Staff Picks 2014 February

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Staff Picks February 2014 (750KB)

OrfeoOrfeo by Richard Powers. A fine novel about the deep and extreme life of a modern composer who is also a scientist. Compelled to push the boundaries of both music and chemistry, Peter Els allows us into his tormented brain as he tries to determine the singular goal of the creative artist. At times difficult to absorb, it ultimately gives the reader a glimpse into this exceptional mind by articulating the thought processes which drive an artist to obsessive destruction of the normal. ~ Karen Frank

On the run across a Hades-like America, Els recapitulates his passion for music and science as he seeks the women he's loved. An absorbing novel that fascinates, entertains and challenges the reader. ~ Louise Jones

The Song of Spider-ManThe Song of Spider-Man by Glen Berger. The long, painful - often literally - story of mounting the most expensive musical in Broadway history. The $75 million production suffered every calamity imaginable from serious injuries to cast members, to exploding costs, to the summary departure of the acclaimed director, Julie Taymor. Grimly funny. ~ Alden Graves Keeping Time: The Unseen Archive of Columbia Records: The Photographs of Don HunsteinKeeping Time: The Unseen Archive of Columbia Records: The Photographs of Don Hunstein by Leo Sacks, Jon Pareles, Don Hunstein. A fantastic collection of historical photos from the Columbia Records vault. Luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Simon & Garfunkel are featured in candid photos from their time in the recording studio, as well as unused photos from various promotional shoots. ~ Chris Linendoll Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical VirusRabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik. Wasik provides enough medical details for background but doesn't dwell on the clinical aspects. An excellent comprehensive examination of the tremendous role rabies has played in human history. ~ Nate George
In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and ConnectionIn the Body of the World: A Memoir by Eve Ensler. Ensler's memoir is both devastating and incredible. It is more than just her story of battling cancer and finding herself. It is also a story of the world's battles. It is a story that ends with the hope that the world can find itself. ~ Krysta Piccoli Patrick Leigh Fermor: An AdventurePatrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper. Yes – Fermor's life was an adventure: at 18, expelled from several schools, he walked from Amsterdam to Constantinople (now Istanbul), interrupted by WWII, during which he worked in British Intelligence in Greece, especially Crete. Afterwards, he travelled (between multiple affairs) and wrote engaging, evocative books. ~ Louise Jones Love HaikubesLove Haikubes. The perfect way for even a beginner to write a love poem to their Valentine. Roll the dice and pick and choose words to create the perfect mood. The only rule is it has to be a Haiku. Once done, display it right in the box! Impress the one you love, or have fun making a poem together. ~ Monique Proulx
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940A Life of Barbara Stanwyck – Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson. A meticulous biography of the legendary film actress who began as a chorus girl in New York. This extensive work follows Stanwyck from her birth to the height of her fame. Tough childhood, tough business, one tough lady, who deserved a book as good as this one. ~ Alden Graves Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a NationLike Dreamers by Yossi Klein Halevi. In 1967, an Israeli paratroop brigade united Jerusalem for the first time in over a millennium. This riveting book tells what happened next. As the soldiers took opposite sides, Halevi relates a saga that explains Israel's complexities and challenges everything you thought about this misunderstood nation. ~ Charles Bottomley
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PerfectPerfect by Rachel Joyce. Diana, a fragile free spirit confined by her choices, is caught up trying to be "perfect." A story about the randomness of life, love and loss and the surprising joyful occurrences that arise when one is least prepared. ~ Amy Palmer

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash. An errant father kidnaps his two daughters from a foster home while on the run with a large sum of stolen cash. The law and a very bad guy urgently trail him for very different reasons. Just as good as his debut, A Land More Kind Than Home. ~ Stan Hynds

Cash somehow combines murder, mafia and Mark McGwire into a fast-paced thriller that moves quickly, but the reader never feels as though anything is missing. Great for fans of Cormac McCarthy or Jim Thompson. ~ Chris Linendoll

Cold Storage, AlaskaCold Storage , Alaska by John Straley. Straley writes his quirky mysteries several years apart, but it's always worth the wait. Here, Clive McCahon, recently released from prison, heads for his remote hometown where his straight-arrow brother still lives. That initiates only one of a series of crazy mix-ups. Great fun! ~ Louise Jones
Under the Wide and Starry SkyUnder The Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. Good, solid, enjoyable historical fiction detailing the life of Robert Louis Stevenson. The importance of his American artist wife Fanny in the trajectory of his writing career makes for great storytelling as they navigate their relationship and develop their individual talents. ~ Karen Frank A Star for Mrs. BlakeA Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith. Set against a little known historical event, this novel follows five American Gold Star mothers who travel to France to visit the graves of their soldier-sons in the years after WWI and whose lives are forever changed by their journey. Poignant and memorable. ~ Gail King
The OrchardistThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. An amazing first novel and beautiful contemplation about family and the nature of place set in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century. Filled with understated tension, this is a book to be savored and discussed at length. ~ Amy Palmer The First True LieThe First True Lie by Marina Mander. Luca's living nightmare is witnessed only by his faithful cat as he tries to hold himself together, alone with his mother's corpse. A seamless combination of terror and innocence in a memorable novel that demands to be finished in one sitting. Translated from Italian. ~ Jess Krawczyk The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Centered in West Hall, Vermont, this is a fantastic combination of old wives' tales and suspenseful thriller. When Sara Harrison Shea calls her beloved daughter Gertie back from the dead, the repercussions span generations and bring to life your worst nightmares. Eerily addictive! ~ Jess Krawczyk
WoolWool by Hugh Howey. Some of the most fantastic sense of world-building I've ever experienced in a novel. Wool is a triumph that deserves to shake off its "science fiction" shackles. Every plot thread is engaging and each character is well realized. ~ Chris Linendoll Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My MaTony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson. Janie Ryan is born into a family bedeviled by drink, drugs and bad choices. Yet as harrowing as her fight for survival in the Great Britain of the '80s can be, she's one of the most irresistible heroines I've ever met, in this effervescent, hopeful story. ~ Charles Bottomley
Some Danger InvolvedSome Danger Involved by Will Thomas. Obsessed with Sherlock? Try this gritty Victorian mystery! Explore London with detective Cyris Barker and his assistant Llewelyn as they investigate murder in the Jewish ghetto. Llewelyn must learn to deal with his prickly boss and navigate the dark prejudice of the times. Historically intriguing! ~ Leah Moore
Karate ChopKarate Chop by Dorthe Nors. Whether writing about a giant tomato or the darkest corners of the Internet, Nors shines a powerful light into the abyss we all carry within us. A collection of tiny stories whose gem-like perfection gleams with a shadowy, menacing luster. ~ Charles Bottomley A Teaspoon of Earth and SeaA Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri. A stunning literary debut set in post-Revolutionary Iran as one young woman tries to cope with the mystery of her missing mother and twin sister. Nayeri's own Iranian heritage saturates the novel, brings insight to the new and old Iran, pulls at the reader's heartstrings. ~ Jess Krawczyk