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

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October 2008 Recommendations


For October, in honor of the spookiest month of the year, we offer a selection of titles heavy on horror, the unexplained, and the supernatural.

book cover  The Amityville Horror
by Jay Anson [133.42 Ans]

Story of the Lutz family who moved into a home on Long Island that had been the scene of a horrific family murder the previous year. Complete with blood running down walls, a spirit chasing out a priest who was blessing the home, and other strange and scary phenomena. Perported to be a true story but later shown to be fiction, it's still a fast, interesting read.

[ Wikipedia page about the book and the controversy surrounding it ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Case Histories
by Kate Atkinson

Case Histories is a traditional suspense novel written with depth of character and a sense of the inner life of those who are affected by sudden violence. Atkinson introduces the reader to three separate acts of violence and spends the rest of the book delving into the effects these acts had on loved ones of the victim and in one case the perpetrator. The first case - 1970, a 3 year old child goes missing. The second - 1994, the seemingly random killing of a young woman by a mentally disturbed man. The third case - 1979, a new wife and mother proceeds to brutally kill her husband. What ties these cases together? They all occured around the Cambridge area of England and they all eventually involve the services of Cambridge private investigator Jackson Brodie. I am not particularly fond of the "steam of consciousness" novel and rest assured this novel is not of that type. The action is fairly straightforward except for the different time periods in which the 3 original acts took place. The inner lives we read about are only of those closely tied to the cases and so too the resolution (or not) of these cases. In this novel, Atkinson uses her skill to write the inner life of ordinary people, the almost breathtaking love of your child, the feelings of abject failure in what others do so effortlessly and the betrayal of control we foolishly thought we wielded over our lives. Kate Atkinson has written other Jackson Brodie novels, One Good Turn, published in 2006, and When Will There Be Good News, in 2008.
[Also available in unabridged book-on-cd format.]

[ Reading Group Guide for Case Histories ] | [ official Kate Atkinson web site ]

Recommended by Evelyn D.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  City of Thieves
by David Benioff

After an opening chapter -- pay close attention, something happens here that will be expanded on later -- the book is told in flashback, to the siege of St. Petersburg in Russia during World War II. An unlikely duo, who have been captured for various crimes by the local police, are spared the firing squad, their mission: to find a dozen eggs in this war torn city. Their encounters are often savage and bloody and brutal -- but they are also human and heartrending.
[Also available in unabridged book-on-cd format.]

[ Publisher's page for City of Thieves ] | [ unofficial Info page about David Benioff ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceThe Spiderwick Chronicles
by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi [jC DiTerlizzi]

The Spiderwick Chronicles is an enchanting set of stories about the Grace family. Recently divorced, Mrs. Grace takes her children to live in an ancient Victorian house owned by an aunt who lives in an insane asylum. The children discover a world of fairies and goblins that co-exists with their own. The authors have created a world that is not only unpleasant but dangerous as well. The books give the reader the opportunity to see how each member of this disfunctional family deals with the realities that they must face as they grow closer to one another in this fight against the creatures that would like to see them gone forever.
[Also available: Spiderwick Chronicles series heading.]

[ official Spiderwick Chronicles web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Dark Curse
by Christine Feehan

Christine Feehan continues her Carpathian Dark series with Dragonseeker Lara Calladine teaming up with Nicolas Dela Cruz, an arrogant, sinfully handsome Carpathian hunter. Lara has spent her life seeking the ice caves where she had been tortured as a child by a grandfather intent on discovering the secret of immortality while destroying the entire Carpathian race. The whispers of her imprisoned aunts kept her sane while teaching her vitally important mage magic. They even helped her escape. Now she hopes to use that knowledge to rescue her aunts. Nicolas wants only to protect his lifemate, but his need for control nearly destroys Lara. Feehan produces another wild ride filled with heart stopping emotions as the two discover just how strong a weapon love can be.
[Also available in unabridged book-on-cd [abridged or unabridged] format.]

[ official Dark series section on the official Christine Feehan web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Janet K.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  The Fix
by Tod Goldberg

This is an original novel based on the recent popular spy drama series, Burn Notice (which aired in the summers of 2007 and 2008 on the USA network and returns in January 2009 with more new episodes). Goldberg manages to take an extremely stylized TV series and capture much of that feel on the printed page. This novel makes extensive use of main character Michael Westen's "on-screen" narration -- a tribute to such 1980s series as Magnum, P.I., where the hero keeps up a running monologue to us in the audience. Burn Notice has a wicked sense of dark humor, and Goldberg captures that essence pretty well, too. The main characters -- Michael, Sam and Fiona, are all extremely well definied, although some of the supporting charactes is this novel come off as slightly two-dimensional. Never-the-less, Goldberg's wry humor, incredibly fast pacing, and complex caper-related plot make The Fix a very worthy tie-in novel for fans of the series. I would also recommend it to fans of Florida-set thrillers, such as those written by Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard and Tim Dorsey.

[ official Burn Notice TV series web site ] | [ Tod Goldberg's official blog ]

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


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book cover  Whisper of Evil
by Kay Hooper

This book is the second in Kay Hooper's Evil trilogy. Nell Gallagher ostentatiously returns to Silence, Louisiana, to settle her father's estate. In her everyday world Nell is an agent for the FBI's special crimes unit. This unit is made up of psychics and other paranormal experts who use their special abilities to solve crimes. Four of Silence's leading citizens have been murdered in the past eight months. The killer also exposes their dirtiest secrets. Citizens are nervous and wonder who will be next. The mayor asks the FBI for assistance. Their profile says that a local police officer is the murderer. Nell returns as an undercover agent. She has the perfect cover for this assignment since she is a native and has a valid reason to return to Silence. Nell uses her ability to see past and future events to track down the killer.
[Also available in unabridged audiotape and Large Print formats.]

