Staff Picks 2014 June

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Staff Picks June 2014 (2MB)
Dark AemiliaDark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly. Bawdy 17th century London, its joys and ills (and smells), is evocatively and creatively drawn in this novel, based on the life of Aemilia Bossano, courtesan and poet in Queen Elizabeth's court. Bossano was one of the first women authors recorded to be published in her own time. Here, she is a vibrant woman struggling with the constraints of her era and culture. O'Reilly proposes that not only did Shakespeare not pen Macbeth wholly himself, but could the "Dark Lady" of his sonnets have been Aemilia Bossano - and the original author as well? ~ Reviewed by Maeve Noonan & Becky Doherty
HildHild by Nicola Griffith. This gripping novel, set in 7th century England, first in a new trilogy, is about the childhood and youth of Hild, a woman destined to be Saint Hild of Whitby. A graphic, sometimes brutal novelization of a truly heroic woman born in the age of swords. ~ Maeve Noonan The PainterThe Painter: A Novel by Peter Heller. The author of the terrific The Dog Stars follows with one that may be even better. When a popular Santa Fe artist, who spends as much time fishing as he does painting, becomes a murder suspect, the value of his artwork soars while the deceased's family tries to kill him. A thrilling read. ~ Stan Hynds All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Of the thousands of stories set in WWII, this is truly a must read. We follow a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy growing up in parallel universes. Their lives intersect in brilliantly conceived circumstances, yet they only meet once. ~ Karen Frank
A Replacement LifeA Replacement Life by Boris Fishman. Minsk-born Slava Gelman has broken away from his family in South Brooklyn, but when his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, dies, his wily grandfather forces him to forge a restitution claim letter on her behalf, then tells his friends, who want their own letters. Lovely, poetic. ~ Amy Palmer History of the RainHistory of the Rain by Niall Williams. A beautiful book about the relationships between people, the loss and finding of links through words and books and the shared love of reading that can define and redefine a family. Williams' writing is clean, evocative and always lyrical, with an Irish lilt. ~ Maeve Noonan The Book of YouThe Book of You by Claire Kendal. Want to go for a ride on an intense emotional roller coaster? Read this book! It's a fast, disturbing read that makes your heart race and the back of your neck prickle! ~ Jess Hanlon
The EnchantedThe Enchanted: A Novel by Rene Denfeld. Denfeld writes about a death row inmate, the prison priest and a woman who investigates death penalty cases with genuine knowledge and real artistry. She's rendered a book that's not only a compelling read but that feels true, deeply relevant and ultimately healing. ~ Carol Graser Fourth of July CreekFourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. In helping underprivileged children and families, a young social worker in Montana finds meaning and purpose for his own disjointed life. This unwavering look at the dark underside of America is an impressive debut from an author to watch. ~ Alden Graves Murder at Cape Three PointsMurder at Cape Three Points by Kwei Quartey. A really well crafted mystery, with lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing. The most wonderful thing about this book though, is it's ability to transport you to Ghana - the food, the modern day culture and also it's traditions. Excellent! ~ Becky Doherty
Funny Once: StoriesFunny Once: Stories by Antonya Nelson. Honestly funny stories full of quirky, messed up, likable characters. Nelson tops them off with deft, satisfying endings. Perfect! ~ Carol Graser
The Colour of MemoryThe Colour of Memory by Geoff Dyer. Ah, to be young, over-educated and underemployed! Our nameless narrator and his artistic circle wander from party to party, soaking up the seemingly endless summer before maturity is thrust upon them. Plenty of jokes and theories, not much motivation - delicious tribute to indolence's delights. ~ Charles Bottomley
Last Words from MontmartreLast Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin. A raw and intimate look at the ecstatic and often destructive power of love and longing. Qiu's final work – part novel, part suicide letter – is an impassioned homage to life, sexuality and the bonds that tie us together. ~ Cheryl Cornwell
The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's UlyssesThe Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham. You don't have to have read Ulysses to enjoy this true-life literary thriller. A gripping ride from the novel's genesis to its outright banning, providing a fascinating portrait of the scandalous book, its rebellious author and - most surprisingly - the unlikely women who midwived a masterpiece. Available 6/12 – just in time for Bloomsday. ~ Charles Bottomley Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters: An Eccentric Englishwoman and Her Lost KingdomSylvia, Queen of the Headhunters: An Eccentric Englishwoman and her Lost Kingdom by Philip Eade. Unconventional, outspoken, outrageous, Sylvia Brooke (1885-1971) was known as the Ranee of Sarawak, married to the last White Rajah of part of Borneo. Her charmed life among the British hereditary and cultural aristocracy reads like a zany novel – delightful! ~ Louise Jones The Faraway NearbyThe Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. What's your story? Solnit's premise is that we're the authors of our own lives, applying it to a time of deep crisis. Her tale of tales is both a beautifully written self-help book and a magical guide to becoming the hero/heroine of your own adventure. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert AmesThe Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird. Described as "Lawrence of Arabia with Stars and Stripes," Ames was a character straight out of John LeCarre. He nearly pulled off the unthinkable, too – almost forging peace between Israel and Palestine. A master class on spycraft that untangles the messy strands of the Middle East. ~ Charles Bottomley How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and DIYHow to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and DIY by Heather Ross. This book gives great insight into the creative life of the renowned textile artist Heather Ross, with wonderful stories about her childhood among an eccentric family of artists in rural Vermont. I was totally smitten with this magical memoir! ~ Becky Doherty The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient CodeThe Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. A true-life puzzle that reads like a whodunit, featuring the archaeologist who uncovered ancient Cretan tablets written in the mysterious Linear B, the architect who was credited with their translation – and the assiduous woman scholar who is finally recognized for deciphering most of them. ~ Maeve Noonan & Louise Jones
Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive ArtSavage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman. The disappearance of 23 year-old Michael Rockefeller in 1961 while on an expedition in New Guinea caused a sensation. Fifty years later, Hoffman retraces Rockefeller's journey, discovering a culture little understood by the West. ~ Sarah Donner Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of SpontaneityTrying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland. Fascinating! Ancient Chinese Philosophy integrated with the best in cognitive science in - I promise - an easy to absorb style. Slingerland does the hard work of culling through dense material and the paradoxes of wu-wei, giving us a concise book that's useful and enlightening. ~ Carol Graser
Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World's Richest ShipwreckShip of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World's Richest Shipwreck by Gary Kinder. Kinder deftly weaves the history of the SS Central America and its tragic end in 1857 with the story of one man's obsession with finding and recovering its phenomenal treasure in the 1980s. Contemporary efforts to bring up the remaining gold make this a still-timely tale. ~ Jennifer Canfield
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. An epic, in scale and breadth of topics, this is a clear-eyed, well-written account of the current state of the earth and the rapid rate of extinction for many species, including the royal "we" of humanity. Reads like a James Rollins or Michael Crichton novel. ~ Maeve Noonan Come in and browse the JUNE FEATURED section. Biographies (old and new) are on display this month for your enjoyment and edification!