Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

The Massacre of Mankind
by Stephen Baxter

This is the first-and-only authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic 1897 SF novel, The War of the Worlds. Though numerous unofficials sequels and follow-up volumes have been published over the years, The Massacre of Mankind is the first approved by the Wells estates. Baxter has been writing acclaimed SF for decades, both on his own and partnered with such genre luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Pratchett.

The Massacre of Mankind is set in the1920s, some 14 years after the events in Wells novel. In most ways, this novel is not only science fiction but also “alternate history”, as the events of 1897 have had a severe impact on England (and most of the rest of the world) — government has become more dystopian, and across the planet, preparations are underway to fight back, if a new wave of Martian invaders is detected. Many don’t believe it will happen again, but Walter Jenkins, the narrator of the Wells’ original novel, has been researching and studying, and he believes the earlier invasion was merely a scouting mission, and that the full-scale invasion is still to come. Though he is correct, he’s having difficulty getting anyone to believe his outlandish theories. Fortunately, he convinces Julie Elphinstone, his ex-sister-in-law, and an American investigative journalist…just before the little puffs of smoke on the surface of Mars indicate a new invasion fleet has launched — and this time there will be hundreds of them coming to our world.

This is a fast-paced adventure, with fascinating explorations of the scientific concepts that the characters could have debated at the time, based on what was known to them — sure, from our time period nearly a century later, some of the science looks a little shaky, but for the 1920s, it was fairly cutting edge. Baxter does an incredible job of matching the style of storytelling that Wells employed in the original novel — this really does feel like a classic genre novel from 100 years ago! And yet, unlike the majority of fiction from that era, The Massacre of Mankind features a number of very strong female characters, who are shown to be just as, if not more, capable then their male counterparts. This novel is huge — a bit of a doorstop of a book — but in the end, I enjoyed it very much, and I do highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Wells’ original novel.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Time Ships, an officially authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, also by Baxter.]

[ publisher’s official The Massacre of Mankind web page ] | [ official Stephen Baxter web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wired by Julie Garwood (on CD)

Wired
by Julie Garwood [Compact Disc Garwood] 

13th in Julie Garwood’s Buchanan/FBI series, this has a strong, tech-savvy heroine who finds herself working with the FBI. While Alison is beautiful and smart, she’s also a little bit broken due to her childhood. This book is a fast paced thriller/romance that is a quick read. I listened to the CD and can recommend it to those who prefer audio books.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to seek out the series A FBI Thriller and A Brit in the FBI by Catherine Coulter.]

[ official Wired page on the official Julie Garwood web site ]

Recommended by Sandy W.
Gere Branch Library

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Creeps: A Deep Dark Fears Collection by Fran Krause

The Creeps: A Deep Dark Fears Collection
by Fran Krause [741.5 Kra] 

This one caught my eye on the New Books display at the downtown library, and I decided to give it a chance. Artist Fran Krause collected a wide variety of different people’s personal “fears”, then illustrated them in comics/graphic-novel format. Each “fear” gets either a single-panel cartoon or a short comic strip to graphically represent how that fear would play out. Some of the “fears” are merely thought=provoking, or simply ironic. Others, however, earn the book its title, and are extremely creepy or even grotesque, made even more so by the ordinariness and simplicity of the cartoon art style. In many ways, I would recommend this volume to anyone who is a fan of Gahan Wilson’s surreal cartoons, or Charles Addams’ single-panel newspaper and magazine cartoons (the artist best known as the creator of the macabre Addams Family). Perhaps, the closest artist in style and tone is Edward Gorey and his Gashlycrumb Tinies, which imagines 26 different horrible deaths, one per letter of the alphabet.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The World of Edward Gorey, by Edward Gorey, or I Paint What I See, by Gahan Wilson.]

