Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (downloadable audio)

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
by Kate Wilhelm [Downloadable Audio from both OverDrive and Hoopla] 

Classic science fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic near future.


The survival of the human species seems in doubt, as both ecological and genetic disasters have lead to massive die-offs of the majority of the population, most of which has gone sterile. In an isolated scientific enclave, a group of desperate survivors believe the only solution is to clone the next several generations of human beings, in the hopes that the sterility gene can be bred out, and humans can return to normal biological reproduction.

The problem is…the clones don’t think the same way that we do…and what survives may not truly be human after all.

My science fiction club read this for a group discussion and there were strongly divergent opinions about the book. But most of us agreed that it was a fairly good example of early-to-mid-1970s “New Wave” science fiction, by one of the most prominent authors from that time period. I did enjoy this, and recommend it for most fans of “social science fiction” as opposed to “hard SF”.

[ Wikipedia page for Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang ] | [ official Kate Wilhelm web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Liberty Meadows: Volume 1: Eden

Liberty Meadows: Volume 1: Eden
by Frank Cho [741.5 Cho] 

Liberty Meadows is an animal sanctuary; Frank is the vet and Brandy is the animal psychiatrist. With what the animals get into, they need both a vet and a psychiatrist. Reading Liberty Meadows reminded me in a lot of ways of the Garfield comics I used to read. There are crazy animals that get into mischief while the humans go about their lives. Jon in Garfield tries repeatedly to get a date with Liz, and Frank in Liberty Meadows tries repeatedly to get a date with Brandy. The series was originally in newspapers and then collected into book volumes. This is book one of four and personally I look forward to reading the others. It’s a good laugh if you like Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes.

[If you enjoy this, there are four volumes of the Liberty Meadows series available to check out from the libraries.]

[ official Liberty Meadows web site ] | [ official Frank Cho web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise (on DVD)

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise
[DVD Biography Brooks] 

This 90-minute episode of PBS’ American Masters series is a marvelous biographical snapshot of American humorist Mel Brooks, writer for such classic TV series as Your Show of Shows and Get Smart!, and legendary director of films such as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, Life Stinks, The Producers and The History of the World, Part I.

Brooks, and many of his friends and co-stars, sat for freewheeling interviews with the documentary’s director, who intersperses their comments with clips from throughout Brooks’ career. This is a fast-paced show, but does have its quiet moments, especially as Brooks reminisces about second wife Anne Bancroft, and his work as a producer at Brooksfilms, where most of the movies he backs are serious dramas. But, it is when he is talking about his comic successes that the show really shines. I really appreciated the interview clips with so many of Brooks’ actors that had to be culled from other/earlier sources, since many of them have passed away — actors like Marty Feldman and Madeleine Kahn.

If you’re a fan of any of Brooks’ works, from his lengthy career, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re unfamiliar with Brooks and his films, I still recommend this biographical documentary…you’ll learn about a lot of films and TV series that are well worth your time to track down!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of Mel Brooks’ films, especially The Producers, Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles, or the TV shows he was involved with, including Your Show of Shows, Get Smart, and When Things Were Rotten.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this documentary ] | [ official Mel Brooks: Make a Noise (American Masters) web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Backbeat (on DVD)

Backbeat
[DVD Backbeat] 

This is a movie that was released in 1993–I believe I saw it when it first came out on VHS. I love the Beatles, and while I’m not a rabid fan (i.e. I’m not big into collecting things, I don’t know every little fact about the Beatles, etc.), I do consider them to be one of my top five favorite bands. I recently thought of this movie again, requested that we purchase it, and when it came in, I borrowed it. Stephen Dorff plays Stuart Sutcliffe, the Fifth Beatle. I had never known much about him at all–in fact, I’d always assumed Pete Best was the Fifth Beatle… I don’t know why. In fact, Pete Best was the drummer who was with the band for the first few years, right up until the time they made it big. (Unfortunately for him.) Stuart Sutcliffe, however, was really an art school chum of John Lennon’s. He plays bass in the band, mostly just “for a laugh”. It seemed like something fun to do, though painting was his real passion. He wanted to spend time with Lennon, and Lennon wanted him around as well, despite the fact that the band was carrying him. Once Sutcliffe meets Astrid Kirchherr, things begin to change for the whole band.

