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Staff Recommendations

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The Bennett Martin Public Library downtown maintains an ongoing “Staff Recommendations” display – Staff from throughout the library system are encouraged to submit book, audio, CD and DVD/video recommendations for items to be placed onto this display. Items on the display have bookmarks inserted, giving brief descriptions about the item’s appeal factors, and listing similar books, audios or videos that the reader might also enjoy.

This page on BookGuide is used to highlight some of the items that have appeared on our Staff Recommendations displays in the past, including our staff members’ descriptions of the books, plus links to any “official Web sites” for the books, authors or series, if they exist*. Items on both the display and on this webpage may be recent releases, or older titles that deserve another look. Hotlinks on titles or formats (downloadable audio, book-on-CD, Large Print) connect to the appropriate entry in our on-line catalog, so that you may check on the availability of the item.

INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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September 2018 Recommendations

Walk on Earth a Stranger
by Rae Carson [eBook and downloadable audio]

Lee Westfall has a carefully guarded secret; she can sense gold. Whether it is gold buried in the ground, surrounded by stone, or her mother’s locket, she can point directly to it. This ability has allowed her family to survive, even when times are tough. She enjoys life with her parents, even if she is picked on by all the girls at school. Lee knows that if anyone knew her ability, they may attempt to use her gift for themselves. Sure enough, the secret that Lee and her parents have carefully guarded slips out, and now Lee must fight against those who would try to use her for their own purposes. Lee joins the many others headed west in the California Gold rush, in an attempt to escape and to make a new life for herself.

There were a few times that the storyline moved a little slowly, but this was a fresh take on the California Gold Rush.

[ publisher’s official Walk on Earth a Stranger web site ] | [ official Rae Carson web site and Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


At Bertram’s Hotel
by Agatha Christie

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

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Big Four, also by Agatha Christie] [ official At Bertram’s Hotel page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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

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

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Sleeping Murder
by Agatha Christie

A young woman, newly married, moves to England from New Zealand to find a house while her husband finishes military duty. She finds one that instantly feels like home and after moving in experiences some strange recollections as though she’d lived there before. With the help of her husband and Miss Marple they discover that she had in fact lived in that very house as a toddler. More memories surface and more about the past comes to light the more they poke around. They find a murder took place in the home and while she’s advised to let sleeping murders lye, after a point, it’s too late to stop unearthing the truth. I really enjoyed this one and would say it’s one of my favorite in the Miss Marple series (and I only have one more to read). This one reminded me of another Christie novel, Five Little Pigs, which also involved delving into a young woman’s childhood for not so pleasant truths about a murder in the family. If you enjoy mysteries set in the past and or in Britain, or books about family secrets then I recommend this to you.

[Note: This is the final Miss Marple mystery, written in the 1940s and published in 1977 after Agatha Christie’s death.] [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Five Little Pigs, also by Agatha Christie] [ official Sleeping Murder page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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

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

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


They Do It With Mirrors
by Agatha Christie

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

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hollow, also by Agatha Christie – another mystery/romance, but features Poirot, not Miss Marple.] [ official They Do It With Mirrors page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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

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

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Harry’s Trees
by Jon Cohen

I work in a public library, and one day, a patron returned this book, telling me I should definitely read it. She said that a good portion of the story involves an old librarian and a library struggling to stay open. Right there, I was hooked.

Once I began this story, I knew I was going to love it. I love the way it is written, interweaving fairy tales in with modern day, true-to-life situations. The characters are developed so well, I think I could travel into the forest and nearby town in this story, and I’d find them all there. They’re so very real.

Indeed, there is an old librarian and a struggling library in this story, but there’s so much more. There’s a great love of nature present, especially a love of trees. Being a self-proclaimed “tree hugger,” this book was right up my alley!

If you’re at all into fairy tales, or libraries, or the idea of good winning over evil, I’d say you should pick this book up!!!.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King.] [ official Harry’s Trees and official Jon Cohen web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Book Uncle and Me
by Uma Krishnaswami [j Krishnaswami]

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

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

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


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

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

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

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

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

[ Publisher’s official The Magic Behind the Voices web page ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Daughter of the Pirate King
by Tricia Levenseller [YA Levenseller]

Captain Alosa is successful when she gets herself kidnapped by another pirate crew who are expecting a large ransom for the daughter of the feared pirate king. However, they do not know that getting kidnapped is exactly what Alosa wants. Her father has sent her on a mission to locate part of a map which is somewhere aboard the ship on which she is now captive. It’s a battle of wits as she and her interrogator Riden, the attractive first mate, try to get information from each other.

Alosa is a feisty, quick-witted and stubborn character, and her exchanges with Riden and the crew are humorous. This was a fun, quick read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Daughter of the Siren Queen, also by Tricia Levenseller.] [ “Daughter of the Pirate King on the official Books page on the official Tricia Levenseller web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Julian is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love [jP Love]

I picked up this book because from first glance you can tell that this is a story about a young person figuring out who they are in this world. The cover is beautiful to me, and the illustrations inside are even more dazzling. I enjoyed reading this book because of the little glimpses of loving talk in a Spanish-speaking family. This book had a beautiful message to it, as abuela allowed Julian to dress up how they wanted to and even took them around to see others in similar jubilant garb.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Natsumi!, by Susan Lendroth, or Jerome By Heart, by Thomas Scotto.] [ publisher’s official Julian is a Mermaid web site ] | [ official Jessica Love web site ]

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life
by Laura Thompson [Biography Christie]

A fascinating look at “The Queen of Crime”. Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and died in 1976. Over the years, there have been several biographies of the world’s best-selling novelist, including her own posthumously published autobiography, which came out in 1977 (thought it was written in 1965). Thompson’s tome is one of the better looks at Christie’s life, and peeks at some of the elements of Dame Agatha’s background that often get short shrift in other biographies, including her many works written specifically for the stage.

