Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Blinspot: Season One on DVD

[DVD Blindspot] 

The show starts as a duffle bag is found in Times Square. Police clear the area and treat it like it’s a bomb. As the bomb disposal technician gets closer to the bag it starts to move and unzip. Out steps a woman, naked, but completely covered in tattoos. She is taken back to FBI headquarters and interrogated. She doesn’t know her name, how she got to Times Square, or anything about the tattoos covering her body including the giant one on her back that reads “Kurt Weller FBI”. It turns out Kurt Weller is an actual FBI agent, and a good one at that. He is called in to consult on the case but doesn’t recognize the mysterious woman. They start calling her Jane Doe and when they do a body scan of her tattoos they realize that they’re all brand new. Weller and his team study them to see if any of them can lead them to the real identity of Jane Doe or how she got into the duffle bag.

One tattoo contains today’s date and an address. They go to investigate and come across a terrorist plot. While there Jane fights a man showing she has martial arts training. When they stop the threat against America the FBI decides there may be something to these tattoos and the show continues with each episode focusing on a different tattoo and their quest to find out who Jane really is.

The pilot was excellent, as was the rest of the first season. You really want to think that Jane is good but as the season goes on there are hints that maybe she isn’t. Jaime Alexander does an excellent job portraying her – flashbacks to her days as Lady Sif from Thor, you get to see her in lots of fights in this as well. The team has great chemistry and I really enjoy the actors, especially Sullivan Stapleton (Weller) and Ashley Johnson (Patterson, the forensics technician).

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Blacklist, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or Quantico (available through InterLibrary Loan).]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ NBC’s official The Blindspot web site ]

Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stationary Bike by Stephen King

Stationary Bike
by Stephen King [Hoopla digital resource] 

A year after his wife dies, Richard Sifkitz decides it’s finally time to go in for an annual physical (only three years overdue!). His doctor tells him that his cholesterol is high and he’s overweight. These are not things Richard didn’t know, but it’s always kind of a wake-up call to have someone point that out to you. While the doctor says that Richard isn’t in as bad of shape as some people, he IS overworking his body–he compares his bodily functions to a construction crew or road crew who is being increasingly overworked… eventually, they stop caring about their job, they maybe slack off a bit, they stop working altogether. The image is a vivid one for Richard, and he paints a mural of it on a wall in his basement, where he sets up his new stationary bike. Richard doesn’t just find himself losing weight, he finds himself unable to stop riding–until he discovers his life depends on it!

Something that struck me as unique about this novella is that it’s not the stereotypical King story. There’s no real blood or gore involved, no scary monsters or edge-of-your-seat intensity. Yet, this is just as clearly a work of Stephen King’s as anything else he’s written. It’s got that quick hook that most of his work has, reeling you in until you find yourself at the end of the story, thinking, “Aw, it’s over already?”

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Long Walk or The Eyes of the Dragon, also by Stephen King.]

[ official Stationary Bike page on the official Stephen King web site ]
 
Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Locke & Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill

Locke & Key, Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
by Joe Hill (author) and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist) [741.5 Hil] 

I’ve been seeing the trade paperback collections of Locke & Key, written by Joe Hill, circulating in the libraries’ collection for the past year-or-more, and finally took the time to start reading the series. Each of the six oversized trade paperback graphic novels in this series compiles six individual comic-books into a novel-length story. In “Welcome to Lovecraft“, the first compilation volume, Tyler, Kinsey and young Bode Locke move, with their mother, from California to Lovecraft, Massachusetts, to live in the family estate known as Keyhouse. This follows the brutal murder of the kids’ father by a psychopath. As the Locke children settle into their new home, making new friends, they discover that Keyhouse has mysterious — mystical — properties. Bode discovers a doorway that when he passes through it allows him to leave his physical body behind and travel as a phantasm. He also discovers a malevolent spirit trapped at the bottom of a well…a spirit that continues to manipulate the man who killed Rendell Locke, and which is drawing him on a cross-country journey to kill the rest of the Locke family.

