Staff Book Picks

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Lyddie Berry is a strong and independent thinking woman. She needs that strength when her husband dies because life as a widow in colonial America is almost unimaginable by today's standards. Besides her grief, she must deal with the fact that the house she shared with her husband for twenty years, her property, and her rights are now controlled by her nearest male relative. That man is her overbearing and thoroughly insensitive son-in-law. The author gives us not only memorable characters, but painless history lessons as life in pre-Revolutiuonary Satucket (read Brewster, MA) unfolds, and we follow Lyddie in her personal "war" as she challenges the laws and customs of the times.

This title became a book club favorite, and there are now even organized tours of Lyddie's Satucket during the summer and early fall months. My group spent a day in Brewster, a "field trip" to the Cape, and followed the map included in the book on our own. This is certainly a well-written and well-researched story, and is followed by others in which some of the characters reappear and bring the story up to Revolutionary times. I've enjoyed them all, but I think this is my favorite. If you liked Sally Gunning's Peter Bartholomew mystery series, do give her historical novels a try, you won't be disappointed. Check Our Catalog

Oct 15, 2014 by deirdres

In the summer of her 13th year, during the Watergate hearings of 1972, Riddle Camperdown stumbles upon the aftermath of a crime.  A discovery she chooses to keep from her politician father "Camp" and her caustic, retired movie star mother Greer.  In due time Riddle becomes involved with the family of a teenager who has seemingly disappeared and discovers several more familial secrets.

This is no whodunit. The bad guy is clear from early on. The mystery here is why did he do it?  A word of caution: the villain is so cartoonishly evil that you must suspend your disbelief that he would be gainfully employed and welcome in anyone's home. That said, this is a beautifully written book and I loved Greer's wryly misanthropic one-liners and retorts which, alone, make this book worth reading. Check Our Catalog

Sep 29, 2014 by megana

“Lars” Larson is a middle-aged college English professor with a wife and daughter—and a wandering eye for pretty coeds. Iris Weed is one of those coeds, whose apparent romantic disinterest in Lars inspires him to obsess about her to the point of stalking and spying on her to find out who her boyfriend is. Things come to a head one night during an argument in Lars’ car, leading Iris to storm off and leave one of her diaries behind. The next morning, she turns up brutally murdered in a parking lot. As the police investigate, Lars employs all of his considerable charm in every direction to avoid telling the truth to investigators, his colleagues, his suspicious wife and his daughter. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we start believing our own lies! Check Our Catalog

I chose this because I thought, “Aha, someone’s finally written my story!” Then I discovered it was by and about--horrors-- A Pretender to the Throne! A hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless (but outrageously clever) father and his adorable daughter. I laughed so hard that I, well, a washing machine was involved. Check Our Catalog

Picture this: a multinational corporation specializing in internet-related services and products has been devouring all competitors for years. 90% of the the world’s searches go through this company. Without competitors this will only increase. Control the flow of information and you control everything including what anyone sees and knows. The company can bury information. It can ruin any person. No one can rise up against it because it controls all the information and access to it. What happens when the company controls all searches and has full access to all data about every person? When they know every move every person makes? That’s Eggers’s Circle. And this provocative tale is 2013’s 1984. Check Our Catalog

Sep 8, 2014 by claytonc

Reno is an artist living in NYC in the 70’s. She loves speed, especially fast motorcycles and downhill skiing. Always an outsider, she flirts on the fringes of several fascinating scenes, develops a long-term relationship with an older, more established artist/son of an Italian Motorcompany magnate, and finds herself mixed up with the Red Brigades, the radical movement that threw Italy into chaos in the late 1970s. Kushner has crafted a very tangible protagonist - I felt like I really knew her and can empathize with the challenges she faces. There are no tidy answers at the end. This book prefers to ask intricate questions and put answers to the test. The prose is beautiful and powerful. I really enjoyed reading this book. Check Our Catalog.

