Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review: Wine Folly: Magnum edition - The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition – The Master Guide
by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack [641.22 Puc]

My co-worker Lisa V., from Eiseley Branch, recommended this title during our final appearance on KFOR’s “Problems & Solutions” “book chat” episode in November, and I told myself to keep an eye open for it. When I saw one on our “New Books” display, I snagged it — and I’m glad I did.
Madeline Puckette is one of the brains behind the website WineFolly.com. This book is an expansion on a previous wine guide that was published (based on WineFolly.com’s content). This particular book is a marvel — it is jam-packed with color infographics, charts and useful information for anyone who generally enjoys wine, but doesn’t know how to determine which wines they may appreciate the most. Section 1 is “Wine Basics” and features handy background info about “What is Wine?”, “Wine Traits” (including the five most important elements — body, sweetness, tannin, acidity and alcohol), how to go about “Tasting Wine”, “Handling, Serving and Storing Wine”, and “How Wine is Made”. Section 2 is “Food & Wine”, covering how wines best pair with dozens of types of food, and how best to cook with wine. Second 3 is “Grapes & Wines”, and takes up 50% of the book — each type of “named” wine is given a page (sometimes two) with detailed background on the traits of that wine, what it pairs best with, where it comes from, how it’s made, what wines are similar to it, and more. This is the bulk of the book. Section 4 is “Wine Regions” and features entries showing which wines come from which regions of the world, and what wines from each region are recommended.

There are a lot of wine guides out there, but I find this one particularly helpful due to the “infographic” style it uses — everything is explained in clear, easy-to-understand images and terms. And if a term is unfamiliar, it’s probably simply defined in the appendix of terminology at the back of the book. If you’re only passingly familiar with wines or are only just starting to explore the differences in the hundreds of wines available to you, I highly recommend this handy volume.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wine Isn’t Rocket Science, by Ophelie Neiman, Wine for Dummies, by Sterling Roig or Reverse Wine Snob, by Jon Thorson.]

[ official WineFolly.com web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: Downsizing (on DVD)

Downsizing
[DVD Downsizing]

If you saw the trailer for this intriguing film by Nebraska-born film-maker Alexander Payne, you might have thought it was going to be a raucous, goofball comedy film that employed a lot of sight gags reminiscent of the old the 1960s TV series Land of the Giants, in which our miniaturized heroes deal with a whole lot of massively over-sized props. And if you watched only the first 45 minutes of this film, you might still think that’s all that this film had going for it. But there’s more going on here than initially meets the eye.

Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, an occupational therapist struggling to make ends meet with his wife wife Audrey. When European scientists perfect the technology to shrink humans to a 5″ height, Paul and his wife consider the possibility of making use of the non-reversible procedure — living at a smaller size, their modest nest egg of investments would allow them to live like millionaires in the new society that has been created to cater to those who have “downsized”. That’s the basic set-up. But when things don’t go quite as planned for Paul, that’s where the film shifts into an another tone and style.

What was generally a funny film, filled with site gags and “big ideas”, suddenly becomes a far more introspective and thought-provoking drama. The change is a bit jarring, and I’m not sure that the latter half of the film really lives up to the potential it showed early on. But it is still a very intriguing film, and shows that Alexander Payne is still pushing creative boundaries as a film-maker. And, as will almost all of his films, he manages to include references to Nebraska in this film as well — Paul and Audrey initially live in Omaha! Good performances from a well-chosen cast, including Christoph Waltz and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove). Just be prepared for some whiplash when the film changes directions partway through!

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

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Review: Elevation by Stephen King

Elevation
by Stephen King [downloadable audio]

This was a fun new book by Stephen King. I pre-ordered it on Audible, and I was lucky enough to have just finished my last audiobook when this became available! It was read by King, himself. That’s always fun, having the author read his or her own work, because they know exactly how the story should sound. I enjoy listening to King, because he’s not a trained voice actor, and his voice is actually not one of those you’d really CRAVE to listen to…. but he was better than respectable, doing a very nice job of keeping the various characters’ voices straight. I was impressed!

The story itself was not what some would consider “typical” Stephen King stuff… that is, it wasn’t a horror or thriller novel, in the traditional sense. However, what was happening to the main character, Scott Carey, was, in my opinion, spooky. It was a good read, and I really enjoyed it!

I think the reason I’m not giving it a full 5 stars is because it was a little on the short side. I’ve gotten so used to reading epic novels by King, that when something of his doesn’t take me more than a couple of days, I almost feel cheated. (That is, of course, unless it’s a novella or short story, and I know that going into it…. then I’m ready for a ‘quickie’ from him. But in this case, I think I was hoping for more….) Still, I’d definitely recommend it!

