Staff Picks

Lionheart

Summary: 
After the death of his father, Henry II in 1189, and the early death of two of his brothers, Richard is crowned King of England and immediately sets off for the Holy Land. Sharon Kay Penman opens up a vast array of new insights into Richard the man and all the events and personalities surrounding the the Third Crusade, which was marked by conflict among the Christians (most notably the French king Philippe, who deserts the crusade in order to secure his own kingdom) and the extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. Richard’s younger brother, John, who is left behind, conspires with the French king to steal Richard's throne. Only their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine remains to protect Richard’s interests. Richard is portrayed, as one might expect, as a larger-than-life character, but it was the supporting cast and events that made this book all the more interesting for me.

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The Secret Servant

Summary: 
Gabriel Allon, the master art restorer and sometime officer of Israeli intelligence is sent to Amsterdam for what appears to be a routine assignment. But once in Amsterdam, Gabriel soon discovers a conspiracy of terror festering in the city's Islamic underground, a plot that is about to explode on the other side of the English Channel, in the middle of London. The plot is to kidnap Elizabeth Halton, the daughter of the American ambassador to the Court of St. James's, Gabriel arrives too late to save her. Working with the British Secret Service, MI5 and MI6 and American intelligence, Gabriel begins a desperate search for the missing woman as the clock ticks steadily toward the hour of her execution. It will take him from Amsterdam to Germany to the very end of Denmark and finally back to Westminster Abbey, London, on Christmas Day. A fantastic read, I raced through the pages of this Daniel Silva book. On to the next!!!

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Summary: 
Neil deGrasse Tyson has written a little gem of a book on the universe, its nature and time, and how we fit in and how the universe fits within us. He does all this with such skill, humor and humility. The size of this book is perfect too, a small tome that should not intimidate the non-scientists among us. Although, as a person with science background, I learned so much from these short succinct chapters. In the last chapter, Professor Tyson puts this book into its true perspective:'the cosmic perspective' ..."During our brief stay on planet Earth," he writes, "we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore......in part because it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us". We should all adopt the 'cosmic prespective' states Professor Tyson. Everyone who cares about our planet should read this book!

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On Turpentine Lane

Summary: 
Elinor Lipman's latest novel is a charming romantic comedy. The main character is thirty-two year old Faith Frankel, who works for her alma mater writing thank-you notes for financial donations. After a serious break-up, her affable office mate Nick Franconi moves into her small bungalow as a roommate. Other characters include Faith's brother and her parents, who are going through mid-life crises as they re-define the nature of their long-standing relationship. Filled with people with quirky personalities and lively dialogue, you will sail through this enjoyable and easy read frequently smiling at the sometimes outrageous humor.

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Quicksand

Summary: 
A bright, conflicted teenage girl is on trial, the surviving perp of a school shooting. Her thoughts, memories, confused hopes and regrets form a narrative that blazes through nearly 500 pages, questioning her guilt or innocence and indicting her Swedish society-- and ours. The translation is pitch perfect.

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The Enigma of the Owl : an illustrated natural history

Summary: 
This fabulous book about owls from all over the world is illustrated with more than 200 exquisitely beautiful photographs. From the tiny elf owl of the southwestern American deserts, to the majestic snowy owl, to the barn owl, this book covers them all. Describing the birds' habitats, their breeding and hunting behaviors and unusual calls, the author Mike Unwin documents the lives of these magnificent creatures with detailed scientific facts. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in birds and natural history.

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Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors

Summary: 
Conn Iggulden, in this last book of his War of the Roses series, does not disappoint. The Yorkist king Edward IV is driven out of England, his wife and children forced to seek sanctuary from the House of Lancaster. His humiliation at this turn of events drives Edward back to greatness. He lands at Ravenspur, with a half-drowned army and his brother Richard at his side. Though almost all are against them and every city gate is shut, they have come home. The brothers York do not go quietly into banishment Instead, they choose to attack and Edward regains his crown. Yet neither Edward nor Richard realize that the true enemy of York has yet to reveal himself. Far away, across the Channel, in France, Henry Tudor has become a man. He is the Red Dragon—"the man of destiny: who seeks to end the Wars of the Roses. His claim, though tenuous, will carry him to Bosworth Field and the rise of the Tudors. Although I am very familiar with the characters and events described, Mr. Iggulden gives depth and insight into all the principles and events of this turbulent time, such that you gain empathy and insight into their characters and begin to like them I highly recommend this series to all, novices and experts alike.

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Farthing

Summary: 
In alternating chapters a young aristocrat newly married to her Jewish truelove and a Scotland Yard inspector strive to solve a country house murder. The twist is: it happens in an alternative 1949 England that had appeased Hitler, shored up its own moneyed powerful elite and begun an all-too-plausible descent into fascism, while the Reich held Europe, and Charles Lindbergh was the sympatico president of a racist and mercenary USA. Chilling, but so good! Can't wait to get on with the rest of the Small Change trilogy!

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And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer : a novella

Summary: 
This short novel written by the New York Times bestselling author of "A Man Called Ove" is a very moving and compassionate tale about the relationship of an elderly man who is struggling with dementia and his grandson named Noah. Translated from Swedish into English, this is a beautifully written book is a story which will touch your heart.

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HHhH

Summary: 
A page-turner that is as much about the struggle to turn history into an "infranovel" as about a true heroic act of Resistance in WWII Prague, both of which are riveting. The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich led to unexpected tragic results, but also "Hitler will suffer his most devastating defeat in a domain he once mastered...the international propaganda war ...irredeemably lost." p.296

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