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

February 2010 Recommendations

book cover  This review is for a music CDChess in Concert
music by Benny Andersson, Tim Rice and Bjorn Ulvaeus [Compact Disc 782.14 Che]

Thrilling! Spectacular! Moving! Intriguing! Can you imagine that any of these could apply to a staged musical about the classic mental game of chess? Well they do! The original recording of this show, released in the mid-1980s and featuring the vocal talents of Elaine Paige, Murray Head and Tommy Korberg, is one of my favorite soundtracks, even though I've never seen an actual production of the musical. In 2008, a pair of concert-format performances of the songs from this show was given at the Royal Albert Hall, which featured multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban and Tony nominees Idina Menzel (Wicked) and Adam Pascal (RENT). This non-dramatized version of Chess in Concert was then shown on PBS and released as a double-disc CD set. Chess, as a story, features a political, emotional and strategic battle for supremacy between rival chess players over the course of two world-championship chess tournaments. Defections, both political and romantic, taint the pureness of the mental challenges of the game, and rivals find themselves uncertain of who and what they are playing for. The musical features some powerful songs, including "Quartet", "Budapest is Rising", "One Night in Bangkok", "Someone Else's Story", and my particular favorites, "Where I Want to Be" and "Nobody's Game". In this version, Groban is terrific, as expected, but I was particularly impressed by both Menzel and Pascal, who each have strong, flexible voices. My only complaint about this excellent album is that the recordings were live, and audience applause (though justified) reduces the emotional impact that silence would have had at the end of several tracks. Though both versions of this soundtrack are worth hearing, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try!

[Also available in original 1984 show and Selections from Chess (sheet music) formats.]

[ official Chess in Concert web site ]

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


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book cover  Library: An Unquiet History
by Matthew Battles [027.009 Bat]

This book is a quick and relatively easy read about the history of the development and destruction of libraries. Matthew Battles takes readers from the starting point of online catalogs all the way back to libraries of cuneiform on clay tablets that were inadvertently preserved for future generations by the fires that consumed the buildings that held them. Many such paradoxes exist in human history generally, no less in the specific history of libraries. It is a quick and enjoyable read with an inviting bibliography and well-written notes and index for the curious among us.

[ Library: An Unquiet History on books.google.com ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Sarah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Heat Wave
by Richard Castle

This novel is a tie-in to the popular ABC television series, Castle (airing Mondays at 9:00, with repeats on Saturday nights). As such, it is one of the most unusual and unique tie-ins in TV tie-in history. The conceit of the television series is that New York Times bestselling thriller writer Richard Castle is shadowing NYC cop Kate Beckett, using her as the inspiration for the main character in his latest crime novel, Nikki Heat. Heat Wave is the first Nikki Heat novel by Richard Castle. The research for, writing of, publishing of, and promotional efforts for this novel have all featured in episodes of the TV series. The "real world" release of the book was timed to coincide closely with the release of the book in the continuity of the show. And the publishers are not letting us know who the actual author of Heat Wave is, continuing with the conceit that it is written by the fictional Richard Castle, who, since this book showed up for weeks on the NYT Bestseller Lists, is now, really, a New York Times bestselling thriller writer. So...how does the book do on its own? Like the show, it is a character-driven police procedural, filled with snappy dialog and lots of sexual tension. Unlike the show, that's not UNresolved sexual tension, as the novel's thinly disguised versions of the series' characters go a lot further in exploring their heated relationship that ever happens on the show. But, at the core of it all is a very solid mystery, filled with lots of twists and unexpected turns. I love the series, Castle, and this is an excellent addition to the overall story arc of that show's characters. Mystery fans and TV fans alike should both enjoy this thriller -- a second Nikki Heat novel is scheduled for the fall of 2010. [If you enjoy this, you might also like the TV series Castle; the first season of which is out on DVD so far.]

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd formats.]