The writing of Joe Hill — Stephen King’s son, but a respected horror-master in his own right — and the art by Gabriel Rodriguez are superb. This first volume features only the beginning of the more horrific, supernatural and monstrous plot elements that come to dominate the subsequent volumes in the series, and feels more like a thriller with some paranormal elements on the side. I appreciate the metaphor of multiple “locks” and “keys” that recurs throughout this series, but which is set in motion to good effect in this volume.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the remaining 5 compilation volumes in the series, which definitely concludes with Volume Six: Alpha & Omega.]

[ IDW’s official Locke & Key web site ] | [ official Joe Hill web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Is You Okay? by GloZell Green

Is You Okay?
by GloZell Green [Compact Disc Biography Green] 

This is a short (five discs) inspirational biography in which YouTube star GloZell shares her frustrating letdowns in life. She uses comedy to laugh at the moments in hindsight and share the inspiration with the reader/listener that because of those moments that blocked her from being where she thought she should be, she ended up in a different place that led to something great for her. Much of it is related to her making a name for herself as a stand-up comedian, and how she was unique in her material being family-friendly, but she applies those moments to general life lessons. In her usual comedic style, she has her audience laughing, but delivers serious encouragement and inspiration in the process.

[ official Is You Okay? page on the official GloZell Green web site ]

Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Heartless Troll by Oyvind Torseter

The Heartless Troll
by Oyvind Torseter [j Torseter] 

This came highly recommended to me by a couple of other readers, both a co-worker and one of our library customer “regulars”, so when a copy came across the desk, recently, I decided to take a chance on it. In the end, I don’t think I’m necessarily the “target audience” for this one. Norwegian artist, illustrator, author and comic-book creator Oyvind Torseter takes a classic Norwegian folk tale, about “the troll without a heart”, and turns it into a fancifully-illustrated childrens’ adventure tale.

When all but one of the sons of a ruler leave home in search of brides, but disappear, the seventh and youngest prince tells his father that he must seek out his missing brethren and find out their fates. Provided with a reluctant and sarcastic horse, and minimal supplies, the young prince sets out on an epic quest, overcoming a number of obstacles before reaching the terrifying lair of a Troll, who has turned all the other princes and their wives into stone statues.

Aided by a number of talking animals, a very cooperative captive princess, and his own common sense, the prince must figure out a way to capture the massive troll’s heart, in order to set his family free. This is a fairly simple story overall, and Torseter’s artwork is both detailed and yet whimsical. There is a sense of humor to the whole story — particularly in the dialog provided by the hero’s unheroic horse. Kids will probably appreciate this more than adults. I was hoping to find it unforgettable, but I basically just got some chuckles out of it in the end.

[ official Oyvind Torseter blog ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Building Star Trek on DVD

Building Star Trek
[DVD 791.457 StarYb]


This was a pretty fun documentary on the Star Trek show and some of the props. With the 50th anniversary in 2016 the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C undertook a restoration project on the Starship Enterprise model used during filming. You may already know that to get the shots of the ship in space they used a large model complete with lights and everything, and it’s this model that’s being repaired in the documentary. Another museum is in the midst of assembling set pieces, props, and wardrobe items for their celebration display. The documentary bounces between projects and interspersed is some real life Star Trek science on tractor beams, phasers, and tricorders. Also mixed it is some commentary on the themes of the show and how revolutionary it was. Nichelle Nichols appears in the interviews along with Simon Pegg. There were quite a few different bits and pieces included and I really liked it. Not all the information will be new to everyone, clearly, but it was fun to watch as a Star Trek fan. I’ll also say that the focus is on the Original Series, since that’s the one turning 50; the other series such as Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager are not covered.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Star Trek: the art of Juan Ortiz, by Juan Ortiz, SOS 791.457 StaYo, a collection of movie poster art created for each episode of Star Trek the Original Series.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Smithsonian Channel’s official Building Star Trek web site ]
 
