Blog: Staff Picks

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Fever Dream

Aloysius Pendergast is back. Pendergast has spent the last 12 years believing his wife has died after being attacked by a lion. A tragic accident. Now years later while examining her gun he realizes the gun was tampered with and loaded with blanks. It wasn't an accident, it was a murder.

Pendergast is now not only upset about his wife's death, he is on the hunt for the people who killed her and the reason they did so. He also learns of the secrets she was keeping from him. Pendergast drags the long suffering Lt. Vincent D'Agosta into the investigation. D'Agosta has his own worries, namely his new relationship with a fellow homicide officer - Captain Hayward.

The book moves through the story at typical Child and Preston pace - quickly with twists and turns. The action goes from the American south to Africa and back. There are people who are involved in the murder, but shouldn't be. Add in a John James Audubon connection, a rogue pharmaceutical company and madness in some of the suspects and the story just flies.

No one delivers suspense in such a deliciously creepy way as these two do. Fever Dream is one of their best.

Fever Dream Fever Dream
By Preston, Douglas J.
Author Child, Lincoln
2010-05 - Grand Central Publishing
9780446554961 Check Our Catalog Special Agent Pendergast embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery of his wife's murder. But as Pendergast probes the circumstances of her death, he is faced with an even greater question: Who was the woman he married? …More



Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) is one of our great 20th Century American writers. His books are character-centered, often depicting the complex relationships between married couples. They are realistic love stories about lives weathered by time, familiarity, and mistakes. As Terry Tempest Williams writes in his fine introduction to Crossing to Safety (2002 Modern Library Paperback Edition), “No outsider ever knows the interior landscape of a marriage. It is one of the great secrets kept between couples. The hunt for love is always on, and in some tragic, truthful, stunning way it forever eludes us.”

It is Stegner’s great gift that he explores the meaning of love against a historical backdrop. Be it the 50s, 60s, or late 1800s, he is a master at giving the reader insights into the times and the people who inhabit them.

Crossing to Safety
Set against the backdrop of the Depression and academic life in Madison, Wisconsin, circa 1937, this book poignantly follows the lives of two couples from the aspirations of their youth though the challenges of their latter years. It is a unique and insightful look into two vastly different marriages. Beautifully written, it resonates with the humanity in all of us.

Angle of Repose
Winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize, this critically acclaimed book is about a historian, Lyman Ward, now wheelchair bound and estranged from his son and wife. His study of his grandmother’s letters, as he writes a biography of her and her adaptation to life on the Western Frontier, contrasts with the life of the 1960’s he finds so distasteful. The manuscripts are based on the real-life author and illustrator, Mary Hollock Foote, 1847-1938. The West is beautifully described, as are the insights into the relationships of the characters. This book is most deserving of the honors bestowed upon it.



The Last Time I Saw You

CoverHave you wondered what it would be like to attend your 40th high school reunion? Elizabeth Berg explores this question in a thoughtful book about lost loves and last chances.

The book explores the lives of 5 former classmates. Dorothy Shauman, recently divorced, is trying desperately to reconnect with her daughter. She also hopes the event will reunite her with the former class heartthrob, Pete Decker. Candy Armstrong, once envied for her beauty, is silently suffering in her marriage, her dog her only friend. And what high school class is complete without those unfortunate souls who are marginalized by the cool kids? Enter Mary Alice Mayhew, a kind woman who comes to the reunion hoping to find understanding and forgiveness for events of the past. And last, Lester Hessenpfeffer, a widower and veterinarian- one of the "smart kids"-- is coerced into attending by his assistant in one of the funniest scenes in the book.

The Last Time I Saw You is an enjoyable and well-written book with some surprising turns. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a lighter read, full of interesting characters who evolve as the novel progresses.

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The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman

Once in a while, a book comes along that so captivates its readers as to render it impossible to put down. The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman, is such a book. The author, once an editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris, and currently, an Associated Press correspondent stationed in Rome, depicts life at a fictional newspaper, from its inception in 1953 to its demise in 2007.
The founder, Cyrus Ott, is a mysterious millionaire whose true motives for starting the paper are vague. He leaves his wife and young son in Atlanta and calls together an old friend and her husband for a meeting.

"I want to talk about a newspaper."
"Which one?"
"My own," Ott answered. "I intend to start one. An international English-language newspaper. Based in Rome and sold around the world."

And so the story unfolds, and with it, the lives of the owners, editors, and reporters over the course of the next 50+ years. Each chapter, with a wonderful newspaper headline at the beginning, has a surprising twist. Together, they resemble interwoven short stories written by a literary master. We come to know and care about every character depicted--quite a feat for a fledgling novelist in his first book.

The Imperfectionists is a character-based novel which contains some mystery--namely, the true reason for the paper's inception. In the end, it is about the demise of a newspaper, the victim of mismanagement and the digital age. Yet, it is also about the surprises and pitfalls in life, the imperfections in us all, and ultimately, the resiliency of the human spirit.

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The God of the Hive

The latest in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series, The God of the Hive starts off right where The Language of Bees ends. Mary has escaped with Damian's daughter, Estelle. Holmes has fled with Damian and Mycroft is in London trying to help them both. Thomas Brothers survives what Holmes and Russell are sure is a fatal shooting and fire. The question soon becomes who is backing him, where is Mycroft and why are there warrants out for the arrest of Holmes and Russell?

The plot winds its way around not only multiple countries, but through multiple plot lines as well. Running through Scotland, England and Holland Holmes and Russell have separated and are moving through different countries trying to survive. With Damian seriously wounded Holmes must protect him. With Estelle in tow, Russell must not only protect her but must find out if Damian is alive, and who is trying to kill them all.

Characters from previous stories make reappearances. Mycroft appears throughout the story as does Javitz ( the American pilot) and Inspector Lestrade. Add in a mysterious hermit and secrets involving Whitehall and you have one rollicking good story.

These are well written mystery books. The characters are interesting and relate well to each other. The story lines are interesting as well. This one involved spy plots in Great Britain after WWI and corruption in the highest levels of the government of Great Britain. I recommend this book ( and Laurie King's others as well). It's simply a great mystery read.



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The Worst Car in History?

Jason Vuic's fun new book The Yugo asks whether the Yugo was the worst car ever.  While certainly a debatable question, the Yugo was indeed one of the most well-known failures in automotive history.  Subject to the punchline of many jokes (a handful of which are compiled in this book), The Yugo was supposed to be a "people's car" - a new Volkswagon Beetle for the 80s - but after Consumer Reports declared  it to be a worse value than many used cars, the Yugo would become nobody's car.   Burdened with poor crash test ratings, a general fear of small cars, corporate mismanagement and poor build quality, the Yugo would only sell in the United States for 6 years, never reaching more than 50,000 units sold per year.

This breezy book tells the story of the Yugo, which is as much the story of a visionary/huckster named Malcolm Bricklin, whose various attempts at importing vehicles are chronicled here.  The story of the Yugo (whose name incidentally is not an abbreviation of Yugoslavia, but rather a translation of "south breeze") also parallels the story of Yugoslavia's move from Communist (non-Soviet bloc) country to Capitalist.  You don't have to be an auto lover to enjoy this book - if you enjoy pop culture and business history you may want to add this book to your list.

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