[ official Castle novel web site ] | [ official Castle TV show web site ]

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


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book cover  Prayers for Sale
by Sandra L. Dallas

Set during the 1930s, Hennie Comfort is fast approaching the age of 90 and will soon be moving from her Colorado home to spend the rest of her days with her daughter in Iowa. As she prepares to move, she reflects back on her life, through a series of stories that she shares primarily with Nit Spindle, a young newlywed and new neighbor to Hennie. This is an enjoyable read that includes a few twists and turns along the way to a surprising (for some) conclusion. Be watching for the clues to the Blue Dress pictured on the cover.

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd, and Large Print formats.]

[ publisher's official Prayers for Sale web site ] | [ Reading Group Discussion Guide for Prayers for Sale ] | [ official Sandra Dallas web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Sheila J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Shakespeare's Counselor
by Charlaine Harris

Lily Bard finds herself in a twisted case of stalking and murder after joining a support group for rape victims. Harris doesn't disappoint in this final(?) installation in the series. [If you enjoy this, you may also like Grave Secret, also by Harris.]

[ Lily Bard page on the official Charlaine Harris web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book-on-CD format of this titleFire and Ice
by J.A. Jance

Another interesting crossover between Jance's two main series -- the Seattle-set J.P. Beaumont series and the Arizona-set Joanna Brady series. The story, itself, is fairly strong -- definitely character driven, with the harder-edged Beaumont investigating the latest victim in a series of prostitute murders, and Sheriff Brady involved with both a rural murder of an ATV park caretaker and growing evidence of malfeasance at an Alzheimer's care facility. However, when Beaumont's latest victim turns out to be the sister of one of Brady's officers, the separate casts of characters get the chance to interact. The Beaumont series is written in first person limited and the Brady series in third person omniscient, and for this audio adaptation Hillary Huber does the Brady sections and Erik Davies does the Beaumont. Both are very competent narrators. However, my only two complaints are that there were far too many plot threads left hanging at the end of the story; and I found myself vaguely put off by Davies' attempts to "feminize" the female characters' voices -- it sounded very fake. Overall, though, a good adaptation of a very good novel. [If you enjoy this, you might also like: Any of the other Jance novels, particularly Partners in Crime, the first crossover between Brady and Beaumont.]

[Also available in print and Large Print formats.]

[ publisher's official Fire and Ice web site ] | [ official J.A. Jance web site ]

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


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book cover  Organize Your Corpses
by Mary Jane Maffini

Charlotte Adams is a professional organizer hired by her former high school teacher to bring order to the house she'd inherited. This teacher was feared and hated by nearly everyone in town and her friends are amazed Charlotte has accepted the job. Unfortunately the woman is found dead in the house and Charlotte finds the body. She also manages to make herself the prime suspect. Even worse, her high school rival is the chief investigating officer and is determined to find Charlotte guilty of the crime. A fun, light-weight, mystery-cozy, that includes organizing tips at the beginning of each chapter! Two more books in the series, "The Cluttered Corpse" and "Death Loves a Messy Desk."

[ the Charlotte Adams page on the official Mary Jane Maffini web site ]

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


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book cover  Pretty Little Potholders
edited by Valerie Van Arsdale Shrader [746 Pre]

Yes, a book about making potholders. Over 30 patterns using applique, photo transfer, basic quilting, and/or embroidery. Suggestions for adding your own flourish to store-bought potholders. Patterns for beginners, new tricks for more experienced sewers, classic patterns, retro, and new designs. Includes a chapter on Potholder Basics. Wonderful photos and illustrations on every page. A fun browse even if you don't own a sewing machine.

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


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book cover  Henry V: The Screenplay
by William Shakespeare [822.33 ShaW3b]

This is the screenplay to Kenneth Branagh's production of "Henry V." Many believe Laurence Olivier's "Henry V" to be the quintessential version, but this reviewer votes Branagh's film to be THE adaptation to define "Henry V." This book includes stills on nearly every page from Branagh's film as well as the screenplay, and an introduction by Branagh that explains how he came about to make the film. It was great fun to browse through the screenplay and hear again the voices recite their lines and see the photos. Also includes the credits. This book provided great enjoyment at only 107 pages.

