Staff Picks

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.

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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Winnie the Bear : The True Story Behind A. A. Milne's Famous Bear

Summary: 
This is a truly endearing account of the brown bear that was the inspiration for the creation of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books. Winnie the Bear is the biography of a Canadian black bear adopted by Lieutenant Harry Colebourn and named after the city of Winnipeg. A veterinarian who was en route overseas at the beginning of World War I, Colebourn nurtured the young cub at training camps in Valcartier, Quebec, and on the Salisbury Plain in England. The story is even more fascinating due the author's family connections to Harry Colebourn. A must-read for all Winnie the Pooh fans.

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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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