[ publisher’s official The Creeps web page ] | [ official Fran Krause Tumblr feed ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (as audiobook)

The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware

Despite the fact that there was tragedy upon this “boutique” cruise, I couldn’t keep myself from looking up information on luxury cruises — bucket list item, for sure!!! This was another one of those stories I just couldn’t stop listening to — loved the writing and the story-line, and OH EM GEE, did I ever adore Lo Blacklock! I wanna be besties with her!!! While I claim to not be a huge fan of mysteries, I would definitely say this book falls into the “mystery” category. In fact, it was so intriguing that I really couldn’t stop listening to this book! I can definitely see myself buying this in print copy to read again and again! I listened to the audio copy of the book — excellent narrator (Imogen Church)!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins, The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena or The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty]
 
[ publisher’s official The Woman in Cabin 10 web page ] | [ official Ruth Ware web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

John Wick, Chapter 2 (on DVD)

John Wick, Chapter 2
[DVD John] 

This was not quite as good as the first movie, but it wasn’t bad. It starts where the first movie left off and I’d recommend you watch the first one before this one (I reviewed it a few months ago, so you can check out the details there). I don’t think it’d be as enjoyable if you missed the story and character building in the first movie, throughout which the protagonist John Wick re-enters his previous life in the criminal underworld after being away having a normal married life. He convinced himself that he’s only there temporarily in the first movie, but he’s back in full force in this sequel repaying a debt. There was much less story in this than before and it felt very generic, which was disappointing because of how good the first movie was. It’s not a movie I’d watch it again even though I would re-watch the first one. I can’t recommend it too highly but it’s the sort of movie to watch when are ill and you don’t really care if things make sense and because there is little plot to keep track of, if you fall asleep during parts of it it won’t matter too much.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official John Wick web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Have you watched this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fit Cat by Arden Moore


I recently adopted a cat and not having had a one before, even as a child, I needed some sort of guide. This one was laid out really well and covered basics and more specialized topics. It was the basics I was after and I found it very helpful in understanding body language, grooming, and the different stages of a cat’s life. It also covers more particular topics including traveling, introducing new pets and living with more than one cat. It uses a lot of bullet pointed lists with quick information on a number of cat topics, so if you are looking for in depth information then this is probably not the ideal pick. I’m novice enough that I’m not sure how useful it would be for people who have had cats before, but for a new cat owner, I highly recommend it.

[ publisher’s official Fit Cat web page ] | [ official Arden Moore web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Star Trek: New Visions (series) by John Byrne (via Hoopla)

Star Trek: New Visions (series)
by John Byrne [available only via Hoopla] 

Back in 1977-1978, the Bantam publishing company released a series of 12 Star Trek Fotonovels, which took stills from popular episodes of the 1966-69 NBC TV series Star Trek, super-imposed text in word balloons, and basically retold the plots of those 12 episodes of Trek in a different format. These were moderately popular but never went beyond the first 12 volumes.

Star Trek: New Visions is a modern take on that, but with a serious twist. Legendary comic book artist and writer John Byrne has been a fan of Classic Trek for many years, and starting in 2014, he began a creative experiment that has been quite successful. Byrne had access to clean, sharp still images from screen captures from all 79 original Star Trek episodes, as well as the Star Trek feature films featuring the classic cast, and even the subsequent later generations of Star Trek. In Star Trek: New Visions, Byrne creates all new adventures of the Enterprise and its crew, combining still images from existing episodes with digital trickery and some new computer-generated artwork. These “new episodes” are presented in comic-book/graphic-novel format, as single issues, and have later been compiled into multi-story larger collections. Byrne opened New Visions with a two-issue sequel to the classic Trek tale, “Mirror, Mirror” (in which several Enterprise crew members are thrown into a dystopian alternate reality and have to survive long enough to make their way back to their own reality). As of 2018, 21 individual issues of New Visions have been published, and Byrne has indicated he plans to wrap up the series in just a few more issues. This is a shame, as Byrne is an excellent storyteller and definite has a good handle on these classic Trek characters — these really do feel like they could have actually been legitimate episodes of the original series.

Although the libraries don’t have physical copies of the Star Trek: New Visions volumes on our shelves, some of them are available through the graphic novels collection of our Hoopla digital offerings. If you love Classic Trek, I highly encourage you to sample New Visions…it’s the closest thing I’ve found the style and tone of the original series!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try tracking done some of the highly-collectible 12 original series Star Trek Fotonovels. Our local libraries don’t own any, but you can regularly find them in used book stores, and a few are available through InterLibrary Loan from other libraries around the country.]

