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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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November 2020 Recommendations

Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure
by Linda Ashman (writer) and Kim Smith (illustrator) (jp Ashman)

A contemporary retelling of the beloved classic. The front double-page shows the family photos of the siblings, then their families receiving their note card from the grandparents inviting them for the holidays. There’s the white couple w/children; a biracial couple with a child; a biracial, gay couple w/adopted children; and an older couple w/adopted, foreign-born twins.

Cute, short rhyming paragraphs tell the story of each family as they travel to the grandparents’ home. The family in the van runs out of gas but are rescued by a fellow driving a large, horse-drawn sleigh. Another family arrives by train, however, all the rental cars are gone – but look! The guy with the sleigh is going by. Each family meets with trouble while completing the journey and in the end every family is in the sleigh riding together to the grandparents’ house who welcome everyone with open arms.

There’s room for everyone at the table.

Bright, two-page illustrations with lots of details add to the story.

[ official Over the River and Through the Wood page on the official Linda Ashman web site ] [ official Kim Smith web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

I really enjoy Kim Smith’s illustrations. She’s been the illustrator for a series of children’s “picture books” tied into pop-culture properties, such as Back to the Future, The X-Files, Home Alone, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and E.T. — she does a great job of capturing the essence of recognizable characters in a very simple style. (Sadly, none of these are owned by the libraries)

Reviewed by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


The Lost Art of Dying
by L.S. Dugdale (155.937 Dug)

This book caught my eye as I was browsing the new non-fiction shelves. As someone who lost her father in the past year, I was impressed with the description inside the front cover: “Our culture has overly medicalized death, making it institutional and sterile, prolonged by unnecessary resuscitations and other intrusive interventions…our reliance on modern medicine often extends suffering and strips us of our dignity.” The author tells us that our lives do not need to end this way. As a medical doctor with years of experience helping patients with end-of-life issues, the author presents a history of the practice of ars moriendi, the art of dying, and offers a plan for living well and dying well through preparation for death. Looking at death through the eyes of faith, the reader sees how death is treated by various cultures and what it means in our communities today.

[ publisher’s official Lost Art of Dying web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


The Pollinator Victory Garden
by Kim Eierman (639.97 Eie)

The introduction to this book sums up the entire point of this publication: Pollinators are critical to our food supply and responsible for the pollination of the vast majority of all flowering plants on our planet. But many pollinators are in trouble and our landscapes have little to offer them. Providing habitat that is pesticide-free and carefully choosing plants that are native to your area can help provide a garden that is good both for the environment and for the pollinators. This is an excellent book which describes in great detail the pollinators that work in our environment to help pollinate flowers, trees and plants. I enjoyed reading through this book with its beautiful photographs and excellent charts showing examples of the best plants for your garden and how to attract the animals to pollinate them.

[ official Pollinator Victory Garden page on the official Kim Eierman web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


The Little Book of Lost Words: Collywobbles, Smollygosters, and Other Surprising Terms Worth Resurrecting
by Joe Gillard (428.1 Gil)

This is a delightful little book for anyone who enjoys language and archaic words that are little known in today’s society. Each term is coupled with a lovely painting by the Old Masters as well as an example of usage of the word being described. Witty and concise, this book is a quick read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Transitive Vampire, by Karen Gordon.] [ official Joe Gillard web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Ghosted in L.A.
by Sina Grace (writer), Siobhan Keenan (art), Cathy Le (colorist), DC Hopkins (lettering) (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Grace)

This graphic novel compiles the first four issues of an ongoing comic-book series by Sina Grace (writer) and Siobhan Keenan (artist). The storyline centers on Daphne Walters, a young woman who follows her long-time boyfriend from the Midwest to Los Angeles to attend college. Only, when she gets to L.A., he dumps her, she has an antagonistic relationship with her new college roommate, and after a disastrous first date with a guy who seemed to be interested in her, she finds herself trespassing on the grounds of an unoccupied mansion (with a large swimming pool). It is there that she encounters a group of ghosts, who occupy the mansion. She convinces them to allow her to stay in the mansion and serve as their hands and feet, and meanwhile they serve to give her sounding boards to try to figure out who and what she is going to become, as she’s a bit lost in life.

