Staff Picks 2015 August

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Staff Picks August 2015 (1.7MB)
Early WarningGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Some good stories will hide away for decades until their time is right. Now is the time for this one. Watchman is a beautiful, haunting story that is neither a sequel nor a prequel to Harper Lee’s only other novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It stands alone in its depiction of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s return to Maycomb after years away. From the cheerful childhood flashbacks that inspired Mockingbird to the gut-wrenching discovery that heroes are human, Watchman is a poignant look at one woman’s journey home. – Hilary Wartinger
Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen DuVal. For those whose knowledge of the American Revolution revolves around the Northeast, Independence Lost will be an eye-opener. Du- Val uses several personal accounts to trace the Revolution’s path in the Gulf Coast, a region neglected in traditional histories. The varied narratives exemplify the thesis that 1776 marked the start of a global conflict. ~ Nate George
Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne. This is a painful, poignant recollection of the past 20 years of the author’s life. There is so much within the story of a brother facing the deteriorating mental health of his sibling that resonates, breaks one’s heart, and challenges us to pay attention, stand back, and do the right thing, even when it is the most difficult path. I can’t seem to get this book out of my mind. ~ Barbara Morrow
No-Churn Ice Cream by Leslie Bilderback. On the heels of her wildly popular Mug Cakes comes the easiest way to make ice cream and other frozen delights at home. These recipes are a breeze to make and are absolutely delectable. ~ Sarah Donner
Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw. Dr. Summer Jackson was the chief surgeon at the American Hospital in Paris during the German occupation. After observing the everescalating levels of Nazi brutality, Dr. Jackson became directly involved in an underground network that smuggled imperiled people to safety in Spain and Great Britain. This is a moving testimony to the power of the human spirit. ~ Alden Graves
Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury. This is a wonderful mix of memoir, travelogue, and nature journal. Using nature and place as a meditative aid, Norbury takes us on journeys from the sea and along rivers, hoping that she will be drawn to their source. She uses these excursions as a way to cope with grief, tapping into the power of nature to heal. Beautifully written and a joy to read. ~ Becky Doherty
Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher by Garret Keizer. A retired English teacher returns to a Vermont classroom for a oneyear substituting gig. He must adjust to a new educational landscape where a former student is now his principal, research projects are completed online, and overhead projectors are everywhere. Keizer’s anxiety over his students’ need for reading support makes this humorous memoir possible to identify with. ~ Bonnie Winchester
The End of Absence by Michael Harris. My children will not remember what the world was like without the Internet; therefore, they won’t know what has been lost. Michael Harris simply calls it absence. A combination of brain science, cultural history, and personal reflection, The End of Absence is a fascinating read for those concerned about a world of constant connectedness. ~ Stan Hynds
Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes by Dana Cowin with Julia Turshen. Cowin, the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, freely admits that she is a so-so cook. Most meals became a culinary disaster for her. This cookbook takes us into the kitchen with 65 chefs who offer her (and us) invaluable advice, nifty tips and, most importantly, the techniques for confidence in the kitchen. ~ Sarah Donner
The Eden Hunter by Skip Horack. This remarkable novel follows the adventures of Kau, an African pigmy stolen into slavery. After escaping from his owner in Georgia, Kau flees through the dangerous Florida wilderness, finally arriving at a dilapidated fort manned by black men who have been recruited by the British to fight in the War of 1812. This is easily one of the most rousing and genuinely inspiring books I have read in years. ~ Alden Graves
Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll. Who’s Baba Yaga, you ask? Think of a very old witch with a Russian background, who likes to eat children for dinner. In this debut graphic novel, we get to see how Masha performs all sorts of tests to become the witch’s assistant. With fantastic illustrations by Emily Carroll,in this book folklore, magic and the real world intermingle beautifully. Read and enjoy! ~ Adriana Gómez Piccolo
