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July 2014 Staff Picks
DonnaThe Son
The Son
Philipp Meyer

Spring, 1849. The first male child born in the newly established Republic of Texas, Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a marauding band of Comanche storm his homestead and brutally murder his mother and sister, taking him captive. Eli quickly adapts to Comanche life, learning their ways and language, answering to a new name, carving a place as the chief's adopted son, and waging war against their enemies. But when disease, starvation, and overwhelming numbers of armed Americans decimate the tribe, Eli finds himself alone. Neither white nor Indian, he must carve a place for himself in a world in which he does not fully belong.

Donna Says: This epic novel set in Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and is included in the 2014 Texas Library Association Lariat list for best adult fiction. Texas and the McCulloch family become the means to explore important eras in American history such as Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, two World Wars and the Depression. Recommended for Larry McMurtry fans.

Call Number: WES F MEY


Astonish MeAstonish Me
Maggie Shipstead

Synopsis: Astonish Me is the story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan's career takes off in New York, Joan's slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry's success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.

Elizabeth Says: Astonish Me is not a sprawling epic novel. At just 272 pages, it is a very fast read but never feels rushed or lacking. Set in the world of professional ballet, but to me it was more about the life we want verses the life we live. Maggie Shipstead’s prose is rich and nuanced, making this an engrossing read.

Call Number: F SHI

Joe Hill

Synopsis: Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Magen Says: Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a stunning read. It delivers horrific terror with a creepy Christmas twist. Halfway through the novel you are not quite sure if all of these crazy events are real or just made up in Victoria McQueen’s own mind. The imagery is so magnificent you really feel like you are watching it on the big screen. This novel is perfect movie material, and if it ever does hit the big screen I will be the first in line to buy tickets.

Call Number: HOR F HILL

Lost in AustenLost in Austen

Synopsis: Amanda Price is dissatisfied with her life in modern London. Her favorite escape is getting lost in the pages of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. One night, Amanda is startled to come face to face with the novel's protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet. A small door in her apartment mysteriously links their worlds. Eventually, Amanda becomes trapped on the other side, while Elizabeth remains in the modern world. Now as the events of her favorite book unfold in all the wrong ways, Amanda tries desperately to set things straight, but inevitably makes things worse.

Nina Says: In the wake of projects inspired by Austenmania -- print and film alike -- Lost in Austen stands out by being lovingly authentic to the original and the era, yet able to poke fun at them as well. The crowning glory of its humor comes in nods to the reigning champ of Pride & Prejudice adaptations, the Colin Firth miniseries.

Call Number: ADVD LOS

The Idea of AmericaThe Idea of America
Gordon S. Wood

Synopsis: More than almost any other nation in the world, the United States began as an idea. For this reason, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood believes that the American Revolution is the most important event in our history, bar none. Since American identity is so fluid and not based on any universally shared heritage, we have had to continually return to our nation's founding to understand who we are. In The Idea of America, Wood reflects on the birth of American nationhood and explains why the revolution remains so essential.

Randall Says: This is a fascinating and insightful collection of essays from an eminent scholar of the Founding Era. Wood does an excellent job of explaining the hopes, fears, and philosophy behind the birth of the United States. The section on the Constitution is especially good. Recommended for history enthusiasts.

Call Number: 973.3 WOO

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