This entire cast is fabulous, in my opinion–I loved Stephen Dorff as Sutcliffe, and Ian Hart was amazing as Lennon. You might recognize Sheryl Lee, who played Astrid, as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Doors, with Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan and Kyla MacLachlan, Dreamgirls, with Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx and Beyonce, Almost Famous, with Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand and Billy Crudup, or Rockstar, with Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston and Timothy Spall]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wonder Woman '77 - Volume 1 (written by Marc Andreyko)

Wonder Woman ’77 – Volume 1
written by Marc Andreyko with art by various artists [YA PB (Graphic Novel) Andreyko] 

Following the recent success at DC Comics of a comic-book series recreating the style and town of the late 1960s Batman TV series, Batman ’66, this short-run comic book called Wonder Woman ’77 came out a couple of years ago. It features stories about Wonder Woman set during the 1977-1979 time period when Wonder Woman was being portrayed on television by Lynda Carter. The art faithfully recreates Diana Prince/Wonder Woman exactly as Carter looked, not to mention Lyle Waggoner’s version of Steve Trevor. The writer, Marc Andreyko deftly mixes comic-book villains from Wonder Woman’s “rogues gallery”, with the kind of “cops and robbers/international spy stories” that made up the bulk of the TV show’s storylines.

I grew up on Lynda Carter, and her trademark “sonic boom spin” to appear in her satin costume. The theme song is forever imprinted on my memory as a part of my youth. I loved the new Wonder Woman feature film, starring Gal Gadot, but MY Wonder Woman will always be rooted in the types of adventures shown on the small screen 40 years ago. This comic book is a marvelous time capsule, bringing that feeling back, but with superb art. Two trade paperback collections of Wonder Woman ’77 are already out, with a crossover “Wonder Woman ’77 Meets Batman ’66” coming shortly, and a “Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman” collection coming in the Fall of 2017.

This first volume also features a nice afterword “Waiting in Wonder” by editor Andy Mangels, and preliminary sketchbook art by a variety of the artists included in this collection. I particularly enjoy Nicola Scott’s beautiful cover designs!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Batman ’66 compilations, by a variety of writers/artist, plus the other Wonder Woman ’77 titles.] [ DC Comics’ official Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 1 web page ] | [ Wikipedia page for Wonder Woman ’77 ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tough As They Come by Travis Mills

Tough As They Come
by Travis Mills with Marcus Brotherton [Biography Mills] 

The next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself or life is beating you down, think about someone who has overcome the odds of survival after a catastrophic injury, let alone the odds of being highly functional again. Think about someone who has regained a positive, caring, helpful attitude after going through extreme trauma. Think about Staff-Sergeant (Army, Retired) Travis Mills. Travis, not yet 25, was on his 3rd deployment in Afghanistan in 2012 when he became the victim of a buried IED and was gravely wounded. Born in small-town Michigan, he was an ‘average’ kid, big and happy and a bit mischievous. After a great high school experience, his football dreams didn’t pan out and neither did his higher education efforts, so he decided to enlist, and joined the renowned 82nd Airborne Division. Doing so eventually led him to meet his wife, the sister of one of his squad members, who demonstrated unshakeable support when the unthinkable happened. Their daughter was one of his main motivations to suck it up and get on with his life. Relive Travis’ experience as a soldier, and then officer, who was always looking out for his fellows, and always thinking of ways to make the circumstances bearable and even fun. When the bomb exploded and shredded his limbs, medics weren’t sure he would even make it to the nearest hospital via helicopter — on which ride he asked after the welfare of 2 of his men who were less severely injured than he! But he did make it to Kandahar and then Germany and then back to the US at Walter Reed hospital, becoming one of only 5 servicemen in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict to survive a quadruple amputation. During his recovery/rehab time, Travis experienced a severe case of phantom pain and agreed to go into a Ketamine coma, with resultant bizarre side effects. That experience alone is just one of the gripping events he talks about freely. Travis’ motto, “Never Give Up, Never Quit” is simple but powerful. He has been able to see his handicaps as opportunities, and his limitations as challenges, with the support of doctors, nurses, therapists, family, friends, and faith. He drives, he goes downhill-biking, he cooks, he runs, he doesn’t let zippers get the best of him! – he lives his life without thought of whether it is “normal” or not. And he started a foundation to help other wounded/disabled veterans and their families, including providing sporting challenges and raising money to create an all-accessible, ‘smart home’ retreat. Tough, indeed, in the very best way!