[ official Elevation page on the official Stephen King web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Review: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! (on DVD)

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
[DVD Mamma]

This 2018 sequel to 2008’s original film Mamma Mia, which itself was adapted from the “jukebox” stage musical which opened in 1999. This film reunites the entire cast from the first film, in a story that picks up years after the original. But, this film also features the added bonus of having huge flashback sequences to twenty years before the events of the first film as well. A cast of younger actors plays the memorable roles: Lily James (young Donna to Meryl Streep’s older Donna), Alexa Davies (young Rosie to Julie Walters’ older Rosie), Jessica Keenan Wynn (young Tanya to Christine Baranski’s older Tanya), Hugh Skinner (young Harry to Colin Firth’s older Harry), Josh Dylan (young Bill to Stellan Skarsgard’s older Bill) and Jeremy Irvine (young Sam to Pierce Brosnan’s older Sam). Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper reprise their roles as Sophie, Donna’s daughter, and her partner Sky. And throw in new characters played by Andy Garcia and Cher, as Sophie’s grandmother Ruby.

The plot in a nutshell is that Donna (Meryl Streep) has passed, and her daughter Sophie has completely updated the little Greek island taverna her mother ran, into a modern retreat, and she’s planning a spectacular grand re-opening. But she’s also discovered she’s pregnant, and is having relationship issues with Sky, who’s gone to the big city to pursue his career. Sophie invites all her “three fathers” back to the island for the special event, and scenes inter-cut between the older versions of the characters reuniting, and the young versions of the three women just out of school and on the adventure that brought them to the Greek Isles — particularly the three flings the young Donna had with Bill, Harry and Sam, which lead to Sophie’s existence.

The younger actors were perfectly cast in their roles, and all sing incredibly well. The use of ABBA songs is terrific, and provides a great deal of energy and fun in all the singing sequences. The choreography in various dance sections is all uniformly excellent as well. People complained with the first film that Pierce Brosnan couldn’t sing, but he pulls off a marvelous solo in this film. Cher’s short appearance as Sophie’s grandmother (Meryl Streep’s mother!), is a little overblown, but allows for her to sing “Fernando”, which is a great moment in the film. There’s actually a lot of emotional resonance in this film, if you’ve grown to care about the characters, and a cathartic moment near the end of the film, to the song “My Love, My Life”, that is especially memorable. And, of course, the entire cast — both generations — gets to dance to “Super Trouper” in spangly outfits at the end of the film — a goofy highlight.

Personally, I loved this film. Your mileage may vary, depending on how much you like the music of ABBA and have a willingness to let characters break out into song-and-dance numbers at the drop of a hat.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original first Mamma Mia film.] [Also available and worth recommending is the soundtrack album, featuring all the ABBA tracks as sung by the actors in the film.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Mamma Mia movies 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!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review: Leather Bracelets by Nihon Vogue-Shu

Leather Bracelets: 33 Step-by-Step Instructions for Leather Cuffs, Bracelets and Bangles With Knots, Beads, Buttons and Charms
by Nihon Vogue-Shu [745.594 Vog]

Having worked with hemp and embroidery thread to make bracelets before, I thought I’d check this out. The layout is a bit different than I’ve seen similar books. A good 30 pages is spent at the beginning featuring each style, followed by the tools and techniques section, then a guide to the knots. It’s not a complaint, but I thought it strange to have such a lengthy introduction to the styles instead of having them adjacent to the instructions for each and I think the two techniques/guide to knots sections could have been combined. The photos and diagrams are good, as are the written instructions. I particularly liked the tips for making the ends of the bracelets look more finished, and these are easily transferable to other bracelet making materials. I’ll probably be checking this one out again because unfortunately I didn’t have enough leather cord on hand to try out any of the projects with; however I did try one with embroidery thread I had and it turned out well. I think it’d also work to make some of these patterns with paracord or hemp; these would have different looks due to the different materials, so don’t let lack of leather cording hold you back from trying these patterns. If you have enjoyed making friendship bracelets, paracord projects or macramé, or are interested in trying these kinds of things, I’d recommend this book to you.

[ publisher’s Leather Bracelets web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Librach

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
by Michelle McNamara [364.15 McN]

More than just a true crime story, this is a memoir of one woman’s obsession to find the elusive serial killer who terrorized California for decades. Get the story behind the hunt for the Golden State Killer and meet some of the players who brought him to justice using ancestral DNA technology. Not just for fans of true crime, this is a beautifully written story.

