Sunday, September 23, 2018

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

They Do It With Mirrors
by Agatha Christie

A friend of Miss Marple’s convinces her to visit her sister, all of whom were friends in their younger days. This old friend lives at a sort of correctional school for troubled boys run by her husband with the aid of numerous other family members (both blood relations and not – which does pertain to the story). A rather eventful evening involving her husband and one of the students, gunshots, electricity outage, and another family member found dead in the house is the point at which the story to get into full swing. I found it enjoyable as most novels by this author, however there a few romance subplots to this one that I didn’t care for, so I didn’t like it as much as others. That said if you do like mystery stories with romance subplots and themes then this might be a good pick for you.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hollow, also by Agatha Christie – another mystery/romance, but features Poirot, not Miss Marple.]

[ official They Do It With Mirrors page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 90-minute presentation at the Gere Branch Library on Sunday, September 30th, 2018, 2:00-3:30 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories. Then, join fellow theater-goers in attending the play Black Coffee, starring Hercule Poirot, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse in late October 2018.

If you’re a fan of the works of Agatha Christie, check out the Agatha Christie Reviews page on BookGuide!

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch 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!

Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn: Alliances
by Timothy Zahn

The sequel to Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn is well-done and definitely worth a read. It is actually two stories in one. The first story (set between the events of Season 3 & Season 4 of “Star Wars: Rebels”) has Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn assigned on a mission of great importance to the Emperor in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy. The second story (set after the events of Season 6 of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”) has Anakin Skywalker searching for Senator Padme Amidala after she has gone missing on a mission to a remote world in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy. During the search, he receives unexpected assistance from an alien military officer named Thrawn. The events of the second story are hinted at in “Thrawn”.

Zahn has done a masterful job in reintroducing Thrawn to the rebooted Star Wars universe. He can still be a bit shaky when it comes to writing for characters not of his own creation (ex. Vader, Anakin), but he has improved in that regard. The ending is a bit abrupt, but I suspect that is due to a planned sequel to “Thrawn: Alliances”. Overall, I recommend this book a fun read for any Star Wars fan out there.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn, Ahsoka, by E.K. Johnston or Lords of the Sith, by Paul S. Kemp]

[ Thrawn: Alliances on Wookiepedia ] | [ Wikipedia page for Timothy Zahn ]

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!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Avengers: Infiniity War (on DVD)

The Avengers: Infinity War
[DVD Avengers]

Ten years of Marvel superhero films, with continuity across over two dozen pictures, culminated in this blockbuster film during the Spring of 2018 — The Avengers: Infinity War. Nearly all of the Marvel superhero characters, from Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, to the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, the Black Panther and Doctor Strange (all of whom have previously starred in their own feature films), were all pulled into this galaxy-spanning extravaganza. The heroes find themselves pitted against the mad Titan, Thanos (introduced in cameos in past Marvel films — and a brilliant effects-enhanced performance by Josh Brolin!), who has an obsession for bringing balance and “peace” to the galaxy. Unfortunately, his concept of bringing balance, in order to cure overpopulation and diminishing resources, is to gather all of the Infinity Stones (mystical devices that impart their user with unbelievable powers, and which have popped up in several of the previous Marvel hero movies) together, and use them to wipe out 50% of all intelligent beings throughout the galaxy.

Arrayed against him, on various fronts, are the Marvel heroes. For instance, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and members of the Guardians, all get dragged across the universe to combat Thanos face-to-face, while many the rest of the heroes fight Thanos’ minions in various Earth-bound locations. It all comes to a head on the plains of Wakanda (the kingdom of the Black Panther — who had his own hit film in 2018), as “earth’s mightiest heroes” attempt to prevent a partial galactic genocide.

While I don’t wish to spoil the plot, for anyone who didn’t see this in the theaters, I will say that this film has one of the biggest clifhangers in movie history, which will not be answered until the next Avengers film, coming in May 2019. I will say, however, that this film is an adaptation of a very popular storyline from the Avengers comic books, by writer/artist Jim Starlin, but makes many, many changes from that print storyline. While there are many similarities between the two Infinity Wars plots, they also diverge rather drastically from each other. But…if you’d like to see the original, it is out in a trade paperback edition, or through the libraries via our Hoopla downloadable content service.