[ official Tough As They Come page on the official Travis Mills web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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Friday, July 21, 2017

The 100 by Kass Morgan

The 100
by Kass Morgan [YA PB Morgan] 

In this post-apocalyptic world, the human race now resides on spaceships. Enough time has passed that the leaders believe the earth may be inhabitable once again. They decide to send 100 juvenile delinquents to earth, to see if they can survive… if they can’t, no one’s going to miss the delinquents anyway, right? We follow Clarke- the girl who was arrested for treason, Wells- the chancellor’s son, who refuses to leave his girlfriend’s side, Bellamy- who fought his way onto the ship to protect his little sister, and a handful of others as they arrive on earth and attempt to establish some kind of order and life, while struggling to survive against the elements of this planet that they have never experienced.

The book was an enjoyable, quick read. Switching between perspectives of the characters gives insights and clues about what is happening elsewhere. The reader can become conflicted about characters, as they view them from other perspectives, and also hear the internal thoughts of the character, and the reasons behind certain actions. The book ends with a cliff-hanger that makes the reader eager for the next book of the series. This book also has a television show based off of it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Carve the Mark, by Veronica Roth, The Testing, by Joelle Charobnneau or Legend, by Marie Lu.]

[ Wikipedia page for The 100 book series ] | [ Wikikpedia page for Kass Morgan ]

Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bridge of Spies (on DVD)

Bridge of Spies
[DVD Bridge] 

If I had one regret in my life, it would probably be that I didn’t pay sufficient attention to my history lessons in school. Seeing movies like Bridge of Spies helps spark that interest in history that I never really had before.

Tom Hanks plays Jim Donovan, an insurance lawyer assigned to defend a man, Rudolf Abel, who is accused of being a Russian spy during the height of the Cold War. While Donovan is mainly chosen because he’s skilled and will do what he’s told, it never occurred to his boss and the Attorney General that he would actually go above and beyond the call of duty to not only Defend Abel in the original trial, but also to appeal and then to fight for a prison sentence, rather than execution. Despite the fact that it puts himself and his family in an unsavory position, Donovan gives it all he’s got–and then some!

Tom Hanks is brilliant in this movie, of course, and it was wonderfully directed by Steven Spielberg…. but my favorite person in the whole movie is Mark Rylance, who plays Rudolf Abel! I saw this in the theater and couldn’t wait for it to come out on DVD to have my husband watch it, as well. Being the son of a history teacher, I knew he’d appreciate it–and he did!!!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Big Short, starring Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale, Argo, with Ben Affleck, John Goodman and Alan Arkin, or The Wolf of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie.]

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

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rebel Rising by Beth Revis

Rebel Rising
by Beth Revis [YA Revis] 

Rebel Rising is the story of Jyn Erso and what happened to her after her parents were taken from her. The story is told from Jyn’s point of view and details her growth from traumatized child to fanatical teen soldier and finally bitter, disillusioned adult. The story also gives us some more insight into Saw Gerrera and how he becomes the paranoid, ruthless warrior we meet in “Rogue One”. “Rebel Rising” is a good book overall. It does drag in some places and the ending is hindered that Jyn Erso’s character arc is incomplete by the end of the book. I would recommend the book as worthwhile, though not essential, read for older Star Wars fans.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Catalyst: A Rogue One novel, by James Luceno, Guardians of the Whills, by Greg Rucka or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, by Alexander Freed.]

