Staff Picks

The Rules of Magic

Summary: 
Alice Hoffman's latest novel is a prequel to her bestseller "Practical Magic". It tells the story of three siblings with magical powers growing up in New York City at the cusp of the 1960's. They are members of the Owens family whose history dates back to the 1600's. There is Franny, the eldest, with blood-red hair; shy and beautiful Jet, who can read people's thoughts; and the youngest, Vincent, a handsome and charismatic musical wizard. During one summer the three siblings journey to a small town in Massachusetts to visit their aunt Isabelle. There they learn more about their secret family history from this wise older woman. This book is a story about the power of love, and a reminder of the importance of being true to yourself.

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Do Not Say that We Have Nothing

Summary: 
A remarkable novel about recent Chinese history, the endurance of music and story, encapsulated in the life journeys of linked families. A composer, a classical pianist, and a poet whose work is making copies, and then adding to an epic _The Book of Records_ find variant ways to survive China's serial revolutions. A Canadian born Chinese mathematician, Marie, tries to piece it all together. Gorgeous writing.

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Version Control: A Novel

Summary: 
Time travel, autonomous cars, and the rise of Big Data are some of the ideas explored in this near-future novel that reads more like contemporary literature than a science fiction novel. Rebecca Wright is the wife of a physicist who is working on a "Causality Violation Device" (not a time machine!). She can't shake the feeling that something is off in her world. It feels like something has changed, but she doesn't know what.

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Before Everything

Summary: 
In the last month of Anna’s lengthy terminal illness her friends and family gather and distill the essence of shared life and loss in its beauty, messiness, triumphs and struggle. In brief vignettes ranging over a lifetime, a picture emerges of the tangential community a person creates -- and then carries forward into the future. Poetic and humorous, sad and uplifting.

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Seduction : a novel of suspense

Summary: 
Another novel by M.J. Rose, this one was published in 2014. The main character is the mythologist Jac L'Etoile, also featured in a subsequent novel "The Collector of Dying Breaths"(reviewed previously). This story takes place on the isle of Jersey - part of Britain's Channel Islands - a place of magic and mystery dating back thousands of years to the ancient Celts. The narrative journeys back and forth from the present day, to the mid-19th century writings of Victor Hugo, to the centuries old Druids. Woven throughout this suspenseful tale are the spirits of the departed, references to reincarnation and dreams, mythology and the collective unconscious. This fast-paced evocative tale, set against the backdrop of the unrelenting ocean, will keep you enthralled, unable to put it down.

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We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Summary: 
I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Beresford Bennett. A portion of _We were Eight Years in Power_ examines the manner in which President Barack Obama handled race issues. Coates also examines racism during the 2016 elections. I found the two best chapters of the book to be reprints of his Atlantic essays “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” Coates also chronicles changes in his life during the Obama Presidency, rising from unemployment to a respected commentator/writer. A highly recommended read for all aged 16 and above.

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A Legacy of Spies

Summary: 
When I learned that John le Carré had written a new George Smiley novel, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. He didn't disappoint..... He chooses to weave his story around Peter Guillam, the narrator, a trusted colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus. He is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London: his Cold War past has come back to haunt him. Intelligence operations that were lauded, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are being scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications. The past is woven brilliantly with present so that each may tell its own story. John le Carré has spun a plot as ingenious and thrilling as any he has written.

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The Little Book of Gratitude

Summary: 
This beautiful little book offers a simple, scientifically proven method of increasing health, joy and well-being in our lives through the practice of gratitude. With such activities as keeping a gratitude journal, writing letters of thanks, and meditating on the good we have received in our lives, we are able to enhance our relationships, encourage healthy sleep, and heighten feelings of being connected to ourselves and to the world. This book discusses the benefits of gratitude and shares easy techniques that will benefit every area of your life. It is a great little self-help manual which provides useful tips that are accessible to all.

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The Collector of Dying Breaths

Summary: 
An earlier novel from 2014 by the author M.J. Rose, part of her reincarnationist series, is filled with mystery, suspense and intrigue. This gothic tale travels back and forth in time between sixteenth- century Florence and Paris and the present day. The main characters include the perfumer Rene le Florentin, working for Catherine de Medici, the queen of France, and 21st century renowned mythologist Jac L'Etoile, who is seeking to unlock the secret to immortality by getting in touch with past life memories. Combining history, romance and magic, this complex story has a gripping plot and ultimately a happy ending.

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My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

Summary: 
Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.

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