Staff Picks

The Library of Light and Shadow

Summary: 
New York Times bestselling author M.J. Rose has come up with a new book, part of her series of the Daughters of La Lune. This novel's main character is Delphine Duplessi, whose mother Sandrine was featured in the novel "The Witch of Painted Sorrows". Set in Paris, Cannes and New York City during the 1920's, it tells the story of a young woman whose gift is being able paint portraits blindfolded which reveal a person's deepest secrets. Other characters include Delphine's twin brother Sebastian, her one true love Matthieu, as well as the famous opera singer Emma Calve who is obsessed with the writings of fourteenth-century alchemist Nicholas Flamel. This historical novel is a love story filled with mystery and magic with a riveting, thrilling denouement. If you are looking for a story that will hold your interest and can't put down, this book just might be for you!

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A House Among the Trees

Summary: 
Julia Glass's latest novel is a multi-faceted, multi-layered work of fiction, and a totally engrossing and enjoyable read. It tracks the life and death of Mort Lear, a famous children's book writer and illustrator and all the people whose life he touches. There is Tomasina Daulair his long-time and devoted assistant, her brother Dani, and Nicholas Greene, a charismatic actor cast to play the artist in a movie about Lear's life. Other characters include a young museum curator and Lear's lover Soren. The story travels back and forth in time from past to present, as well as fluctuating between the various character's point of view. This work of fiction is indubitably Julia Glass at her best.

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Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom

Summary: 
Winston Churchill and George Orwell preserved democracy from the threats of authoritarianism, from the left and right alike in their own very different ways. Although they came from vastly differing backgrounds, the similarities in their life course during the 20th century is amazingly similar. Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's—Orwell shot in the neck in a trench line in the Spanish Civil War, and Churchill struck by a car in New York City. If they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them since at this time both men were isolated from the world. In the late 1930's democracy was a maligned form of governmen: some decried the scourge of communism, but saw in Hitler and Mussolini "men we could do business with," if not in fact saviors. and others saw the Nazi and fascist threat as malign, but tended to view communism as the path to salvation. Churchill and Orwell, on the other hand, had the foresight to see clearly that the issue was human freedom—that whatever its coloration, a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace to be resisted. However, it is in the 1940's that Churchill and Orwell reached their zenith in the triumph over freedom's enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell's reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. This a fascinating dual biography that I learned a lot from and would recommend to 20th century history buffs.

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Moscow Rules

Summary: 
In Daniel Silva's eighth book, we find Gabriel Allon heading to Moscow--not the grim, gray Moscow of Soviet times but a new Moscow, awash in oil wealth and choked with supercars. Power resides once more in the Kremlin though. New style Stalinists are plotting to reclaim an empire lost. One such man is Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB colonel who built a global investment empire. However hidden within that empire is a more lucrative and deadly business. Kharkov is an arms dealer—and he is about to deliver Russia’s most sophisticated weapons to al-Qaeda. Allon must learn the time and place of the delivery, and the clock is ticking. Moscow Rules is a great entertaining read and a sobering tale about the new threats rising from the east, that are relevant to today's world.

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Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

Summary: 
Former Saturday Night Live writer turned U.S. Senator, Al Franken describes what motivated his 2008 run for Senate and his take on U.S. politics today. It's a progressive democrat's look at Washington with his very specific brand of humor. His humor aside, Franken comes across as a man of integrity and honesty. He narrates the audio version of the book. Highly recommended.

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The American Spirit : who we are and what we stand for

Summary: 
Historian David McCullough shares some of the speeches he's made over the past forty years. The main theme of the speeches is the importance of history. However, McCullough also highlights eras of American history where politicians worked together to solve problems. He also praises those, like John Quincy Adams, for taking an unpopular stand for the betterment of the country. After serving as President, Adams then served in Congress, representing Massachusetts. In the House of Representatives, Adams fought to have petitions against slavery read before Congress in the 1830's. The 1830's were a time when few northern politicians took a stand against slavery. Unlike other books about current day politics that point fingers at the opposition, The American Spirit shows us we can learn from the past to make us better people.

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The Last Bus to Wisdom

Summary: 
This last novel by a beloved writer is a fitting farewell. The eleven year-old boy in terror of the orphanage and poor farm is dispatched from Montana to unknown relatives in Wisconsin. What follows is pure Western wish-fulfillment, after struggles and heartache, a mid-20th century road trip, adventures, mishaps, a bildungsroman packed with all sorts of characters.

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Slavery & the underground railroad in New Hampshire

Summary: 
We don't think about New Hampshire as a slave state. This book provides a brief history of slavery in the Granite State. Chapter 10 covers the August 10, 1835 destruction of The Noyes Academy in Canaan, a school that admitted students of all races. The anti-slavery movement and The Underground Railroad are also covered. An eye-opening read.

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All the Rivers: A Novel

Summary: 
While in New York, Liat, an Israel student, meets Hilmi, a Palestinian artist. Despite growing up on opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, they immediately fall in love and must decide if and how they will continue their ‘taboo’ relationship. Unlike many books about the conflict, Rabinyan does not shy away from the subtle complexities nor does she pick sides. But what makes this book truly profound, is Rabinyan's thoughtfulness and compassion in telling such a sensitive story. She makes us feel for her characters-so much that we are rooting for Liat and Hilmi to find their ‘happily ever after’. --

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Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Summary: 
This is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history, though he began life at a great disadvantage. When he was a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his half-brother banished. Yoshitsune was sent away to live in a monastery. However, he escaped and managed to learn the ways of the samurai. When the time came for the Minamoto clan to rise up against their enemies, Yoshitsune answered the call. His daring feats and impossible bravery earned him immortality and a gruesome end (which helped establish seppuku as part of the warrior code) are fascinating features of a life that ended at age 30. Although the author directs this book at teens, I found this book absorbing, well written, fast moving and thoroughly enjoyable. A great introduction to potential young historians of Japanese history.

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