The characters are all fascinating, the artwork is terrific, and the pacing is marvelous. The plot was a little light in this first compilation, but I attribute that to needing to set everything up and in motion, and I anticipate future volumes to have a bit more “story” to them. Overall this is a charming and engaging light fantasy series, and I look forward to reading more of them as they’re released.

[ publisher’s official Ghosted in L.A. web site ] | [ official Sina Grace web site ] [ official Siobhan Keenan web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Ghost Ups Her Game
by Carolyn Hart (Compact Disc Hart)

After a three-year absence (due to change of publisher), heavenly sleuth Bailey Ruth Raeburn is back in an all-new amateur detective mystery from Carolyn Hart. Bailey Ruth is a departed spirit, regularly sent from Heaven’s “Department of Good Intentions” to aide and protect individuals in her old hometown of Adelaide, OK who may be in danger of being accused of crimes. Hart likes to throw little twists into the exploits of her dearly departed sleuth, and the twist this time is that Chief Sam Cobb believes the evidence against the person Bailey Ruth is trying to protect, is overwhelming enough to not assist his ghostly investigator — in other words, Baily Ruth is on her own to prove a college professor is innocent of the violent death of a less-than-scrupulous college fund-raiser.

As always, this is a fun, relatively light-weight mystery, with interesting/sympathetic new characters, and some old favorites back again. If you’re not interested in a bit of paranormal mixed in with your mystery-solving, you’ll want to avoid this one. But if you don’t mind a perky red-headed “ghost” from Oklahoma on the case, this is enjoyable. Also “as always,” I enjoyed Ghost Ups Her Game as a book-on-CD, where narrator Ann Marie Lee is absolutely perfect for this series!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the previous eight entries in the Bailey Ruth Raeburn series.] [ official Carolyn Hart web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


I’m Your Huckleberry
by Val Kilmer (Biography Kilmer)

I have only seen a portion of all the films in which Val Kilmer appears but even that has been a treat. So is this autobiography. From Top Gun to Willow to Batman to The Saint to Jim Morrison in The Doors, he has given a wide range of movie performances. From a very early age, Kilmer knew he was a bit out of the ordinary and he has, happily for himself and his ouevre, remained so. This memoir, using his quote as Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” for the title, is both revealing and inspiring. His passions and predicaments are fully revealed, as well as a deep spiritual nature. His writing skill is on a level with, dare I say, Larry McMurtry and other authors who have a lyrical and compelling way with words as well as massive vocabularies. His adventures in love alone are nearly incredible, and added to that are the sometimes amazing and sometimes disappointing variety of parts he has played. His recent battle with cancer, which has deprived him of his wonderful speaking voice, has only spurred him on to continue enjoying his life with family and friends and to enriching the cultural landscape of American film and theatre. Did you know — he performed a one-man depiction of Mark Twain in venues around the U.S title “Citizen Twain”?

[ publisher’s official I’m Your Huckleberry web page ] | [ official Val Kilmer web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


Sentient
by Jeff Lemire (writer), Gabriel Walta (art), Steve Wands (letterer) (741.5 Lem)

This was a stunning achievement in graphic novel storytelling. I first saw Sentient on the New Books display at the downtown library, picked it up and flipped quickly through it, and my first impression was that the artwork was too dark and murky, and I probably wasn’t going to like it. I’m glad I still checked it out and gave it my full attention, because it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of 2020!

It’s hard to tell you too much in plot points without giving away critical “spoilers”. In a nutshell, this is a science fiction story set aboard a deep-space colonizing vessel that suffers several calamities. With its normal “mission protocols” turned off, the ship’s Artificial Intelligence (Valarie) finds itself having to operate in ways it was never designed to function, in order to keep the humans aboard her alive. This story is a little bit of the dark suspense of “Alien”, a lot of the pulse-pounding action of “Die Hard”, and a heavy dose of “coming of age” storytelling as both Valarie and the young humans aboard her are faced with deadly challenges that make them grow up fast.