[ publisher’s official Star Trek: New Visions web site ] | [ official John Byrne web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (audiobook) by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl, audiobook performed by Douglas Hodge [j Dahl / downloadable audiobook via Overdrive] 

This was an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT to listen to! I’ve read a few of Dahl’s books, and since I’ve loved the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for many years, I decided to read the book. Roald Dahl has such a great way of writing works that are clearly intended for children, yet he doesn’t “dumb it down” for them. By that, I mean that he treats them like the intelligent and intuitive creatures that they are. Children who are ready to read (or listen to) chapter books are typically bright enough to see past any tricks that grown-ups might want to pass off on them. Dahl doesn’t play any tricks. He calls it like he sees it. Sure, he’s silly as he’s telling his stories, but there’s a nugget of truth within the characters and the life situations. I highly recommend giving this book a read; even better, if you’re able, give it a listen! This narrator (Douglas Hodge) has got some skills!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Matilda, by Roald Dahl (I listened to the audiobook read by Kate Winslet! Fabulous!!!), The Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl or Twits, by Roald Dahl]

[ official Charlie and the Chocolate Factory page on the official Roald Dahl web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A is for Astronaut by Clayton Anderson and Scott Brundage

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet
by Clayton Anderson, with art by Scott Brundage [jP Anderson]

Nebraska’s one-and-only astronaut, Clayton Anderson, is back with a new book. Unlike his excellent autobiography, The Ordinary Spaceman, for adults, this one is aimed at a young audience. A is for Astronaut is an alphabet book, with each page (or sometimes pair of pages), dedicated to a single letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. However, in this case, all the words Anderson and illustrator Scott Brundage are using as examples, have to do with space exploration and science. Each letter gets a short, rhyming poem, but each also gets a sidebar with detailed information about the scientific concept being covered. Brundage’s art nicely complements Anderson’s poems and essays, and in several cases is downright beautiful. If you’re looking to inspire a little one with uplifting ideas about what they could personally accomplish, I think this book for earlier readers would be a great suggestion — and you can let them know that the author is the only person from Nebraska who’s made it into space as an actual astronaut!

[ Wikipedia page for Clayton Anderson ] [ official Clayton Anderson website is blocked by library security software ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Tree of Hands by Ruth Rendell + Just Desserts tonight!!

The Tree of Hands
by Ruth Rendell [Hoopla]

In advance of the April 2017 Just Desserts mystery book group meeting, where we discussed the entire body of works by British suspense writer Ruth Rendell, I asked one of the members — a huge Rendell fan — which single stand-along novel they would most recommend, and The Tree of Hands was what they suggested. It was one of two Rendell titles I read for that book group meeting, and was, by far, the best!

Rendell is a master of creating casts full of characters with mental twists, and this novel is a perfect example of this. There are multiple seemingly-independent storylines that are running simultaneously, and appear to have little to do with each other. But by the end of the book, all the separate characters have crossed each other’s paths, often to the detriment of everyone involved. Very few of the primary characters in this one — a successful writer who’s just lost her child in a tragedy and finds herself “gifted” with a stolen replacement, a con artist trying to sell a home he doesn’t own, a naive young man in love with an older woman, whose flaws he can’t see, and a mentally-damaged older mother with a limited grasp on reality — are people who you’ll like, but Rendell’s storytelling makes their individual plot threads extremely compelling, and you’ll be hard-pressed to guess where they’ll all end up.

In the end, I was extremely impressed by the complex storytelling and well-defined characters in The Tree of Hands, and strongly recommend it as an excellent example of Rendell’s stand-alone psychological suspense novels. If you like it, check out the Just Desserts handout on Rendell’s complete body of work to track down some more of her novels.

[ Wikipedia page for The Tree of Hands ] | [ publisher’s official Ruth Rendell web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Don't miss this month's Just Desserts mystery fiction book discussion club meeting -- being held TONIGHT, May 31st, 6:30-8:00 at the South Branch Library at 27th & South St. Tonight's theme is: "Series Share" -- all attendees were encouraged to read the first or second volume in ANY new mystery series that has begun in the past 3 years. Everyone will get a chance to speak about the series they sampled (and whether or not they'd recommend it). This month's meeting always generates a good "recommended reading list" for mystery fans!