This was an exceptionally well-made film, with excellent performances and spectacular effects. I can’t give it a rating of more than 8 (of 10) because my suspension of disbelief was surpassed by the ending. The likelihood that things remain as they were left is so slim-to-unbelievable that it actually detracted from my overall enjoyment of the film. Your mileage may vary, and if you’ve enjoy any of the previous 20+ films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you won’t want to miss this one!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Infinity War graphic novel by James Starlin – compiling the original comic book storyline that inspired this film, and Avengers: Age of Ultron or Black Panther (also 2018).]
 
[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Avengers movies web site ]

If you’re a fan of the Avengers movies, check out the new DVD “booklist” on BookGuide: If You Like…Superheroes on Film and TV!

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, September 15, 2018

The Disaster Artist (on DVD)

The Disaster Artist
[DVD Disaster]

My nephew recommended that my husband and I watch this (he’s young and hip, so we thought it would be a good idea). Actually, he told us to watch the movie Room first, as this movie is a behind-the-scenes movie about the making of Room. However, Room is not available at the library, nor on Amazon Prime, and we didn’t want to watch it on YouTube. Also, reviews for Room make it sound like a horrible movie, just an absolute piece of garbage.

So we skipped watching Room and went right to watching The Disaster Artist. I think we made the right choice! We were able to get the gist of what happened in Room, but we agreed that the background behind the making of that movie was far more interesting and entertaining! In a nutshell: this guy (Tommy, played by James Franco) who has unlimited amounts of money (nobody knows where it comes from, he’s very private) decides to make his own movie with his newly acquired best friend (Greg, played by Dave Franco). Nobody knows where Tommy is originally from (he says New Orleans, but he’s got an Eastern European accent); and nobody knows how old he is, exactly–he claims to be the same age as Greg, but it’s clear he’s much older. He’s incredibly strange and rather odd looking. He has no other friends except the Greg. They make this movie — Tommy’s ‘vision’ — despite the fact that Tommy has ticked off and/or alienated just about every single member of the cast and crew…. They can’t walk away from the money. The movie, as you would expect, is a flop. It does, however, become a cult-classic.

I really enjoyed this movie — it was so bizarre and strangely funny. I was pleased to see James and Dave Franco working on a film together — their first time ever, other than their own family videos.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official The Disaster Artist Facebook page ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
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, September 13, 2018

The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors by Tim Lawson and Alison Persons

The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors
by Tim Lawson and Alison Persons

For anyone who grew up on the television repeats of classic animated cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Mickey Mouse from Disney, Looney Toons from Warner Brothers, and Popeye from Max Fleischer, up through the earliest of the popular new animated shows of the first years of the 21st century, this book is a marvelous trip down memory lane.

Editors Lawson and Persons have compiled a focused look at 39 major voice performers, many of whom were still active at the time this book was published in 2004. Each actor gets a biographical portrait, of from 2 or 3 pages and all the way up to 14 pages (for Daws butler), giving the performer’s background and often humorous anecdotes from their career. After the biographical portrait is an extensive list of that performer’s animated credits. Those credits can stretch from less than a page for some performers, up to 19 pages for such legends as Mel Blanc. While the authors tried to provide broad coverage of performers across the decades, there tends to be an emphasis on actors whose credits fall in the late 1970s through the 1990s.

The release of the recent live-action Christopher Robin film, in which the fantasy characters of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and friends escape from the Hundred Acre Wood into real-life London, is a perfect example of where this book comes in handy. Actor Jim Cummings provides the voices of both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in that film. Cummings has provided the voice for Winnie the Pooh ever since the original voice actor Sterling Holloway passed in 1992. And, Tada!, this book has wonderful entries for both Holloway and Cummings!

If you’re a fan of pop culture and animated cartoons and feature films, who grew up any time from the 1970s through the 1990s, you’ll most likely enjoy this look back at some of the major talents you grew up with. My only wish is that they’d been able to include even more entries than they did!

[ Publisher’s official The Magic Behind the Voices web 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!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

Book Uncle and Me
by Uma Krishnaswami [j Krishnaswami]

Book Uncle is the man who lends books for free from the nearby street corner. Yasmin is the young narrator who learns that Book Uncle is newly being required to register and pay for a permit. This threatens his community literacy efforts, and worries Yasmin because of her recent plan to read a book a day for the rest of her life. She soon comes up with an idea to see how many of Book Uncle’s fans she can gather to support him. This is an easy, breezy read about how children can become empowered to talk to elected officials and candidates about issues that matter to them. I would recommend it to any families with young ones who steward little free libraries in our town, or any youth who want ideas for how to talk to their government representatives.

