Staff Picks

Staff recommendations for the best of what to read, listen to and view in our collection.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

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The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, the publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Streets--and into an affair with Laura, Tom's sleek blond wife. What Loogan doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die. As murders happen around the city, Tom senses what seems to fiction may well be fact.

Safe from the Neighbors by Steve Yarbrough

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In his new novel, Yarbrough intertwines James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss with a town’s not-so-admirable response. Decades later, local historian and high-school teacher Luke May struggles with his father’s involvement in Meredith’s enrollment. May also initiates his family’s crumbling. Being a historian, or perhaps simply by being human, May is incapable of forgetting, which he recognizes as both blessing and curse.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

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This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl - and society's ideas of race, class, and beauty.

The Pharaoh's Secret by Marissa Moss

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Talibah, age 14, and her younger brother, Adom, travel with their father on a business trip to his native land of Egypt.  Strange dreams and visions, mysterious carvings, and people with golden snake bracelets begin to trouble Talibah as soon as she arrives.  Visits to museums and Ancient Egyptian temples soon reveal a mystery over 3,500 years in the making.  Talibah learns about Hatshepsut, the Pharaoh Queen and is commissioned beyond the grave to find Senenmut, Hatchepsut's missing advisor and tutor for her daughter, and learns about her own family history as well.  A fascinating read that combines Ancient Egyptian history, legend, and the timeless love of family.  Recommended for Gr. 6 and up.

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

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Confronted by the poisoning of an important official's wife and the sudden appearance of three bodies that may create an international incident between Laos and Vietnam, 72-year-old state coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun keeps his cool in Cotterill's engaging whodunit, set in Laos a year after the 1975 Communist takeover. Ably assisted by the entertaining Geung and ambitious Dtui, Siri calmly gleans clues from minute examinations of the bodies while circumnavigating bureaucratic red tape to arrive at justice.

The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer

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Kat is a housewife with a big spending problem. When she discovers that her husband is planning to leave her after their daughter's upcoming high school graduation, she goes on a quest to save up the $15,000 she'll need to retain a divorce attorney. At the suggestion of her housekeeper, Kat joins a group called the Penny Pinchers Club which meets in the local library basement to start learning how to be more thrifty. Well-written and charming, the story has some interesting twists and turns, with themes of mid-life reinvention, old flames, some dumpster-diving espionage and crummy bosses who need to get what's coming to them, all explored while giving helpful hints on living well for less.

A Fatal Grace: A Three Pines Mystery by Louise Penny

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A Fatal Grace coverThis is the second book in the mystery series set in the small town of Three Pines, Quebec, and featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec. (Smart, experienced, and patient - he's just what you want in a chief inspector).  A woman nobody likes is electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake while watching a game of curling, and Gamache and his team have to figure out who the murderer is.  The characters of the townspeople are interesting and appealing and well developed - you really get to know them and their individual personalities.  Three Pines just seems so pleasant and cozy. The first book in the series is Still Life.  These are great books, especially if you like your cozy mysteries with a little French mixed in.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls takes the reader on an incredible journey through the lives of the Walls family told by the middle child Jeanette who by her own strength of character and persistance leaves an abusive family environment to thrive in New York as a successful journalist. Wall's memoir exposes startling neglect within a context of humor and irony as the family consisting of four children and two clueless parents falls deeper and deeper into debt, neglect and abject poverty. You will find yourself rooting for Jeannette throughout this well told story. I loved this book.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

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The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King is a well drawn historical novel that makes the assumption that Sherlock Holmes is real and that he takes on an apprentice by the name of Mary Russell. The relationship between Holmes and Russell developes slowly throughout the book and by the end, the characters, including Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson provide enthralling escape for the reader into the world at the turn of the century. King is up to her 10th installment in this well written series. Fans of Conan Doyle will be pleased.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is an incredibly layered experience that includes art, architecture, madness, murder and remarkably detailed biographies of some of the most influential people of the 19th and 20th centures. Larson sets out to connect the history of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 with that of a series of murders by a monster that went by the name of Henry H. Holmes. This a very intense and enjoyable book that broadens your understanding of modern American history while simultaneously entertaining you with a murder story that disturbs and fascinates with equal measure.