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen
by Alan Moore (writer) and Dave Gibbons (artist) [741.5 Moo]

This was quite a dynamic and complex novel; it is a graphic novel in that it is several comic books combined and that the nature of the story is dark and violent at times. The story is set in 1985 but different than our real 1985. In their past a few ordinary people were masked crime fighters, kind of like Batman, but a group of them formed and worked together. In time the government legally put a stop it – except for two that they hired to work for them, one of which had a sort of accident making him more than human. Disbanded, they mostly fell out of contact with each other over the decades. However one of the members refused to give up his masked hero lifestyle and discovers that one of their own had been brutally murdered – the police, not knowing his hidden identity think it’s just another murder. From here he decides to find the others to let them know and warn them they might all be in danger. He’s right; they are in danger, so the question is who and why. This would make the story a mystery but it’s so much more than that; as things progress with the investigation and the group coming together (somewhat) again, there are layers of romance, history, science fiction, and even a comic in a comic that all swirl through the pages. There is a lot more the take in than what is in the text boxes so I suggest you take your time looking closely at the graphics as well; it’s in part for this reason I’m sure I’ll read this again. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy multifaceted novels that provide plenty to think about including relationships, morals, ethics, history and people. It’s not always told in a linear fashion and the point of view jumps from character to character so there are always multiple interwoven stories going on at once. I was fortunate enough to read it without having the ending spoiled for me and I hope the same is true for you if you decide to read it. As I mentioned it is violent and graphic in nature at times, but it also contains nudity and adult themes so read at your own discretion. I have not seen the movie at this point in time so I can make no comparisons between book and movie.

[ official Watchmen page on the DC comics web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Alan Moore ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

How to Be a Latin Lover (on DVD)

How to Be a Latin Lover
directed by Ken Marino, and starring Eugenio Derbez [DVD How]

This is a pretty goofy, albeit cute movie about a man who married for money and has to learn what to do when that doesn’t work out. When he has no other option but to crash his sister’s house, he does a pretty okay job keeping his language clean for his nephew. Euphemisms abound when he has to describe his prior life. I thoroughly enjoyed Eugenio Derbez in the movie Instructions Not Included, which is another movie that is good for Spanglish speakers or audience members who are OK with captions throughout about half of the movie. Many of the actors with small parts (such as Kristen Bell, Rob Lowe, and others) were recognizable from other comedic shows and movies, and they did wonderfully and didn’t steal the spotlight too much. The special features described how this movie is hoping to be a break into the English speaking audiences for Derbez. It would be well deserved.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Instructions Not Included.] [Also available in traditional print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for How to Be a Latin Lover ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

NOVA: Eclipse Over America by PBS (on DVD)

NOVA: Eclipse Over America
[DVD 523.78 Ecl]

After Lincoln, NE was fortunate enough to experience Totality during the August 2017 eclipse that swept across America, I was curious to see what the PBS TV series NOVA would do to commemorate the event on this DVD. Surprisingly, I was a bit disappointed in this episode. NOVA had camera crews in various locations along the eclipse’s path, and footage from each filming location is included in this mini-documentary. However, the majority of this episode’s content is a look back at the historical implications of eclipses. I’d say less than 1/3 of the episode is actually about the 2017 eclipse. Which is not to say it is not both entertaining and educational — I did enjoy it. But, if you’re looking for a documentary all about the 2017 eclipse, you, too, may be disappointed. And, considering that Bill Nye the Science Guy was here in Beatrice, NE at Homestead National Monument for the Eclipse, the lack of ANY footage from Nebraska…at all…was the biggest disappointment. Still…for general fans of eclipses — and there are those who chase eclipses around the globe every year!! — this has some interesting nuggets of information!