I loved Sentient. And, although the artwork by Walta is dark and gritty, it fits the story perfectly. I may end up having to buy this one myself. I’m giving it a rating of 9 out of 10, only because I thought the ending was a bit rushed and lacking in the level of details of the rest of the story. That felt like a weak point for me, though other readers may have different takes on that. Still — an excellent graphic novel for science fiction fans and fans of great storytelling.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try William Gibson’s Archangel, the Cemetery Girl trilogy of graphic novels, by Charlaine Harris and various artists, or the Locke & Key series of graphic novels, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.] [ publisher’s official Sentient web site ] | [ official Jeff Lemire blog ] [ official Gabriel Walta Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t
by Lane Moore (Biography Moore)

How to Be Alone is a memoir that could almost just as easily be shelved in the self-help section. If you consciously or unconsciously use humor to deal with intense emotions, this book will introduce you to a kindred spirit. It surprised me with many authentic laugh-out-loud moments. You can tell that the author is on an arduous journey of self-love and self-discovery, and thankfully she’s willing to share her therapy lessons with us all. More specifically, author Moore grew up without a family in the traditional sense, she raised herself, and her romantic and platonic attachment issues have led to some heartbreaking and heartwarming (mostly heartbreaking) tales.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try anything by Samantha Irby, Jenny Lawson, or David Sedaris, The Misfit’s Manifesto, by Lidia Yuknavitch, Fresh Off the Boat, by Eddie Huang, Assume the Worst, by Carl Hiassen or Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed.] [ official How to Be Alone page on the official Lane Moore web site ]

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


The Rural Diaries
by Hilarie Burton Morgan (Biography Morgan)

The Rural Diaries, by Hilarie Burton Morgan is as dreamy as a nonfiction book can get; like a soft-filter picture with a little quote underneath. The Rural Diaries reads like a fairy tale for adults – where the prince is dressed in leather and the castle is a farmhouse.

The author shares her journey from single actress (One Tree Hill) to Madame of Mischief Farm. Hilarie and her husband, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Supernatural), set out to make a beautiful life together. As singletons, they had attained their dreams of becoming successful actors. As a couple, they had a new dream: One that was far from the glitz and glam of Hollywood. They dreamt of an idyllic life with babies, a garden, and bison frolicking across a 100-acre farm.

This book gently stirred my emotions. I smiled as they explored a quaint village, got teary-eyed when they welcomed their first child, and laughed out loud when she suggested that she bewitched Jeffrey by lacing his coffee with cinnamon. There are moments where she is frustrated with the little things but overcomes the big things. She is both authentic and whimsical.

I really love that the book is sprinkled with practical advice. She gives a lot of sage tips to the novice willing to brave the unknown. She covers gardening, old-fashioned recipes, and animal husbandry. The book is very encouraging to those of us (ahem) who wish to one day make our way out of the city and into the country, all without sugar-coating the struggle. One of my favorite chapters that embodies this, is “The Fun of Failure.”

All in all, this is a beautiful and uplifting read. It may be a diary, but it is also a love letter to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mischief Farm, and her babies. I give this book a 9 because it is really good — I would definitely recommend it — and I have nothing but good things to say!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Honey Farm Dreaming by Anna Featherstone, or Country Grit by Scottie Brown Jones.] [ publisher’s official Rural Diaries web site ] | [ official Hilarie Burton Morgan Instagram feed ]

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Recommended by Monica K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Blind Search
by Paula Munier (Munier)

Blind Search (published in 2019) is the second book of the Mercy Carr & Elvis mystery series. The first book is A Borrowing of Bones (2018). The third book, The Hiding Place, is expected out in March of 2021.

Mercy Carr was a soldier in Afghanistan and is now living in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Elvis, her Belgian Malinois, was a bomb-sniffing dog assigned to her late fiancé in Afghanistan. Together Mercy and Elvis work with game warden Troy Warner and his search-and-rescue dog, Susie Bear, to find out who has killed two guests of a hunting party. Henry is a young math genius who may have seen the murderer and rarely talks, so as a blizzard isolates everyone from the outside world, the canine and human detectives must keep Henry safe from the killer.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mystery Series, David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series, Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mystery series or Finders by Jeffrey Burton.] [ official Blind Search page on the official Paula Munier web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Gay Guerrilla: Julius Easton and His Music
edited by Renee Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach (Music 780.92 Eas)

Let’s talk a little about Julius Eastman, a composer and singer whose work has mostly languished in obscurity since his death in 1990. During his lifetime, he was known for his incredible voice, which was well captured on the 1971 Unicorn Records edition of Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Eight Songs For a Mad King.” The piece is a feature for a notoriously difficult solo baritone performer, full of extended techniques with a five-octave range. As a composer, Eastman was known as a bit of a provocateur in the east coast new music scenes of the 1970s and 80s. As interesting as his music was—and is—his choices of titles sometimes led to controversies, causing the titles of his works to be left off concert programs. Truth be told, he remains ahead of his time in that regard—we can’t say the names of several of his works on the radio or print them in a newspaper over 40 years after their composition, either.

