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Staff Recommendations – October 2009

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

October 2009 Recommendations

lisasstoryLisa’s Story: The Other Shoe
by Tom Batiuk [741.5 Bat]

Call me a softie, but sometimes I can be “moved” by the oddest things. Including the fates of comic strip characters. For years, I’ve been more a fan of the organic comic strips than the static — I’ve liked strips like “For Better or Worse” or “Doonesbury”, where the characters are aging more-or-less in real-time, rather than the vast majority of strips where the characters never age at all. Because this inevitably leads to real-world issues coming to life in such strips, I can get choked up when a comic strip character meets their end. It happened in For Better or Worse when Farley the dog was written out of the strip in a sad but meaningful way. And it happens again in Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe, a compilation of storylines from the Funky Winkerbean strip. I grew up with Funky back in junior high and high school, and have only occasionally touched base with it again in the years since. A storyline began in the late 1990s in which Lisa Moore, the wife of the series de facto central character, Les Moore, develops breast cancer. After initially beating the cancer with a mastectomy and chemotherapy, the cancer returned in a new storyline in 2006. Writer/artist Tom Batiuk, channeling his own issues after facing a prostate cancer scare, forewarned readers of Lisa’s ultimate fate, but reading the entire storyline in an almost graphic-novel format is still a wrenching experience. This book’s approach to exploring the topic of cancer is sensitive, emotional, serious, humorous and frank…all at once. It’s hard to say I “enjoyed” this book, but, in the end, I did.

[ official Funky Winkerbean web site ] | [ Reuter’s news story about this storyline ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


turncoatTurn Coat
by Jim Butcher

This is the 11th full-length novel in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, following 2008’s Small Favor. Butcher has a game plan in place as he’s building up (eventually) to a conclusion to the Dresden books, and Turn Coat really felt like the author was getting some of the important groundwork covered as he starts down the path towards his end game. The plot, in a nutshell — Harry Dresden, wizard-for-hire and a regional Warden in the spellcasters’ “police force”, has long-time nemesis Morgan drop by, nearly dead and asking for help in hiding from the rest of the Wardens from a trumped up murder charge. Harry’s attempts to surreptitiously help his old enemy coincide with his investigation into who on the White Council has been leaking information to their enemies. Although this novel had several excellent action sequences, and the plot moved forward, it wasn’t necessarily one of the best of the Dresden books. To me, it felt a bit top-heavy with too many characters involved, and too many political machinations going on. But…in order to understand what’s going on in Harry’s universe, especially in future novels, this one is still a “can’t miss” volume, filled with lots of great lines from Butcher’s characteristic wise-cracking anti-hero.

[ official Turn Coat page on the official Jim Butcher web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


burdenofmemoryBurden of Memory
by Vicki Delany

Moira Madison, a member of a wealthy Canadian family, has lived a long and successful life on her terms. Much to her socialite mother’s dismay, Moira trained as a nurse and joined the Canadian Army Nursing Sisters during World War II. Later she participated in international medical charities. Moira, now in her eighties, wants to tell her life story. She hires biographer, Elaine Benson for the job. Elaine moves into Moira’s Lake Muskoka cottage to interview Moira and research family records and letters for the memoir. When Moira’s sisters and their families come for Thanksgiving Elaine learns just how strongly they oppose Moira’s book. They are afraid that Moira will disclose embarrassing family secrets. The book alternates betweens two time periods; Moira’s life today and her years as a Canadian Army Nursing Sister where she met the love of her life and she learned a dark secret about her brother that she keeps long after his death. Vicki Delany gives the reader a strong sense of place. Not only of shimmering Lake Muskoka with its grand cottages built by prominent families but also of the uncertainty and heartbreak in Europe during the war years.

[ official Burden of Memory page on the official Vicki Delany web site ]

Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services – Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


worldbuildingWorld Building
by Stephen L. Gillett [808.3 Gil]

Another book in the Science Fiction Writing Series, put out by Writers Digest. Geologist and astronomer Dr. Stephen Gillett approaches the science of creating planets in other solar systems in a fairly simple, easy-to-understand method for the layman. Chapters in this helpful volume include Why World-Build?, The Astronomical Setting, Making a Planet, The Earth, The Ancient Earth, The Other Planets, Stars and Suns, and Not As We Know It. Although a little understanding of geology, astrophysics and general physics helps to start with, this writers’ guide really breaks down the science needed to accurately portray the development of alien species on life-supporting planets that differ dramatically from Earth. I particularly appreciated the final chapter, dealing with non-traditional life-supporting worlds — water worlds, worlds heavy in nitrogen atmosphere, and what Gillett refers to as “Brimstone worlds”. Also helpful, especially for those of us not well-versed in scientific minutiae, is an extensive glossary of scientific terminology, a bibliography of sources for additional research, and an index to science fiction stories that Gillett cites as examples of the various scientific principles he’s explaining.