[ Rebel Rising page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Beth Revis web site ]

Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis [j Lewis] 


Although unarguably a classic work of fantasy fiction, there is debate as to if it’s really the first in the Narnia series. Some say it is, while others claim ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ is the beginning. This was my second reading of it as I wanted to, at long last, read the whole series and refresh my memory of it of this one. The story is of Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy who find their way into Narnia by accident. They discover that the land is under rule of the Ice Queen and with Aslan’s help, they free the land, end the endless winter, and becomes kings and queens. In Narnia some animals talk and others don’t, Aslan the lion is basically God and as we find out in ‘The Magican’s Nephew’, he gave some creates this ability at the creation of Narnia. While there are more religious tones to this than say Tolkien’s Middle Earth series, I didn’t find it overly strong and it’s woven into the world and story nicely. I would recommend it to any age of reader, and even if you’ve read it before.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other Narnia books, by C.S. Lewis, A Land Apart From Time, by James Gurney, Roverandom or The Hobbit, both by J.R.R. Tolkien] [ official Narnia page on the official C.S. Lewis web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Moonglow by Michael Chabon (review of audiobook)

Moonglow
by Michael Chabon [Compact Disc Chabon]

As part of my goal to read all three of the 2017 One Book – One Lincoln nominees, I snagged this Michael Chabon title as a Book-on-CD, read by actor George Newbern.

It is a very nicely done audiobook production — Newbern manages to inject a variety of different vocal stylings for each of the different characters. Chabon’s writing is excellent…much of the book feels like free-associating. The story is an autobiographical retelling of elements from Chabon’s grandfather’s life, told in fictional style. There are moments of sublime pleasure, but I’ll have to admit that I found the structure of the novel — or perhaps I should say “lack of structure” to be a bit off-putting. None-the-less, the strengths do outweigh the weaknesses, and I do find myself recommending this particular title. I’ll have to admit, I’ve enjoyed other Chabon more, though (particularly alternate history novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union). The topics that the novel/biography touches upon would be worthy discussion topics for any One Book – One Lincoln book group: World War II, difficulties in communicating, manned space exploration, unreliable narrators, and more!

[ publisher’s official Moonglow web page ] | [ publisher’s official Michael Chabon web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Light Between Oceans (on DVD)

[DVD Light] 

We saw the movie video The Light between Oceans last week. It tells the story of a lighthouse keeper, living on an isolated island, who finds a baby in a boat near the shore. (There was a man in the boat who had died.) This all complicates the lives of the keeper and his wife. I felt is was really well done, and its the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a movie more than the book. (Before I always thought a book was better than the movie, yet this time, the book was good, the movie was Great!)

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Mr. Church, The Longest Ride or Lion] [Also available in traditional print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Light Between Oceans Facebook site ]

Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Midsomer Murders (on DVD)

Midsomer Murders
[DVD Midsomer]

This is a contemporary murder mystery series set in fictional Midsomer county in rural England. Based on the original six “Chief Inspector Barnaby” book series by Caroline Graham (a seventh came out in 2004) this series has been regularly pumping out new episodes for British television since 1997.

We follow Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (starring John Nettles) and his Detective Sergeant as they work throughout the villages of Midsomer as we meet your standard British villagers, outlandish characters, landed gentry, and suspects of all demographics. This series provides good mysteries, is character-driven, and we also slowly learn about the private lives of our favorite members of the police force and the medical examiners.

Along the way, the Detective Sergeants are promoted and transferred so over the course of the series we meet a handful of DS staff. Around year 14, DCI Tom Barnaby retires and his younger cousin, DCI John Barnaby (starring Neil Dudgeon) takes his place.

At the rate of murders in Midsomer county, it’s as dangerous to live there as in Cabot Cover, Maine with Jessica Fletcher.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series. When I initially began watching, I was overwhelmed with there being so many years to watch. Then all of a sudden I was done and didn’t know what to do with myself.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Prime Suspect (UK), Rosemary & Thyme (UK), Murder, She Wrote (US) or Diagnosis Murder (US).]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ un-official Midsomer Murders fan web site ]

Recommended by Charlotte M.
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!