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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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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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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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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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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Monday, December 12, 2016

Lengenderry by Bill Willingham

Legenderry
by Bill Willingham (Hoopla Digital Resource)

In this story we have a multitude of characters from the Dynamite universe brought together to bring down a foe determined to cause war and feast on the souls of the dead. However, none of the characters are in quite their usual outfits and personas because this is set in a steampunk world. The central character we follow through the story is Red Sonja whose memory had been messed with to make her forget who she was and believe that she is Magna Spadarossa in search of a sister who is in fact herself. Before she returns to normal, she’s in quite a bit of distress because so many people are chasing her and she can’t figure out why. After she becomes herself again she to some extent does her usual, gather information on the enemy and attack. To a certain degree I was reminded of the Swords of Sorrow mini-series in which Dynamite ladies team up to fight Prince Charming with special swords. Personally I liked Swords of Sorrow a lot better. It could be because I’m not a steampunk fan, but I also liked the story better. I also had a problem with the ending to this one, because it felt really abrupt and unfinished as if it was the end to part one and there would be a part two. I read it mainly because Red Sonja is my favorite comic book character and was curious how she’d be portrayed in a very different world than her own; while it was interesting I don’t think I’ll reread it or get a copy for myself. Still it’s by no means a bad mini-series and if you like steampunk, you might like it better than I do. It was fun to be introduced to characters I’d heard of but not read before, so you might like that aspect as well. The crew includes: Red Sonja, Kato, Vampirella, Zorro, Green Hornet, Captain Victory, $6,000 Man, Phantom, Devil (the dog), Flash Gordon, and Silver Star. If you want to give it a go you can check Legenderry out on Hoopla and either download it via the app or just read it in a web browser. It is accessible at www.hoopladigital.com or you can search the title in the catalog and get a link to Hoopla through there.

(Swords of Sorrow is really good, but unfortunately it’s not available on Hoopla or in print at Lincoln City Libraries. It appears on Amazon that they have collected all the issues into a graphic novel that’s due to come out February 2017. It also is a cross over event but the characters stay in character, unlike Legenderry where they’ve changed a bit to be steampunk. The four main characters, although there are many more, are Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris and Jungle Girl.)

( publisher’s official Legenderry web site ) | ( official Bill Willingham web site )

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Sellout
by Paul Beatty
  The narrator of the book is an African-American man being charged with slavery in his home and with bringing back segregation. Paul Beatty uses satire with such skill that he’ll make a pop culture reference that almost makes you laugh aloud, followed by the wind-down to the pitch that has you in tears. He can do so within a paragraph, and does many times. It brings its readers out of our comfort zone and leaves us examining ourselves anew with a fresh assessment of stereotypes we carry unknowingly.

While the narrator tries to put his hometown of Dickens, California back on the map, he works with his friend Hominy, who tells everyone about his heyday of being part of the Little Rascals cast. The narrator is also still trying to make his late father proud, after his father used the narrator as his subject in many psychological studies the reader will recognize; unfortunately, the father didn’t have an ethics committee limiting him to what he subjected his young son.

I think that besides an incredible work of satire, this book would be a wonderful book club selection, as it will inspire conversation about race, while also demonstrating in the book what happens when we don’t have those conversations. The Sellout is the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2016, for best English-language novel published in the U.K., the first time a writer from the United States has been honored with The Booker Prize.

( publisher’s official The Sellout web page ) | ( Wikipedia page for Paul Beatty )

Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

The Girls of Atomic City
by Denise Kiernan [940.53 Kie] 

What a story. Well, multiple stories really which tie into a larger one. The book follows multiple people who were brought together during WWII for the Manhattan Project, to them just ‘the project’. Many, but not all the people recruited to refine uranium for the project, were women looking for work during the war. They were not told what they were doing or why, simply given instructions to do their job and that the project was to bring a speedy end to the war. They didn’t find out what the project was until the bomb was dropped on Japan and it was revealed to everyone on the radio that work had been done in Oakridge Tennessee, where they all were living and working. I found it very interesting how so many people were working on, at the time, the world’s biggest science project and managed to keep it all a secret. The atmosphere described from many personal accounts of those who lived at Oakridge reminded me in a way of a documentary I’ve seen about life at McMurdo Station Antarctica in that you become close to those who’ve shared the experience, because it’s such a unique experience, it’s hard for others to know how you feel. The book is roughly chronological and begins with people who lived on the location of Oakridge, before it was Oakridge, and follows a few people from around the country through the job application process, to work and daily life on the compound, to the end of the war and up to the modern day. It does on occasion move away from Oakridge and give some information on Oppenhiemer and the test site at Los Alamos. If you are interested in WWII or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) history I recommend this book to you.