But there is far more to the work of Julius Eastman than pure provocation, and what provocation there is embedded in his works seems very prescient toward contemporary discussions happening in the arts and sociopolitical circles. As a gay black man working in a mostly straight white environment and community, Eastman didn’t hide his struggles to find peace in a society that often seemed to reject him and those like him. As the decades have passed, and we continue to wrestle with these issues as a society, perhaps it’s no surprise that there is a resurgence in interest in Eastman’s music in the last decade, including performances, retrospective recordings, and now the first book that looks critically at his work: Gay Guerrilla: Julius Easton and His Music.

Gay Guerrilla is in the form of essays, many of which are written by musicians and educators who knew Eastman in some capacity during his career. After an excellent foreword by composer and trombone virtuoso George Lewis, we get a biographical sketch of Eastman’s early years, in which it becomes clear that he had unusual musical gifts from an early age. In his early professional life, he enjoyed the beginnings of musical success, like a Grammy nomination and an arts grant in 1973, while also experiencing racism after moving to a white neighborhood. These incidents started to come together in his work.

Later sections of the book focus on both personal recollections, some analysis of compositions, and tales of his work as a vocalist. I was particularly struck by music writer Kyle Gann’s section on the resurgence of interest in Eastman’s work. Having known him since the mid-1970s, Gann speaks knowingly of how “those of us who love Eastman’s music despaired that we would never hear it again. But thanks to the miracle of modern musicology, his music is back, recorded, and being played, and he has a place in history.”

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Mavericks and Other Traditions in American Music, by Michael Broyles or It’s Our Music, too: The Black Experience in Classical Music, by Earl Ofari Hutchinson.] [ Wikipedia page for Julius Eastman ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Abandoned Eastern Nebraska: Rural Wandering
by Nicole Renaud (978.2 Ren)

I saw this book when it first arrived at the library and thought it looked very interesting. The cover shows an old Continental automobile surrounded by tall grass and trees. Flipping through the book, I saw pictures of places I recognized from Eastern Nebraska, but also from locations farther West. The title is misleading. The book is a collection of photographs of abandoned homesteads, churches, schools and businesses throughout Nebraska, as far away as Kimball in the Panhandle. The photography and descriptions of the places are fun to look through, but don’t expect scholarly research in the descriptions. The book serves as a collection of the author’s favorite abandoned buildings in Nebraska and her musings as to how they came to be in the state of disrepair they are in. I would have liked more research throughout the book and a map of sites represented. The book also needed more editing, but was otherwise a fun read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Across a Wide Horizon: Discovering the Uncommon Beauty of Nebraska’s Plains, by Jorn C. Olsen, Distinctly American: The Photography of Wright Morris, by Wright Morris.] [ publisher’s official Abandoned Eastern Nebraska web page ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking From the Heartland
by Shauna Sever (641.505 Sev)

Just in time for the holidays comes this delightful cookbook that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser with its traditional recipes for feasts with a Midwest flair! The author spent quite a bit of time researching recipes in the heart of America: everything from Bundt cakes to Brownies have roots that can be traced to the Great Midwest. As a collector of cookbooks and as a fifth-generation Nebraskan, I can appreciate the work that went into finding these time-tested recipes from the ethnic groups that settled this area of the country. Some of my favorite recipes are here, such as Dutch Letters from the Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa and Danish Kringle from Racine, Wisconsin. For Nebraskans we have Runzas, but with a new twist on the recipe. There are recipes for breads, pies, cakes, cookies and more. Midwest Made is a visual feast for the eyes and is fun to read as well. I highly recommend this book. Happy baking!