[ publisher’s official I’ll Be Gone in the Dark web page ] | [ Wikipedia page for the late Michelle McNamara ]

Recommended by Jen J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Review: If You See Me, Don't Say Hi: Stories by Neel Patel


Oftentimes the only excuse I need to pick up a new book is that the title sounds unique enough. If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi sounds to me like a person’s passive cry for attention. I can appreciate that, despite its obnoxiousness. Most of the short story collections I have gotten into in the last few years have impressed me with their sincere intensity and depth of emotion. The title piece is about the ways in which two brothers have sometimes happily destroyed and over the years struggled to rebuild their relationship in their early adulthood. Many of the stories related romantic love, in all of its forms, and the ways in which it doesn’t last. Keeping up or failing to fulfill parental expectations, and the damage that can be done by parental gossip also played dramatic roles in this collection. I found that many characters had very “millenial” problems, such as using social media to their own detriment, and that worked well for me as a reader, but it might unfortunately date the book in a few years.

[ official If You See Me Don’t Say Hi page on the official Neel Patel web site ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library

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Review: Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Santa Bruce
by Ryan T. Higgins [currently available from the libraries only as an E-book, but hopefully soon also as a hardback jP picture book]

Grumpy and curmudgeonly bear Bruce returns in a holiday tale. The series of “Bruce” picture books for kids is a personal favorite of mine — the artwork and storytelling by Ryan T. Higgins is superb and exceptionally humorous. In earlier volumes in the series, grumpy bear Bruce is accidentally adopted as a “mother” by a bunch of baby goslings. In another, Bruce is coerced into turning his home into a hotel by his adopted kids, and by the pushy comical mice that have moved in with him. In this Christmas volume, Bruce is wearing a read coat and hat while outside in the snow, and is mistaken for Santa Claus. His “kids” and the mice do nothing to dissuade this and, in fact, work to convince Bruce to take on the role of Santa for all their neighbors’ and friends’ children. The humor is sweet and simple and the artwork is highly detailed. As someone in their mid-50s, even without kids or grand-kids of my own, I still enjoy and appreciate Higgins’ work. If you’ve got kids to read picture books to, they’ll love this entire series, and December’s a perfect time to introduce them to Santa Bruce!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other books in the “Bruce” series by Ryan T. Higgins, or his other picture books, including Be Quiet!, or We Don’t Eat Our Classmates!] [ official Ryan T. Higgins web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Christopher Robin (on DVD)

Christopher Robin
[DVD j Christopher]

Although this movie was marketed for “families” or “kids”, I think it was really intended for all us adults who grew up with the classic Winnie-the-Pooh and miss that sense of innocence and pure love in our lives..

Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Christopher Robin — the young lad who spent his childhood roaming the Hundred Acre Wood with his stuffed animal friends, Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Roo, Owl, Rabbit and more. Based on the classic children’s fiction of A.A. Milne, this film’s story places the adult Christopher in London, with his wife and young daughter. Following his service in The Great War, he’s taken a job with a luggage company, where he’s a workaholic, trying to save the struggling company from the bumbling leadership of the owner’s ineffectual son. His overworked nature leads Christopher to skip a planned family getaway to the country.

However, in the Hundred Acre Woods, Pooh bear misses his old friend Christopher Robin, and decides to seek him out, against the advice of his fellow stuffed animals. Slipping through a magical passageway in an old tree, Pooh appears in a park in London, drawn like a magnet to Christopher. The adult Christopher cannot believe his walking, talking, “imaginary” friend from his childhood has suddenly appeared in his adult life, leaving honey stains everywhere and eliciting concerned stares from the other adults around him. Christopher’s efforts to return Pooh to the Hundred Acre Wood result in comical misadventures, both in the Wood, where he must convince all the other stuffed animals that he’s not a hephalump, and in the real world, when Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger go on an adventure in London to assist Christopher and his young daughter.

While a bit uneven in places, and darker in tone than I would have preferred, Christopher Robin still manages to tell a marvelous adventure story, filling with moments of sincere emotion and humor. Anyone who grew up either reading the originals Milne stories, or watching the “American-ized” Disney cartoon versions of those stories, should truly love this sentimental journey back to reclaim some of their childhood. The special effects are phenomenal, bringing the stuffed critter to life, and the voices are absolutely perfect — Jim Cummings as the voices of both Pooh and Tigger, and Brad Garrett as Eeyore are particular standouts!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hook, the Robin Williams film, which features a similar plot of a middle-aged man rediscovering his enthusiasm for life while revisiting a part of his childhood.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Christopher Robin web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Review: The Bacon Lover's Cookbook by Christina Dymock

The Bacon Lover’s Cookbook
by Christina Dymock [641.636 Dym] 

I’ll have to admit it — second only to smoked BBQ, there’s probably no food I enjoy the taste of more than a good, smoky, crisp piece of thick-cut bacon. When I saw this cookbook on the “new books” display, I couldn’t pass it up! Author Dymock has compiled a collection of 50 bacon-centered recipes, in the following categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Sides, and Sweets. But first, she starts with several pages in which she discusses the various ways in which bacon can be cook, from frying, broiling and baking, to microwaving and grilling.

