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Recent Reviews

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Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017

The new biography, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith, is worth the time despite its girth. A teenager when Charles married Diana, I have long disliked and blamed him for all that followed. Smith's exhaustive exploration of his life has helped me move past that and even to appreciate the man for who he is: a reluctant royal with loves and ambitions that do not necessarily suit his role as the Queen and others might interpret it. Though socially awkward and intensely private, Charles also has felt compelled to use his voice and position to enlarge discussions around contemporary issues important to him. Though I think Smith unfairly dismisses some of Charles' ideas as fringe and even "kooky," especially those about climate change, her biography provides a carefully researched look into the life of the future king, and a person with the unique moral and intellectual capacity to lead. Recommended by Kelly

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Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017

How many times a day do you use your cellphone? Computer? Have a diamond ring? The western world depends on the minerals being harvested from the Congo, and the labor that which provides it. (Can also be spelled "Kongo") 5,000,000, yes, 5 million, you read that right, have died in the conflict in the Kingdom of Congo since WWII. This book explores first-hand experience, interviews, images, and data to educate readers on what is happening in the world's deadliest place. This is the kind of book that helps us to remember that moms are moms everywhere, everyone desires a job that will provide security, and kids deserve to go to school--boys and girls. This book will make you think twice about all the tainted technology we use that funds the ongoing war on the people of the Kingdom of Kongo.

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Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ben Greenman’s Dig if You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God, and Genius in the Music of Prince doesn’t set out to be a biography (entirely) or a work of criticism (entirely) or a memoir (entirely), instead landing at a mostly-sweet spot in between. The result is a fun read, full of memorable insights and stories. Greenman splits his analysis into four sections, about Prince’s music, meaning, madness, and memory. It’s a nice structure for a book that slides around chronologically but never loses its grip. It’s by no means comprehensive, but I’m not sure it’s possible to write the comprehensive Prince book. Do you miss Prince as much as I do? Dig if You Will The Picture is good solace. Recommended by Danny.

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Black Rabbit Hall Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2017

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase is a spellbinding novel that reviewers say is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier. Black Rabbit Hall is a country estate on England's Cornish coast. Something happens in 1968 that unravels the perfect family who lives there. The story shifts to the present as a young woman decides she wants to hold her wedding at the Hall. Going back and forth in time, we learn how the two families are connected. Movingly written, this gothic story of family secrets, love and loss will captivate you! -- Recommended by Rochelle

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White Tears Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2017

White Tears by Hari Kunzru is amazing. The story starts when a popular kid, rich heir to a private-prison empire, befriends a seemingly bland audio-nerd sidekick. Together they DJ college parties and become big men on campus. After graduation they move to Brooklyn to open a recording studio specializing in making new records sound old. Then, they pull a harmless-seeming prank: they post a counterfeit blues song to the internet, calling it a newly-discovered rare recording. Immediately afterwards, all hell breaks loose (almost literally). The hats Kunzru wears in this novel are myriad: ghost story, class-privilege satire, southern gothic, cultural-appropriation cautionary tale, you name it. He wears them all well. Oh yeah—it’s also a page-turner of the highest degree. White Tears is a huge success. Recommended by Danny

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A Curious Beginning Cover Image
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn is the first book in a new series featuring the intrepid Veronica Speedwell, an adventurous lepidopterist and world traveler.  The year is 1887 and in London Veronica fends off an abductor with the help of a mysterious German baron.  His friend Stoker, an ill-tempered natural historian, is asked to look after her (although Veronica does very well all by herself!).  Soon Veronica and Stoker are on the run as they look for the baron’s murderer.  Witty, smart dialogue, a clever sense of humor and a fast pace make this a very entertaining read! Recommended by Rochelle

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Greenglass House Cover Image
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017

Greenglass House by Kate Milford won the prestigious Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery. It was a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Award finalist and it received several starred reviews. Milo Pine and his parents own and live in Greenglass House, a huge old rambling guest house with many rooms to rent. It had been a smuggler’s inn in the past. It’s almost Christmas, a blizzard is howling and several mysterious guests have arrived, each one with a strange story and a secret. Objects go missing and it’s up to Milo to unravel the mysteries, with the aid of an old role-playing game. Very imaginative and well-written and perfect for middle-schoolers. Recommended by Rochelle.

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Middlesex Cover Image
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017

How long has it been since you've read Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex? If you haven't cracked it since it was a huge hit in 2003 (or if you've never read it at all), now's the time. This gorgeous, generous, and funny novel has two hearts: a story about immigrants, and a story about the perils and difficulties of a complex gender identity in a straight male/female world. It's timely in both respects and has aged very well. The novel's scope is so delightfully huge—to me, some of the best novels are about basically everything—that a short summary is futile. Let the incredible first sentence do the work for me: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Reading this near-perfect novel for the first time in years, I was totally blown away. Recommended by Danny.

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Island of the Blue Dolphins Cover Image
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017

This book is the ultimate girl's survival story! Karana is a young Nicoleno tribe member, who lives in solitude after having been left on the island accidentally by her family. She is the heroine; she hunts to survive, burns the fat of fish for light, and tames animals for companionship. Karana's story is a real story, girls! May we all have the courage, intensity, and canoe building skills as she! (Skip the movie, please-- its not the same). Recommended by Jenna.

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Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History Cover Image
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017

This book is a collection of women "who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, adventures, and inventors." This is the kind of book I read before I fall asleep at night, and when I wake up in the morning. It features inspirational, incredible, witty, smart, amazing women who continue to prove to us that we can all aspire to do great things with our lives, and that WE SHOULD. This book is about Women who work in STEM, and women who study languages, and everyone in between. What kind of woman do you want to become? Recommended by Jenna.