[ publisher’s Book Uncle and Me web page ] | [ official Uma Krishnaswami web site and blog ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley 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!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie

At Bertram’s Hotel
by Agatha Christie

Bertram’s Hotel is a pleasant old fashioned hotel that looks and feels just the same as it did decades ago. Miss Marple, who stayed there as a young girl, revisits it as a sort of London getaway. It has a dreamy quality to it that makes it seem too good to be true. At the beginning of the story there are a few disconnected points of view and strange occurrences surrounding the hotel. A famous woman and her daughter who doesn’t know her mother’s identity are both staying at the hotel, a forgetful hotel guest goes missing but then turns up unharmed, and racing car frequently parked outside changes it’s license plate number periodically. Having a lot of separate pieces come together was quite fun. I liked how the serene Bertram’s Hotel is revealed to be a bit more messy/complicated as the book progresses, however the ending bothered me a little because it’s not clear if the criminal gets away with it or not. Recommended for mystery readers who enjoy historical settings.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Big Four, also by Agatha Christie]

[ official At Bertram’s Hotel page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 90-minute presentation at the Gere Branch Library on Sunday, September 30th, 2018, 2:00-3:30 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories. Then, join fellow theater-goers in attending the play Black Coffee, starring Hercule Poirot, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse in late October 2018.

If you’re a fan of the works of Agatha Christie, check out the specialized page of Christie reviews on BookGuide: Agatha Christie Reviews!


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!

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

The Woman Who Smashed Codes
by Jason Fagone [Biography Friedman] 

Many people may have heard of William Friedman one of the first cryptologists for the US Army, but not many know about his wife Elizebeth. She, too, was a cryptologist working along side her husband for many years. She worked for the Coast Guard during Prohibition and went on to work for the US Treasury Department. This is a fascinating study of cryptography and of Elizebeth’s life. Though Mr. Fagone becomes bogged down in the concepts of cryptography, he does a great job discussing her life and her lifelong work.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Code girls : the untold story of the American women code breakers of World War II, by Liza Mundy, The girls of Atomic City : the untold story of the women who helped win World War II, by Denise Kiernan or The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Katie Moore]

[ official The Girl Who Smashed Codes page on the official Jason Fagone web site ]

Recommended by Marcy G.
South 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, September 2, 2018

50 Women's Fashion Icons That Changed the World by Laura Cochrane

50 Women’s Fashion Icons That Changed the World
by Laura Cochrane [746.92 Coc] 

I’ll have to admit — I’m certainly not a devotee of women’s fashion. But the snarling and iconic visage of Grace Jones on the cover of this slender little volume caught my attention and made me curious. And I’m glad I snagged this book…it turned out to be fascinating reading!
Author Lauren Cochrane is a London-based fashion journalist, who compiled this volume on behalf of the Design Museum. In it, Cochrane profiles 50 different women who have had significant roles in shaping the clothing preferences of women from the 1920s to the 2010s (with one earlier example, in the form of Queen Victoria in 1847). Each woman gets two pages — one of straight-forward text, describing that woman’s impact on fashion, and what were her “signature” fashion elements, and the other a full-page photo of that woman in her “look”. Some of these women were designers, some were fashion models, some were performers (actresses, singers, etc.) and some were important for other historical reasons. But they all had an impact on what was the “in” look for women in their era.
Examples of some of the fashion icons include: Josephine Baker, Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Patti Smith, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Pam Grier, Debbie Harry, Diana Vreeland, Grace Jones, Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton and Anna Wintour, to name just a few.

This isn’t a heavy, comprehensive volume — it’s a light, quick read. But if you’ve ever been even in the slightly bit curious about women’s fashion and design culture, and the movers and shakers in that field, this is a fun little read!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to seek out additional volumes in this series, including the Men’s Fashion Icons volume.]

[ official The Design Museum web site ] | [ publisher’s official “Fifty ___ That Changed the World” web pages ]

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!