Each and every recipe is accompanied by at least one photo, illustrating the cooking process or the finished dish. There’s a lot of really simple, obvious, recipes — things that duplicate popular restaurant offerings like “Egg McMuffins”. The recipes I found to be more interesting, though, were for dishes that seemed a little more…unique. “Applesauce Bacon Dippers” are batter coated bacon slices cooked like a pancake, and ready to be dipped in applesauce or maple syrup. “Bacon Bruschettas” look like a marvelous variation on the popular appetizer. “Giant Cobb Sandwich” reimagines the classic salad as it would appear between bread slices. “Bacon Loaf” is a twist on meatloaf, using ground turkey and turkey bacon. “Bacon Wrapped Shrimp” is a variation on the classic favorite. “Mom’s Baked Beans” is made far more baconier. But it is in the “sweets” category, that Dymock really caught my attention — “Bacon Candy”, “Just Bacon Cookies”, “Bacon and Caramel-Dipped Apples”, “Bacon Brownies”, “Easy Bacon Caramels”, “Bacon Trifle”. Honestly, she had me at “Bacon S’Mores”.

One other thing I enjoy about The Bacon Lover’s Cookbook is that the author scatters little chunks of bacon trivia and knowledge throughout the content, as “Bacon Bits”. I learned quite a bit about the history of this delicious dish just browsing these nuggets of info. I really appreciated the photos in this book. The only reason it doesn’t get a higher score is the limited scope of only 50 recipes. Otherwise, a fun culinary read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bacon Nation: 125 Irresistible Recipes, by Peter Kaminsky, or Bacon 24/7: Recipes for Curing, Smoking and Eating, by Theresa Gillam.] [ Christina Dymock‘s Blog ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas [YA Fic Thomas] 

Starr Carter is torn between two worlds and struggles with having separate identities in each. When she witnesses a horrific event she must decide who she really is and where she stands. Well-written, heartbreaking and timely, this book will appeal to teens and adults alike. Read it before you see it!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, or Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany Jackson.]

[ publisher’s official The Hate U Give web page ] | [ official Angie Thomas web site ]

Recommended by Jen J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: Nemesis by Agatha Christie

Nemesis
by Agatha Christie

Nemesis is the last in the Miss Marple series, though not the last published (Sleeping Murder). It’s clear reading it that the Miss Marple in this story is much older than she’s been before, but that does not stop her from solving one more case. A very interesting case is presented to her in a very vague way by a former acquaintance who she meet during A Caribbean Mystery, Mr. Rafiel. She sees his obituary in the newspaper and shortly after receives a letter from his lawyers to come and see them. Mr. Rafiel, who’d been ill for some time, had, before his death, an old crime on his mind, and set Miss Marple on a sort of wild goose chase to not only solve it but find out for herself what the crime was, where is occurred and the persons involved. The lawyers inform her that if she accepts the mission (which they themselves know nothing of), Mr. Rafiel’s estate will cover all associated expenses. She accepts and discovers she’s been booked on a prepaid group tour bus to see gardens and old mansions of England. It’s on this trip that the mystery starts to take shape. This was one of my favorites Christie novels and even though one of the characters appears first in A Caribbean Mystery, you needn’t read it first unless you feel like it – it won’t be confusing. Highly recommended for mystery readers.

[If you like this I also recommend Rosemary & Thyme, a British TV show featuring mysteries, gardens, and older female sleuths much like this novel. You’ll probably also enjoy any others in the Miss Marple series, perhaps in particular A Caribbean Mystery, as it ties into this novel.]
 
[ official Nemesis page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Review: Hedgehogs (on DVD)

Hedgehogs
[DVD j Hedgehogs]

This one was a bit of a disappointment for me. My wife and I both love the cute little creatures known as hedgehogs (latin name Erinaceinae). So, when I saw what looked like a cute animated film about the critters, I couldn’t pass it up. I knew, going in to it, that it was not a film from one of the big well-known animation studios — Disney, Pixar, Sony, etc. — but it had a few recognizable actor names among the narrators — Jon Heder, Chevy Chase, Kari Wahlgren, so I presumed it wouldn’t be too disappointing. In the end, it was only mildly amusing. Bobby is an arrogant and prideful “star” hedgehog is in own little tribe. But when he gets in a fight and hits his head, he loses his memory and finds himself stranded in a big city, instead of the countryside he comes from. There are some cute character bits — I particularly liked most scenes with Hubert, the overweight, good-natured pigeon who befriends Bobby. But overall, this all fell a bit flat, and the film-makers’ “messages” related to behavior and conservation were a bit over-the-top.

