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Staff Recommendations – August 2015

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

August 2015 Recommendations


*> Special To Kill a Mockingbird Reviews <*

mockingbird50thTo Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest books written in the 20th Century. Set in the 1930s, the reader sees life in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama through the eyes of young Jean Louise Finch (nicknamed Scout), daughter of attorney Atticus Finch. Scout’s mother died when Scout was just a toddler, so she has no memory of her mother. Instead, she is brought up by her father, Atticus, and older brother Jeremy, whom she refers to as Jem. Scout is a tomboy in all respects and spends her time playing with her brother Jem and their friend, Dill. Life in Maycomb revolves around the social structure of the Deep South. Relationships between upper society and lower society as well as Blacks and Whites are at the heart of this story. When Atticus chooses to represent a black man accused of raping a white woman, Scout faces harsh treatment from people within her school and the town in general. The trial of Tom Robinson is one of the greatest stories included in this book. As a teacher, I used this book to teach students about racial prejudice and sexual stereotypes. There is also much to learn about compassion, honor and respect. I recommend this book as one of the best books I have ever read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird – the feature film adaptation of the novel, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, both by Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens).] [ official Harper Lee web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

mockingbird50thdvdTo Kill a Mockingbird
adapted from the novel by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird was nominated for many Academy Awards in 1963, including Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his outstanding portrayal of Atticus Finch, a Southern lawyer who chooses to represent a Black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama. Mary Badham does a wonderful job portraying Scout Finch, tomboy daughter of Atticus, who tells us the story as seen through the eyes of a young girl in a town torn apart by racial tensions in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. Horton Foote won the Academy Award for his excellent screenplay adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel. My favorite performance in the movie is the short glimpse of a young Robert Duvall as the mysterious Boo Radley. This is a wonderful film and well worth seeing.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official To Kill a Mockingbird Facebook page ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

gosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman
by Harper Lee

As a lifelong fan of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I was thrilled when I heard the news that another book by Harper Lee had been discovered and was set to come out in hardback this month. Like many people, I rushed to the bookstore and purchased a copy so that I could devour the book before other people could tell me their opinion of the book and reveal important plot points. I knew enough about the book to know that it featured an adult version of Scout reminiscing about her childhood. This book, written before Lee’s masterpiece “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has stories of Scout’s childhood and coming of age which would have been an excellent book to follow up her earlier success. However, the stories pale in comparison to the changes in the adult characters: Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, and the family’s cook, Calpurnia, in particular, are almost unrecognizable. The adult Scout finds herself in the midst of racial tensions and family turmoil when she goes back home in the late 1950s. I agree with other reviewers who have said that the book would have been better if there had been some editing prior to publishing. Although I felt comfortable using “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the classroom to teach about prejudice, I would not use this book in a Middle School classroom. However, this book would make an excellent book to discuss as a One Book One Lincoln title in the future. This title will not be remembered as a classic in my opinion. I choose to remember Atticus as he was viewed by the young Scout.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.] [ official Harper Lee web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Night Night, Sleep Tightnightnightsleeptight
by Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron inherited her considerable writing talent from her parents, screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Their Beverly Hills home was filled with books and their neighborhood was filled with celebrities.

The plot for this novel was inspired by the 1958 murder of Johnny Stompanato that happened just a few blocks from the Ephron home. Stompanato was the gangster boyfriend of Lana Turner and he was stabbed to death by Turner’s teenage daughter, Cheryl. In Ephron’s book, 14 year-old Joelen Nichol kills her mother’s boyfriend. This story does not focus on Joelen but on her friend Deirdre Unger who stayed at Joelen’s that night. Deirdre has a hazy memory of being woken up late in the night and carried down the back stairs of the mansion and being put in her father’s car. Her next memory is of waking up in the hospital with a leg that is so severely broken that she walks with a crutch for the rest of her life. Deirdre always wonders what happened that night and when she drives up to Beverly Hills from her home in San Diego to help her father put his house on market she decides to confront him and out what happened that night.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Luckiest Girl Alive by Jess Knoll.] [ official Hallie Ephron web site ]

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Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department

lifeweburyThe Life We Bury
by Allen Eskens

Joe Talbert is taking a writing class at the University of Minnesota. His assignment is to interview someone and write a brief biography of that person. Joe goes to a nursing home to find a willing subject. He meets Carl Iverson, a Vietnam vet and convicted murderer dying of pancreatic cancer. As he talks to Carl, Joe comes to believe that Iverson is innocent of the murder that sent him to prison 30 years ago. Joe and his next-door neighbor, Lila, search through the old trial transcript, talk to the people orignially involved in the case and pour over the evidence that remains to track down the real killer.