[ Reviews of this title at LibraryThing ] | [ Edited bibliography from this book ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


busyslowcookerThe Busy People’s Super Simple 30 Minute Menus
by Dawn Hall [641.55 Hal]

A terrific book for busy homemakers or just when you can’t think after work. Each recipe is actually a full menu that you can prepare in 30 min (such as “Quicker Than Granny’s Home-Style Chicken, Country Parmesan Potatoes, Garlic Green Beans”) and includes nutrition info per serving. Gives you a countdown on what cooking task to do and when to do it (“30 min before dinner start the potatoes by bringing 2 quarts water in a medium saucepan to boil over high heat. 27 min before dinner prepare the chicken…in a shallow dish combine 1/2 c bread crumbs…”) walking you through every step, ending with “1 min before dinner” when you’re putting the serving dish on the table. Includes the kitchen utensils needed and the grocery list. Meals divided into categories such as Chilled Meals, Casseroles, Grilling, Vegetarian, Home on the Range. Preparing a nutritious, delicious meal couldn’t be easier. [If you like this one, you may also enjoy Dawn Hall’s Busy People’s Slow-Cooker Cookbook; 641.588 Hal.] [ official Books page on the official Dawn Hall web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


shakespeareslandlordShakespeare’s Landlord
by Charlaine Harris

In this first book in the series, house cleaner and loner Lily Bard works to clear her name when she becomes a suspect in a murder. Not only do we learn who the real killer is, but we learn about Lily’s past as well and what dark secret brought her to Shakespeare. Fans of Harris’ other series will find yet another winner in the Lily Bard series.

[ official Charlaine Harris web site ]

Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


storytellersghoststoriesA Storyteller’s Ghost Stories [Tales From Nebraska and Iowa]
by Duane Hutchinson [813.08 Hut]

A regional classic, Duane Hutchinson’s popular ghost story collection has gone through multiple printings and generated two subsequent volumes. Hutchinson served for nearly two decades as a chaplain at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, before retiring and hitting the road as a professional story teller. In this volume, he has collected some of the most popular stories he tells, to groups both young and old. His stories are often based on real events, as expressed to him by those who experienced them. In many cases, though, he alters details — both to protect identities and to streamline the stories. He also presents the stories with instructions on how to “perform” them to an audience…where to take dramatic pauses, etc. One thing I found interesting is that Hutchinson only includes ghost stories in which there’s no trace of malevolence, or often in which there is an upbeat ending. Well-known ghost stories in this first volume include the ghost at Nebraska Wesleyan University, the Temple Building ghost at UNL and the South Branch Book Club ghost. If you’re looking for a little frisson of thrills, with a local flavor, don’t miss A Storyteller’s Ghost Stories by the late Duane Hutchinson, especially volume one.

[Also available: The Ghost of Nebraska Wesleyan — a videotaped storytelling by Hutchinson ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


pumpkincarvingPumpkin Carving
by Edward Palmer [745.594 qPal]

Tired of the same old face on your Jack-O-Lantern? This book is full of fun patterns for your pumpkin ranging from easy to complicated, scary to funny. A color photo of the finished product accompanies each pattern. Includes basic carving instructions (don’t forget the chimney in the top for the candle to breathe!) and info on how to keep your pumpkin fresh-looking. Also has a pattern for a turkey that you can use for your Thanksgiving buffet. For year-round entertaining you’ll find patterns for watermelon boats.

[ www.pumpkin-carving.com ]

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Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


simplecountrywisdomCountry Living Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life
by Susan Waggoner [640 Wag]

Ideas and suggestions for the best way to clean a house, paint a room, season a cast-iron pan, make a room feel homey, food tips (ripen a tomato, substitutions, how best to store foods), and more. All accompanied by the standard Country Living magazine photos that inspire the reader to aim for comfortable country decorating. Tips and Tricks on every page. A fun browse. [If you like this, you may also enjoy Bungalow Style: Creating Classic Interiors in Your Arts and Crafts Home by Treena Crochet [747 qCro].

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Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


angelsgameThe Angel’s Game
by Carols Ruiz Zafon

This is a book for those who love atmospheric period pieces that live and breath a location. In the case of The Angel’s Game, the location is Barcelona, Spain in the early 20th century. David Martín is an up-and-coming author that is commissioned to write the novel of his life by an enigmatic publisher. He is offered enough money to live out his life without any financial worry, but strange things begin to press in on David as he progresses. For one, there are strange circumstances surrounding his boss, the effect that his new house has on him, and the strange similarities between David and another author from a previous generation. This is another book about books by Ruiz Zafon, the author that introduced us to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Shadow of the Wind. Once again, nothing is as it seems, and sinister forces are at work both seeping into the protagonist and haunting the streets of Barcelona. [If you like this item you will most assuredly like The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman.] [ Publisher’s official Angel’s Game web page ] | [ Carlos Ruiz Zafon spotlight page at the publisher’s web site ]

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Recommended by Sean S.
Virtual Services Department


Screening Room

formatdvdbluesmokedvdBlue Smoke

by Nora Roberts [DVD Roberts]