Still, a slightly amusing romp with fairly decent animation. If you’re not expecting much, you may find yourself enjoying this one!

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

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor (on DVD)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
directed by Morgan Neville [DVD Biography Rogers]

I had the immense pleasure of seeing this documentary biography film about beloved Fred Rogers while it was in the local theaters a few months back, and am excited and proud to have added it to my personal DVD collection as soon as it came out in that format.

This is an absolute charming and well-constructed look at the life of Fred Rogers, particularly focusing on his development of the PBS educational television series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Through a marvelous combination of archival footage, home movies, and recently-conducted interviews with Fred’s colleagues, family and friends, we see a picture of what influences led Rogers to his ultimate career path. We then also see examples of the thousands and thousands of children, whose lives he touched. I particularly enjoyed seeing him face down a hostile congressional hearing to plead for continued funding for public television.

Though there are many in today’s harsher cultural climate who claim that Mister Rogers had a damaging influence, my own experience was completely the opposite — Rogers was a huge influence on making myself and other kids of my general into better human beings than we might have been had he not had the calling to make his show. I was not the only viewer to leave the theatre with moist eyes after watching this documentary. And I cannot recommend this well-made documentary highly enough. If you’re young enough that Mister Rogers was not a part of your childhood, this film may help you understand some of the quirks of your parents’ generation, and if you grew up with the kind, gentle, reassuring presence that was Fred Rogers and his television Neighborhood, this will certainly bring back some good memories and warm feelings.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King, or I’m Proud of You by Tim Madigan.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Won’t You Be My Neighbor? web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Review: Hardcore Henry (on DVD)

Hardcore Henry
[DVD Hardcore]

I haven’t seen a movie filmed like this before. From start to finish we see everything through the main character’s eyes. As a result it can be a bit roller coaster like with all the action and may make some viewers motion sick. There is no narrator so this point of view means that the confusion of Henry is the confusion of the viewers as well. He awakes after some trauma with missing limbs/eyes/ect and is fitted with new robotic body parts. His wife is the doctor tending to him and just about when he’s going to get his voice programmed, alarms go off that the facility is under attack; therefore he goes the rest of the movie with out being able to speak. He and his wife escape, but she’s captured by the villain and Henry is on his own, not knowing where he is or what he’s doing, aside from fighting off the villain’s minions who are chasing him throughout the whole movie. He meets a guy named Jimmy who recognizes him, knows his name and offers him help. Jimmy dies, violently and repeatedly, yet appears again later looking different, acting as though this is not at all weird. The truth about Jimmy and the whole plot of the movie is revealed toward the end. This is a rated R movie because it contains brutal violence with blood and guts, obscene language, drug use, and nudity; it’s clearly not a movie for everyone, so viewer discretion is advised. However if you like violent action movies and or FPS games and don’t easily get motion sick, this one is pretty good.
[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try John Wick; Judge Dredd – The movie or books. The DVD, of the 2012 film (there was on older one from 1995, which I have not seen but have been told is not that good) used to be in the library collection but no longer is. I reviewed it in July 2013, if you are interested. The books are available as paper copies or ebooks via Hoopla Digital. I’ve heard positive things about the books.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Review: Educated by Tara Westover

Educated
by Tara Westover [Biography Westover]

I found this memoir to be a little slow-moving at times. Nevertheless, I was completely intrigued by Tara Westover’s story of her childhood and young adult years, and how she managed to survive and flourish despite a very odd upbringing. Sometimes, you hear about extreme survivalists, getting ready for the “end times.” But I never thought I’d get such a clear inside-view of what the preparation and day-to-day lives of those people would be like.

Knowing, from the very onset of the book, that Westover grew up in a very strict Mormon family, I assumed it was going to be a story of polygamy and of being betrothed at an early age to some crusty old man who already had three other wives. (I’ve read a few of those, and they’re always sad and disturbing.) But this was nothing like that at all. This was a story of people living almost more the way I always picture Amish people living–not many of the “comforts” of the modern world as we know them… not utilizing the advantages of modern medicine, etc.

Despite several experiences in Westover’s life where she very easily could have been horribly maimed or killed, due to stupid accidents and the aforementioned resistance to modern medicine. Somehow, though, Tara survived and went on to not only escape this lifestyle–she went on to become very successful and well-respected in an area that her family was dead-set against: public education.