[ official Whisper of Evil page on the official Kay Hooper web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


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book cover  The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films
by J.W. Rinzler, interviews by Laurent Bouzereau [791.437 qIndYr]

For anyone who's a fan of the Indiana Jones films, or who grew up going to movies in the late 1970s and 1980s, The Complete Making of Indiana Jones is a treasure. This coffee-table book is a massive history of everything that went into the filming and release of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, its sequels in 1984 and 1989, and the much-delayed follow-up film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, released just this past May. Filled with dozens of interviews, and reproductions of script pages, call-back sheets, billing invoices, directors notes and every other form historical document associated with the productions that you can imagine, this book is a movie-lover's dream. Interested in how and when George Lucas came up with the idea for his adventurer, Indiana Smith? Curious as to who else was considered for the role of Indy before they offered it to Tom Selleck, who had to back out? Want to know how they did the incredible stunts and special effects? Want to know what was really in the monkey skulls during Temple of Doom's dinner sequence? Did Sean Connery and Harrison Ford get along off-camera? Why did it take almost 20 years to get a fourth film made? The answers to all these questions, and many more, are to be found here. Though a fascinating read, for a movie buff like me, I'm going to deduct an entire point from my score because they didn't bother to dedicate a chapter to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. If George Lucas considers the stories told in that excellent TV series to be part of the Indy canon, they least they could do is dedicate a few of this book's 300 pages to Young Indy. Otherwise, an excellent read!
[Also available (on DVD) -- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (1989).]

[ official Indiana Jones web site from Lucasfilm ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceI Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee
by Charles J. Shields [j Biography Lee]

This is a very readable, well researched biography of the acclaimed author Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Author Charles Shields has adapted this book for younger readers from his New York Times best seller, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Although Harper Lee is someone who has not given out very many public interviews, the author is still able to provide a biographical picture of a famous person that the general public knows little about. His use of interviews with old classmates, fellow newspaper writers with Harper Lee, and town folk from where she grew up, are presented in a way which allows the reader to identify, in a small way, with Harper Lee's triumphs and fears. There are times throughout the book where Charles Shields takes a childhood experience of Harper Lee's and relates it to the book and the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird. Two components of this book that I enjoyed were Harper Lee's struggles about writing her second novel and her relationship with Truman Capote. Containing 246 pages of information, pictures and an index, this book is worth reading if you like studying the greatness of individual achievement, and learning about the acceptance of letting yourself be who you are.

[ downloadable discussion guide for I Am Scout on the official Charles J. Shields web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Patty L
Walt Branch Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Lives of Others
directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

This intriguing film is set in 1984 East Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Winner of the 2006 Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film, this is one production that offers an outstanding, yet eerie portrayal of what it is like to live under constant surveillance by the State Secret Police. Neighbors and friends are asked to spy on each other, and are threatened if they don't comply. An examination of anyone, for the smallest infraction, is the norm. The movie opens with the interrogation of a man who claims to know nothing about the escape of an East Berlin citizen. Then goes on to follow the lives of two government sanctioned artists who are lovers. A twist in the story evolves when a high ranking official decides to have the couple's apartment bugged because he is in love with one of them. Filled with secret meetings and whispered conversations, living in a country as controlling as this and creating art can be a tricky and dangerous profession. This film is a must see for those who value artistic expression, and for those who value the ordinary freedoms that are accorded to people living in a democracy.

[ Internet Movie Database page for this film ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Patty L.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemFrankenstein [1931]
directed by James Whale

This is the classic "Universal Monster Movie" adaptation of Mary Shelley's ground-breaking novel. Although the movie takes a few liberties with Shelley's original story, the performances (particularly Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's creation) and the production values are tremendous. Fans of horror films or classic films should not miss this one! This particular release of the film came out in 2006, celebrating the film's 75th anniversary, and features lots of special features. Some of those include "Universal Horror" - a documentary on classic Universal horror movies narrated by Kenneth Branagh, "Karloff: The Gentle Monster" - a tribute to the film work of Boris Karloff, and "The Frankenstein Files" - a documentary about the making of this classic film.

[ Internet Movie Database page for this film ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Mist
based on a story by Stephen King

Mists are scary enough, but the mist in this movie is truly terrifying. Citizens in a grocery store hole up to save themselves from the monsters that are flying and creeping inside the mist. But some of the people in the store are scarier than the monsters outside, and the shoppers split into two camps. One is determined to escape and one is determined to appease the vengeful deity they hold responsible for the mist. This movie has great special effects and the ending is different than the short story by Stephen King it is based on.
[Also available in print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database page for this film ] | [ official The Mist web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Deanne J.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemYoung Frankenstein [1974]
directed by Mel Brooks

Hilarious parody of typical horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s, specifically the original Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Gene Wilder is Dr. Frankenstein, a New York-based medical specialist who is the grandson of the famous mad scientist who originally created a humanoid monster. When he is identified as the sole surviving heir to his grandfather's legacy, Victor journeys to Transylvania to close out his family's affairs there but instead gets caught up in an attempt to restart his grandfather's macabre work. The performances in this film are marvelous, from Wilder's Frankenstein, to Marty Feldman as Igor -- it's pronounced Eye-gor -- with his shifting hump, and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, Peter Boyle as the monster, and Kenneth Mars as the incomprehensible Inspector Kemp. The film is filled with unforgettable, hilarious lines, and moments that are direct parodies of scenes in the 1931 film. Identified as #13 on AFI's list of the top 100 Top Comedies of all time, this is a true classic. Just remember, when you're looking for a brain to complete your own monster, don't pick one from somebody named Abby Normal!

[ Internet Movie Database page for this film ]

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


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last updated November 2008
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