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing
by Madeleine Thien


This book was on the longlist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. It has so many different layers to fall in love with, while giving the reader a feel for China during both the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao and the occupation of Tiananmen Square. A passion for classical music can be felt through the pages, as it propelled Swallow during a time when loving anything more than Chairman Mao & the Revolution was considered a betrayal. Families and individuals were relocated, and teachers and other former leaders were harassed, attacked, tortured, shamed, and sometimes killed: punished for being told they needed to be scorned for having thought too much of themselves. Swallow’s daughter was caught up in the Tiananmen Square occupation, which began when three scholars presented themselves on their knees in the square, holding up a paper for the government to read. Beyond a passion for music and the information about what those times were like in China, this is an insightful glimpse into what drives each of us, whether it’s a love for math, literature, music, or others.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie.] [ official Do Not Say We Have Nothing Tumblr page ] | [ official Madeleine Thien web site ]

Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

One to Five by Ryan Scott

One to Five: One Shortcut Recipe Transforms Into Five Easy Dishes
by Ryan Scott [641.55 Sco]

I really liked the idea behind this book (which I obtained an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of), and the general format of it. Basically, the author, Ryan Scott, would pick a key ingredient (say, rotisserie chicken) and create a base recipe with that ingredient. Then, he would create five different dishes around that one key ingredient. It’s a fabulous concept! And the fact that there’s an intro from Rachel Ray filled me with the idea that this must be a qualified chef. (I’d never heard of him before.) The bummer is that I’m a rather picky eater, as are my kids… so I wouldn’t end up making the majority of the items in the cookbook. The blame for this, in my opinion, does not fall to the writer of the cookbook; rather it falls to me and my kiddos for being afraid to step outside our comfort zone. Overall, I think many people would appreciate this cookbook!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Delicious Dump Cakes : 50 Super Simple Desserts to Make in 15 Minutes or Less, by Roxanne Wyss.]

[ official One to Five book trailer on YouTube ] | [ official Ryan Scott web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Danger Girl: Back in Black by Andy Hartnell

Danger Girl: Back in Black
by Andy Hartnell [Hoopla digital resource]


The Danger Girls are a group that work for a James Bond type of character named Deuce who for the most part remains on board the Danger Yacht with Valerie the computer guru. Their missions take them all around the world; in this story there are some team members in Tokyo and elsewhere, but Abby and Sydney are in Sturgis, South Dakota trying to retrieve an old Sioux artifact that can bring back the dead. They befriend a motorcycle gal named Ruby and try to blend in to spy on the person they think has the artifact. They must retrieve it before it’s sold so they can return it to its rightful owners, the Sioux tribe. There is also a secondary interwoven story about Ruby and her mother which unfolds with the main story. I’ve only read a few Danger Girl titles and I enjoyed this one just as much as the others. They all have a lot of action and humor, with some violence and partial nudity, so it’s a graphic novel for teens and adults. If you like James Bond type stories and graphic novels, you’ll probably like this.

This title is only available in Lincoln City Libraries’ collection digitally at HooplaDigital.com. You can also get to Hoopla by searching for the titles in our catalog and clicking on the download button. For on the go entertainment you can checkout materials on the Hoopla App.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Danger Girl: Deluxe, by J. Scott Campbell, Danger Girl: Mayday, by Andy Hartnell, Danger Girl: Revolver, by Andy Hartnell, or Danger Girl: Trinity, by Andy Hartnell.]

[ official Danger Girl web site ] | [ Andy Hartnell page on Wikipedia ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Librar

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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The Princess Diarist
by Carrie Fisher [Biography Fisher] 

Following the unexpected and saddening loss of actress, author and activist Carrie Fisher at the end of 2016, I eagerly sought out her final autobiographical book, The Princess Diarist, which came out just months before her death. I was a huge fan of her two previous autobiographies — Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic — particularly in audiobook form, read by the actress herself. She’s had a wild and crazy life, filled both with international fame and with drug addiction, mental illness and an immense number of personal neuroses. Her previous introspective works covered her entire life, with her work on Star Wars being an important element, but not necessarily the primary focus.