Aug 21, 2014 by megana

Little girls keep showing up dead--with bite marks on their bellies--in 1960s-era Florence, and world-weary 50-something Inspector Bordelli is tasked with finding their killer. This atmospheric novel really takes you back to a specific time and place that is palpably post-war 20 years after the end of World War II, with obvious scars remaining on both the physical landscape and on the psyches of police, witnesses and criminals alike.  Like many of his fictional Italian colleagues, Bordelli spends a fair amount of time sitting around and contemplating, eating spaghetti and drinking wine, but he gets there in the end.  Check Our Catalog

The subtitle of this book (The true story of the inventors and airmen who led the devastating raid to smash the German dams in 1943) only begins to scratch the surface of this thoroughly researched, fast-paced story. It opens with the genesis of an idea and doesn't end until a post-raid analysis of the success and fates of its participants. In a 10-week span, Squadron 617 was created, special low-flying Lancaster aircraft were manufactured, 9,000 pound bouncing cylindrical bombs were designed to skip across reservoirs into hydroelectric dams, and flight crews were trained. This all happened under the cloak of absolute secrecy and with the sole purpose of hampering Nazi war production. The fruit of the labors of a brilliant engineer, the organizational efforts of a squadron commander, and the heroics of pilots and crews all combine in this authoritative account of an oft-told event for white knuckle history writing at its best. Check Our Catalog

Aug 11, 2014 by claytonc

It is very clear why so many awards have been bestowed upon this writer. This beautiful, heartbreaking novel is two love stories starring the same character, continents apart. Alternating between war-torn Uganda during the revolutions in the 1970s and the American Midwest which was undergoing its own cultural revolutions at the same time, “Isaac” is a lover, a student, and a truly remarkable man. This haunting work evokes a strong sense of place in both worlds. There is bound to be something familiar and something new for every reader of this work. This is not a romance novel, but rather a deeply emotional one. It explores the names we are given and the names we keep. Check Our Catalog

Do you like thick (809 p.) inter-generational family stories full of historical details and drama? Read on - this novel is for you. In his research the author discovered fantastic historical street maps, drawings, paintings and models of the city of Paris in the Carnavalet Museum in the Marais and photographs from the Museum of Montmarte. He made use of these details to create an intimacy between the reader and this most beautiful and romantic of all European cities. We see Paris through the eyes of the noble family, the deCygnes and the revolutionists Le Sourds. The Gascon family helps build the Eiffel Tower and shows us the seedy underworld of the Moulin Rouge. Other characters give us a glimpse into the literary and artistic world of Paris in the 20’s. Rutherfurd’s style is often compared to James Michener, another lover of books that can be used as door stops based on their weight alone! However we have the advantage of e-books of which this title is available as well as his other tomes, e.g. London, New York and Sarum. Check Our Catalog

Jul 18, 2014 by deirdres

A group of vaguely unpleasant rich people on a vacation to Mallorca: adulterer Jim, food writer Franny, teen daughter Sylvia and adult son Bobby are joined by Bobby's 10 years older girlfriend Carmen, Franny's best friend Charles, and his husband Lawrence on a two-week vacation where secrets are exposed and relationships are changed forever. A quick, enjoyable read; I wanted to know how things would turn out, even though the characters are relentlessly spoiled and unlikable. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts are all part of the book's appeal. Check Our Catalog

Jul 15, 2014 by maryd

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo has so many people raving about how awesome these books are; I had to give one a try.  This mystery is certainly entertaining but I am currently at page 485 and I am still waiting to get to the plot. It is a book I definitely could put down (though I know many who raced through it). The sexual violence can be a bit hard to suffer through. I am disciplining myself to finish it.  Check Our Catalog

Desdemona Hart, an aspiring artist, is torn between her loyalty to her father's Shakespeare Theater legacy and her steady but unexciting husband, and the romantic lure of a fellow artist and a successful career in the big city.  These themes are set in the fictional town of Cascade in the 1930s as war clouds gather and the state of Massachusetts decides whether to displace the residents and flood the town to create a reservoir. Those familiar with the Quabbin Reservoir story will appreciate the parallels, and also appreciate that the author successfully weaves several different themes together to create an intriguing story. A moving first novel.  Check Our Catalog

