Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mike Suggests: The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I've come across quite a few reviews of Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" before reading it, but the recommendation that got my attention was a colleague telling me that it was a "Harry Potter for adults." He was certainly right about that, but should have mentioned the many nods to Narnia throughout as well. While "The Magicians" is all about magic and fantastic worlds, strip away all the fantasy and you get a tale that describes life for most young adults finding their way through the world and stumbling on the trials that lead to adulthood. A fantastic novel for fans of fantasy as well as anyone who enjoys reliving the embarrassment, agonies, and defeats of youth.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Murder Mystery in an Alternate History

SS-GB : Nazi-Occupied Britain, 1941
by Len Deighton

SS-GB is a murder mystery set in a 1941 Britain which has been successfully invaded by Nazi Germany. The main character, Douglas Archer, is a Scotland Yard detective asked to investigate a killing that seems related to black market activity. However, the investigation rapidly assumes a high political significance. Archer not only has to solve the murder but also avoid being damaged by political infighting. He must also make some decisions on how to deal with approaches from the resistance movement.

The question is: who can profit most by cooperating with whom? The answers turn out to be surprising indeed. Deighton does a great job in describing a Nazi-occupied Great Britain. SS-GB is really the forefather of Jo Walton's recent series "Farthing", "Ha'penny", and "Half a Crown".

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Peggy Suggests: Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Interested in why change is hard at every level-personal, organizational, and social? Then put this clear, engaging, and illuminating book on your must-read list.. Authors Chip and Dan Heath (Made to Stick) simply present the factors that encourage and compete with the desire for change. You'll learn how to direct your rational side, how to motivate your emotional side, and how to shape a path that supports the change you've been seeking. Case studies in the Malcolm-Gladwell style, such as Massachusett's own Don Berwick's 100,000 lives campaign and Ellen Langer's study of hotel maids light up this book that just might bring about the change you've always wanted for yourself or your organization. --PM

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spotlight on Nancy Wilson

One of my favorite jazz singers, stylish Nancy Wilson
shines in this compilation of classic jazz standards recorded mostly in the 1990's. From What a Little Moonlight Can Do and Time After Time to Miss Otis Regrets and Someone to Watch Over Me, each track is a treat for the senses. Feel free to browse some of our many other outstanding vocal jazz compilations including Torch Songs, Lady Sings the Blues and Jazz Vocalists Hear and Now.

Listen to some choice selections at:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rob recommends American Hero by Larry Beinhart

“What a terrific movie this book is never, ever going to make.” That’s the ending of a starred review of American Hero in Kirkus Reviews. They’re probably right (even though Wag the Dog was very loosely based on the book) and that’s too bad, because all the elements are there for a great movie: On the ground, we have the gritty Vietnam vet private investigator and the impossibly beautiful movie star trying to stay one step ahead of the Hollywood mogul cum political operator (and the Blackwater-type agency at his disposal). Up in the clouds we have the Machiavellian politicians and a conspiracy so diabolical that Watergate and Iran/Contra will look like shoplifting plots. The author does a pretty good job with the thriller side of the story, but it’s the political satire that will stay with you after the book has ended. If you are of a particular mindset (like say, cynical or even paranoid), you might find yourself actually believing that this alternate history of the Gulf War is real. Did Saddam Hussein really make a deal with George Bush to invade Kuwait? Was the entire “war” choreographed from beginning to end merely to boost Bush’s popularity? Sound far-fetched? Read the book and see what you think.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sue Recommends Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Perkins-Valdez' Wench is a great title to offer to readers who enjoyed The Help by Katherine Stockett. Like The Help, it focuses on the lives, treatment, and relationships of black women, although in another time period.

With Wench we are taken back to the days of slavery and focus on the life of Lizzie who is owned by a plantation owner; she is also his sexual companion and has two children with him. He takes her to Ohio where she and three other slave women develop a bond and learn that there are "free" blacks that live there. They share stories of their lives on the plantations in the South and explore the opportunity of freedom which forces them to make a decision--do they stay in their lives as someone else's property OR run and take a chance for a new life, and in some cases, leave their children behind? SH

Friday, May 7, 2010

Megan recommends: After This

After This by Alice McDermott

The traditional faith-bound life clashes with the societal changes of the 60s and 70s in this novel by Alice McDermott. McDermott writes about the Keane family living in suburban Long Island as John and Mary Keane meet, marry, and raise their four children in the decades after World War II. The worldview of the patriotically loyal Catholic parents contrasts with the changing views of their children, as the four offspring confront the sexual revolution and the Vietnam war. The personal is political in this novel.