With The Princess Diarist, Fisher tackles her experiences in “A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” more directly. Since repeating her role as Princess (now General) Leia Organa in 2015’s Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Fisher uncovered a set of personal journals she kept during the 1976 filming of the original 1977 Star Wars (now called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). For The Princess Diarist, Fisher spends about 70% of the book reminiscing about the casting and filming of Star Wars: A New Hope, with liberal references to the other Star Wars films in which she has appeared. The other 30% is her sharing the actual content of her original 1976 journals. The biggest revelation in The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s admitting that she (19 at the time) and Harrison Ford (34 at the time) had an ongoing physical relationship during the filming of the first movie. Her journal entries at that time are filled with self-doubt, confusion, free-floating anxiety, and occasionally witty poetry.

I’m not sure what I was expecting with The Princess Diarist. As a long-standing Star Wars fan, I was hoping for insight into her time filming the saga. But a large portion of this book turns into a bogged-down soap opera of relationships that should never have happened. This is an enjoyable book, in the end, but if you find the concept of a sexual relationship between movie co-stars with a 15-year age difference to be a little skeevy, you may want to avoid this one. Having specifically enjoyed Fisher’s own narration of her previous books, I ended up buying this one as a book-on-CD (a format the library does NOT currently only, although The Princess Diarist is available as a downloadable audiobook). Fisher narrates the “contemporary” parts of the book, while her daughter, Billie Lourd narrates the section reproducing Carrie’s 1976 journal. It was an emotional journey to listen to Carrie share her story, in her own voice, less than two weeks after her death.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wishful Drinking, or Shockaholic, both by Carrie Fisher, preferably in the audiobook format!]
 
[ publisher’s official The Princess Diarist web site ] | [ official Carrie Fisher web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Mystery of the Blue Train
by Agatha Christie

Retired detective Poirot is aboard the Blue Train in Europe as a murder is committed under his nose. He’s on the case along with a woman who spoke to the victim earlier on the journey. There’s not only murder, but jewel theft, an ending marriage, affairs and double identities. It’s similar in the way the case is presented to A Death in the Clouds, but different in all other respects. Overall it’s a good mystery novel, but it didn’t hold my interest quite as much as others I’ve read in the series so far. It was not boring or predictable, but I didn’t find myself caring for the characters. If you are looking for a light mystery with good writing this is not a bad choice, however for more action and intrigue try The Big Four or The A.B.C. Murders (both of which include Captain Hastings in the cast). If you are looking for others set on a train, try Murder on the Orient Express in the Poirot series and 4:50 from Paddington in the Miss Marple series.

( official Mystery of the Blue Train page on the official Agatha Christie web site )

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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The Book of Harlan by Berniece McFadden

The Book of Harlan
by Berniece McFadden

This is a book that didn’t just show a story, but sent it coursing through your veins as you listened to the music it described and created. It described the hey-day jazz age of Harlem in the 1930s, and shifted from pianist Emma and her husband, Sam, to their guitar-playing son, Harlan. Harlan’s travels with his bands illuminated the Jim Crow racism of the South, and the person demons of alcohol, womanizing, and drugs that were dangers for the main character. Music was seen as both a healing force, and a driving one.

I learned so much history I’d never known before reading this book. I had a chance to see the world through the eyes of African-American family members when they heard H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on the radio, and felt the panic it created. I found the names of jazz greats I knew, like Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Jelly Roll Morton, as they were at a party with Harlan’s mother, Emma, and learned of other jazz greats I hadn’t known of. I also learned about Ilse Koch, The B–ch of Buchenwald, after Harlan and his friend Lizard were taken captive by the Nazi party in Paris on May 10, 1940. This teaches history that hasn’t been written of enough.

