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

July 2009 Recommendations

book cover  The Access Travel Guides
by various editors

Everyone is probably already aware of the fine travel guides put out by such publishers as Fodors, Frommers, and Baedecker. A somewhat lesser-known publisher of travel guides that I'd like to recommend is the Access Guides, put out by Access Press. These tall, narrow books cram an intense amount of information into each volume. Each Access Guide breaks a city down into distinct geographic areas, then gives you a detailed map, with icons for hotels, restaurants, shops, parks, notable architectural landmarks and other types of touristy stops, for each of those "districts". Each district then has a section of the book dedicated to detailed descriptions of all the features itemized in the maps -- told in "walking tour" style. At the back of each Access Guide, in addition to a master index, you'll find indexes to all the restaurants (including their ★-to-★★★★ star ratings), and hotels, broken down by price ranges from $ to $$$$. You'll find special sections dedicated to public transportation methods, annual events in each given city, and contact methods for all the businesses listed, as well as various tourism bureaus. Access Guides also include a section at the back of each volume focusing on travel information for gay travellers. Finally, each volume also includes information of Day Trips near the primary city, and a chronology of the city's history. Most of the information available in Access Guides can be found in other travel books. Personally, I find the structure of the way that the info is organized to be very helpful. I've taken Access Guides with me on vacations to San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago and they've proven very useful to have along on walking tours.

[ official Access Press web site ]

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


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book cover  The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas

Don't stop at just the first book -- read the entire series to its dramatic conclusion!
[This novel is available in a variety of different editions/translations and formats. This link should take you to all of those.]

[ The Three Musketeers entry on Wikipedia ] | [ Alexandre Dumas entry on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Mystery of Huntings End
by Mignon Eberhart

For those of us who anticipate a snowy evening, a comfortable chair and a good whodunit, there is always a Nurse Sarah Keate mystery by Mignon G. Eberhart. The setting is a remote and rustic hunting lodge in the Nebraska Sandhills. The hunting lodge is filled with guests, the same guests who were there five years earlier, when rich businessman and lodge owner, Hubert Kingery, died mysteriously of heart failure. His daughter, Matil, has gathered these guests back to the lodge in hopes of finding who killed her father five years ago. There are two additional guests, Lance O'Leary, a detective posing as an acquaintance of Matil Kingery, and Sarah Keate, a nurse hired to care for Matil's elderly Aunt Lucy and help detective O'Leary find Hubert Kingery's killer. Nurse Keate says of her evening journey to the lodge called Hunting's End, "the sandhills country is not unlike the ocean in its loneliness, it's immeasurable horizons...sandhills rolling so boundlessly and silently that they gave an impression of incalculable power and strength...The snow began to fly half and hour or so before we reached our destination." The month is November, the forecast is snowy. And so the stage is set! A remote lodge in an isolated landscape. A blizzard so fierce that no one is able to leave the lodge but no one from the outside is able to get in, either. The classic "locked room" mystery! And then it happens! One of the guests is murdered, the man's body is left in his guest room because the authorities cannot be summoned. Then the body disappears, the cook begins to drink heavily, the murder victim's toupee is found on the seat of a living room chair, the host's diary is stolen, there is another murder but this body remains at the lodge!!! As more than one character states, "This is the Sandhills, anything can happen!"

[ Mignon Eberhart booklist on BookGuide ] | [ Mignon Eberhart entry on Wikipedia ] | [ semi-official Mignon G. Eberhart web site ]

Recommended by Evelyn D.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay That Become the Classic Star Trek Episode
by Harlan Ellison [791.457 StaYe]

Fans of the original Star Trek television series [1966-1969] generally agree that the episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" is arguably the most popular and "best" of all the original episodes. The story involves Kirk and Spock traveling back in time to Depression-era Earth to stop a drugged-out McCoy from saving the life of a social worker (whose anti-war activitism would ultimately lead to a different outcome in WWII). What casual viewers of Star Trek may not be aware of is that this thought-provoking and emotional episode faced a great deal of turmoil in its production. Famed author and screenwriter Harlan Ellison won multiple awards for his original script for this episode, and in this intriguing book he traces the history of the creation of this moment in television history. Ellison, who was extremely upset at the changes wrought to his original script (which could have been a fascinating episode in its own right), can be vitriolic at times, but he also provides an insightful look at how a television show is produced, from story-idea to final airing. The number of people who can influence the plot of an episodes is truly mind-boggling. This book is a must for Star Trek fans, especially as the release of this summer's new movie reinvigorates interest in the classic franchise. But I would also recommend it for anyone who's interested in the history of television production in general, and definitely for fans of Harlan Ellison.
[This episode of Star Trek is available in the Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One boxed DVD set.]