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. This richly drawn novel pulls the reader into the unconventional life of Beryl Markham. In the bohemian expat community of Kenya in the 1920s, she falls in love with Denys Finch Hatton, longtime lover of Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa. This ill-fated love triangle would shape Beryl’s destiny and lead her to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. ~ Jen Canfield
Woman with a Secret by Sophie Hannah. A highly tense psychological thriller. Nicki Clements has a secret that she’s prepared to lie about to everyone. But her web of lies draws around her like a noose and she finds herself accused of a murder she did not commit. She will have to finally tell the truth, but at this point, will anyone believe her? I dare you to put this book down! ~ Becky Doherty
The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart. Moody and nuanced as an Irish mist, this story follows the emotional lives of several characters whose lives intersect. The novel roams from a remote Irish village to an airport in Newfoundland and various places in between. Fascinating. ~ Karen Frank
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman. This assured debut shifts between punk scene of 1980s England and Africa in the 1970s, at the bloody end of Portuguese colonial rule. The author perfectly evokes two fascinating eras, while crafting an intricate and often funny tale of family, healing, and redemption. ~ Rachel Person
In Another Country: Selected Stories by David Constantine. A body surfaces to haunt an old man. A lonely poet has his world upended by a knock on the door. A hike to a cave tests old lovers. Constantine’s work has been likened to Alice Munro and Ian McEwan and he sits comfortably alongside those masters. This book is a joyous discovery. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley
Compulsion by Allison Brennan. Brennan writes from various perspectives, giving readers different insights as to what is occurring. Max Revere, a journalist, is set on discovering the truth whether or not those around her actually believe her theories. Digging through sources and piecing together scattered information is only part of what gets her into trouble and the people in her life prove to mean far more to her than she could have ever expected. ~ Nikki Grossfeld
Armada by Ernest Cline. No one expects 18-year-old Zach Lightman’s skill at video games to get him very far in life, including Zach himself until a flying saucer straight from his favorite game shows up out his window. What follows is an action packed novel that is equal parts thrilling adventure and a love letter to nerd culture. A must read for anyone who loves video games or science fiction. ~ Hilary Wartinger
Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay. Barclay manages to write a detailed sequence of various scenes, as he jumps from case to case. Promise Falls, a small town, is made smaller when complicated and unexpected relationships are discovered – almost too late. David, a former reporter, decides to take the investigation into his own hands in order to help out his family, but what he discovers is not what he’s expecting. ~ Nikki Grossfeld
In Search of Lost Time: Swann's Way by Marcel Proust & Stephane Heuet. The greatest novel you never thought you’d ever read has been turned into a gorgeous feast for the eyes by Stephane Heuet. Beautiful line-drawings bring Proust’s belle epoque childhood to life. Even a hundred years later, the madeleine muncher has plenty to tell us about love, society and snobbery. ~ Charles Bottomley
I Am China by Xiaolu Guo. A book that ingeniously explores modern China through the translated love letters of an exiled political dissident and the woman he loves. Guo creates a literary landscape where love and language are inextricably bound to one another over decades of upheaval and change. ~ Cheryl Cornwell
The Secret Place by Tana French. Holly Mackey turns up with a piece of evidence from an old case. A year ago, Chris Harper was murdered, his body found on the property of the girls’ boarding school. Eight girls are at the heart of Detective Steven Moran’s investigation, but no one is willing to provide any information. Truly a story of friendship as well as a mystery. ~ Amelia Stymacks
Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor. A paperback original. This is a lovely quiet novel with characters to match. Wonderful touches of historical domesticity and a smooth storyline with just enough tension to keep the reader interested. A truly comforting read. ~ Karen Frank
The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons. Put this novel at the top of your “beach reads” pile. Three best friends, whose husbands were in medical school together, spend two weeks at a luxurious beach house with a fourth doctor’s young, beautiful third wife. The snarkiness alone kept me chuckling throughout, but the book also explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and acceptance. ~ Gail King
Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman. The author’s second collection of short stories is the next book you need to read. Independent women at the edges of society take center stage in these beautifully told stories. ~ Mary Allen