( publisher’s official Book of Harlan web page ) | ( official Berniece McFadden web site )

Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Danger Girl Deluxe by J. Scott Campbell (on Hoopla)

Danger Girl Deluxe
by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell (Hoopla Digital Resource)

The three Danger Girls gain a new member at the beginning of the story who does her best to prove to them, and herself, that she can get the job done. Their James Bond style work and adventures send them all around the globe to track down ancient artifacts and keep them out of the hands of those who want to use them to dominate the world. There is quite a bit of humor in the action, but also friendship and team work. Danger Girl Deluxe is the beginning of the Danger Girl series, so it’s a good place to start if you are new to the series. My introduction to this comic series was a paper copy I saw at a antique shop and I was not convinced by the cover it was something for me. I was nudged into trying it anyway by a family member, and I ended up really enjoying it, so don’t let the cover and art discourage you. I will say that there is violence and partial nudity, so it’s for teens and adults not kids. This graphic novel is available on Hoopla; you can read it in a web browser or download titles into the Hoopla App. The link to Hoopla is on our website and linked in the catalog if you do a search for the title.

(If you enjoy this, there are others in the Danger Girls series on Hoopla, by various authors. You may also enjoy Frank Cho’s Jungle Girl Season Three on Hoopla, by Doug Murray, A Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Stories, a short story collection by Ian Fleming, or the Witchblade series on Hoopla, by various authors.)

( official Danger Girl Deluxe web site ) | ( official J. Scott Campbell web site )

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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a Big Little Life by Dean Koontz


The true story of the Koontz’s dog, Trixie.

She was three years old when she was retired as a service dog and adopted out to author Dean Koontz and his wife, Gerda. The best animal stories are humorous, poignant, relatable, and filled with many, many anecdotes and this one doesn’t disappoint. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll recognize your own pets in these stories, and you’ll love Trixie.

( official A Big Little Life video trailer on YouTube ) | ( official Dean Koontz web site )

Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Johnny Got His Gun on DVD

based on the novel by Dalton Trumbo [DVD Johnny]

I heard about this movie nearly thirty years ago, when I first saw a music video that had snippets of this movie in it. The video was for the song “One” by the band Metallica — they wrote the song based solely on the plot of this movie. I was so intrigued that I always felt I should watch the movie. However, I was also intimidated by it. The story, briefly, goes as follows: a soldier is severely wounded during battle in World War I. He’s a quadruple amputee who also is now blind, deaf and mute. The song describes his struggles, where he’s essentially trapped inside himself, unable to communicate, unable to tell the difference between waking and sleeping. His only distractions are memories and nightmares. I knew that the movie would be somewhat heavy, to say the least. However, I have never been able to get it out of my mind. So I finally borrowed it and watched it. It’s VERY well made, crossing between black and white (the present) and color (the past/memories/nightmares), and has some incredible cast members. It’s considered an anti-war film, but it didn’t seem that way to me. I would definitely recommend this film!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Born on the Fourth of July, M*A*S*H* or Full Metal Jacket)
(Also available in traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks

Witch Wraith
by Terry Brooks

This is the third in the Dark Legacy of Shannara series. Much of what has happened comes to a resolution in this final installment, but it still leaves us wondering what’s next for these characters. According to Brook’s website, in 2017 there will be a new Shannara series coming out that will be set after this, but it’s not clear if the same characters appear or if it set much much later. Please see my previous reviews on Wards of Faerie and Bloodfire Quest for a basic overview of the plot of the series. Saying anything about the plot of Witch Wraith will spoil it, which I don’t want to do because the story is so good and full of surprises you should read it for yourself. After finishing this series, and I admit I have not read his other books, it seems like Brooks is not at all afraid of killing off major characters, protagonists or villains. Since there is no vail of safety for anyone it really gives you a sense of nervousness reading that you don’t get sometimes. Also the characters don’t always have very good plans. In their given situations it’s understandable everyone would make missteps and misjudgments, so when they make mistakes and have to deal with the consequences and guilt, it makes them more believable as characters. If you like adventure, fantasy, and really long storylines, you should read this series, starting with book one.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Wards of Faerie (Book 1) and Bloodfire Quest (Book 2) by Terry Brooks.)