[ official Shauna Sever web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


South of the Buttonwood Tree
by Heather Webber (Webber)

Published July 21, 2020. Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton and Blue Bishop are the protagonists, each being a strong woman whose personal goals don’t seem possible because of expectations placed on them. The author combines a magical realism reminiscent of Joanne Harris’s Chocolat with the Southern charm you’d find in a Fannie Flagg novel. The winds in Buttonwood, Alabama have always guided Blue to find things. Houses speak to Sarah Grace. When the winds direct Blue to a newborn baby left by the Buttonwood Tree, Sarah Grace is called to buy Blue’s family’s abandoned house, both women have to unearth their own secrets and solve one of the town’s mysteries.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! and Standing in the Rainbow, by Fannie Flagg, or Chocolat by Joanne Harris.] [ official South of the Buttonwood Tree page on the official Heather Webber web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Library


Screening Room

formatdvdGet On Up
[DVD Get]

After spending years in development limbo following the death of James Brown in 2006, this film was finally produced and release in 2014, chronicling the life and career of this rock and roll icon. Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), Get On Up stars Chadwick Boseman as the legendary rock pioneer, with Nelsan Ellis as his right-hand man Bobby Byrd, Dan Aykroyd as his manager, Ben Bart, and a wealth of other Hollywood royalty in various supporting roles.

Get On Up is told in non-sequential order, opening with one of the low points in Brown’s life, in the late 1980s when he was chased by a squadron of police cars after discharging a shotgun in one of his businesses. The film them jumps back and forth in time, almost in a stream-of-consciousness form, from Brown’s childhood in extreme poverty and deprivation, to the many highs and lows of his performing career. The film doesn’t shy away from Brown’s character flaws, and paints a “warts and all” portrait of a man who laid much of the groundwork for the modern rock-and-roll industry.

With the recent passing of Boseman, and the 2017 passing of Ellis, sadly this film is reminder of how short life is, and how, like James Brown, you have to grab onto it and squeeze every last drop out of it that you can. Strongly recommended.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World by Robbie Robertson, Working For the Man, Playing in the Band: My Years with James Brown by Damon Wood, The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America by James Sullivan or The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by R.J. Smith.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Get On Up web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


formatdvdGet Smart
[DVD Get]

“Would you believe…?”

Get Smart was a weekly, half-hour television comedy series that spoofed the James Bond and Inspector Clouseau films. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, it ran for five seasons (1965-1970) with only the pilot episode being filmed in black and white.

“Missed me by that much.”

The stories revolved around CONTROL, a bungling secret spy agency in the US government based in Washington, DC with offices throughout the world. Its major adversary was KAOS, an equally inept, international spy agency staffed with former Nazis, evil scientists, and other dastardly criminals with outrageous plots to take over the world.

“Sorry about that, Chief”

It starred Don Adams as inept Secret Agent 86 Maxwell Smart, Barbara Feldon as competent Secret Agent 99 (we never learn her real name), and Edward Platt as the long-suffering Chief of CONTROL.

“The old bomb-in-the-snack-truck trick.”

Much of the fun revolved around the gadgets such as his shoe phone, the protective devices installed inside Max’s apartment, a giant cannon that no one would hear go off because of the equally giant silencer, and the Cone of Silence – which rarely worked.

“I asked you not to tell me that”

Not to mention Agents 13 and 44 always assigned to ridiculous locations on stakeout such as a locker at the airport, a trash can on the street, and a washing machine at a laundromat.

“This is KAOS, we don’t ‘shush’ here.”

A favorite villain was Siegfried from KAOS, a former Nazi with an extravagant German accent played by Bernie Kopell (who would go on to play Doc on “Love Boat”) and his enthusiastic sidekick Starker (always pronounced “Shtarker!”) played by King Moody (who would play Ronald McDonald in the 1960s and 1970s).

“I asked you not to tell me that.”

We also meet Hymie the Robot (played by Dick Gautier), initially created by KAOS but reprogrammed by Max “for goodness and kindness.” Unfortunately, as a logical robot he is literal in the extreme.

“Missed me by that much.”

As inept as Max is, he somehow manages to save the world for another day.

“And, loving it.”

The library owns all five seasons. A fun, well-written, witty, hilarious series that also managed to make sly comments on our government, current fashion, and politics. The show won several awards for Best Comedy, Best Writer, Best Comedy Series, and Best Actor. Keep an eye out for cameos by stars from that time period..