I grabbed this one off of the DVD display because it featured Alicia Witt, who I had enjoyed as the daughter on the Cybill show back in the late 1990s. This is a traditional romantic suspense drama, with Witt playing Reena Hale, an arson investigator who’s been obsessed with the danger and beauty of fire ever since her family’s pizzeria was destroyed by an arsonist when she was 11. Two past boyfriends of Reena’s have met grisly ends, and Reena is determined to prove that a series of seemingly unconnected fires is all connected to her and her family. Meanwhile, her new next-door neighbor, Bo, proves to be a charming distraction….until a vengeful figure from her past threatens to make Bo a third fatality in Reena’s love life. The performances were all above average, especially Witt, who brings a sense of strength laced with vulnerability to Reena. Scott “Quantum Leap” Bakula is solid as Reena’s investigative mentor, and the various actors (including Talia Shire) portraying Reena’s extended family truly do seem like a family. If you’re looking for a light romance with a dark suspenseful edge, I recommend this one. It won’t stay with you for long, but it’ll entertain you while you’re watching it. This is one of a series of Nora Roberts stories adapted simultaneously to DVD. You might want to look for some of the other volumes, like “Carolina Moon”, “Montana Sky”, “Sanctuary” or “Northern Lights” (to name but a few).

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdgreatestshowdvdThe Greatest Show on Earth

One of my favorite films and Charleton Heston’s first starring role. Directed and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille (Oscar for Best Film, Best Director) this is a star-studded film about a traveling circus when they were really circuses. Actual circus performers from the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey circus were part of the film. Audience cameos of Hollywood stars are fun to spot. And don’t forget the spectacular train wreck! A love triangle, a crooked vendor trying to takeover, and the tragic past of the clown who never removes his makeup are just some of the story lines. Grab some popcorn and sit back to enjoy a fun film.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdkingkong1933dvdKing Kong

This classic 1933 RKO monster movie deservedly earns its place as #43 on the AFI list of the Top 100 American Movies of the 20th Century! This film features mystery, intrigue, jungle adventure, the big city, hubris and downfall, aerial combat and thwarted romance. Oh, and a giant ape running amok through Manhattan. Modern movie audiences may be jaded enough not to appreciate this film’s special effects, but when considered from the perspective of an early 1930s movie viewer, King Kong’s effects were truly spectacular, and inspired decades of subsequent effects artists. In fact, even though I enjoyed this particular DVD release’s main feature — restored and digitally remastered for a very clean copy of the film — I actually enjoyed some of the “extras” on this disc even more. Chief among those were commentaries by genre special effects legends Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston. No fan of classic monster movies should miss revisiting this one!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdmillenniumdvdMillennium

Millennium aired on the Fox television network from 1996 to 1999, and starred Lance Henricksen as ex-FBI Special Agent Frank Black, now a member of the mysterious Millennium Group. The series, by the creator of The X-Files, existed in the continuity of the X-Files universe, and even featured two cross-overs with that show — An episode of Millennium included an appearance by a quirky writer who had been previously featured on The X-Files, and a 7th season episode of The X-Files entitled “Millennium” brought to a conclusion all the plot threads left hanging by the cancellation of this series after only three seasons. The Millennium Group was a cabal of ex-intelligence agents preparing for some kind of apocalyptic event at the millennial change from the 20th to the 21st centuries. Frank had become disenchanted with their methods and motives and offered his services as an advisor to the FBI on paranormal cases. The series had a dark, brooding tone, often with more gruesome storylines than The X-Files. However, individual episodes could be quite brilliant, and the performance of Henricksen as Black was powerful, emotional, and occasionally creepy. The library owns all 3 seasons — if you start watching, stay with it to the end, and then track down the “Millennium” episode of The X-Files to cap off the storylines!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Wikipedia page for Millennium ]

See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdshiningdvdThe Shining
directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the book by Stephen King

I’ll admit it…I have mixed feelings about this movie. The Shining was one of the first Stephen King books I had ever read, back when it first came out in 1977. Passages within that book truly terrified me in my teenage years. Stanley Kubrick’s film version of the shining, in 1980, featured some big names in the cast — Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Scatman Crothers, most notably. This film turned out to be artistically and visually stunning…there are some moments that will remain with you for days, months or years to come…particularly as Danny rides a big wheel around the empty hotel and meets the undead twins, or as Jack slowly but inexorably goes made from isolation and mental issues and begins typing gibberish. However, several key elements of the novel were altered for this film and the changes left this adaptation slightly disappointing for me. For a viewer who hasn’t read the book, this is an unforgettable film. For fans of the novel, I would recommend the 1997 TV mini-series adaptation, starring Steven Weber and Rebecca de Mornay, as a more accurate adaptation — King did the screenplay himself. And, if you’re in the mood to travel, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado…the hotel that served as King’s inspiration for the novel, and which was actually used to film the later mini-series. The hotel has a props and photo gallery from both productions in its lower level.

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated February 2016
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