[ Detailed Wikipedia entry on this episode ] | [ official Harlan Ellison web site ]

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


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book cover  The Essential Ellison
by Harlan Ellison [818 Ell]

Speaking of Harlan Ellison...this collection is, quite simply, one of my favorite story collections of all time. Harlan Ellison is most frequently associated with the science fiction and fantasy genres, despite his desire to be considered a mainstream writer. In the real world, Ellison has a reputation for being feisty and acerbic and for taking "nothing from nobody". That "angry" attitude frequently comes through in his short fiction. Some of the stories in this collection pack the emotional punch of a pile driver, while others are merely whimsical or wry in nature. Ellison can, at times, be something of an acquired taste. But if you've never sampled his works before, I highly recommend that you give this collection your undivided attention. I dare any reader not to be touched in some way by "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty" or "Paladin of the Last Hour". In addition to many of his most classic short stories or novellas, several of of Ellison's essays and/or columns also appear in this volume, and are excellent examples of his work in those formats.

[ official Harlan Ellison web site ]

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


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book cover  The Inkworld Trilogy
by Cornelia Funke

In the Inkworld trilogy (Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath) Cornelia Funke has created a fantasy trilogy that, though intended for teens, can appeal to adults as well. The books revolve around a father and daughter who have the magical ability to read characters to life out of books - and read people from this world into the world of the book as well. Sticklers for details (as many fantasy fans are) should be forewarned that the books are marred by some internal inconsistencies, mainly regarding the chronology of the backstory. But this is more than made up for by Funke's sheer inventiveness as she populates her created world with an array of fantasy creatures that are uniquely hers. As the books become progressively more violent and darker in tone, Funke is able to touch upon themes involving the nature of good and evil, free will versus fate, and even the nature of reality itself. (Note: the motion picture version of Inkheart bears little resemblance to the book; if the premise of the movie intrigued you but you found it disappointing, you might give the book a try.)
[The Inkworld novels are available from the libraries in a variety of editions and formats.]

[ official Cornelia Funke web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDPaul of Dune
by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Paul of Dune was a science fiction novel I was supposed to read and discuss in my science fiction reading group. When I realized that I didn't have the time to tackle a 500+ page book, I grabbed the book-on-CD off of the library's new materials display and decided to give it a try. I'll have to admit, I'm one of the Dune fans who didn't see the need for all of the spin-off volumes that Anderson and Frank Herbert's son, Brian, have been releasing in recent years, most of which have been set generations away from the events in Frank Herbert's original series of novels. However, Paul of Dune is set in the multi-year gap between Herbert's first Dune novel and the second in the series, Dune Messiah. In the end, as a book standing on its own merits, I found Paul of Dune to be a bit slow, and with far too much description and not enough action. As an audio adaptation, I commend narrator Scott Brick on bringing a wide variety of characters to life with subtle nuances and voice inflections. Whether you're a long-time fan of the Dune universe, or just want to sample some of the latest fare in Dune novels, I would recommend this audio version. It is very well done.
[Also available in print format.]

[ official publishers site for Paul of Dune ] | [ official Dune series web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for a music CDOff the Wall
by Michael Jackson [Compact Disc 781.66 Jac]

I wasn't a "fan" of the Jackson 5 when I was a child and teen but I knew who they were. And I had enjoyed Michael's solo hit "Ben." It wasn't until I heard the songs from Off the Wall (which came out when I was 20), a tightly-produced blend of pop, disco, and r&b, that I embraced his artistry and image -- a handsome young man who could dance both vocally and physically. And I'm not a big fan of falsetto singing, either, which comprises a lot of what MJ did. The best songs, interestingly, are those that either Michael or Rod Temperton wrote or co-wrote. The tunes by such heavy hitters as Carole Bayer Sager, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney seem forgettable in comparison. The album's best tracks, for me, are: the title cut; Rock with You; Don't Stop til You Get Enough; the high-energy Working Day and Night; Get on the Floor; and the angst-laden but simply-arranged She's Out of My Life. Props not only go to Jackson, Temperton, and album producer Quincy Jones, but also studio greats Greg Phillinganes, Paulinho Da Costa, Steve Porcaro, David Foster, and Louis Johnson. Other musicians who would be more famous later on include Larry Carlton and George Duke.

