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Staff Picks: Books

Rising Strong

Self-described researcher-storyteller Brené Brown is well known for her research and writing on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the most viewed. Several of her books, including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead are bestsellers. Her fourth book, Rising Strong, published earlier this week, deals with what happens when we exercise courage and fail. Resilience is a hot topic right now, and Brown's new book is definitely worth checking out.

 


The Nightingale

The World War II time period with a European setting is a particularly popular fiction genre within the past two to three years. I have read many of them, but my favorite to date is Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

The story focuses on two sisters set in a French village beginning in 1939. Both are overcome by the death of their mother and the abandonment of their father. One remains in the village which is ultimately taken over by the Germans, the other joins the French underground.

One of the sisters narrates the story from the present, but the reader doesn’t know until the end which sister is telling their shared story.

As expected from a novel of this time and setting, Hannah examines life, love, the ravages of war, and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations. It is well-written and a good read.


Take a Chance with a Couple of Kooks

Miranda July is a Renaissance woman; she’s a fearless explorer in multiple artistic mediums: a filmmaker, a writer, and a performance artist. I’ve been a fan of hers since I saw her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know, an idiosyncratic independent film that addresses loneliness and human connection in contemporary society.  Loneliness and connection are common topics in her work, and her latest artistic venture, the novel The First Bad Man, is no exception to that.  Cheryl Glickman is a middle-aged single woman who has her life organized to virtual non-existence; she has an elaborate system set up (this includes having just enough dishes for one person for one meal) to avoid devolving into a depressed, hoarding, non-bathing mess.  But there wouldn’t be a story here if her life just continued on lonely and tidy—things change drastically when her bosses’ 21-year-old daughter moves in with her.  The First Bad Man is weirdly wonderful. The characters appear odd at first, but really their thoughts, emotions, and illogical natures are so utterly human. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of Miranda July or who likes eccentric, well-developed characters.


The Girl on the Train

I don’t usually seek out psychological thrillers but I did enjoy The Girl on the Train, often compared to Gone Girl.

The story centers on Rachel who takes the train into London each day, traveling past the backyard of a happy-looking couple she names Jess and Jason. One day, Rachel sees “Jess” kissing another man and the next day “Jess” is missing.

The story is told through the eyes of three characters with plenty of inventive twists and surprising developments – at least to me. This is a page turner, perhaps to be saved for a summer beach read.


How We Got to Now

This 2014 book by Steven Johnson is subtitled Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. Those six are each described in chapters which are entitled glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. Various inventions are recalled under each heading. For example, the chapter on cold discusses the development of refrigeration and the chapter on clean covers advances in public health. The illustrations and photographs by themselves make this book worthy of examination. One of my favorites is the reproduction of the old Clorox ad on page 153. Available in four formats: e-book, digital audiobook, compact disc, and print.


Good for Amy Poehler!

I recently started listening to the audiobook of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and I love it. Amy Poehler is a modern feminist heroine to me; she’s funny, passionate, and confident, not to mention extremely successful and hard-working. Her book offers a glimpse into her life--relationships, career, and motherhood—and exudes all the happy humor you’d expect from the SNL alumni and Parks and Recreation star. Her motto, “Good for her! Not for me,” has really stuck with me; it’s a great way of admiring and encouraging other women while still being kind and confident with one’s self.
If you’re a fan of Amy Poehler’s television shows or movies, or enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossypants, give Yes Please a try. I highly recommend listening to it, as born-performer Amy Poehler reads it herself, along with guest stars such as Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, and Carol Burnett.


An Unplanned Reading Emphasis

As I look back over the list of books I read in 2014, I am surprised how many of them have a European, World War I or II setting both fiction and nonfiction. That was not intentional. Many of the books I read are relatively new so I can only assume there has been many books with this setting and time published in the last year or so.