( official Witch Wraith page on the official Terry Brooks web site )

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Murder She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery on DVD

based on the book by Joanne Fluke [DVD Murder]

Alison Sweeney stars as Hannah Swensen, owner and operator of a small-town Minnesota bakery, in this first of several TV-Movie adaptations of the series of popular mystery novels by Joanne Fluke. In this “pilot movie” based on the first book in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Hannah feels compelled to investigate when a personal friend — also one of her suppliers of baking materials — is killed in his delivery truck right in back of her restaurant. Fearing the official “big city” investigator is looking in the wrong direction and doesn’t know the people of her small town, like she does, Hannah snoops around, eventually endangering herself. This is a typical “amateur detective” story, without too complicated a story, but Sweeney as Hannah and Cameron Mathison as investigator Mike Kingston have great screen chemistry. The rest of the supporting cast is excellent, and the plot, while not ground-breaking in any way, is still intriguing enough to keep you interested. I enjoyed this one a lot, even though I’d read the novel it was based on as a selection for the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery discussion group back in 2013. I look forward to seeing more of these! A total of four Murder She Baked TV-movies have been shown on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries cable TV network, although this is the only one released on DVD thus far!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Aurora Teagarden Mystery Movies, The Gourmet Detective Mystery Movies or The Garage Sale Mystery Movies or The Flower Shpo Mystery Movies)
(Also available in traditional print format.)

([ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Murder She Baked web site )

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Stoned by Aja Raden


Ms. Raden has crafted a very detailed, very reasoned, very interesting book about famous gems and minerals and their role in human history. Did you know that the first wristwatch was encased in gold and diamonds, made for a Hungarian countess in 1876, and that it wasn’t until World War I that these personal timepieces were regarded as practical and “manly” tools? That’s just one of the tidbits of knowledge included in this examination of how the desire, ownership, and manipulation of jewellery has changed the lives of individuals and, in many cases, the course of history. The section on the Faberge eggs alone is both sobering and illuminating. Raden, who has degrees in history and physics and is also a former Tacori designer, takes a slice-of-life approach and includes a healthy amount of sarcasm in describing and analyzing the lure of precious stones and adornments over time while also illustrating that what we think we know about value and rarity and lore may be bass-ackwards. Let’s just say you may not think so poorly of Marie Antoinette after you read this book!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bejeweled: Great Designers, Celebrity Style, by Penny Proddow, Diamonds, Gold, and War: the British, the Boers, and the making of South Africa, by Martin Meredith, Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, by Elizabeth Taylor, Faberge Eggs: a Retrospective Encyclopedia, by Will Lowesor The Sancy Blood Diamond: Power, Greed, and the Cursed History of one of the World’s most Coveted Gems, by Susan Ronald.)

( publisher’s official Stoned web site ) | ( official Aja Raden Facebook page )

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!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling


The inspiration for the 2016 Harry Potter “prequel” film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is currently in theatres, was a small chapbook that J.K. Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Newt Scamander. It was a cute, but little, encyclopedia of the mystical magical creatures of Rowling’s Harry Potter wizarding world, written by Rowling to benefit the charity Comic Relief in 2001 (see previous review). When the movie studios insisted on additional movies in the Potterverse, Rowling came up with the adventures of Newt Scamander as he researched his creature encyclopedia. This book is the story of the new film, told in screenplay form. I’ll have to admit, while I enjoyed the film, the fast pace, heavy accents and loud sound effects made hearing all of the dialog clearly nearly impossible, so I very much enjoyed reading this book to catch the parts of the story I missed. The drawbacks of reading a screenplay are that you really don’t get the level of description and character development, or internal dialog and introspection, that you do with a novel. However this was still a fun read, and handily supplements the plot of the film. Potter fanatics won’t want to miss this, and anyone who saw the movie but wants to get a better understanding of it will appreciate this as well!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original chapbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling))

( official J.K. Rowling web site (U.S.) )

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!

