Staff Picks 2016 May

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Staff Picks May 2016 (1.2MB)
The Atomic Weight of LoveThe Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church. A young woman is trapped between generations at the end of WWII. Her dreams of becoming a scientist are delayed by marriage to one of her professors who is called to work at Los Alamos. This poignant and refreshing debut covers nearly three generations of social change for women while telling a great story, ringing with emotional truth. As a bonus, the reader learns fascinating facts about birds. ~ Karen Frank


PoisonPoison by Sarah Pinborough. Not all of your beloved characters are as they seem in this dark spin of one this favorite fairy tale. You can read the three in this trilogy (Poison, Charm, Beauty) in any order as characters appear in all. Poison follows the beloved Snow White as she deals with her stepmother, the huntsman and a prince with a strange past. ~ Jess Elder
Mothering Sunday: A RomanceMothering Sunday: A Romance by Graham Swift. Jane Fairchild, an English maid, is having her final assignation with a neighboring land owner's son on a warm afternoon on Mothering Sunday in 1924. Narrated in the third person, through Jane's stream of consciousness, the novel moves back and forth in time through the scope of Jane's long and empowered life, describing her emergence as a writer and thinker in languorous and exquisite detail. ~ Amy Palmer
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien. Residents of Cloonoila in Ireland regard strangers with a touch of apprehension and Dr. Vladimir Dragan's claim to be a holistic healer as well as a sex therapist, raises local eyebrows even higher. He seems like a godsend to Fidelma McBride, who is willing to sacrifice anything to conceive a child. Ms. O'Brien's unsettling examination of evil and redemption is told with startling frankness and suffused with compassion for human frailty. ~ Alden Graves
The Year of the RunawaysThe Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota. Touching upon themes of family, culture, racism and desperation, we follow the stories of four young people thrown together by circumstances most of us will never experience. The Year of the Runaways was an education and an eye-opener into a complex society and the intricacies of human nature that left me feeling sad and thoughtful. I found this book hard to put down. ~ Liz Barnum
Imagine Me GoneImagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett. Imagine Me Gone is a deeply moving portrayal of a family's complex love for one another as they manage and respond to the shape shifting undercurrent of mental illness experienced by both father and son. A compelling read on every level, this novel is crafted with impressive emotional sensitivity, providing a direct feed into the inner lives and secrets of each character - and you keep wanting more. Writing of this caliber is a rare thing. Haslett has created a gem of a novel that I will recommend over and over again. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Father's DayFather's Day by Simon Van Booy. A splendid, tightly plotted novel about relationships within family that might make you rethink nature vs.nurture. Fraught with perils of the most everyday kind, it is also packed with sweetness and truth. Revelations take the characters (and the reader) by surprise as the significance of the various threads becomes apparent. The story does not end with the last sentence and we are allowed to imagine the very satisfying conclusion. ~ Karen Frank
A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. A gentle, warm, and involving novel about three generations of a Baltimore family. By most standards, the Whitshanks are not remarkable people. They are, more precisely, Anne Tyler people and, for the author’s admirers, nothing further needs to be stated. She invests their struggles, large and small, with a subtle nobility that relies upon the enduring bond of family for the source of its strength. ~ Alden Graves
Luckiest Girl AliveLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. The main character of this debut novel, Ani FaNelli is largely unlikable for at least the first half of the book. As the true gripping story of her teenage years unravels the reader learns how Ani’s well put together facade can only hide her fear and heartache for so long. While a riveting page turner, this book also faces head on some very real and very terrifying issues that our youths, more and more often are having to confront. This book ends with a completely unexpected, yet hugely satisfying conclusion! ~ Tracy Davies
Life or DeathLife or Death by Michael Robotham. “Why would a man who has served a long prison sentence escape the day before he’s released?” This is what we are about to uncover about Audie Palmer, a man who was given a 10 year prison term for his part in a deadly robbery. Not only is he one of the only survivors, but the five million dollars from the robbery is still missing, and Audie is not talking to anyone. This is a such a page turner, we are fed detail after delicious detail, as we rocket to the end of this thrilling novel. Flowing with excellent prose and wonderful characters, it was a highly entertaining read. ~ Becky Doherty
Fear the DarknessFear the Darkness by Becky Masterman. Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn returns in this dark and gritty thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the final page. When Brigid's niece moves in with her, unsettling and disturbing things begin to happen. The logical person to blame is Gemma-Kate, but is it her or is Brigid being paranoid? ...or poisoned? ...or worse? ~ Sarah Donner
Lust & Wonder: A MemoirLust & Wonder: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs. In his latest memoir Burroughs delves into his relationships, his obsessions, fantasies and fears with humor, pathos, reflection and truth. By exposing the quirky twists of his mind, Burroughs plumbs what it is to be human. ~ Amy Palmer