Not only does Eskens create an intricate puzzle but he also weaves Joe and Lila’s troubled personal stories into the novel.

This is a well-written book that kept me up past my bedtime.

[ official Allen Eskens web site ]

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Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department

darkdiscipleDark Disciple
by Christie Golden

Based upon would-be episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Dark Disciple is best described by Katie Lucas in the foreword as “a story of redemption; a story of how people can be unbelievably broken, and yet find a way to rebuild despite the odds.” Fans of the Clone Wars series will get the most of out it. However, any fan of Star Wars will enjoy this book.

StarWarsReviews[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne, Lords of the Sith by Paul Kemp, A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, Tarkin by James Luceno.] [ Star Wars Books on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Christie Golden web site ]

See more books like this on the Star Wars: The Reading List booklist on BookGuide!

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

funnygirlFunny Girl
by Nick Hornby

This was my first time reading anything written by Hornby, and from what others have said, he really strayed from his usual subject matter. However, that may be okay. I found this book to be pretty light-hearted. It’s about a young girl in the early 60’s in London, trying to make it as a comedienne, like her hero, Lucy Ball. Sophie Straw is actually quite funny and clever, it’s just that it takes a while for people to see past her physical beauty. (Some reviewers of this book have found that to be unbelievable and even annoying, but I could understand how it would be frustrating to be intelligent AND blessed with beauty. Wanting to be appreciated for one’s intellect is not a bad thing, in my opinion.) Sophie finds some success after stumbling upon a writing team working with a BBC producer and a voice actor who have all worked together before. They end up having a few years of memorable work together, and the majority of the book is spent going over those years.

This is definitely light reading, nothing heavy, not too complex, definitely nothing dark or daring. But sometimes I appreciate light read. It wasn’t quite what I would consider *fluff*. And the reader was fabulous, which helped!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.] [ official Nick Hornby web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

anancientmusecdAn Ancient MuseformatCDmusic2
by Loreena McKennitt [Compact Disc 781.63 McK]

I really liked this music. It sounded a lot like the soundtrack to the videogame ‘The Witcher’, and the ‘Lord of the Rings ‘soundtracks, both of which are set in fantasy worlds. It was very old worldly, a bit Celtic, but with a mix of styles from different places. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy world music or to those looking for a bit of an auditory escape to far off places.

[ official Lorenna McKennitt web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

newprairiekitchenNew Prairie Kitchen
by Summer Miller [641.505 Mil]

Food writer, Summer Miller, believes in buying locally grown foods and supporting restaurants that use these fresh ingredients. She decided to find out what is available within a 200-mile radius of her Omaha home. In the process Miller met many interesting people and she shares their stories and recipes.

On a road trip to Hastings, Nebraska she met John and Charlotte Hamburger who own the Back Alley Bakery and learned that the bakery started because of a bet. John challenged a friend to see who could bake the best loaf of bread. They built a wood-fired brick oven in the back room of an old building and started baking. People heard about the project (or perhaps smelled the enticing aroma of baking bread) and lined up in the alley for samples. Eventually the duo stopped giving away the yeasty delights and started selling them. Thus was born the Back Alley Bakery. John shared a recipe for Honey-Oat Bread that is made with Wild Yeast Starter. The recipe for the starter is also included.

Another journey took Miller to the Cleverly Farms near Mingo, Iowa. Larry Cleverly left the farm to work in New York. After 20 years of city life he realized that “New York is not a town to grow old in” and returned to Iowa and started farming the land that his grandparents bought in the “roaring twenties”. Over melon slices and coffee, Cleverly shared his philosophy about growing good food with Miller.

This is a fascinating book with interesting recipes and stunning photos of the Great Plains.

