers Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein.  "For a student of ideas it was a wonderful place to be" Palka notes.
We follow Clara's life as she marries a calvary officer who ends up in the Panzer unit of the German army, and tries to raise her two daughters during the war.  Many terrors invade, the worst occurring when at 8 1/2 months pregnant, she is raped by a Nazi officer, and loses her baby.  In the end, we leave Clara as patient number 7, another old woman in the hospital, dying of pneumonia.
I enjoyed this book and will certainly check out other titles by this Canadian author.

This title is available in Book format.
This Review is from Jennifer Hunter, Toronto Star.

Girl in the Garden

By:  Kamala Nair
Recommended by Ann

I read this book on a suggestion from a patron that enjoyed the read.  I enjoyed it very much also.
Kamala Nair weaves and intricate tale of family bonds, buried secrets and the pain that comes when we must leave the innocence of childhood behind.
This is a passionate tragic novel about love, loss and the terrible cost of family secrets.

This title is available in Book and Downloadable Audiobook formats. 

Partial quote from: Kelly O'Conner McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.

Shades of Grey

By:  Jasper Fforde
Recommended by Rachel

"It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant.  It wasn't really what I'd planned for myself - I'd hoped to marry into the Oxbloods and join their dynastic string empire.  But that was four days ago, before I met Jane, retrieved the Caravaggio and explored High Saffron...It was all frightfully inconvenient."
Eddie Russet twenty-year old son of a well reputed Swatchman (a sort of Doctor) almost engaged to High Society's Constance Oxblood lives in a Colortocracy.  A strict hierarchy based on the colors that individuals can perceive.  Purples are highest followed by Greens, Yellows, Blues, Oranges, Reds and lastly Greys (unable to perceive any other color).  Each class can see their own color in nature while all others appear as shades of grey, unless painted artificially, an expensive and ostentatious show of wealth.
Eddies future is bright and carefully planned until Eddie and his father are up rooted from their cushy city life in Jade-Under-Lime and sent on assignments to East Carmine, the Outer Fringe of society.  On the way to East Carmine they discover a Wrong Spot (a grey masquerading as a purple) and Jane.  Now the story really begins.
When they arrive at East Carmine Eddie discovers why it's called the Outer Fringe of Society, he discovers the secret plots, cutthroat politics and act of "The Murder" that hasn't been committed since before "The Something That Happened".
Japer Fforde tells a great dystopia story!  He jumps in with both feet and slowly lets details be revealed(although confusing if you keep reading you will get hooked in).  His writing is funny, bizarre and detailed, I can't wait for the next two to be published!

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

Madame Bovary 

By:  Gustave Flaubert
Recommended by Janet

Emma Bovary, self-obsessed, longs for all that is unattainable and wants happiness to come to her.  Instead of reaching out to help others with what she has to offer she has pursues her impossible reveries and seals her own fate.
The writing creates amazing visual pictures, and relationships are explored more with inference rather that with explicit language.
The more she tries to please herself the easier it is for her to lie and deceive those who care for her.
It is interesting to know that this story was written in the 1800's and that we can see that much in human nature somehow remains the same.
I found this book depressing and tragic but felt compelled to read it.

This title is available in Book (English and French), Book on CD and Downloadable Audiobook and Ebook formats. 

Rot and Ruin 

By: Jonathan Mayberry
Recommended by Rosemary

So after a long, fairly stressful week of work and home life, I found myself alone on the living room sofa with a large cup of coffee, the only unread book in the house and a couple of hours to do nothing but read.  The only problem with this was the book.  A popular young adult novel called Rot & Ruin and it's about zombies.  Zombies?  Hardly my first choice but what's a girl to do?  I started reading...
To make a long story short, Rot & Ruin is a really good book.  Picture, as one reviewer so aptly put it, George Romero meets Catcher in the Rye.  This is post apocalyptic America, divided into small communities like Mountainside surrounded by hordes of ravenous, mindless zombies.  This it the world Benny Imura has grown up in and now that he's fifteen, he has to find a job or see his food rations cut in half.  He tries a few jobs, mostly trying to avoid becoming apprentice to his older brother Tom as a zombie hunter.  He hates Tom, but in the end he has no choice but to learn the family business.  But instead of learning how to whack zombies for cash, Benny gets a lesson in what it means to be human.  His worldview is turning upside down when the pace and adventure speeds up, taking Benny, his friends and Tom on a terrifying adventure and Benny discovers that the zombies aren't the only monsters out there.
Book #2, Dust & Decay, is also available.  Book #3 Flesh & Bone will be published later this year.
 Must read zombie book...Must read zombie book...