Catalyst by James Luceno

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
by James Luceno


Catalyst serves as a tie-in to the latest “Star Wars” novel. It also serves as the new “canon” story of how the Death Star was constructed and who was responsible. Catalyst is an engaging character-driven story that is light on action and more focused on drama and intrigue. The plot centers around the efforts of Galen Erso, an apolitical, pacifistic, extraordinary genius intellect who sees the galaxy around him in ways no one else can (which leaves him often unable to connect to or relate with others) to unlock the mystery of kyber crystals, once solely the province of the Jedi Order, as a means to create an inexpensive and inexhaustible source of energy. Galen’s work places him in the center of several political intrigues; many of which are orchestrated by his friend, Orson Krennic, an ambitious, pragmatically ruthless engineer possessed of uncanny insight into other people and a cunning ability to manipulate others,to provide the power source needed to fuel the most devastating superweapon the galaxy has ever seen: the Death Star. Catalyst is not an absolute must-read, though it will give some added insight into the story and characters of “Rogue One”. It’s also a well-crafted engaging read that most fans of Star Wars will enjoy.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lords of the Sith, by Paul S. Kemp, and Tarkin, by James Luceno)

( Wikipedia chronology of Star Wars books ) | ( Wikipedia article on James Luceno )

Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

In Such Good Company by Carol Burnet

In Such Good Company
by Carol Burnett [791.457 CarYb] 

Carol Burnett has had a couple of prior autobiographies released — One More Time (1986) and This Time Together (2010) and Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (2013) — in which she discussed some elements of her legendary sketch comedy show, The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978), but each of those earlier volumes covered her entire career, not just the time on that series. In Such Good Company is dedicated entirely to sharing remembrances about her TV show, and her relationships with her zany fellow co-stars — Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence (who started on the show as a teenager!), and Lyle Waggoner, not to mention the many recurring guest stars, like Jim Nabors, Dick Van Dyke, Ken Berry, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Nanette Fabray, Bernadette Peters, Roddy McDowell and so many others. In preparing to write this volume, Burnett re-watched all the old episodes, and captured stills from many of the episodes, which are reprinted in the book. In addition to telling the tales of such classic sketches as Went With the Wind (featuring one of the longest studio laughs in TV history, as Carol wears a drapery in a parody of Gone With the Wind), to Tim Conway forcing the rest of the cast to break character in a Mama’s Family skit as he tells a hilarious tale about siamese elephants, you can’t help but smile every few pages. I particularly enjoyed the scattered chapters where Carol remembers answering audience questions at the start of each week’s show — it’s hard to believe she original didn’t want to do the Q&A at the start of each taping, considering how personable she was. Since there is no “complete series box set” release of The Carol Burnett Show — although Time Life has a Lost Shows collection available for a hefty price — reading this book is the closest you can come to reliving the hilarity of watching this comedy classic itself. If you grew up on The Carol Burnett Show, like me, this is a must-read!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try One More Time or This Time Together or Carrie and Me, all also by Carol Burnett; also any of the DVD compilations of clips from The Carol Burnett Show)
( publisher’s official In Such Good Company web page ) | ( Wikipedia page on Carol Burnett )

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Friday, December 16, 2016

based on the book by Robert Kanigel [DVD Man]
Marvelous biographical study of the brilliant young Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his relationship with his British mentor, professor G.H. Hardy. When the sheer natural mathematical brilliance of Ramanujan is recognized by some of his teachers and co-workers in India, who realize that he won’t be able to make proper use of his gifts in his homeland, he corresponds with a British professor (Hardy) at Trinity College in Cambridge, and eventually goes to England to join Hardy in study, in hopes of getting some of his groundbreaking work published. Ramanujan finds both support and ethnic bigotry in England, exacerbated by the breakout of World War I. When grave illness threatens Ramanujan’s life, Hardy’s support of his colleague leads to Ramanujan’s theorems achieving acclaim, but at a cost. It is fascinating to study the contrast between the devoutly religious Ramanujan, who believed that his mathematical discoveries came to him as direct gifts from God and required no “proofs”, vs the atheist Hardy, who, although he respected and admired Ramanujan, still insisted that the Indian’s mathematical solutions had to undergo a formalized and rigorous “proving” process to verify their authenticity.