[ Official page for this episode on the NOVA web page ] | [ NASA’s official Eclipse 2017 page ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Last Jedi (novelization) by Jason Fry

The Last Jedi
by Jason Fry [Fry]

The novelization of “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” is unlikely to mend emerging schisms between factions of Star Wars fandom. Nor will it serve to decrease the vitriol directed towards Rian Johnson. However, for those who saw “The Last Jedi” and did not feel the need to emulate a Kylo Ren-level tantrum, this is a well-done and finely written book that provides welcome insight and background into characters and events in the movie. It is a fun and entertaining read for anyone still considering themselves a Star Wars fan.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Weapon of a Jedi, by Jason Fry, Cobalt Squadron, by Elizabeth Wein, or The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster]

[ official Star Wars web site ] | [ official Jason Fry web site and blog ]

Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Backstagers, Vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh

The Backstagers, Vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause
by James Tynion IV (writer), Rian Sygh (artist) and Walter Baiamonte (colorist) [YA PB Tynion]

Being active in the local community theater culture, this youth graphic novel caught my eye on a library book display. The “Backstagers” are a group of oddballs and misfits who serve as the backstage crew for theatrical productions at an all-boys private high school. This first graphic novel follows new transfer Jory, as he looks for an after-school group he could potentially join. The on-stage Drama Club isn’t a good fit, but he immediately bonds with the quirky gang who build the sets, create the props, and run both sound and light for the shows.

If that were all that this story were going to cover, it would have been enough — “introverted loner finds group of fellow quirky oddballs that he can belong to”. However, this is also a storyline with a strong dark fantasy element to it. The doors at the back of the crew area lead to a series of tunnels, storerooms, and, ultimately, other doors to other dimensions. The tunnels and rooms change their configuration every time you enter them — sometimes even while you’re in them! In fact, an entire backstage crew from the late 1980s disappeared in the tunnels and was never heard from again.
While newcomer Jory is the central protagonist, every member of the Backstagers gang is a well-rounded character, and has a moment to shine — Hunter (the whiz with power tools), Aziz, Sasha, and Beckett (the light/sound board operator who’s created his own little fiefdom, powered by an energy crystal taken from one of the alternate dimensions in the tunnel labyrinth. This “Volume 1” paperback compiles four comic book issues, and the storyline continues/concludes in “Volume 2”. The art is pretty good, but the character of diminutive Sasha is drawn as if it stepped out of a cross-breed between big-eyed Disney animation and Japanese manga. That’s one element I didn’t care for.
Overall, this was an entertaining read, though the heavier the dark fantasy element became, the less I cared for the story. Your mileage may vary. I look forward to reading the rest of the story when the libraries add the second volume as a paperback.

[ official The Backstagers web site ] | [ official James Tynion IV web site ] [ official Rian Sygh web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women
edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale [j 970.1 Not]

This book is for the young Native American woman who would like to see more of herself in print. It touches upon the stereotypes we have about Native American women and busts them. The poetry, short essays, and visual art are each thoughtfully placed for maximum impact. I would caution a reader to take their time and read pieces multiple times to absorb everything the authors are trying to impart with us. My favorite poem is “The Things We Taught Our Daughters” by Helen Knott. Aside from teaching us about some of the patterns that have perpetuated violence in our history, this book is critical because it also features role models (the authors and protagonists themselves) from many tribes around the continent. I would gift this to a young woman of color, even from another racial or ethnic background, because it reminds the reader that they have the strength they need inside themselves. I mean to say that those who do not have mainstream princess stories published about them yet *do* have incredible stories to tell, and I hope we continue to see more books and other works of art created by the folks who have historically been pushed too far into the sidelines.

