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

April 2008 Recommendations

book cover  Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! or Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice
by Scott Adams [817 Ada]

The creator of the "Dilbert" comic strip about cubicle adventures passes along his observations of life at large. Although I really enjoy his sense of humor for the most part, I was surprised to find out the intensity of his anti-religious attitude. There is also a bit of R- and X- rated language here and there. If you appreciate a wry, intellectual, satirical style of humor and don't mind what, to some, might be rather offensive content, this is an entertaining read. The subtitle is a good clue to what you will discover: "...cartoonist ignores helpful advice".

[ The Dilbert Blog ] | [ official Dilbert web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  A Flaw in the Blood
by Stephanie Barron

Barron is the author of the famed Jane Austen mysteries. In this departure set in Victorian England, Patrick Fitzgerald has been called before Queen Victoria on the night her beloved husband, Albert, lays dying. On his way home, he and his ward, Dr. Georgiana Armistead, are involved in a horrible carriage accident which leads to a chase that has them fearing for their lives. The mystery revolves around the horrible bleeding sickness of Prince Leopold, Victoria's youngest son. Is the Queen behind it all and if so, why?

[ official Stephanie Barron web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Rayma S.
South Branch Library


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book cover  The Bagthorpes Abroad
by Helen Cresswell

The Bagthorpe bunch is at it again!! In the fifth book of the Bagthorpe saga, those zany, loony characters and their madcap exploits deliver enough laugns to fill a Bag(thorpes). For those of you unfamiliar with this eccentric enclave, the family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Bagthorpe, four children, and Grandma and Grandpa. In this very British family, each member is wholly devoted to their own special talents and gifts, which are referred to as "strings to their bow." As one might imagine, these gigantic egos do tend to clash and cause interpersonal conflict (or, as the politically correct would describe it, [they are] relationship-challenged). Mrs. Fosdyke, the "daily help" at the Bagthorpe home, describes the family quite succinctly to her friends down at the local pub: "The goins on at that house is unbelievable. Mad as hatters, the lot of them." Mr. Bagthorpe is the main thorn in her side. Their perpetual feud is carred out by Mrs. Fosdyke's noisy and relentless vacuuming outside Mr. Bagthorpe's study. For Mr. Bagthorpe, who writes scripts for television and considers himself to be sensitive and creative, this is too much to bear. "There are no other carpets in England that have to take the kind of stressing she gives mine with that everlasting Hoover. Hedgehogging about from morning till night, sucking up invisible fluff and destroying the vibrations in my study." Sounds as if a vacation is in order? Sure enough, Mr. Bagthorpe arranges a 6-week family vacation in a very old, haunted house in Wales. Here he will be able to do firsthand research on ghosts, the subject of his next television script. The rest of the Bagthorpes are stunned to hear the news that they are going "abroad" to Wales. They well knew "Mr. Bagthorpe did not care for 'abroad'...he dismissed the entire world outside his own native country as if it were the lowest circle of Dante's Hell. He did not care for everlasting sunshine, believing it to be weakening for the character. He had no wish to lie on a beach all day oiled like a sardine and with approximately as much turning space." Ghostly research is the least of their worries when they arrive in Wales. The very old house is also very dilapidated. This is most distressing to the entire family because one must have the modern conveniences when one is giving one's total energy and complete focus to their individual pursuits. Great minds simply cannot be expected to worry about everyday, boring tasks. To make matters worse, Uncle Parker, Aunt Celia and cousin Daisy are vacationing in the same area and their accomodation is a very well-appointed castle down the road. While this is definitely salt rubbed in the wound, the most frightening aspect is the dreaded presence of cousin Daisy. This 5-year-old is a walking disaster area as she calmly leaves every household she visits in utter chaos and ruin. Not to mention her pet goat, Billy Goat Gruff, who is allowed to roam freely, and does other things freely since he is not house-broken. As you can tell, the stage is set for a calamity of truly Bagthorpian proportions. I won't spoil it, but I will give a few hints -- a hungry goat, police cars, butane cylinder and "driving couins Daisy"!!

[ Bagthorpe saga and Helen Cresswell on Wikipedia ]

Recommended by Evelyn D.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Technical Processes


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book cover  An American Cycling Odyssey, 1887
by Kevin I. Hayes [973.85 Hay]

A trip across the U.S. by bicycle is sure to be an adventure--meeting characters and overcoming obstacles. In 1887, on a high-wheeler, it was unbelievable! But George Nellis did it in record time. His personal best was in Nebraska, where he made 88 miles in a day! 25 pages are devoted to his crossing the state, complete with a race in Omaha, an encounter with a rattlesnake, and cowboys rescuing him from a bull. Hayes provides extensive background information to Nellis's interesting account.

[ Publisher's page for this book ] | [ George Nellis bio at thewheelmen.org ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Bob B.
Bennett martin Public Library - Reference


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceOut of Order
by Betty Hicks

One of the 2008-2009 Golden Sower Nominees is Out of Order, by Betty Hicks. Told from the very different viewpoints of four stepsiblings, this quick but memorable read begins at the low point of the new mixed-family dynamics and works through deliberately dead tomato plants, a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, cicada snacks, Hemingway and soccer balls for Iraq to an imperfect but satisfactory ending. Ages nine to fifteen, the main characters Lily, Parker, V, and Eric share equally in the telling of this tale about how birth order gets Out of Order when two families blend. Other titles by Betty Hicks include I Smell Like Ham, Get Real, Animal House and Iz, and Busted!, all owned by Lincoln City Libraries (click author link to see the full list)!