[ official Michael Jackson web site/memorial site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for a music CDThriller
by Michael Jackson [Compact Disc 781.66 Jac]

I rarely ever like, and almost never love, every single track from a particular music album, but this is one of the exceptions. Michael not only struck gold but platinum with this 1982 reteaming of himself, Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton. Other returning collaborators from Jackson's Off the Wall album include Steve Porcaro (this time joined by several other members of Toto), Louis Johnson, Greg Phillinganes and Paulinho Da Costa. Guest performers include Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney, Eddie Van Halen, and James Ingram. Michael's vocal gymnastics continue, as does his songwriting skill. There is something here for everyone who likes 1970s & 1980s pop rock, from Beat It's driving guitar riff to the infectious bass line of Billie Jean. And don't overlook the last 3 tracks of this nothing-but-hits offering by the increasingly perplexing but incredibly talented Michael Joseph Jackson. Listen, remember, and enjoy.
[Also available in a Thriller -- Special Edition -- with four additional songs, and 25th Anniversary Edition -- with additional songs and a DVD including music video performances.]

[ official Michael Jackson web site/memorial site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: All the Words
by the Monty Python's Flying Circus comedy troupe [817 Mon]

"Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam...lovely Spam, wonderful Spam!" "Oh, I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay..." "It's..." "He's Pinin' for the Fjords??!!" "Now then, some cheese please, my good man!" "And now, for something completely different..." If any of these snippets of dialog bring a smile to your face, you probably number yourself among the millions of Monty Python fans in the world. If so, this two-volume set, The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: All the Words, is right up your alley. This is a collection of the complete scripts to all of the episodes of the classic Monty Python's Flying Circus series, including stage directions and character names (which often didn't make it onto the screen!). This is entertaining reading for both the casual viewer, and for the hard-core Python fan who wants to test their memory for Python trivia. Just remember... "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

[ official Monty Python's Flying Circus web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceWatchmen
by Alan Moore (writer), Dave Gibbons (illustrator/letterer) and John Higgins (colorist)

Watchmen is a graphic novel, originally released as 12 monthly comic books, and then combined in book format. As a graphic novel, Watchmen was something of a watershed moment for graphical storytelling. The story, encompassing an alternate reality in which superheroes actually existed but had to deal with the every-day niceties of the "real world", was very "adult" in nature. Alan Moore was and is a fan favorite comic book writer, and with artist Dave Gibbons, Moore created a wholly original world for his story -- one filled with both darkness (gritty, noirish scenes) and light (hopeful characters, fighting for what's right). The main storyline, about a series of ostrasized retired superheroes who are being killed off, is interspersed with scenes from a comic book being read inside the context of the Watchmen universe. The cast is large, and multi-layered. Moore is able to cast an examining eye on the prototype superhero characters, such as Batman or Superman, and imagine what a character like that would be like in real life. Some of the characters are unforgettable -- particular the omnipotent but amorla Dr. Manhattan, and the seedy, violent Rorschach. This graphic novel has it all -- mystery, romance, science fiction, character growth, history, and thought-provoking questions of right and wrong. My only complaint, both when I read this during its original release and when I reread it before the release of the recent movie adaptation, is that the artwork is at times unpleasant to look at. But on the whole, this is a groundbreaking work that anyone who's interested in comic book history should not miss! [Note: Though currently marketed for Teens, and located in the Young Adult collection at the library, this storyline does deal with mature themes, and may not be for all young readers.]

[ Watchmen entry on Wikipedia ] | [ Alan Moore entry on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  The History of the World in 6 Glasses
by Tom Standage [394.12 Sta]

This interesting book explores the histories of six beverages (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola) and the influence each had on an particular era of history. The author describes the origin of each drink, along with the social and cultural conditions of the time period, and discusses the impact of the beverage on world events. Mr. Standage writes in an entertaining and engaging style, making this book a quick and enjoyable read. History lovers will guzzle this book right down!