[ publisher’s official #NotYourPrincess web site ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

The Silver Chair
by C.S. Lewis [j Lewis]

This is the second to last book in the Narnia series chronologically speaking, and was the fourth out of seven to be published. The four children, Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy are not in this story but their cousin Eutice who was with Lucy and Edmond in the ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ is, along with a girl he knows from school named Jill. Euctice and Jill commonly call each other by their last names Scrub and Pole respectively because it seems to be what they do at school. They both get summoned to Narnia from school and are told by Aslan to find and rescue the prince (son of King Caspian from the ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’) who has been missing for many years and believed to be dead. As before in the Narnia books more time passes in Narnia than in our world, so each visit is sort of a time travel forward into Narnia. Aslan gives specific yet vague instructions for completing the quest which the two do their best to follow but don’t always. They still end up finding him with the help of a non-human character named Puddleglum. The prince has been under a spell of a wicked witch who straps him to a silver chair each day to re-administer the spell, which is where the title comes from. I thought it was a good moral filled story with a number of different side tracks along the main story. You could read this as a standalone if you wanted without too much confusion but I would suggest you read ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ before this one, and ‘Prince Caspian’ before ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’. Compared to others in the series this is I’d say is a bit darker but still has its lighter moments. Recommended for all ages of readers who enjoy classic fantasy.

[ official www.narnia.com web site ] | [ official C.S. Lewis web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mamma Mia! (on DVD)

Mamma Mia!
[DVD Mamma]

I checked this 2008 film out on DVD to watch before attending a performance of the stage musical version at the Lincoln Community Playhouse here in town, just to remind myself of the plot — and had a blast watching it again. But, then, I’m a huge fan of the musical group ABBA, and their music infuses the film with a lot of its energy. It appears that most people have a “Love/Hate” relationship with this film/musical, usually tied into their appreciation of ABBA — I’ve run across very few people who are ambivalent about it. Personally, I love it — the huge cast of familiar movie stars — Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd, Amanda Seyfried and more, throw themselves into unexpectedly exuberant song and dance numbers in the midst of a bubbly and frothy soap-opera of a plot.

Both the movie and stage musical are what are known in the theater community as “Jukebox Musicals” — where a connective storyline is created to showcase a collection of an artist or group’s hit songs. Other shows in this genre from the 70s through the early 2000s would include Forever Plaid, Jersey Boys, Saturday Night Fever and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. In the past 10 years, this style of musical (both for film and stage) has exploded in popularity, with dozens of new shows/films making use of the format. Mamma Mia!, the 1998 stage musical, was one of the early ones.

Actors who you don’t normally expect to see singing do a remarkably good job, and seem to be having a huge amount of fun doing so. The story, in a nutshell — 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan is getting married in the Greek Isles, but was raised by a single mother who never told her who her father is. She wants to invite her father to give her away at her upcoming wedding, but in sneaking a read of her mom’s diary, she discovers her “Dad” could be one of three different men — Ben Carmichael, Bill Austin or Harry Bright. She invites them all to the wedding. When all three guys arrive on the remote Greek island where Sophie’s mom, Donna, owns and operates a taverna, the reunions aren’t necessary good experiences. Throw in Donna’s two old singing-group friends, Rosie and Tanya, and a bunch of the friendly locals, and you’ve got a festive atmosphere with lots of different emotions bubbling beneath the surface. Nearly every major character gets a moment to shine, both dramatically and musically. And around 20 ABBA hits get to take center stage in moving the plot forward — set in the late 90s, but featuring music from the late 70s. An emotional highlight is Donna confronting Ben musically with “The Winner Takes It All”. Other highlights are “Does Your Mother Know”, “Slipping Through My Fingers”, “Voulez-vous”, “Super Trouper”, “Dancing Queen” and the titular “Mamma Mia!” If you can accept the premise and the crazy casting, this is a terrific, feel-good film. If you can’t get past those initial obstacles, this is not the movie for you! [NOTE: The 2008 film was so successful that a sequel is coming out in the Summer of 2018, reuniting the entire original film’s cast!]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Mamma Mia! Film Musical web site ]


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Slime Sorcery by Adam Vandergrift

Slime Sorcery
by Adam Vandergrift [j745.5 Van]

Growing up as a pre-teen and teen in the 1970s, I fondly remember my first experiences with “Slime”, toy company Mattel’s ooeey, gooey, green glop, that was originally solt in a little green plastic garbage can. It was a huge sensation with both me and my friends. My next awareness of “slime” was the movie Ghostbusters, where Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Peter Venkman, got “slimed” by a hot dog-guzzling specter (nicknamed “Slimer” on the subsequent animated series) on the Ghostbusters’ first field case. The kids television network Nickelodeon dumped buckets of slime (which they called gak) on cast members and contestants on their shows throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In other words, “Slime” has a long and illustrious history.

