Thursday, May 31, 2012

City of Fortune

The rise and fall of the Venetian empire stands unrivaled for drama, intrigue, and sheer opulent majesty. City of Fortune is framed around two of the great collisions of world history: the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, which culminated in the sacking of Constantinople and the carve-up of the Byzantine Empire in 1204, and the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499–1503.   Drawing on firsthand accounts of pitched sea battles, skillful negotiations, and diplomatic maneuvers, Crowley paints a vivid picture of this avaricious, enterprising people and the bountiful lands that came under their dominion.

Crowley's narrative is a quick page turner for history lovers. He does a great job explaining the how Venice controlled the spice trade between Europe and Asia.  A trade which put them at odds with the Mongols, Genoans, and Turks.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Sue Recommends The Innocent by David Baldacci

David Baldacci is best known for his Camel Club Series featuring Oliver Stone, but fans should try out his newest book, The Innocent. This standalone thriller
highlights an unnamed government agency that employs snipers, such as Will Robie, to perform sanctioned assassinations usually overseas but occasionally in the U.S.

The problem with Will Robie is that he has a moral center, a conscience, and has the ability to think for himself.  Is his job assignment to kill a suspected terrorist (who turns out to be a mother with 2 small children AND an FBI agent) a political ploy that is connected with the murder of the parents of a 14 year old gifted student who has been in and out of foster homes? Can Will remain objective or will his sympathy for this new orphan threaten his and her lives and draw him further into a side of Washington that you and I do not even want to think exists?

 If this is your introduction to David Baldacci, you will enjoy a fully thought out plot with lots of twists and turns and then be looking up his other books to continue your enjoyment.  I, for one, hope that Will Robie will become the main character in more of the author's stories.  SH

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rob Recommends Listening to Richistan

My family listened to Richistan, by Robert Frank, on a recent car trip to New Jersey. Frank is a Wall Street Journal reporter who got himself assigned to cover the super-wealthy beat in America. He spent a year traveling the country, observing, studying and interviewing the very wealthiest Americans. The author came to believe that the best way to understand this group of millionaires is to see them as inhabiting a separate country. To help the rest of us understand this nation’s culture and people, Frank wrote this book, Richistan: a Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich. Richistan is a fascinating and funny glimpse into a world most of us could never imagine. It’s a world of $700,000 watches, 300 foot yachts, millionaire support groups, $25,000 a plate charity dinners and residents who don’t know how many cars they own. In one particularly interesting chapter, Frank takes us through butler training at Butler Boot Camp. The rigors of the training course say more about those doing the employing (“principals”) than about the trainees themselves. (FYI, the top graduates of elite butler schools earn $75-120,000 per year.) Throughout, Frank accomplishes the nearly impossible feat of neither fawning over nor disparaging the citizens of Richistan. See what you think…

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Deb enjoyed Bill Cunningham - New York

If you enjoy the New York Times Style section,  you are surely familiar with Bill Cunningham's work. As the pre-eminent chronicler of fashion trends and high society events, Cunningham's photography has graced the pages of the Times for decades. An official selection at the 2010 Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival,  filmmaker Richard Press documents Cunningham's bohemian lifestyle, in stark contrast  to the flamboyance of many of his subjects.  A man of the street, Cunningham's bicycle is his only mode of transportation, in all weather, capturing life in the city.   Well known as one of the most important people in New York fashion,  his 'On the Street' column documents eclectic, individual looks worn by everyday New Yorkers.  Check out this film and watch an artist at work.

Friday, May 18, 2012

This Mighty Scourge

This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War
     by James M. McPherson

 The Pulitzer Prize-winning author James M. McPherson is America's preeminent Civil War historian. Now, in this collection of provocative and illuminating essays, McPherson offers fresh insight into many of the most enduring questions about the Civil War. Topics include the Lost Cause Mystique, Peace Negotiations, Myths of the confederacy and Jesse James.