[If you enjoy this, you may also like the fictionalized DVD series Bletchley Circle, which features women
code breakers during WWII, in London England. If you are looking for another non-fiction title, I recommend Antarctica: A Year on the Ice for a glimpse into life of the scientific research outpost on Antarctica.]

[ official Girls of Atomic City web site ] | [ official Denise Kiernan web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Young Frankenstein - The Story of the Making of the Film by Mel Brooks


Following the recent passing of actor Gene Wilder, a special live-streamed-in-theatres showing of Young Frankenstein, hosted by Mel Brooks, filled movie theaters across the country with fans of this goofy yet sentimental parody of horror films. During that live showing, Mel Brooks promoting his (at that time) upcoming book Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks Film – The Story of the Making of the Film, and I was thrilled to see that it was coming out in late October 2016. I bought my copy the day it came out and recommended it for the libraries’ collection, and I’m hoping they’ll get it.

This is a marvelous behind-the-scenes look at the making of 1974’s Young Frankenstein, featuring tons of photos previously never seen, plus interviews with some of the actors and production personnel, and recapped past interviews with the actors who have passed on in the intervening years. You can tell, from everyone’s comments, that anyone associated with this production holds this film (and their experiences making it) in high esteem. If you are a fan of Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeleine Kahn, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman or Terri Garr, and what to know what the origins of this film were, and what kinds of shenanigans took place during the filming, you’ll love this volume. If you’re a fan of film-making in general, this offers a marvelous look at the production of one single, memorable film. My only complaint? It wasn’t large enough and didn’t have enough interviews! “What hump?” “Give him a sedagive?!” “Put the candle back!” “Frau Blucher!” “It could be raining” “Werewolf? There wolf!” “Puttin’ on the Riiiitttzzz!”

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the DVD of Young Frankenstein, directed by Mel Brooks, or check out the sheet music or soundtrack album to the Young Frankenstein Musical, also by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan.] [ publisher’s official Young Frankenstein: The Making of the Film web site ] | [ official Mel Brooks web site – currently off-line ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

Ahsoka
by E.K. Johnston

Ahsoka takes place shortly after the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire. Ahsoka Tano, former Padawan of Anakin Skywalker, is trying to find her way on the Outer Rim while avoiding the Empire’s interest in surviving Jedi. Despite her efforts, Ahsoka finds herself drawn into standing against the Empire when a small community of farmers on an isolated moon find themselves being brutally exploited by an opportunistic bureaucrat. Her actions have larger ramifications as Ahsoka must find a new path forward if she and those she would protect are to survive. “Ahsoka” is a largely by-the-numbers story of the reluctant hero drawn back into standing against villainy. Still, it is a well-paced enjoyable read for any fan of Star Wars. Fans of the “Clone Wars” and “Rebels” television series will enjoy this book the most.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A New Dawn, by John Jackson Miller or Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray.]

[ Disney Lucasfilm Press’ official Ahsoka web page ] | [ official E.K. Johnston web site ]

See more books like this on the Star Wars: The Reading List booklist on BookGuide
 
Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Last Five Years on DVD

The Last Five Years
[DVD Last]

This film is an excellent transformation of a fascinating, if somewhat depressing, stage musical from Jason Robert Brown. Semi-autobiographical in nature, the story is told — mostly in song — by a young couple chronicling a five-year romantic relationship that is ending with their separation. Not all that unusual, you say? The woman, Cathy, a struggling actress (portrayed here by Anna Kendrick), tells her story backwards, starting with the break-up. The man, Jamie, a rising successful novelist (played by Jeremy Jordan), tells his side of the story in traditional chronological order. Though the actors are obviously in each others scenes, all the songs are basically solos, until the middle of the story/movie, when their storylines converge on a scene showing his proposal and their wedding — the only “duet” in the entire musical.