But none-the-less, “Slime” has probably never been more popular than it is now, with multiple websites dedicated to the gooey stuff — how to make it, how to use it, videos of it being used, etc. Slime Sorcery is by one of those online slime gurus — Adam Vandergrift. In this book, Vandergrift provides 97 different recipes for how to make Slime, based on about a half-dozen basic standard recipes, including Fluffy Slime, Galaxy Slime (with sparkles), Crunchy Slime (with solid chunks), Magnetic Slime, Color-Changing Slime and Glow-in-the-Dark Slime. Most Slime recipes are made from chemical components that are NOT to be eaten, if they look like food. But 6 of the 97 recipes included here are actually for edible Slimes. Nearly everything in this book is relatively simple to made, and about 80% of the recipes include photos to show you what the finished product should look like. There are also numerous photos of kids playing with Slime to give you some ideas of what you could do with it once you’ve mixed up a batch. I have no earthly need to have a tupperware container full of Slime, but after reading this fun and simple recipe book, I feel the urge to mix up a batch of “Cameron’s Midnight Slime”, with its silvery glitter in a deep blue-black base that looks like a sparkling midnight sky!

[ Adam Vandergriff’s official Will It Slime web site, including pics and videos ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Belinda the Unbeatable by Lee Nordling and Scott Roberts

Belinda the Unbeatable
by Lee Nordling and Scott Roberts [jP Nordling]

A classroom game of musical chairs is better when everyone is included. Belinda brings a friend into the game who was previously going to be left out, sitting alone by the lockers. As the game continues, the cheery musical notes and fun twists and turns in the route become a little more and more stressful. Without any words whatsoever, the book’s illustrations shows us which characters are good sports and which could use a little more kindness. The ending teaches us a newer, more improved way to play musical chairs, and it showcases the great way that Belinda became unbeatable.

[ publisher’s official Belinda the Unbeatable web page ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell

From Doon With Death
by Ruth Rendell [Compact Disc Rendell]

In advance of the April 2017 Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group meeting, where we discussed the entire body of work by British suspense writer Ruth Rendell, I sampled both one of her stand-alone suspense titles, and one of her police procedurals, featuring Inspector Reginald Wexford. This was the Wexford novel.

From Doon With Death is actually the first in the Wexford series, with 23 more to follow if you end up enjoying it. As Rendell put it in interviews, Wexford was “born a 52-year-old-man”. In this novel, he’s already a gruff, seasoned police veteran, one of the more experienced members of the force in a relatively small country community. When a seemingly mild-mannered housewife is killed, with some emotionally-based brutality, Wexford and his young partner have to start digging into lives that on the surface seem placid and normal, but which, under the surface, have a lot of turmoil. The characters in this are extremely well-defined, from the central police investigators to the myriad of suspects in the murder. And, while some the police procedural elements seem quite realistic, there’s also a bit of a laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing that seemed unprofessional.

However, the plot is fairly fast-paced, the sleuths are intriguing, and the ending, while shocking in 1964 standards, when the book came out, is still a bit of a twist even today. I do still recommend this volume, and the Inspector Wexford series in general. If you like these characters, you can also check out the Ruth Rendell Mysteries on DVD, four seasons of a TV series adapting many of her key Wexford novels. You can see a complete list of Rendell’s works in the Just Desserts handout from that meeting.

[ publisher’s official From Doon With Death web page ] | [ publisher’s official Ruth Rendell web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Edition by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Madeleine L’Engle [j L’Engle and YA L’Engle]

A Wrinkle in Time has always been one of my favorite childhood classics. When I first read it, I was not old enough to understand many of the scientific concepts presented in the book, but I loved the story anyway because it was unlike anything else I had ever read. That opinion still stands true today. With the movie adaptation that just came out of “A Wrinkle in Time,” I was moved to get the book out and re-read it to see if it still held up as a classic after 55 years. The answer is yes — the relationships between the characters are just as meaningful today as they were then. If you have never read the book, I would suggest reading the book before viewing the movie. The movie pales in comparison with the story that Madeleine L’Engle created. This particular edition is especially nice with the Afterword written by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte, and the Newbery Medal acceptance speech written by L’Engle herself.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin or The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis]