This was well written and kept my attention throughout the entire story…

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Escape, by Carolyn Jessup, or Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, by Elissa Wall.] [ official Educated page on the official Tara Westover web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones

Supergirl: Being Super
by Mariko Tamaki (writer) and Joelle Jones (artist) [YA PB (Graphic Novel) Tamaki]

I’ve been a follower of the mythology of Superman and his various Kryptonian relatives since watching the Christopher Reeve Superman films of the late 70s and early 80s. In particular, I’ve always been partial to the adventures of Superman’s cousin, Kara, who is known as Supergirl here on Earth. Kara made several appearances in the TV series Smallville (all of season 7 and guest bits in seasons 9 and 10), and the character stars in her own TV series, Supergirl (which premiere on CBS and now airs on the CW).

This graphic novel (a compilation of four monthly comic books) caught my eye on our Teen display, and I couldn’t resist. This storyline is almost an origin tale, and places Kara as a teenager in a small midwestern town, dealing with the intermittent failure of her superpowers. The death of a friend, which she could not prevent, leads Kara into an emotional journey in which she learns more about her true heritage and bonds with her parents and friends. The artwork and storytelling are terrific, and I really connected with the characters’ flaws and emotional weaknesses.

Highly recommended!

[ DC’s official Supergirl: Being Super web page ] | [ official Mariko Tamaki blog ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Review: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man
by Ray Bradbury

It had been a long time since I’d read anything by Ray Bradbury, but recently a copy of The Illustrated Man came my way, and it seemed like a good time to try this author again. The Illustrated Man is a collection of eighteen short stories, framed by a prologue and epilogue, all dating from the period 1948 to 1951. (The selection of stories in the collection varies somewhat from edition to edition; the ones mentioned here are all included in the 2011 edition held by Lincoln City Libraries.)

Though Bradbury is usually considered a science fiction writer, he said in later years that his only science fiction work was Fahrenheit 451, and all of his other speculative fiction was fantasy. But by the standards of the time when these stories were originally published, some would have been considered science fiction, some fantasy, and some would fall somewhere between the two. With only one or two exceptions, the stories have a dark tone, bordering in some cases on horror – “Zero Hour” is particularly chilling. “The Veldt” could have been the inspiration for Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “holodeck” – particularly those episodes where something goes wrong. “The Long Rain,” though set on Venus (and written at a time when some scientists thought that Venus might be habitable), is a psychological study of the effects of prolonged exposure to extremely harsh conditions. “The Concrete Mixer” is a satire commenting on militarism on the one hand, and the banality of popular culture on the other. “The Exiles,” perhaps my favorite story in the collection, is a surreal fantasy with themes prefiguring those in Fahrenheit 451. Special mention should be made of “The Other Foot,” since it shows both a strength and a weakness of Bradbury’s. The story involves the arrival of a white man on Mars, which had been colonized decades before by African-Americans (“Negros,” in the terminology of the early 1950’s). For the time when it was published, nearly 70 years ago, this story was controversially progressive in its view of race relations, though it may not seem so from our perspective. But this progressiveness is not paralleled in Bradbury’s portrayal of gender roles in the stories, in which there is not the slightest hint of anything other than a patriarchal society with women in subservient roles. So this collection can only be recommended with a strong warning that this particular blind spot on the author’s part will seem uncomfortable to most modern readers.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Fahrenheit 451, also by Ray Bradbury, or the works of Isaac Asimov.] [ official Illustrated Man page on the official Ray Bradbury web site ]

Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services – Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: In the Shadow of the Moon: When the Whole World Looked Up (on DVD)

In the Shadow of the Moon: When the Whole World Looked Up
[DVD 629.454 In]

This is an absolutely marvelous documentary, presented by Ron Howard, in 2008, that covers the Apollo space program. Featuring dozens and dozens of exclusive interviews with astronauts and others involved in America’s efforts to land a man on the Moon. Interspersed with the contemporary interviews are numerous examples of archival footage from the space race. The whole is expertly pieced together with unifying music and superb pacing.

If you’re at all interested in space exploration, and this critical period in American history (1968-1972), you’ll love this film. I’ve seen it aired on television a few times, but this DVD set from the libraries includes several “special features”, including filmmaker commentaries, a short piece on the music score for this film, and over 60 minutes of additional interview footage which didn’t make it to the television airings of the documentaries. For space enthusiasts and anyone interested in inspirational stories of scientific underdogs battling long odds.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the feature film Apollo 13.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Review: Allegiance: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Allegiance: Original Broadway Cast Recording
by George Takei (and others) [Compact Disc 782.14 All]

Star Trek actor George “Mr. Sulu” Takei has crafted a particularly influential persona for himself in recent years as an internet activist. His online presence, which started with tongue-in-cheek humor, gradually expanded to allow Takei to embrace and promote some of the issues near-and-dear to his heart. One of those causes, which he has tried to educate the public about for decades, is the shameful chapter in American history in which close to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned in internment camps in the United States during World War II — including Takei and his family.
That experience, and the experiences of so many other Japanese-Americans that Takei knew, serves as the inspiration for this stage musical, which premiered in San Diego in 2012 and then was produced on Broadway in 2015. Takei even starred in both productions.