[ official Golden Sower Award web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Kay V.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Youth Services


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceSilverfin
by Charlie Higson

First in what is expected to be a 5-book series called Young Bond, looking at the life and adventures of future spy James Bond, when he was 13 and slightly older (2 are out in the U.S. and four in the U.K.). Teenaged Bond series have been done before, but with awful results. I was expecting more of the same, and thus was surprised to discover that this book was quite good. Instead of trying to modernize Bond as a contemporary teen, Higson sets his stories during the 1930s, and tries very hard to fit them into the continuity established in Fleming's adult Bond novels. The adventure in this first novel takes place as Bond is a first-year student at Britain's Eton boarding school (according to Fleming's story's, Bond will later be expelled), and continues as he visits relatives in the Scottish highlands over "the holidays". The characters are all sharply drawn, and the typical types of scenes common to adult Bond novels appear in modified form here -- the villain holding Bond at his mercy and explaining his whole scheme, exotic women (in this case a teenager), laughably bizarre character names, etc. This is an unexpectedly enjoyable series, aimed at teens, but as an adult I also liked it. My only complaint is that James acts and sounds like he's in his late teens instead of 13, but that's only a minor quibble.

[ official Young Bond web site ] | [ Charlie Higson page on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Reference


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book cover  The Wolves of Savernake
by Edward Marston

The Normans conquered England but they had a lot of mopping up to do afterwards. Land ownership disputes as well as murders needed to be dealt with. Edward Marston has written a series of historical mysteries called the Domesday book series in which a former knight, Ralph Delchard, and a medieval lawyer, Gervase Bret, travel across Norman England as the King's representatives. The first mystery in the series, The Wolves of Savernake, involves a land dispute with an abbey and a wolf attack on the local miller. Or was it murder? I find mysteries full of historical details very interesting and it is always fun to see how a mystery can be solved without any modern detective work. The writing in this series improves as it goes along.

[ Domesday Books page on the official Edward Marston web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Cindy C.
recently retired from Bennett Martin Public Library - Technical Processes


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book cover  The Mark of Zorro
by Johnston McCulley

Published in 1919, The Mark of Zorro was originally titled "The Curse of Capistrano;" the title was changed the following year to match the title of Douglas Fairbanks' film version. While hardly great literature, the book is a quick and easy read, and it nonetheless has an appeal stemming in part from its humorous touches. It is interesting to note the differences between the story as originally written and the later adaptations of it.

[ History page on "The Curse of Capistrano" ] | [ www.thezorrolegend.com ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Peter J.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Virtual Services


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book cover  Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography
by David Michaelis [Biography Schulz]

I grew up with Charles M. Schulz. His Peanuts strip had already been in newspapers for over a dozen years by the time I was born, and some of the earliest books I can ever remember reading on my own were the paperback comic strip compilations and Happiness is a Warm Puppy, which were so popular in the late 1960s. Schulz, who died in 2000 less than a day from the publication of the very last original Peanuts strip, provided an environment that was a mixture of "cute and safe" and "bitingly satirical" at the same time. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I read this new Schulz biography, having seen reviews that indicated the Schulz family was shocked at the portrait of Schulz that this book painted. Overall, I'd have to say this is an excellent biography, that goes a long way towards explaining Schulz' psychology and how he created such a lasting cultural contribution. At the same time however, it is somewhat disheartening to learn of Schulz' personal failings (affairs, distance from his children), and emotional problems (to his dying day he believed people didn't love him). Still, despite the shattering of his "kindly grandfather" image, I found this to be an engrossing read. If you can handle the unvarnished truth about an American icon, this book will help you understand Schulz, the brilliant but flawed man, and Peanuts, the timeless comic strip.

[ official Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography web site ] | [ official Peanuts web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Reference


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book cover  This review is for a Magazine or JournalMystery Scene Magazine

Carrying on the tradition of The Armchair Detective and many other mystery-themed magazines before it, Mystery Scene is a wonderful read for fans of the mystery genre who want to take a break from actual mystery novels and instead read up on the mystery publishing field and the authors who populate it. Each issue features in-depth interviews with both contemporary and classic mystery authors, looks at thematic topics associated with the mystery field (research methods, historical "true crimes", unearthing forgotten classics, etc.), numerous reviews of mystery fiction, and breaking news about literary awards and the world of mystery writing. This is a true treasure-trove of news and information for mystery fans! Published approximately 5 times per year, back issues of Mystery Scene Magazine are available for checkout from the Gere Branch Library.

[ official Mystery Scene web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Reference


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book cover  Crocodile on the Sandbank
by Elizabeth Peters

Crocodile on the Sandbank is the story of Ameilia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson who meet, fall in love, and fight criminals against a backdrop of an archeological dig in the the ruins of ancietn Egypt. If you like historical mysteries and dry, British wit you will enjoy this first novel in a very popular series.
[Also available in unabridged downloadable audio, audiotape, and book-on-cd formats.]

[ official Amelia Peabody web site for Elizabeth Peters ]

Recommended by Rayma S.
South Branch Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBleak House
by Charles Dickens [DVD Dickens]

This 2006 BBC production of Dickens' novel of lost wills and family secrets has become an instant classic. Don't let the title keep you from watching this brilliant film. One of the its greatest strengths is a perfectly chosen cast and terrific performances. There are no "throw-away" roles or poorly conceived characters to be found. Former X-Files star Gillian Anderson dominates the production, however, with her tour-de-force portrayal of the icily regal Lady Dedlock. This movie has it all -- lost love, new love, legal intrigue, lots of death-bed scenes and, of course, Dickens' biting social commentary and masterful storytelling. If you put any stock in ratings, Internet Movie Database has this one rated at almost a ten (and so do I)!
[Also available in many other formats.]

[ IMDb page for this production ] | [ PBS Masterpiece Theatre site for this production ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Lisa V.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Reference


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last updated April 2010
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