Jun 30, 2014 by megana

Widowed and retired Major Pettigrew leads a quiet life in the small English village of Edgecombe St. Mary. That is, until he strikes up an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Ali, the widowed Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. While their neighbors, friends, and family members look on mostly with shock and disapproval, these two lonely people from different worlds tentatively explore the possibility of a future together. I thought this might be an overly twee and sentimental story but it's more of a satirical romance ala Alexander McCall-Smith and the sharply humorous dialogue kept me laughing out loud all the way through. A very satisfying summer read! Check Our Catalog

“Whatever else it was, it was one hell of summer.” That’s Bryson’s excellent summary of the epochal summer of 1927 with its captivating events (Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic; the invention of TV), outsized characters performing deeds heroic (the Babe's pursuit of home run glory) or dubious (Al Capone’s rule of Chicago), cultural faux pas (the popularity of eugenics and the heydey of the KKK), and just plain weirdness (Alvin Kelly establishes a new record by sitting atop a flagpole for 12 days). A wonderfully detailed, fast paced and delightfully humorous narrative of America’s arrival on the world’s stage. Check Our Catalog

Jun 20, 2014 by julier

The most intense Anna Pigeon novel to date (and this is number 18!), this thriller starts when our favorite National Park Service Ranger's short weekend camping trip with friends turns into a fight for survival against kidnappers. As with all Nevada Barr mysteries, the Minnesota wilderness is as much a character as any of the people. I seriously enjoyed this but you really need to be familiar with the other Anna Pigeon novels to understand how she deals with the situation. Check Our Catalog

A man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He wanders into the farmstead of a friend from his youth, follows a path to a duck pond--which may be the ocean--and, begins to remember “everything.”  His friend’s grandmother may be as old as the world. His nanny may be a monster. The pennies in his piggy bank may be gold.  In this slim, provocative, terribly beautiful dreamscape of childhood Gaiman probes the vulnerability of youth, the power (and unreliability) of memory, the consolation of (written) adventures and fables, the logic of whimsy, and produces a masterpiece of imaginative world-building. Check Our Catalog

If you’re a fan of Diane Gabaldon, and like big historical novels for the summer, here’s a great series for you. Okay it’s not as well written as the Outlander series, but it’s for the beach! The whole series is available as e-books. “Into the Wilderness" (the first of five books in this series) is the story of Elizabeth Middleton, an independent, strong-willed English woman who travels to America in 1792 to set up a school in 'Paradise', a primitive settlement in New York state. Her father has plans to marry her off to a wealthy settler and solve his financial problems. But Elizabeth is just as determined to realize her dream in the hostile new land and finds an unlikely supporter in a rugged Scottish trapper who is also an honorary member of the Mohawk Wolf clan. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk nation with these two outsiders torn between different worlds, this is an epic love story. A strong female character, an adventurous, handsome male love interest, backwoods survival, and some American history as background are what make this a fun read while you’re waiting to get Gabaldon’s newest book. Check Our Catalog

Set in 7th century Britain, this coming of age story narrates the early life and young adulthood of the girl who will become abbess St. Hild of Whitby, whose advice was sought by religious and political leaders. Griffith’s telling evokes a richly detailed world that is so different from our own that it’s virtually alien. Born into a pagan world where power is often brokered by marriage alliances between kingdoms,  Christianity is on the rise. Hild’s preternatural observations of human nature and keen political acumen secure her place as her uncle, the king’s, seer and “peaceweaver”. Griffith’s tale demystifies history without robbing it of the magic that is the warp and woof of human interaction.Check Our Catalog

E.A., short for Ethan Allen, comes of age in Northern Vermont and lives for baseball. So does the whole town of Kingdom Common.  They are all rabid Red Sox fans and have a replica of Fenway Park's Green Monster on top of the local baseball bat factory.  To say the least, E.A's upbringing is unconventional, yet in its own way grounded and loving. As he grows so does his love for baseball, especially when a talented drifter comes to town and becomes coach and mentor. The book was written pre-Red Sox World Series Championship wins. But if you remember those days, you can appreciate the state of mind and hope for a miracle when E.A. gets a chance to pitch for his beloved team. The author's knowledge of baseball certainly comes through as does his skill in drawing the picture of rural life and the quirky characters of a small town.  A delightful, sometimes comic, sometimes poignant summer read. Check Our Catalog

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