Allegiance features music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, with a book by Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. Performers on this soundtrack album include Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and more. The songs range from incredibly emotional to humorous to catchy. Even without the full script in front of you, listening to the music on this soundtrack will still give you a strong feeling for the tone and messages of the full musical. And if you ever have the chance to see the filmed version of Allegiance (which played a few times in our local theaters), I highly encourage you to take the opportunity. The actors/singers were all superb. And the light this musical shines on a dark corner of American history may help us to think carefully before future such human rights violations are allowed to occur again in the future.

[ official Allegiance Musical web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell (as a downloadable audio)

A Simple Favor
by Darcey Bell [downloadable audio]

I have to say, I’m a little shocked that this is the first book by this author, Darcey Bell. It was amazing and I think Bell writes with the skill of a much more seasoned author!

I listened to the audio version of this book, which was read by three different narrators. I LOVE it when enough care (money?) is put into a book to have different characters’ voices narrated by different people! This is one of those books where portions are coming from different perspectives. I love that style!

This story reminded me of Gone Girl, simply because of the sneakiness and the depth of darkness that one particular character has (Emily). I found myself, at times, identifying with the one that was the blogger, the one folks would consider a super-mom (I think they called her Captain Mom in the story)… her name is Stephanie, and part of me identified with her… the part that wants to be a good mother and also wants to write and reach out to others–not the dark, secretive part of her that she can’t quite keep buried; not the part that gets a little TOO involved with Emily and Sean’s family when Emily goes missing….

I was hooked on this story from the very beginning, and I never lost interest! Looking forward to more from Ms. Bell!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.] [ publisher’s official A Simple Favor web site ] | [ official Darcey Bell Twitter feed ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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

Customer Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a story about Scout, a young girl in Maycomb, Alabama. Her father, a lawyer, tells his children, “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” as he defends a black man charged with assaulting a white girl. As Scout and her brother, Jem, explore the adult world as life goes on, learning and growing up at the same time, Harper Lee gives us a book that is, above all, a satisfying tale of human courage.


reviewed by Mina L.
customer of the Walt Branch Library
November 28, 2018

[Library Note: In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1961, To Kill a Mockingbird was the winner in the national Great American Read literary popularity poll conducted by PBS during the Summer/Fall of 2018, as "America's Favorite Book".]

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New Customer Reviews appear whenever we receive submissions on the Customer Reviews page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually shortly after they appear on our site.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Wizard of Oz (on DVD)

The Wizard of Oz
[DVD j Wizard]

Somehow I have managed to not see this movie in its entirety before, but it was on TV while I was on a trip so I took the chance to watch it recently. It was a pretty pleasant movie with more singing than I thought it had. I was familiar with the story but I enjoyed the beginning while Dorothy is still in Kansas and the lead up to the tornado that takes her and Toto to Oz. What I had not realized before is that the Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow and Wicked Witch are also characters in Dorothy’s life in Kansas (the witch didn’t like Toto in that reality either). I’m sure most people are familiar with the journey to Emerald City via the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard and that her shoes could have taken her home straight away, but all the same it was entertaining to watch. If you are like me and have not seen this movie before, I think it is worth watching. Some classics I feel I could take or leave, even if I’m told it’s a must, but it was really rather good in my opinion, even thought I wouldn’t probably watch it again. I think it’d appeal to a general audience, any age or interest.

[This classic story is also available in its traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for The Wizard of Oz (1939) ]

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!

The Mystery of Agatha Christie - repeat performance event this Wednesday evening!

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 75-minute presentation at the Bennett Martin Public Library, this Wednesday evening, November 7th, 2018, 6:30-7:45 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories.

Bennett Martin Public Library staff member Scott Clark, who is a local community theatre actor, will present this program in character as Christie's sleuth Hercule Poirot, the character he just finished portraying in Black Coffee, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse in late October 2018 and early November. He will also speak about this recent theatre production.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Agatha Christie: Murder in Four Acts: A Centenary Celebration of "The Queen of Crime" on Stage, Film, Radio and TV by Peter Haining

Agatha Christie: Murder in Four Acts: A Centenary Celebration of “The Queen of Crime” on Stage, Film, Radio & TV
by Peter Haining [823 qChrYh]

As part of preparing to give a special library presentation on “The Mystery of Agatha Christie” in both September and November at two different library locations, I dug through my own personal collection of Christie-related non-fiction books, and was pleased to discover that not only did I own a copy of this particular volume, but so do the libraries!