The storytelling is intriguing, the actors are excellent in their roles, and their voices are well suited to the songs — Jeremy Jordan (currently starring in Supergirl, was the lead in the Broadway musicals Newsies and Bonnie & Clyde, starred in the TV musical series Smash in 2013, while Anna Kendrick has been hugely successful in films lately, including musical turns in both Pitch Perfect movies and as Cinderella in Into the Woods). The story is an excellent five-year “slice of life”, it’s just that it is ultimately depressing to watch this relationship break down, from two different directions. Still…a fascinating film, especially for fans of musicals.

Also of note: This stage musical will be performed locally in 2017.

[Also available: Soundtracks to both the 2013 Off-Broadway cast recording and the film soundtrack, via our Hoopla digital service.]
 
[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official The Last Five Years movie web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses


What do an old bicycle, a Hollywood director, a room full of orchids, and an unpublished screenplay have in common? The answer is Grace Hammond, a computer translation proofer by trade, who is visiting her parents and hanging out with her best friend in her Connecticut hometown due to being temporarily – she hopes – jobless, homeless, and dumped. Will an old high school rival spoil her stay? Will she figure out the difference between a spoke wrench and a track cog? How will she decide between the three men she’s interested in? More importantly, will she come to terms with the most painful event in her past? Find out what makes Grace tick and what she ultimately wants in this charming contemporary romance. Author Simses achieves a very good balance of humor and drama in this, her second novel.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe, also by Mary Simses.]

[ official Rules of Love and Grammar page on the official Mary Simses web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Just Being Audrey

Just Being Audrey
written by Margaret Cardillo, and illustrated by Julia Denos [j Biography Hepburn]

When returning some new juvenile non-fiction titles to the “new materials displays”, this picture-book biography of the actress Audrey Hepburn caught my eye. Hepburn is one of the most famous actresses in film history — one of the “icons”, although with Marilyn, Bogart, Bette Davis and a handful of others, who set style trends just by being themselves. This lovely and charming autobiography hits the highlights of Audrey’s life, from her childhood in Nazi-occupied Europe, through her celebrated film career, to her international charity work on behalf of UNICEF. The art by Julias Denis is clean and bright, and capture’s Hepburn’s unique spirit. If you’re even in the slightly bit interested in the life and career of one of our most well-regarded film stars of days-gone-by, but don’t want to commit to a text-heavy biography, I recommend sampling this wonderful and engaging juvenile biography.

[ official Margaret Cardillo and Just Being Audrey web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Time and a Word: The YES Story by Martin Popoff

Time and a Word: The YES Story
by Martin Popoff [Music 781.66 Yes]

Rock journalist Martin Popoff calls himself a fan of Yes, but sometimes it would be hard to tell from this “celebration” of the group.

The title of the book is an allusion to the band’s second album, but also refers to the book’s structure, which consists of a chronology (“Time”) interspersed with numerous quotes (“a Word”) from the various figures involved. Unconventional though this is, it is an approach that makes sense given Yes’ convoluted history. Popoff uses this structure to provide a wide perspective on the group and the unusually large number of members it has had in its nearly 50-year history. He includes information about many (though not all) of the other groups and side projects that the members have been involved in. From the standpoint of a simple collection of facts about the band and its members, the book is a treasure trove for fans.

The book is a little weaker, though, when Popoff attempts to provide analysis and context. For better or worse, he seems to have a particular disdain for Jon Anderson’s lyrics. Anderson is known for lyrics writing that pays more attention to the mere sound of the words than to any coherent meaning in them, and Popoff is hardly alone in leveling just criticism at them. But this criticism is undermined by the author’s own verbal excesses; it’s hard to take his complaints entirely seriously when he uses a phrase like, “maudlin musical beds on which … hope bounces like a toddler.”

The book’s usefulness is hampered somewhat by the lack of an index; nonetheless, if Yes fans can set aside the author’s self-indulgent complaints about the band’s musical self-indulgence, this will be a welcome addition to the collection of rock histories.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Listening to the Future: The Time of Progressive Rock, 1968-1978, by Bill Martin, Rock & Roll Year By Year, by Luke Crampton or Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture, by Edward Macan.]