[Surprisingly, there were several Get Smart tie-in novels published back in the 1960s when the show was on the air. You can see a list of those on our TV Tie-Ins booklist on BookGuide.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this TV series ] | [ Get Smart description on Wikipedia ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


formatdvdLove Finds You in Valentine
[DVD Love]

Based on the romance novel Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska, this 2016 film is one of a series of three that were produced for cable television. City dweller Kennedy Blaine has inherited her grandfather’s ranch and decides to visit one more time before putting it on the market. As she encounters and gets to know the handsome young foreman, Derek, and his mother, the general caretaker of the property, she grows to appreciate what she has been gifted and starts to reconsider her options. And she starts to fall for Derek and he for her. However, there’s someone else who’s itching to acquire the property and doesn’t hesitate to try scaring and intimidating Kennedy into selling it. Michaela McManus does a very nice job as Kennedy, and Diogo Morgado turns in a sincere and compelling performance as Derek. Portuguese actor Morgado is best known to American audiences for his portrayal of Jesus in the History Channel’s hit miniseries The Bible, produced by actress Roma Downey. Lindsay Wagner and Ed Asner appear in supporting roles in Love Finds You in Valentine. Although the scenery is nice, it is not the Valentine, Nebraska area, alas.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Love Finds You… series of books, by a variety of different authors; Love Finds You in Sugarcreek and Love Finds You in Charm on DVD; Son of God on DVD or from Hoopla; The Bible: The Epic Miniseries on DVD.] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Love Finds You in Valentine page on the UPtv web site (the network that produced this film) ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


formatdvdScoob!
[DVD j Scoob]

I grew up on the very earliest series featuring these characters, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70, 1978), though I drifted away from the characters long before they got “spun off” into various subsequent series and sequels. I did kind of enjoy the two live-action feature films adapted from the cartoon, mainly for the presence of Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Daphne. When I saw that producers were going to try to release an all-new animated film that retroactively tinkered with the origins of the characters, I was initially annoyed, but when the film finally came out on DVD, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

Scoob! succeeds on many levels, but fails on others. The main characters — Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne are all well-captured, with new voice actors playing each of them. Fred Welker (the original voice of Fred Jones, now takes on the iconic “ruh-roh!” voice of Scooby, from the late Don Messick, who played that character for decades. And Will Forte replaces the late Casey Kasem as Shaggy, sometimes well and sometimes not so well. A charming section at the beginning of the movie explains how Shaggy and Scooby first met as kids, before the action fast-forwards to the Mystery Inc. gang as young adults (the age they’ve been perpetually stuck at for decades now). There are lots of “in jokes” that people (like me) who grew up on the cartoons will get, but that might go over the heads of young viewers. One of the areas this film “fails” for me is that the series was definitely a child of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but has been updated to the modern age. Therefore, some of the humor falls a little flat. There are a lot of “Easter eggs” (hidden tributes) in the animation — I loved seeing “Hong Kong Phooey” on the side of a videogame in one scene.

The producers/writers of this film connect the Scooby-Doo characters with a bunch of other lesser-known but still recognizable animated characters from other series produced by the Hanna-Barbera studio — including The Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, villain Dick Dastardly, and Captain Caveman. In fact, Scoob! is intended as the first film in a new crossover film universe featuring all these old animated properties in their own individual films — much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe films tied all the various Marvel superhero films into a connected “film reality”.

Scoob! is far from perfect, and strays from the central character relationships far too often in its attempts to connect Scooby-Doo to other animated characters. But, in the end it was still a fun, entertaining project. And I’m curious to see what the studio does in the future. I miss the old classic character voices, but the replacements were acceptable. A short sequence early in the film that attempts to recreate the opening theme music credits of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was highly nostalgic.

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


formatdvdUs
[DVD Us]

Us is a spooky and surreal movie about the consequences of meeting your doppelgänger. At the start of the movie, we see a young girl wander off from her parents while at a fair. She gets lost in a house of mirrors but is later found. That incident changes her in many ways that are not understandable to her parents. They try therapy, dance lessons, and other strategies to get her to express herself more fully. Shortly after this brief introduction and span of her childhood, we meet her as a grown woman taking her family on vacation to the same spot of her childhood troubles. Even though I hate most horror movies, this one worked for me because of its psychological drama and exploration of social issues.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Parasite, the Academy Award winner directed by Bong Joon Ho, Get Out, the previous film from Jordan Peele, or Sorry to Bother You, directed by Boots Riley.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Us movie web site ]

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


last updated November 2020
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