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American RevolutionValiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick. Mr. Philbrick manages to remove a few layers of the varnish that history has applied to Washington's reputation as a general and, more significantly, provides a convincing foundation for Arnold's infamous betrayal. The author of In the Heart of the Sea also focuses upon the importance of the waterways that served as pathways to the bloody conflicts that ultimately gave birth to a new nation. ~ Alden Graves
Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental SufferingCapture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering by David A. Kessler. In the current era of psychiatry, there is a different name for a multitude of different syndromes and disorders. In Kessler's engaging and persuasive book, he suggests that mental illness in a broad sense stems from one phenomenon--an inability to control or filter a response to specific stimuli. The lack of control in responding to salient stimuli--when our attention and emotional well-being are hijacked--is what the author calls "capture." With a many historical examples (and a particular emphasis on the life of David Foster Wallace), Kessler makes his case for a new understanding of mental suffering. ~ Stan Hyndsr
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. This overview of the latest revelations in the cognitive ability of animals, with both anecdotal evidence and clinical results, will turn your head around about their emotional and intellectual lives. The book asks that we overcome our internal tendency to downplay animal intelligence and find the tools to accurately assess their capabilities. An important work. ~ Erik Barnum
The Unseen Lusitania: The Ship in Rare IllustrationsThe Unseen Lusitania: The Ship in Rare Illustrations by Eric Sauder. A definitive look at the great Cunarder, lost to a German torpedo on a sunny May afternoon in 1915. The author's informative text is accompanied by a remarkable collection of rare photographs of the Lusitania, once the fastest ship in the world. Vintage photos of the liner's lavish interiors, her passengers on that fateful last voyage, and the debris on the floor of the Atlantic are all included. This is an ideal source for expanding knowledge acquired by reading Erik Larson's Dead Wake. ~ Alden Graves
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American CityEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. A contemporary American horror story. The book is set in Milwaukee, but the drama plays out many times a day in every major city in the country. People ensnared in the most abject and degrading poverty scramble each month to avoid the knock at the door and the voice telling them that they must join the ranks of the homeless. This is a painstaking examination of a national tragedy. ~ Alden Graves
Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and LossBeer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss by Frances Stroh. Stroh's was once a great name in the American beer market but by the late 90's it was done for. Frances Stroh recounts her childhood in Grosse Point, growing up with wealth and privilege. But life was not as grand or as stable as it seemed. By her early 20s everything was on the verge of falling apart. Ultimately, it did. ~ Nate George
Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year LongJulia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long by Julia Read. Hooray, Julia Reed, author of But Mama Always Put Vodka in her Sangria! has a new book. "Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long" is a sophisticated how to guide on Southern entertaining at its finest. Reed features eleven enticing seasonal events with headings like "It's Finally Spring Lamb" and "Tomatopalooza". From the mundane to the sublime her menus reflect her mother's advice "Just serve something that tastes good." And in this she excels with mouth watering recipes and great directions. Personal anecdotes and local history add to each event as do the the gorgeous table settings and advice on wine and cocktails (wonderful!). Paul Costello's beautiful photographs on every page enhance the fabulousness of this very elegant book. ~ Sarah Knight
The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn. A detailed history of the European settling of North America in the 1600s. Moving geographically from south to north, the settlements of Roanoke, Manhattan, and Plymouth are described and analyzed. A wider variety of ethnicities, religions, and temperaments were present in British North America than is often thought. ~ Nate George
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of ConsciousnessThe Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. Thanks to Nancy in our Saratoga store for pointing me towards this excellent book. Who knew the shy octopus could be such a riveting subject. Montgomery celebrates and shares with readers the amazing biology and humanity of this much mythologized ocean creature. ~ Carrie Chalmer
Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American RevolutionIndependence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen Duval. For those who's knowledge of the American Revolution revolves around the Northeast, Independence Lost will be an eye-opener. DuVal uses several personal accounts to trace the Revolution's path in the Gulf Coast, a region neglected in traditional histories. Scottish entrepreneurs, Acadian farmers, Choctaw-British diplomats and French-owned slaves are represented in this vivid account of British, American, French and Spanish struggles to lay claim to eastern North America. These varied narratives exemplify the thesis that 1776 marked the start of a global conflict, not simply a rebellion. ~ Nate George
Full Circle CD by Loretta Lynn. It was a long trek from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to superstardom in the world of country music, but Loretta Lynn can rightfully reclaim a spot at the pinnacle with this new album. Whether she is singing about a wronged wife (“She’s got everything it takes to take everything you’ve got.”) or applying her unique style to an old Doris Day standard, Loretta remains peerless and ageless. ~ Alden Graves