Pacific Rim: Uprising (on DVD)

Pacific Rim: Uprising
[DVD Pacific] 

I really liked Pacific Rim 1, so I thought I’d like the sequel and I gave it a try, but I didn’t like it as much as the first. Both films revolve around that fact that kaiju monsters have emerged out of Earth’s surface and as a counter measure humans build giant robots called Jagers to fight them. There is a military branch that operates the Jagers as there is special training needed to control them. This is set something like 10 years after the first movie when they thought they had fought off the kaiju for good, so the military is considering closing down the Jager unit. Before this closure is fully authorized, the kaiju appear once more and the Jager unit proves they are not obsolete after all. This sequel stars the son of the chief Jager officer in the previous movie. This itself is very strange because he was not even mentioned let alone appears in the first movie even though in the second one he says he was part of the Jager program and that’s a pretty major plot point. This is not the only inconsistency between the films; they vary from major to minor but as a whole it was enough to really bother me. I think that it would ok if you hadn’t seen the first movie, because it’s not terrible on its own but when you consider it’s relation to the first one, it is. I can’t recommend it too highly but if you haven’t seen the first one and don’t plan to, then it’s not a bad action monster giant robot fighting movie. However if you have seen the first one, even if it was years ago, I’d have to recommend just re-watching it and skipping this one – it’s not worth the confusion and frustration.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Pacific Rim Facebook page ]

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, September 1, 2018

Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older

Last Shot
by Daniel Jose Older

It’s nice to finally get a book that sheds some light on what Lando has been doing since “Return of the Jedi”. Last Shot is mostly set roughly a few years after the “Return of the Jedi” with both Han and Lando trying to adjust to life after the Rebellion. A shared enemy form their past reunites them on a mission to once again save the galaxy. Older does a good job of making the standard Star Wars plot an entertaining read. Flashbacks interspersed through the main story are also well-handled. Unfortunately, Older’s characterization of established Star Wars characters (Han, Leia, Lando) feel a bit off sometimes. His use of modern slang also feels a bit jarring at times. Overall, this is a good, but not great, book that is a nice, fun, quick read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig, Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka, Bloodline, by Claudia Gray or The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster]

[ official Last Shot page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Daniel Jose Older web site ]

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!

Marwencol (on DVD)

Marwencol
[DVD Biography Hogancamp] 

Having seen trailers for the upcoming (Dec 2018) film Welcome to Marwen, starring Steve Carrell, I was aware that that film was based on a man’s real-life experiences. It turns out, this 2010 documentary already tells this tale, in a effective way.

Mark Hogancamp was brutally attacked by 5 young men outside his neighborhood bar in Kingston, NY, and was left in a brain-damaged coma for 9 days. The bones of his face had to be reconstructed. When he awoke from his coma, most of his memory had been destroyed, and he had to relearn how to walk, talk, and function in society. when lack of money caused his therapy to be cut off, he came up with a unique and distinctive new form of therapy for himself.

Using scrap supplies and intricately-detailed 1/6-scale dolls, Mark created an elaborate fantasy world in his back yard, which he called Marwencol, Belgium. It featured multiple buildings, and characters set during the conflict of World War II. One of the dolls was his own alter ego, and the rest were the town’s residents — all women — and the Nazi SS troops that would frequently menace the town. Through made-up adventures and relationships between the dolls, Mark is able to cope with his own messed-up memories and fear of social interaction following his assault. As a photographer, Hogancamp documented the happenings in Marwencol with highly detailed photographs of the dolls, telling the stories of his made-up adventures.

When a friend brings Hogancamp’s photographs to the attention of the New York arts community, and an exhibit of his work is created, he must come to terms with his world expanding and his circle of contacts growing beyond the small number of “locals” he associates with. At the same time, Hogancamp must wrestle with the difficulties of being true to himself in other ways.

I’ll be interested to see what Oscar-winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) does to make this a drama film — the trailers for that upcoming feature show the doll figures coming to life on screen. However, this documentary truly humanizes Hogancamp’s experiences, and through his extensive interview commentary, we get a fascinating look inside the mind and mental processes of someone recovering from brain damage in the only way that makes sense to him.

This is a truly compelling film.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this documentary ] | [ official Marwencol 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!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Ristar in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection


This is a bright colorful game featuring a little guy in the shape of a star, named Ristar. This was originally on the Sega Genesis in 1995; however you can still play it without a Genesis on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection available on PS3 and Xbox, which comes with a multitude of other games. Ristar is a 2D platform style game set on other planets, whose leaders have been mind controlled by an evil space pirate. What I found a bit weird about it was that Ristar has a grab ability and his arms are sort of stretchy so you can grab onto things and propel yourself in multiple directions or maybe forced to grab on to object above you to avoid spikes and other hazards. This took me a little getting used to but there is something like that in every game. This is also how he attacks; grab an enemy, pull it toward you and pretty much head-butt it, which is amusing. I had played Sega Genesis back in the 1990’s but did not know about this one till fairly recently, and because of this it had a nice old and new feel to it. Overall it’s a really fun game and I would suggest it to other players who enjoy 2D platformers.