[ official Scalded Milk — Summer Miller blog ]

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Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department

firstfifteenlivesofharryaugustThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
by Catherine Webb, writing as Claire North

One of the more intriguing “time travel” novels I’ve ever read — my science fiction club recently read this for one of our month book discussions, and the entire group of us were all impressed by this novel! Harry August is born in 1919, lives an unremarkable life, dies in his senior years…and is born once again, under the same circumstances in 1919. When he gets back age 3, all his memories of his previous life as Harry August come flooding back to him. And this happens again and again, always with him being reborn as the same Harry August, and with all his multiple lifetimes of accumulated knowledge coming back to him as soon as his brain is developed enough to handle that much data. And he’s not alone — throughout his lives, Harry encounters, interacts with, and joins a group of fellow ouroborans (also known as kalachakrans) that call themselves the Chronos Club — who have learned to pass messages backwards in time, via their members who are about to be reborn, that help them all live comfortable lives (over and over). When one of those time-traveling messages is passed on to Harry on his death bed — “the world is ending, faster than it should” — Harry must spend several lifetimes trying to figure out who is destroying the world, and how to stop them.

This novel uses a fascinating method of time travel — not completely unique, necessarily — and features several compelling characters, particularly Harry August himelf. I highly recommend this one!

[ official The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August web site ] | [ official Catherine Webb/Kate Griffin/Claire North web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

poemsandstoriestolkienPoems & Stories
by J.R.R. Tolkien

The book titled ‘Poems and Stories’ by Tolkien is a collection of a few different stories. They are also available as separate books, but not in the library’s collection at this time. I recently read two of the stories in the collection.

The first is ‘Farmer Giles of Ham’, which is a tale of giants and a dragon and a farmer from the village of Ham. One night a giant wanders through and destroys the field of Farmer Giles who attacks and scares him off. The fame that comes from defeating a giant travels round and so when a dragon enters the area, Farmer Giles is called to act, even though he doesn’t want to. It’s a fairly short story as it’s written for children, but because it’s written by Tolkien I had to give it a try and it was not disappointing. It’s a great fantasy story but does not take place in Tolkien’s Middle Earth like ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’.

The second book in this ‘Poems and Stories’ collection I read was ‘The Adventures of Tom Bombadil’. This is a poetry collection that begins with Tom Bombadil that takes place in Middle Earth, the Shire in particular. There are only 16 poems that I would describe as short and sweet. There’s a poem about an Oliphant, a lonely troll, a treasure hoard and two appearances of the man in the moon (who is also featured in ‘Roveradom’ by Tolkien). Anyone who enjoys the Middle Earth universe will surely enjoy this short work; even if you’re like me and don’t usually read poems.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Roverandum or The Hobbit, both by J.R.R. Tolkien.] [ official J.R.R. Tolkien web site ] | [ official www.tolkienlibrary.com web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Screening Room

formatdvditsamadworlddvdIt’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

[DVD Mad]

One of the most bizarre comedy movies ever filmed. This 1963 chase flick featured a virtual “who’s who” of film and TV comedy at the time it was made. Spencer Tracy is ostensibly the lead, as a dogged police chief, who thinks the death of a career criminal may bring closure to a case he’s worked on for decades. That criminal, before dying, gives clues to where he buried $350,000 in ill-gotten loot, to a variety of unrelated good samaritans who attempt to assist him when he fatally wrecks his car. All of those passersby soon end up in a helter skelter race to get to the buried loot. The main players are all comedy legends (Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett and Milton Berle), but the star parade doesn’t stop there. Scattered throughout the film as cameos by dozens of other comic actors — from Stan Freberg, Carl Reiner and Jesse White, to Andy Devine, Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis and The Three Stooges. The plot of this madcap farce doesn’t really make a difference, the reason you watch it is for all the comic actors to pop up!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on Wikipedia ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdfellowshipoftheringdvdThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

[DVD Fellowship]

First in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, made before but set after the Hobbit trilogy. The ring of power comes out of hiding in the Shire when Bilbo the hobbit uses it to disappear from his birthday party. Gandalf suspects it to be more than a simple magic ring and the journey to destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands is soon underway. I really like this movie and when it came out in 2001 it seemed like everyone saw it, but if you haven’t, I really recommend it if you like fantasy movies. If you enjoyed the Hobbit films, you’ll probably like these too. If you like this item, you might like these too – You may also like the soundtrack to the movie to re-experience the story through music, or the books for the full story.

[Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official www.lordoftherings.net web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

last updated February 2016
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