[ official History of the World in 6 Glasses/Tom Standage web site/blog ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Erin S.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemAlias: The Complete First Season

The television series Alias aired from 2001 to 2006, and was a spectacular action/espionage show. By the end of its run, it had become a little top-heavy, with way too many bizarre plots and character reversals. But the episodes of first season were fresh and sharp. Jennifer Garner played Sydney Bristow, a brilliant college student who gets recruited (and then forced) to become an intelligence agent. Complicating matters is the fact that the agency that recruits her is actually the "bad guys", and she's then approached by the CIA (the good guys in this case) to serve as a double agent. Alias featured characters with shifting loyalties, and stories with layers upon layers of secrecy and subterfuge. Garner was perfectly cast -- bringing both a sense of vulnerability and a steely determination. And her constant changes of appearance (hence the title Alias) were astonishing. Other standout performances included: Victor Garber as Sydney's father, a long-time spy who's concealed that fact from his daughter; Ron Rifkin as Arvin Sloane, the leader of the "bad guys", with an obsession with pseudo-mystical Rambaldi devices (a plot element that grew to be a bit of a joke in later seasons but was still intriguing the first year); and Michael Vartan as Michael Vaughn, Sydney's CIA handler and eventual love interest. The production design, stunts and computer graphics were all superb, and the plots ranged from multi-episode story arcs to stand-alone episodes. This DVD set also includes several useful extra features...but it's worth watching for just the episodes!

[ Official Alias DVD web site ] | [ Episode Guide at epguides.com ]

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
Review Score - 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Dead Zone: Complete First Season

If you thought the 1983 film, The Dead Zone, starring Christopher Walken as reluctant psychic Johnny Smith was the ultimate adaptation of Stephen King's classic thriller novel, you should definitely take a look at this series. Starring Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny Smith, this series (2002-2007) is able to expand the events from King's book (and the movie) over the course of several years in Johnny's life. In the film, Johnny becomes damaged goods -- freaked out by his own ability to see the future, and obsessed with preventing a corrupt politician from gaining power. In the series, that is still an over-arching long-term storyline, but Johnny is a more stable personality, and we also get nice stand-alone episodes that show the beneficial and negative side to Johnny's power. The supporting cast of Nicole de Boer, Chris Bruno, John L. Adams and David Ogden Stiers (in a recurring role) is all very strong, but the star of the series is definitely Hall, and he carries the show with a great deal of wounded charisma. This first season had some particularly good storylines, and sets in motion Johnny's ultimate quest -- to prevent the armageddon he foresees in the future of politico Greg Stillson (Sean Patrick Flannery - who also puts in a marvelously layered performance). Good storytelling, fine production values, and an excellent cast make this a series definitely worth checking out.
[The original Stephen King novel is available in print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official USA network Dead Zone series web site ]

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
Review Score - 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemEver After: A Cinderella Story

The title of this 1998 film says it all: it's the story of Cinderella. Drew Barrymore plays Danielle (Cinderella) and her Cinderella has a great deal of moxie. Dougray Scott is a very handsome prince. But the character to watch is Anjelica Huston as the wicked step-mother, the Baroness de Ghent. She ignores Cinderella and treats her as a servant not so much because she is wicked, but because she is a social climber, hoping to advance the fortunes of her own daughter (but only one -- her other daughter is a tad on the plump side and at the ball, Anjelica impolitely tells her that she's only there to eat. Later, when the prince and Danielle are married and the Baroness is getting her comeupance, she needs someone to speak up for her, but this daughter remarks, "I'm only here to eat." A lovely moment.) Still, for all of her cruelty and selfishness, she exhibits an undercurrent of humanity as is oddly appealing. In addition, the production values are breathtaking. The sets and costumes for THE ball are romantic and sumptuous.

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

Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Inn of the Sixth Happiness

I love actress Ingrid Bergman and this movie to me, is one of her best. The story takes place in the 1930?s, when a young woman, Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman) feels that her purpose in life is to become a missionary in the remote areas of China. Told by the missionary agency that she is unqualified, she works as a maid until she has saved up enough money to go on her own, with or without the support of the agency. Her employer and others try to talk her out of going, but she holds on to her passion, and takes the long, dangerous trip to China. Once there, she begins her work as a missionary, learning the language and helping the people of China. After a time, she becomes a highly respected person in the remote villages and chooses to gain Chinese citizenship. When war breaks out, she once again sets out on a dangerous journey attempting to transport one hundred orphaned children, across China to safety. I did not have time to watch the movie all in one setting. So I watched it three different times throughout a week long period. This movie lent itself very easily to segment watching, because it felt like it had very distinct chapters in it. If you like watching historical movies (this one was based on a true story), or like watching people that follow their passions in life, then this is a good movie to see.
[Also available in motion picture soundtrack format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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last updated July 2009
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