[ Ristar on Wikipedia ] | [ Ristar on Sega gaming Wiki ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis


I had a couple of friends recommend this, maybe because of the straightforward way Rachel Hollis speaks (she’s very no-nonsense, and I totally dig that), or maybe because she’s very in touch with her spiritual self, which I admire and respect. I also wonder if these friends recommended this book to me because they felt like I need to stop believing lies about who I am so I can become who I am meant to be. (Um, I have to admit, that title kind of confuses me…..)

I must admit, I’d never heard of Rachel Hollis before. As a practicing Catholic, I’m kind of in the dark when it comes to the female Christian speakers. I’m not big on self-help books, even the kind that are in-your-face like this one is.

That being said, it was kind of fun to listen to. Hollis can be self-deprecating without being awkward about it, yet she owns her accomplishments. One thing I really do appreciate about her style of writing here is that each chapter is broken down into something she’s learned–then she goes into story-mode, explaining what happened. She ends with what she’s learned, enumerating things she’s taken away from that experience and things that helped her. It’s a bit Type-A, but I like that about her.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life, by Jen Hatmaker]

[ official Girl, Wash Your Face web site ] | [ official The Chic Site by Rachel Hollis ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
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, August 30, 2018

Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex

Are You Scared, Darth Vader?
by Adam Rex [jP Rex] 

This is a charming and amusing juvenile picture book, with some gorgeous artwork. Star Wars’ ultimate villain, the armored and wheezing Darth Vader is roaming a dark, dank, swampy planet — think Yoda’s swamp world of Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back — and a taunting child-like voice keeps pestering him about whether anything could “scare” him, to which Vader replies in typically Vader-like dark meaningful statements (that are easy to imagine James Earl Jones intoning).
For each example of something that could potentially “scare” Darth Vader, a small figure appears around him — such as a werewolf, a vampire, a witch, etc. — essentially children in Halloween costumes. Despite the obvious “children’s picture book” nature of this, there are moments of both poignancy and surprise, particularly with an unexpected ending.

I figured I would merely be slightly amused by this book. But, as it turns out, I really enjoyed the artwork and storytelling, and may even consider purchasing this one for my own Star Wars book collection!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Vader-related cartoon volumes by Jeffrey Brown, including Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess.]

[ publisher’s official Are You Scared, Darth Vader? web page ] | [ official Adam Rex web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver
by Naomi Novik

Fantasy author Naomi Novik has created another marvelous work of fiction with Spinning Silver, a folktale about a kingdom called Lithvas which is ruled by a demon-possessed Tsar. The kingdom is constantly raided by creatures (the Staryk) from another realm on the edge of this kingdom which can only survive in perpetual winter. The fairytale is a mix of the Rumplestiltskin fairytale and the well-known story of Beauty and the Beast with a Jewish heroine, Miryem, at the center of it all. I loved how the author used different characters from the story to tell what was happening from his or her point of view. I was drawn into the struggle between cultures and kingdoms from the very start and literally could not put the book down. Themes of family, loyalty, prejudice, and love are all explored in an entertaining yet creative way. I highly recommend this book.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, and The Temeraire series, also by Naomi Novik]

[ official Spinning Silver page on the official Naomi Novik 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!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hank & Jim: The Fifty Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart by Scott Eyman