McPherson's essays ask; Why did the war come?, What were each sides objectives? How did each side try to obtain those objectives? How good was the leadership of both sides? What was the impact of the war on those who lived through it? A very interesting and thought provoking read.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Megan recommends: The Call

The Call by Yannick Murphy

I really liked this short novel with an alternative style.  Told in the form of notes in a journal, the story concerns the life of a veterinarian and his family in rural New England.  The veterinarian's son is injured in a hunting accident and the family has to deal with the aftermath of that.  A quirky book that is a celebration of the simple joys and daily rhythms of family life. 


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Peggy Recommends Two Upbeat Films; Romantics Anonymous and The Women on the Sixth Floor

No time or money to take in Paris this springtime? Pick one or both of these delightful  and feel-good DVDs and be in France instantly courtesy of your remote.
 In Romantics Anonymous, Jean-Rene and Angelique fall in love drawn together through a shared passion for chocolate but neither is able to express how they feel. Sadly, their crippling shyness is driving them apart. But eventually, they manage to overcome their lack of self-confidence, and risk baring their true feelings. The Huffington Post called this "one of France's best new films."

  In The Women on the Sixth Floor it's Paris, 1960. Jean-Louis lives a bourgeois existence with his neurotic socialite wife Suzanne while their children are away at boarding school. The couple's world is turned upside down when they hire Maria, a Spanish maid who introduces Jean-Louis to an alternative reality a few stories up on the sixth floor. Befriending a group of sassy Spanish maids, the women teach him there's more to life than stocks and bonds, and their influence on the house ultimately transforms everyone's life. PM

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rob Recommends the documentary There But for Fortune

I will admit it hadn’t occurred to me to mention There But for Fortune here in Staff Reads. But I happened across a list of top movies for 2011 and there it was (with a rating by critics of 100% positive).  The film documents the life and work of Phil Ochs—the protest singer form the 1960s and 70s.  There But for Fortune breaks no new ground in movie-making, but does a very nice job of placing Ochs in the storm of counter-cultural/anti-war protest that seemed to envelop the decade. With video, songs, stills and interviews, Kenneth Bowser the director, documents the troubled life of Ochs the artist and activist and the movement he was part of.
 I had assumed that the film’s appeal for me had to do with my having grown up listening to his songs. Plus his family and mine criss-crossed in a couple of minor ways in New York.   So it was with some surprise that I read the reviews from sources as far apart as the Boston Herald and the New York Times crediting the movie as a fitting tribute to a man worth remembering.

In addition to the movie, the Library owns seven CDs byOchs.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sue Recommends The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

Give TheTechnologists, an historical suspense novel written by Matthew Pearl, a try!  

 If you have any interest in Boston in the 1860s and the beginning rivalry between MIT and Harvard, this book is for you.  Pearl does an incredible job of bringing the first graduating class from MIT to life.  

He researched the MIT's first class's student journals and other histories of Boston and MIT to paint a picture of life in Boston in the 1860s.  The suspicion that Professor Rogers and his students provoked because they chose to take science past the theory and apply it to make a better world may seemed to be where Harvard and MIT differed and the friction began between the two schools.  

Add to this a mystery that of fictional unexplainable events that the students investigate through science and you have a novel with appeal to history, science, and suspense fans alike.

I listened to the Book on CD and found that it was difficult to shut it off and I kept reaching for the next disc to keep the story going.  All I can say is try it, you will certainly like it!

Also try Pearl's Dante Club that is set in the same time period in Boston.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Deb suggests listening to Elizabeth and Hazel : Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick

When Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter the newly desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 as part of the Little Rock Nine, she was unaware that photographers would capture her image along with Hazel Bryan, her white tormentor. The photos of the 15 year old girls would come to symbolize the highly charged Civil Rights struggle for school integration. Award-winning narrator Carrington MacDuffie's stellar performance combines perfect timing with her subtle southern softening of the language. Margolick chronicles the girls' tumultous lives into adulthood including their reunion and reconciliation many years later.