[ official Time and a Word: The YES Story web page on the official Martin Popoff web site ]

Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bloodfire Quest by Terry Brooks

Bloodfire Quest by Terry Brooks

The second book in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy picks up immediately after the first and leads right into the third. This makes it a bit difficult to separate the three of them because there is not even a slight pause between books. In this installment, Aphenglow’s sister, Arling begins to have a more major role. She is a one of a few chosen to care for a mystical tree which keeps a realm called the Forbidding locked away from their world, thus preventing all the demons locked inside from escaping. The tree is inhabited by a human spirit which can live for centuries, but it’s time has come and it needs a replacement or else the Forbidding will open. The tree has chosen Arling to renew its seed then take its place; she is terrified to sacrifice herself but still embarks on a quest to renew the tree’s seed in the Bloodfire. While all this is going on, there are still members of the initial expedition for the Elfstones trapped in the Forbidding and others outside the Forbidding trying to locate a long lost relative to help free their friends. Once again there is a large cast of characters and a lot of character development as they find themselves in situations they don’t feel they can handle. I won’t say there is a happily ever after to this or the previous book, but I still highly recommend this series if you like fantasy adventure. I listened to the audio book and the narration was fine but I also like having a paper copy because it includes a map of the world.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wards of Faerie (Book 1) and Witch Wraith (Book 3) in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks.]

[ official Bloodfire Quest page on the official Terry Brooks web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

Cruel & Unusual
by Patricia Cornwell

I’ve been reading mysteries and thrillers since the 1970s, and I was surprised to consider that I had never read of Patricia Cornwell’s series featuring coroner Kay Scarpetta, until the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery book discussion group discussed Cruel & Unusual, the fourth in the series, for our final meeting of 2016. Cornwell, with the Scarpetta series, is credited with being one of the authors to popularize the mystery sub-genre focusing on coroner and forensic work, long before TV shows like CSI and Bones became huge hits (although Quincy, M.E., with Jack Klugman, ran on NBC from 1976 to 1982).

In the Scarpetta novels, the private life and relationships of Scarpetta, her co-workers and her relatives, take has much priority as the mystery-solving. This is particularly the case in Cruel & Unusual, where partway through the book it is apparent that coroner Scarpetta is being set up to take the fall in some shady dealings in the medical examiner’s office. Supporting characters like homicide detective Pete Marino, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, and Kay’s tech-savvy niece Lucy Farinelli (a brilliant but anti-social 17-year-old in this novel), all serve as major supporting characters in this volume. The plot of Cruel & Unusual was pretty straight-forward, but I did find myself getting interested in the characters and their lives. While Scarpetta herself almost seemed “too good to be true”, she was also quite a flawed character, which made me care a little bit more about her and her fate. All in all, I’d call this a strong mystery/thriller, although there is such character development in each volume that it would be best to start this series at the beginning, with 1990’s Postmortem.

[ official Patricia Cornwell web site ]

See other titles and authors read by the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group on the Just Desserts archives

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Love and Friendship on DVD

Love and Friendship
based on the novel by Jane Austen [DVD Love] 

Based on one of Jane Austen’s earliest literary works, this film adaptation of “Lady Susan” is a comical satire of a mother’s attempts to get a husband for her daughter. In some respects the film reminded me of a series of comedy sketches all put together to tell a story. The humor is very subtle at first, but improves as the film goes on. This should not be compared with any of Austen’s later works which are more serious in nature yet with some humor as well. It is definitely worth watching.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sense and Sensibility (1995 – directed by Ang Lee) or Northanger Abbey] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Love and Friendship web site ]

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Velda: Girl Detective Vol. 1 by Ron Miller


I knew nothing about this till I saw it while browsing Hoopla. You can tell by looking at it that it’s old or done in an old style and it is former. Velda, the detective, solves a variety of crimes as the book is broken up into short cases. We find out in one of the stories her previous job was a risqué dancer, which actually does come into the story. I find it kind of funny how she uses her past career to talk people into confessing to a crime or exposing their lies to get the bottom of the case. She does appear nude a few times, but is covered so the readers don’t see everything, but the other characters do. So to me it a comedic mystery series and I really liked it. I was reminded a bit of reading the Batman newspaper comic strips because of the age (1950s-1960s); they are both about a crime fighting hero trying to make the city a better place in a time gone by. Right now there are eight other issues of Velda if you read this and like it. You can check them out digitally on Hoopla, which is linked on our webpage. You can also get to Hoopla by searching for the title in the catalog and clicking on the download button.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Batman Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 or 2, by Whitney Ellsworth, Batman the Cat and the Bat, by Fabian Nicieza or Danger Girl: Deluxe, by J. Scott Campbell, all available on Hoopla.] [ publisher’s official Velda, Girl Detective web page ] | [ official Ron Miller — Black Cat Studios 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!