[ official A Wrinkle in Time page on the official Madeleine L’Engle web site ]

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fantasyland by Kurt Anderson


by Kurt Andersen [973 And]


There are many books out there that why one group of people are wrong or why another group of people are insane. “Fantasyland” stands out by taking a big picture approach of how our country came to a place where we appear to be polarized on the very definition of reality itself. Kurt Andersen traces America’s relationship with “wishful magical thinking” all the back to the Protestant Reformation. The author does take a consistently critical view of religion (especially Christianity). So, those readers easily agitated by religious criticism may have a hard time with this book. Rest assured that Kurt Andersen is an equal-opportunity critic. It is a long read, but never a tedious read. It would take the most closed of minds to not at least acknowledge that the author makes some valid criticisms and observations about America’s “fantasy industrial complex”. For anyone wondering how it is we got to where we are as a country, for better or worse, I cannot recommend this book enough to you. It is one of the most entertaining and insightful books you are likely to read.

[ official Fantasyland page on the official Kurt Andersen web site ]

Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Street Cat Named Bob (the film on DVD)

A Street Cat Named Bob
[DVD Street] 

This 2016 movie (released on DVD in 2017), is adapted from the first two autobiographical books by James Bowen, A Street Cat Named Bob and How He Saved My Life (2013) and The World According to Bob: The Further Adventures of One Man and His Streetwise Cat (2014). I loved both of those volumes, especially the first, which was a painfully honest account of Bowen’s struggles to recover from drug addiction and survive on the street of London, first as a street busker (musician) and later as a seller of The Big Issue. Bowen’s life was forever changed when a ginger tomcat adopted him and gave his life focus and a greater purpose.

For this film, the “plot” of the book is streamlined, and a lot of extraneous material, including Bowen’s time in Australia with his mother, cut out, in order to focus primarily on his interactions with Bob the cat, once Bob shows up in his life. Luke Treadaway gives a terrific performance as Bowen, and the actual Street Cat Bob performs as himself (with several other stand-in cats) in this film. There are some other good performances, including Ruda Gedmintas as Betty, the friend who helps James get his life together and develops a romantic attachment, Joanne Froggatt as Val, James’ social worker, and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!!) as Bowen’s father.
This isn’t a deep film, but it has lots of nice “moments”, and for anyone who, like me, loved the books, this is a charming little nugget. There’s also some very nice original music that Treadaway as Bowen performs during his busking scenes. I definitely recommend this one for anyone looking for a “feel good” film with an engaging cat!

[If you enjoy this, you should absolutely read Bowen’s book. I found the first book to be far more interesting than the subsequent ones, but they’re all good reads: A Street Cat Named Bob and How He Saved My Life, The World According to Bob: The Further Adventures of One Man and His Streetwise Cat or A Gift From Bob.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for A Street Cat Named Bob ] | [ official Street Cat Bob web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Lost in Paris (on DVD)

by Abel & Gordon [DVD Lost]

This is a modern gem of gentle(-ish) humor, using a formula of 1 awkward Canadian spinster + 1 rakish French bum = 2 quirky people in love. Add on a mesmerizing tango for extra credit. Blissfully comedic and connubic filmmakers Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel have created a vaguely autobiographical adventure through the streets (and a crematorium!) of Paris, in which their characters do a dance of happenstance romance. The pivot point for this unlikely pairing is Fiona’s search for her “missing” aunt, Martha/Marthe, played by famed French actress Emmanuelle Riva in her final film role. What a goof-ily sweet treat of a movie! [Hey, US movie makers, this is what La La Land should have been more like.] Be sure to watch the special features to get a better idea of Abel & Gordon’s burlesque (no, not the definition you think you know…) techniques and 30-year career if you are not familiar with them.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, The Navigator and Spite Marriage with Buster Keaton or Girl Shy and Safety Last with Harold Lloyd.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for Lost in Paris ] | [ official Lost in Paris web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!