This is a marvelous “coffee table” book that came out in 1990, to celebrate Dame Agatha’s 100th birthday. As the title indicates, it is a in-depth look at all the variations on Christie’s works that have been done for Radio, Stage, TV and the movies. There are detailed explorations of all the actors and actresses that had played Christie’s signature characters (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, etc.) up through 1990. This charming book features more behind-the-scenes photographs from various Christie adaptations than I’ve seen anywhere else, including online.

If you are an Agatha Christie afficionado, you won’t want to miss this one. The only drawback is that it came out 28 years ago, and therefore doesn’t includes much about the more recent Christie media adaptations. But, it does still include David Suchet as Poirot, as he had begun that iconic role shortly before the book was published.

[ official Agatha Christie web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 75-minute presentation at the Bennett Martin Public Library on the evening of, November 7th, 2018, 6:30-7:45 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories. But first, join fellow theater-goers in attending the play Black Coffee, not-so-coincidentally starring this very reviewer as Hercule Poirot, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse on October 19-21 and November 2-4 2018.

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

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Agatha Christie

The Mousetrap and Other Plays
by Agatha Christie [822.9 Chr]

For the past two+ months (September to early November), I’ve been rehearsing and then performing as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s play “Black Coffee” (finishing its run November 2-4) at the Lincoln Community Playhouse. “Black Coffee” was produced there in conjunction with a production of the Miss Marple play “A Murder is Announced” at the Community Theatre in Beatrice, NE. I was part of the play-reading team that selected both of these plays — in preparation for that, I had to read almost all 16 of the stage plays that Agatha Christie wrote, in order to find which plays could share similar, unchanging sets. I grew to have a very strong appreciation for Christie’s play writing capabilities — over the course of her career, she felt her mystery-writing became very formulaic, and in fact described herself as “a sausage factory” in the way in which she cranked out stories and novels with such regularity. But, she was truly passionate about the writing of her plays, and found them to be a far more creative process that fiction-writing was.

This marvelous collection brings together 8 of her 16 plays — Not “Black Coffee”, I’m afraid — including the three she is perhaps best known for in the theatrical world — “And Then There Were None”, “Witness for the Prosecution” and the record-setting “The Mousetrap” (which has played continuously in London’s West End theatrical district for 66 straight years, since its 1952 premiere). None of these eight plays feature any of Christie’s recurring characters — they’re all stand-alones. And, sadly, the collection doesn’t include another of my personal favorites, “Spider’s Web”. But the eight plays that ARE in this collection are all very entertaining and give you a pretty good “snapshot” of Christie’s play writing skills. Even if you weren’t able to view “Black Coffee” and “A Murder is Announced” in our local theatrical experiment, I encourage you to grab TITLE and dive into some classic mystery and thriller stagecraft. Perhaps a production of one of these will also show up in an area theatre in the future!

[ Wikipedia page for The Mousetrap and Other Plays (including sub-pages for each individual play) ] | [ official Agatha Christie web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 75-minute presentation at the Bennett Martin Public Library on the evening of, November 7th, 2018, 6:30-7:45 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories. But first, join fellow theater-goers in attending the play Black Coffee, not-so-coincidentally starring this very reviewer as Hercule Poirot, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse on October 19-21 and November 2-4 2018.

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

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Mirror Crack'd (From Side to Side) by Agatha Christie

The Mirror Crack’d (From Side to Side)
by Agatha Christie

This is a Miss Marple novel featuring a movie star who recently moved into her village. The actress holds a party and a guest ends up dead after a drink. At first there is no clear motive so it seems it was an accident, but the poison in the drink was put there intentionally, so we have a mystery. The actress and her husband are not very forthcoming with information to aid the police; thankfully Miss Marple does her usual poking around and observing human nature to come to the truth. It took me a while to get into this one because revolves around the lives of the rich and famous along with the gossip and rumors that surround even fictitious ones, and this is not something I really pay attention to in real life. However, it was quite interesting the further into it I read and the solution to the mystery was quite believable, so I did enjoy it. I’d recommend this to British mystery readers and or those who enjoy the celebrity gossip scene as you may like it more than I did.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hollow, a Hercule Poirot novel, also by Agatha Christie.]

[ official The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Special Event: Don’t miss “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, a special 75-minute presentation at the Bennett Martin Public Library on the evening of, November 7th, 2018, 6:30-7:45 p.m. — a celebration of all things “Christie”, covering the author and her life (including her mysterious 11-day disappearance), her entire body of written work, and the stage, screen and television adaptations of her stories. But first, join fellow theater-goers in attending the play Black Coffee, not-so-coincidentally starring this very reviewer as Hercule Poirot, at the Lincoln Community Playhouse on October 19-21 and November 2-4 2018.

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

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