Two American movie icons — Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda — met as young men, were diametrically opposed in their political/religious philosophies and had very different styles of acting, but forged and kept a lifelong friendship in which sometimes being together without even speaking was proof of their bond. Nebraska’s own child, Fonda was urged by Dorothy “Doe” Brando, Marlon’s mother, to give acting a try. The 20-year-old had already attended college for a couple of years but dropped out and returned home. He had been helping out the Omaha Community Players with cleaning, set-dressing and other non-performing tasks when Mrs. Brando recognized his potential. At the same time, teen-aged James Stewart of Indiana, Pennyslvania helped in his father’s hardware store when he wasn’t in school or occupied with other projects or small-town work. His interest in acting began when he was in prep school and continued to develop while he attended Princeton. Hank and Jim’s paths would cross in New York City, via Joshua Logan and a crappy shared apartment. Each man was infatuated by the same woman, actress Margaret Sullavan, early on and Fonda was briefly married to her. Both men had many affairs and Henry went on to acquire 4 more wives but Jimmy eventually found his one and only, Gloria. Both men started as stage actors and became Academy-Award winning feature film stars. Jim and Hank shared a love of model airplanes, they both served on active duty in World War II, and both rarely agreed on the same version of mutual anecdotes. Fonda’s personal life was characterized by detachment and difficulty with communicating. Stewart was a loving father to his children and stepchildren. This is a fascinating look not only at these two famous men as persons but gives a lot of detail as to the workings of stage and screen productions and relationships. For both, their final years were not necessarily happy, but what an incredible gift of artistry they gave to the world.

[ publisher’s official Hank & Jim web page ] | [ official Scott Eyman web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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Stripped Bare and Dark Signal by Shannon Baker

Stripped Bare
by Shannon Baker

When the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group read and discussed the second book in the Kate Fox series, Dark Signal, at our July meeting, I found that I had enjoyed that entry enough (one of my “Rated 10” books for 2018), that I wanted to go back and read the first book in the series, Stripped Bare.

Set in the Nebraska Sandhills, where author Shannon Baker had lived for a big chunk of her life, Stripped Bare‘s sleuth is Kate Fox, the ranching wife of the Grand County Sheriff, Ted Fox. When Ted is shot at the home of one of the county’s wealthiest residents, investigating the shooting death of that man, Kate finds herself drawn into the investigation, first to help prove her husband’s innocence in the killing, then to eliminating suspicion against her niece (who she’s been raising like a daughter). When her incapacitated husband is revealed to have been unfaithful, Kate’s investigation becomes even more personal.

This is a fast-paced read, with lots of terrific characters — Kate has a huge extended family, and they’re all meddling in her life. Kate is a very sympathetic narrator, and the author does a marvelous job of capturing the setting of the Sandhills very effectively. The wide open spaces becomes an important “character” in the novel. I absolutely loved Dark Signal, which was more of a rural police procedural, but felt like I was missing some of the details in Kate’s background. Reading Stripped Bare, which feels much more like an “amateur detective” story, definitely fills in those gaps. I highly recommend both volumes! I’d give Stripped Bare a “9” and Dark Signal a “10”. I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys Craig Johnson’s Longmire series of novels.
 
[ publisher’s official Stripped Bare web page ] | [ official Shannon Baker web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Reminder: Don't miss the August 2018 Just Desserts meeting, tomorrow, Thursday, August 30th, at the South Branch Library (27th & South St.), from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. We'll be discussing James Grippando's novel Most Dangerous Place.

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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, August 26, 2018

Ripper Street: Season Three


Season 3, picks up after last season, but at least several months if not a year or so later, and I recommend you watch the previous seasons before this one. The series is set in White Chapel London just after the Jack the Ripper killings; the police staff that are featured in the show are those who had worked on the cases, although they occurred before the series began. This season starts with a train wreck robbery and members of the police and their family and friends are reunited in the ruin after not seeing one another for a long time. As with previous seasons each episode is another case for the police yet there remains an overarching mystery over the season. This train wreck case is not fully solved till the last episode. Not wanting to reveal any spoilers, I won’t discuss the plots much. Many tid bits from the character’s past resurface in this season which was intriguing and enjoyable as some had been obscured for the whole show. Yet some parts of the cases and the character’s personal lives remain mysterious going into the next season. As with previous seasons, this is rated M for mature due to violence, language, adult themes and nudity, so it’s not a show for everyone. However if this is not bothersome and you enjoy historical mysteries and CSI type shows or books, I highly recommend it to you, as in addition to the crimes investigated there is ample character development and interpersonal relationships at play with mysteries of their own.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the first two seasons of Ripper Street.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ BBC’s official Ripper Street 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, August 25, 2018

Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon

Lost in Yonkers
by Neil Simon [812 Sim] 

When auditions for an upcoming local production of Neil Simon’s show Lost in Yonkers were recently taking place, I was reminded that it’s been several years since I read it. So I decided to give it another read. I’m glad I did — this Pulitzer-prize-winning stage drama is a powerful character study. One of the most autobiographical of Simon’s many, many works — this is set in the years of WWII, starting in 1942. Following the death of their mother, a financially struggling father, Eddie, takes his two sons, Jay (15) and Arty (13) to live, temporarily, with their domineering German grandmother Kurnitz, in her flat about the family’s Yonkers candy store. Throw in Eddie’s brother, Louie, who may be “bent”, Aunt Bella — a well-meaning but challenged young woman who takes the two brothers into her confidence, and the other aunt, Gert, who has a breathing/speech problem, and you’ve got a heckuva mix of characters to play off of each other.