This title available in Young Adult Book format.

Some Great Thing

By: Lawrence Hill
Recommended by Pauline

Mahatma Grafton is a disillusioned university graduate burdened with a famous name, and suffering from the curse of his generation - a total lack of interest in the state of the world.  The son of a retired railway porter from Winnipeg, he returns home for a job as a reporter with The Winnipeg Herald.  Soon Mahatma is scooping local stories of murder and mayhem, breaking a promise to himself to avoid writing victim stories.
As Mahatma is unexpectedly drawn into the inflammatory issue of French-language rights in Manitoba, with all its racial side-channels, he is surprised to find that he has a social conscience.  Combating his boss's flair for weaving hysteria into his stories, Mahatma learns that to stay afloat he must remain true to himself.
Populated with colourful characters - including an unlikely welfare crusader, a burned-out fellow reporter, a French-language-rights activist, and a visiting journalist from Cameroon - Some Great Thing is a fascinating portrait of a major urban newspaper and a deeply perceptive story of one man's coming of age.

This title is available in Book format.

The Lost Years

By:  Mary Higgins Clark
Recommended by Kim

Dr. Jonathan Lyons, a well-respected academic, has a stroke of luck when a previously missing ancient artifact - a highly valuable parchment - falls into his hands.  Stolen from the Vatican in the fifteenth century, it was assumed to be lost forever - until now.  Unsure of his next move, Dr. Lyons shares his discovery with a select few but, with so much money at stake, can he trust the people he's told?
Things take a turn for the worse when Jonathan is found brutally murdered in his own home.  Then, as secrets in his personal life come to light, his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's, is soon implicated.
It now falls to the couple's 27-year-old daughter, Mariah, to uncover the true motive behind her father's death.  But the tangled web of secrets has spread much further than she knows.  With someone still hell-bent on getting hold of the priceless document, will Mariah succeed in finding justice for both her father and her mother without putting her own life in terrible danger?
When I was in my early teens I was at a loss as to what to read next - one of my favourite librarians suggested that I read the novel "Where are the children?" by Mary Higgins Clark.  I have been hooked on her novels ever since and "The Lost Years" did not disappoint - kept me wondering to the end who the murderer was.

This title is available in Book format.
Parts of this review are from


The Cellist of Sarajevo

By:  Steven Galloway
Recommended by Robert

Today, urban warfare often brings to mind millions of teens and other video gamers re-fighting World War II and other conflicts.  From the comfort on one's bedroom or basement, one can bring down terror on the enemy on the screen.  In Canadian writer Steven Galloway's "The Cellist of Sarajevo", we are reminded that urban warfare is a far more ugly and vicious endeavour.  We are introduced to four individuals who are striving to survive the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1996).  A cellist has decided to play Albinoni's adagio for 22 days in a market square, in tribute to 22 citizens of Sarajevo killed by a mortar shell in that location.  Another character is a counter sniper, who is employed to keep the cellist alive.  We are also introduced to a middle-aged baker who got his family out before the siege, daily weaving his way through the dangerous streets.  Another young father makes a daily trek to a demolished brewery, carrying water for his family and a surly neighbour.  Each sees random death brought upon by the anonymous killers in the surrounding hills.  Each looks back to their life before the ordeal and forward to the return of their beloved city from the jaws of hell.  Each character is forced to make choices, evaluating what is important in their life.  The atmosphere is charged, as the reader is unaware which, if any of these well crafted characters will survive.  Those of us old enough to remember the siege of Sarajevo should be moved by this narrative.  Those of us who enjoy sniper games will be reminded that modern warfare is often imposed upon innocent unarmed noncombatants.  We are indeed fortunate that Mr. Galloway has created this literary portrait of an episode of what is now becoming distant history.

This title is available in Book, Book on CD and downloadable Audiobook formats.


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