Dev Patel as Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons as Hardy are brilliant in this film, which also features a marvelous supporting cast. The production design and sets are top notch. Highly recommended!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Russell Crowe film, A Beautiful Mind, a different type of story, about a different famed mathematician, but if the math elements of this film intrigue you, you’ll enjoy that one as well!)

(Also available in traditional print format)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official UK The Man Who Knew Infinity 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, December 15, 2016

The Promise by Robert Crais


The Promise
by Robert Crais

This is the most recent in a long line of Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels, but also includes LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his K-9 patrol dog, Maggie. We first met Scott and Maggie in the stand-alone mystery Suspect. There is no need to have read any of the preceding books, other than perhaps more depth of character for the reader. Crais does a good job of giving enough background on the characters to enable a new reader to follow the story. (But as Suspect is one of my favorite books, I highly recommend going back and reading that one for Scott and Maggie’s story – reviewed April, 2013.)

In this mystery, Elvis and Joe (ex-cop and ex-military) are hired to locate a missing woman who has been mourning the death of her son at the hands of terrorists, and she appears to have embezzled $450,000 from her company. While Elvis is staking out a house owned by a man who might have ties to the missing woman, he’s inadvertently pulled into an attempted felony warrant arrest by the police, including Scott and Maggie, which involves a completely different crime. These two seemingly unrelated cases just might be connected.

Elvis’ humorous comebacks, the dangerous mystery that always accompanies Joe, the likable Scott and Maggie, and the plot twists and turns make this another mystery by Crais that does not disappoint. (But really, go back and read Suspect).

( official The Promise page on the official Robert Crais web site )

Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ghost Times Two by Carolyn Hart

Ghost Times Two
by Carolyn Hart, narrated by Ann Marie Lee (Compact Disc Hart)


In this seventh entry in Carolyn Hart’s Bailey Ruth Raeburn fantasy/mystery series, the Heavenly “emissary” is again sent back to Earth, specifically her former hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma, to guide the spirit of a recently deceased young man (newspaper reporter Jimmy) to climb the golden staircase to the afterlife. The only problem is that Jimmy is still far too attached to his earthly existence, and his girlfriend, attorney Megan, he had while he was living. When Megan is implicated in the murder of one of the senior attorneys at her firm, Bailey Ruth (with Jimmy’s awkward interference) has to help solve the murder, so that Jimmy will feel free to leave his life behind.
I enjoy this series as audiobooks, read with incomparable flair and panache by Ann Marie Lee. She perfectly imbues a sense of life and humor into the character of Bailey Ruth, with her Southern charm and energetic personality. The mystery itself isn’t as important as following Bailey Ruth’s adventures along the way. These are just a fun, simple read/listen.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Bailey Ruth Raeburn series, by Carolyn Hart, all narrated by Ann Marie Lee.)

( Bailey Ruth Raeburn information on the official Carolyn Hart 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, December 13, 2016

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher
by Robert Kraus (jP Kraus)

During the holiday season, cookies are a popular treat to cut out and baKe with children. While waiting for them to bake, why not share a story? In The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, everyone is preparing for the big baking day ahead only to have all their sprinkles stolen during the night. Only Little Nat has the will to follow the trail of sprinkles to the Snitcher’s house where he convinces him to return them. Told in rhyme, it goes very well with How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

[Another fun picture book about baking is Baking Day at Grandma’s by Anika Denise. The refrain of “It’s baking day, it’s baking day, it’s baking day at Grandma’s” just begs for everyone to join in]

(Wikipedia page for Robert Kraus )

Recommended by Sandy W.
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!