Fiction favorites include:

The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton

Lovers at the Chameleon Club 1932 by Francine Prose

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

My nonfiction favorites of this setting and time include:

The Hotel on Place Vendôme by Tilar J. Mazzeo

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World by Greg King

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit and An Epic Quest to Arm an American at War by Albert J. Baime (Not a European setting but WW II)

Do you have any of this time and setting to recommend to me? Contact me


Top Secret Twenty One

Janet Evanovich latest book Top Secret Twenty One has Stephanie Plum at it again. Stephanine Plum is a bounty hunter but not what you would think of as a typical bounty hunter. She gets by on being cute and lots of luck. In Top Secret Twenty One she is looking for Jimmy Poletti who is out on bail and has missed his court date. While hunting him down she keeps finding his poker buddies, one after the other, dead. She is also helping Ranger who has an old Russian enemy trying to kill him. As usual, Stephanie bumbles about and defies death a few times. You know how some hotels have a parking garage attached and there is a walkway from the hotel to the garage, well Stephanie finds herself on top of this walkway with a bad guy forcing her to cross it. Mix in 10 Chihuahuas and you have yourself another Stephanie Plum humorous bounty hunt. I have been reading Janet Evanovich for years, this is my first time listening to one of her books on audio downloaded from KPL’s overdrive. I love audio books but since I have been reading about Stephanie, Lulu, Ranger etc I have these characters in my head. Hearing a voice for Lulu that was not what my head envisioned bothered me. I and others had similar issues when the movie One for the Money came out. It was a good movie but each of us had preconceived impressions of how these people looked and talked. I think this is the highest praise we can give an author, Janet Evanovich has written her books so well that we have made these fictional characters real in our heads. I love the Stephanie Plum series although I keep thinking my goodness how inept can you be.Come on down to KPL and check it out.

 


Invisible

Invisible by James Patterson. Emmy Dockery is a research assistant for the FBI and thinks she has discovered a serial killer who uses arson to cover his tracks. The problem for Emmy is that the killer is very good at making these house fires look accidental. Also unfortunately for Emmy one of the victims was her twin sister so everyone discounts her theory thinking she is just mourning her sister. She enlists the aid of her ex finance, who is also ex FBI to look into the fires. They eventually find evidence and the hunt is on. The story is eerie and you feel Emmy’s frustrations. The author also lets us hear from the killer. The killer narrates the Graham Chronicles where we hear what the killer is thinking and what happens to a victim. This lets us the reader be on both sides on story, we watch Emmy track and try and hunt the killer down, we also hear from the killer and we are shared insight into the killers thoughts and actions. I downloaded this book from KPL as an mp3 and listened to the story. When the killer was talking, it sounded very pompously and full of self-importance. I took an instant dislike to the killer, but to be fair I wasn’t all that crazy about Emmy. Emmy was not a team player, she ignored Book’s commands and just did whatever she wanted even if that meant she might have endangered fellow agents. I was glad when Bookman finally got fed up with her and denounced her. That was almost more satisfying than them catching the killer. Come on down to KPL and check it out.


Nikki Heat Series by Richard Castle

I watched the television show “Castle”. In the television show Richard Castle is a writer who gets to ride along with Detective Kate Becket and her team. In the television show (and I emphasize this) Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) writes a book about Detective Kate Becket and calls her Nikki Heat. Someone thought hey lets write a real book about Nikki Heat and pretend it is written by Richard Castle just like in the television series. There are now 6 books in the Nikki Heat Series written by Richard Castle. Nobody knows who really writes these books. The book jacket shows a picture of Nathan Fillion but they say his name is Richard Castle. Nathan Fillion has even signed some books using his television name Richard Castle. The books have the same characters as in the show but they change the names. Richard Castle is called Jameson Rook, Kate Becket is of course Nikki Heat, Detective Ryan is Raley and Detective Esposito is Ochoa. I like that they renamed Castle as Rook. In Chess in a move called Castling, the Rook can change positions with the King. There after you call that piece a Castle. I like that they choose to use that play on words. When reading the books it is like watching the show but can get confusing. I was reading one of the books and watching the show at the same time, not exactly the same same time, and was getting a wee bit confused. In the show her mother was killed in an alley, but in the book she is killed in their kitchen. On the show during think tank sessions they toss around a little ball the size of a tennis ball, in the book they toss a basketball, I like the show version better. I downloaded from KPL and listened to these books on my mp3 player, KPL also has the print versions and digital. So whether you prefer print, digital or audio KPL has it all. Check it out at KPL.

Book

Nikki Heat Series by Richard Castle
9781401323820