Staff Picks

Gods of Jade and Shadow

Summary: 
This novel tells the story of a young woman named Casiopea from Yucatan, Mexico in the 1930's, who lives with her extended family in the house of her wealthy grandfather, but is confined to doing housework while she dreams of a life of freedom. Then one day she finds the key to the wooden chest in her grandfather's room which she opens, magically releasing the soul of Hun-Kame the deposed Lord of the Underworld, who has been locked in the chest for over five decades. Casiopea and the god Hun-Kame then travel together on a journey across Mexico, trying to locate the missing elements which will allow the god to regain his place on the throne of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. Weaving together pre-Columbian mythology with her own vivid imagination, the author tells an absorbing tale of the rivalry between two twin brothers and a young woman's quest for adventure and self-realization.

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The Book of Joy

Summary: 
In April 2015 these two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates spent a week at the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate his eightieth birthday. The most pressing theme of their dialogue was how to find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering. Through stories, tears and laughter, these two venerable souls share their wisdom and knowledge about such topics as the importance of gratitude, forgiveness and compassion. This is a marvelous little jewel of a book that illuminates the basic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism and Western Christianity in a simple and down-to-earth language.

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The Improbability of Love

Summary: 
A high-spirited romp through the London art world, this novel shines a light on big money, high fashion, culinary arts, etc. through an appealing wannabe chef who happens to purchase an old master in a junk shop. Frothy and fun with a page-turner plot, a self-explaining painting, and a soupçon of romance.

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The Secrets We Kept

Summary: 
This double narrative sets forth the struggle to get _Doctor Zhivago_ published, the toll it takes on Pasternak and his muse, and the machinations through which the CIA weaponizes the novel in the Cold War. The secret keepers are all women, in the East and the West, and their lives are forever altered.

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Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death

Summary: 
Hilariously written and immensely fascinating! If you have any interest in how death works (and how it doesn't) this is a great read. Written in a Q&A style for each chapter, Doughty breaks down some of the more interesting and unusual questions many of us have about death, decomposition, cremation, and funerals. Did you know it's illegal to have your pet buried with you? Or that there are different methods of dealing with an astronaut's body if they die in space? Neither did I! I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their knowledge on something that we all go through but rarely discuss.

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The Topeka School

Summary: 
This semi-autobiographical novel encompasses the family stories of a psychologist couple and their son Adam, gifted debater/public speaker high school student and their circle of friends. The overheated atmosphere of senior year, being liberals in a conservative place, relationships that cross boundaries, idealistic beliefs that are inconsistently practiced, produces a combustion similar to the tornado pictured on the front cover, and a portrait of coming-of-age in the 90s. Brilliant.

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A Woman is No Man

Summary: 
Three generations of Palestinian women, two immigrants and the first generation daughter- granddaughter, wrestle with their duties as Arab women and the desire for selfhood that conflicts with the culture. In this poignant novel, tragedy haunts each of them in their struggle to survive, and they fear passing on a tortured existence to the next generation because other ways are unknown. A brilliant page-turner.

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A Single Thread

Summary: 
NY Times bestselling writer (author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring") has written a new novel. Set in the town of Winchester, England in 1932, it tells the story of a thirty-eight-year-old woman, Violet Speedwell. Having lost her fiance during the first world war, she is now considered a "spinster" by the current social mores. She works for an insurance company as a typist and then learns to create needlepoint designs for kneelers and cushions to be used in the grand Winchester Cathedral. Violet befriends two women who also do needlepoint, as well as an older married man in his sixties who introduces her to the art of ringing the bells at the cathedral. The narrative unfolds at a fast clip and includes a very surprising and heartfelt ending. It is a very engaging read.

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Middle England

Summary: 
In the tradition of Trollope, this comedy of manners embraces the lives of family and friends and politics from 2010-2017. Trenchant and funny, it makes foibles and courageous stands compelling as it makes sense of the turmoil that leads to Brexit. Indelible characters-- Benjamin, Doug, Sophie and a host of others are people we are glad to know and whose dilemmas illuminate the times on this side of the pond as well.

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The Book of Dreams

Summary: 
This novel tells the story of Sam, a thirteen-year-old boy in London, whose father Henri, a former war correspondent, lies in a coma at a medical clinic. Told from the point of view of various characters, the narrative weaves through time in a period of forty-six days, as Henri's spirit floats within dreams somewhere between life and death. Through his father's voice we learn that Sam is a synesthete - he has more sensory receptors than other people and experiences a constant barrage of impressions that exists only on the edge of others' perceptions. Sam's senses have a thousand more eyes and ears than most humans and he assigns colors to sounds and numbers, as well as emotions. This novel features other characters as well - Sam's mother Marie-France, his pal and best friend Scott, Henri's lover Edwina, and a young girl named Madelyn who is also in intensive care. All in all this wise story takes the reader on a wild journey through space and time, exploring some of life's intriguing mysteries.

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