This is one of Neil Simon’s most emotional plays. Yes, there is humor, as would only be expected from the playwright of The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, but mixed in with complicated relationships, there are a lot of funny bits. The relationship between Jay and Arty is particularly poignant, and their connection to their furtive uncle Louie (portrayed by Kevin Spacey in the original Broadway production) provides some interesting moments. But it is EVERYone’s relationship to the family matriarch, Grandma Kurnitz, that forms the core of this play. I can’t wait to see Lost in Yonkers performed locally! [Currently playing at the Haymarket Theatre through September 2nd!]

[ Lost in Yonkers entry on Wikipedia ] | [ Neil Simon entry on Wikipedia ]

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!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists
by Chloe Benjamin
 I picked this up because I saw it was one of the first few choices given as Jimmy Fallon’s original NBC Tonight Show Book Club. (He ended up choosing a different book for the first one, which I hope to read down the road… Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.)

It was a really interesting story about four siblings who go to see a fortune teller to find out when they will die. The story that follows is each sibling’s life, with regards to what the fortune teller told them. (She insisted on seeing them each separately.)

The story begins with them as small children in 1969 and ends up in present day, so it really held a great appeal for me, as that ran the span of my own current lifetime.

While I liked the way the story was written and I found each character interesting and captivating, something about this book put me off a bit. I had a hard time getting “caught up” in it. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to continue. I was always interested in it, I wanted to continue reading it… but I wasn’t DYING to know what happened next. I’d recommend to others, though–hopefully other readers will find it more captivating than I did.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, Escape, by Carolyn Jessop or Stolen Innocence, by Elissa Wall.] [ official The Immortalists page on the official Chloe Benjamin web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
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, August 9, 2018

Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot

Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot
by Agatha Christie [823 Chr]

This marvelous little hardback book is a pocket-sized collection of Hercule Poirot “quotations”, taken from the 33 novels and more than 50 short stories written by Agatha Christie that featured her famous Belgian detective. Throughout his career, Poirot was well known for solving his cases by exploring the human psychology of both the victims and perpetrators of crimes. Unlike, say, Sherlock Holmes, who was far more intrigued by the physical evidence that could lead to the solution of a crime, Poirot loved to explore the mental processes and motives that would lead to a criminal act. As he says in “The King of Clubs”, “In the little grey cells of the brain lies the solution of every mystery.”

This collection of quotes is broken up into thematic chapters, including “Human Nature”, “The English”, “Symmetry & Order” (so, so important to Poirot), “Detective Work”, “Truth & Lies”, “Food & Drink”, and “My Dear Hastings”, just to name a few. Within each chapter, each quote — some are very short and others are a paragraph or more in length — gets its own separate page, complete with reference to the novel or short story it original appeared in. At the end of the book are two “extras” — an afterword pulled from Christie’s papers, in which she explains the Love/Hate relationship she developed with Poirot over decades of writing his adventures, and an appendix identifying every Poirot novel and short story.

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 90-minute presentation at the Gere Branch Library on Sunday, September 30th, 2018, 2:00-3:30 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories. Then, join fellow theater-goers in attending the play Black Coffee, starring Hercule Poirot, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse in late October 2018.

“It is sometimes difficult for a dog to find a scent, but once he has fount it, nothing on earth will make him leave it! That is if he is a good dog! And I, Hercule Poirot, am a very good dog!” — from the short story, “The Chocolate Box” (it also appears in the play “Black Coffee”). [Note: I found it helpful to imagine David Suchet, TV’s most famous Poirot, reading all the quotes in this book!]

[ official Little Grey Cells web site ] | [ official Agatha Christie 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!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

What About Bob? (on DVD)

What About Bob?
[DVD What] 

Bill Murray has built a career on playing wacky, oddball comic characters, starting in sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, and with such hits as Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and so many more. In more recent years, though he’s remained “quirky”, he’s branched out into some acclaimed, serious, dramatic roles, in such films as Rushmore, Lost in Translation, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Hyde Park on Hudson.