Using extensive excerpts from Christie’s own writings, Thompson explores what made Agatha tick. Special attention is given to the 11-day disappearance of Christie in late 1926. Thompson’s writing style tends to wander a bit, and while I appreciate the inclusion of so many Christie “clips”, there could probably have been fewer of them, in order to streamline the book a bit. At the same time, since I’m a huge Christie fan, seeing those excerpts just made me want to re-visit the Christie works from which they were pulled. To be honest, I think Agatha’s own autobiography is a slightly more entertaining read, but for anyone interested in Agatha’s life, this book is definitely a recommended read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try An Autobiography, by Agatha Christie.] [ official Agatha Christie web site ] | [ official Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life page on the official Laura Thompson web site ]

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

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Star Wars ReviewsThrawn: Alliances
by Timothy Zahn

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

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

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn, Ahsoka, by E.K. Johnston or Lords of the Sith, by Paul S. Kemp] [ Thrawn: Alliances on Wookiepedia ] | [ Wikipedia page for Timothy Zahn ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


Screening Room

formatdvdThe Avengers: Infinity War
[DVD Avengers]

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdThe Disaster Artist
[DVD Disaster]

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

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

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

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

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdEarly Man
[DVD j Early]

This 2018 film from Aardman Animation, the folks who’ve previously brought us Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep, didn’t stay in theaters long in early 2018, on its initial release. This is probably due to its very originality — they weren’t capitalizing on any of their established characters, but were trying to break new ground. And, for whatever reason, the audience just didn’t “connect” with it as much as with their previous films. That’s a shame, because this a delightful, entertaining film.

The plot, in a nutshell, involves a tribe of Stone Age primitives, represented primarily by Dug (voice of Eddie Redmayne), struggling to protect the valley where they live, from incursion by miners from a Bronze Age city, represented by the venal local Bronze Age leader Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). The chosen battlefield where their conflict comes to a head is…a soccer field, where Lord Nooth believes his experienced players will easily dominate the primitives, who’ve never played before. Little does he realize that Dug’s ancestors invented the game of soccer years ago, or that a rebellious girl from his own society, Goona (Maisie Williams), will help the Stone Agers to train and give them a fighting chance at saving their homeland.

The film has lots of humor, ranging from simple heartfelt comedy to broad slapstick farce. Director Nick Park provides the “voice” of warthog “Hognob”, Dug’s persistent sidekick, and gets some of the funniest scenes and “lines” for himself. The voice work is terrific across the board, as is the Aardman clay animation. There are a lot of visual jokes to catch, if you’re paying close enough attention. And for fans of “extras” on DVDs, there are a couple of very nice “making of” specials that are worth checking out. A fun film, although I do still prefer the previous offerings from Aardman.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep (which is definitely aimed at a much younger audience).] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Early Man web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdTremors: A Cold Day in Hell
[DVD Tremors]

This straight-to-DVD movie is the latest film in the Tremors saga, which started with a feature film back in 1990, and has grown to include six movies, TV-movies, or straight-to-DVD movies, plus a short-lived 2003 13-episode TV series on the SciFi channel. I would put this close to the kitschy level of the Sharknado TV-movies that the (now) Syfy network continues to air, but the Tremors films actually try to take themselves somewhat seriously. The one unifying factor in all of them is the presence of Michael “Family Ties” Gross as Burton Gummer, a gun-toting, reactionary, conspiracy-theory-spouting anti-government militant. He also seems to be the go-to guy for fighting back against an increasingly varied bunch of mutated, predatory life forms. The Tremors monsters, frequently nicknamed “Grabboids”, are 25′-long underground burrowers, that surface to grab onto their victim and suck them below the sand or soil. They have added aerial versions (“Assblasters”), that fly and emit concussive blasts. The creatures primarily live underground, and track their prey by the sound vibrations of their movement on the surface of the ground (i.e. the “tremors” caused by footfalls and other movements).

In this latest installment, Gummer and his estranged, opportunistic son, played by Jamie Kennedy (introduced in the 5th movie), are roped into going to the frozen wastelands of Canada’s Nunavet territory, where a new version of the grabboids has cropped up — they’re normally a desert-based lifeform but now apparently don’t mind the cold. Multiple different groups of people, with differing motivations, are all threatened by this new version of the monsters, and in the process of fighting them, Gummer is infected with grabboid venom — requiring the rest of the humans to work together to capture a grabboid in order to procure some of its venom to create an antidote. The acting is comical and all-over-the-place, and the use of a frozen, snow-covered environment would have been an interesting variation of the typical Tremors concept. Unfortunately, other than a few scenes in a snowy setting at the beginning of the film, the rest of this movie could have been set anywhere in the northern U.S. or Canada where there are woods and hills. Still, this one is kind of entertaining, in a “traffic accident — you can’t look away” kind of way. If you like cheesy, over-the-top monster movies, this one is for you. But…it will make a lot more sense if you watch some of the earlier Tremors productions first! (Note: the 4th Tremors film was a prequel, also featuring Michael Gross, set during Wild West days.)

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the other Tremors movies or TV-movies (1990-2018), or short-lived television series (2003 – 13 epsodes), all with Michael Gross.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Early Man web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated September 2018
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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