I’ll have to admit, my favorite Murray performances are those where he’s a little looser in his comedy. My favorite two Bill Murray movies are Groundhog Day (1993) and this one, What About Bob? (1991), which he did back-to-back. Murray’s offbeat chemistry (as out-of-control neurotic Bob Wiley) with Richard Dreyfuss (as uptight therapist Dr. Leo Marvin) is marvelous.

Ultimately, this is almost slapstick farce in nature, and the humor is very broad at times. But, this is still one of those movies that I laugh at every single time I see it!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Groundhog Day, or any of the dozens of other Bill Murray comedies.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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, July 28, 2018

Colossal (on DVD)

Colossal
[DVD Colossal] 

This is an artsy, introspective sci-fi film that wants to be much more than it can pull off. Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an aimless writer for an online magazine, and alcohol abuser. When her excesses cause her long-time boyfriend to break up with her and eject her from his townhouse, Gloria returns to the small New England town where she grew up, to try to collect herself and figure out what to do next with her life. Shortly after returning, she encounters Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old grade-school classmate of hers, currently running a struggling local tavern. As Gloria finds a place in her new life, connecting with Oscar and his friends Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson), she continues to drink too much and not remember anything the next day.

This part is critical, because on the other side of the world, bizarre events begin — a “colossal” 60′ tall monster has begun appearing in Seoul, South Korea and wreaking havoc, injuring people and destroying buildings, before mysteriously vanishing. Initially horrified, Gloria becomes obsessed with the fact that the monster’s appearances seem to coincide with her own drunken visits to a nearby small playground. She runs tests that confirm to her that the monster’s appearances in Seoul at 8:05 a.m. Eastern time precisely match her own actions. When she tells (and shows) her new small circle of friends about this, things take an unfortunate turn for the worse.

The performances in Colossal are all terrific, particularly Hathaway and Sudeikis. Unfortunately, the characters all become highly unlikable and go down paths that are increasingly depressing. There are moments of comic levity, and moments of introspection, as Gloria tries to sober up and take responsibility for the chaos she’s unleashed on the other side of the world. But in the end, no matter how well made the film is…it’s still vaguely depressing. Still I’m glad I watched it as a DVD from the library, and do recommend it for anyone looking for something a little different.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Colossal 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, July 26, 2018

I've Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark

I’ve Got You Under My Skin
by Mary Higgins Clark [Clark]

Laurie Moran knows firsthand what it feels like to live without closure of a loved one’s murder. Five years ago, her husband was murdered in front of their then three-year-old son Timmy. Timmy still has nightmares about “Blue Eyes,” the only distinguishing feature of the killer. Laurie is haunted, not only by the questions of who and why but also the killer’s last words to Timmy, “Tell your mother she’s next, then it’s your turn.”

As producer of the new show Under Suspicion, Laurie examines murder cases which have gone cold. By getting viewpoints from friends and family of the victim, Laurie hopes that her show can bring new light to unsolved cases. The first episode is to feature Betsy Powell, who was killed 20 years ago after the graduation gala of her daughter and three friends. As details begin to emerge from each of the people who was in the house that night, Laurie learns that each of them had their own reasons for wanting Betsy dead.

Laurie hopes that Under Suspicion will not only capture audiences when it airs, but more importantly, bring the killer to justice. The show has already caught the attention of a pair of blue eyes…

Laurie Moran is a down to earth character that audiences will relate to. The authors do a good job balancing the heaviness of the cases with Laurie’s family life and coworkers, which bring lightness and humor to the book. The suspects are presented, and the reader is allowed to draw their own conclusions before the killer is revealed in an exciting conclusion. As the other books in this series feature the same main characters as I’ve Got You Under My Skin, readers who enjoy this title will certainly enjoy others in the series. Aside the novels that she has written with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, this is the first book that Mary Higgins Clark has co-authored.

[Note: Although this first entry is written only by Mary Higgins Clark, all subsequent volumes in the series are co-written by Clark and Alafair Burke.] [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly, A is for Alibi, by Sue Grafton or Desert Heat, by J.A. Jance.]

[ official “Under Suspicion” series page on the official Mary Higgins Clark web site ]

Recommended by Marie P.
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!