[ Henry V is available in a variety of print, audio and video formats from the libraries. ]

[ official Internet Movie Database page for this version of the film ]

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


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book cover  Maria
by Maria Von Trapp [Music 780.92 Tra]

The Sound of Music has always been my favorite musical and one of my favorite movies. For years, I have wondered if the portrayal of Maria von Trapp in the movie was anything like the real person. This book answers that question with delightful stories told by the real Maria. [If you enjoy this, you may also like: Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria von Trapp and The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp]

[ Wikipedia page for Maria Von Trapp ] | [ Maria on the official Trapp Family Lodge site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Surrogates
written by Robert Venditti; art by Brett Weldele [741.5 Ven]

This graphic novel was the inspiration for the 2009 movie starring Bruce Willis. There are also thematic elements similar to plot points in the hit film Avatar. Set 40+ years in the future, the invention of remote controlled bodies -- Surrogates -- has allowed human beings to live a more secure, protected life. There's no more threat to you personally, if you're living your life through a remote-controlled body. However...throw in a religious movement that finds Surrogates sacreligious, and a madman using a surrogate to steal the components that will allow him to "turn off" all Surrogates in an entire city simultaneously, and you've got a science fiction/conspiracy/murder mystery story that's quite thought provoking. I enjoyed the story in this very much. My only complaint is that the highly-stylized art (by Brett Weldele) is SO stylized that it often is muddy and incomprehensible. Nevertheless, for a story about something that's rather cold and heartless, this one's got a very "human" storyline at its core.

[ Wikipedia page for The Surrogates ] | [ Robert Venditti at the Comic Book Database ]

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


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book cover  This review is a recommended web siteLee and Lyn - Wilde Twins

"Lee and Lyn Who?", will be the response of most. Lee and Lyn Wilde are twins who appeared in a few movies in the 1940s. They were singers and spent most of their careers traveling with big band orchestras. The website has a number of photographs from their performing days and photos of them as babies. It also features stills and images from some publicity about the girls. The biography portion is espcially good; Lee provided some of the information herself. Anyone who is interested in the 1940s might enjoy this piece of nostalgia. But the biggest reason for calling this site to our patron's attention is to point out once again the power of the web. That two somewhat obscure performers has such a nice site devoted to them rates an 'A' on any scale. [If you enjoy this, you may also like: http://www.penelope.demon.co.uk/deanna/ (The Deanna Durbin page)]

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


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book cover  Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
by Ben Winters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is Ben H. Winters' attempt to write a parody of Jane Austen's classic novel, Sense and Sensibility. I did manage to finish this book, although I admit it was a struggle to make it all the way to the end. The sophomoric humor became tiresome and had the tendency to get in the way of the story. I think that Mr. Winters would do better to parody current teen romances. His writing style is no match for Austen. [If you enjoy this, you might also like: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies]

[Also available in downloadable audio> format.]

[ Wikipedia page for this book - including link to YouTube trailer ] | [ official Ben H. Winters web site ]

Review Score - 3
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemCastle

This is the first season of the current ABC television series, Castle. This series easily straddles the line between romantic comedy and suspenseful crime drama. Nathan Fillion plays bestselling thriller author Richard Castle, who has recently killed off his long-running series character Derrick Storm, and is looking for inspiration for a new character. He finds it in NYC homicide detective Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). By the mayor's special request, Castle is allowed to shadow Beckett and her team of detectives, so that he can write a new series of thrillers featuring "Nikki Heat". The snappy dialog and awkward attraction between Castle and Beckett are enough to recommend the series all by themselves, but in addition, there are some truly challenging mystery cases. Castle's observations on the murder investigations always prove creative yet plausible -- coming from the overactive mind of a thriller writer, and even though the episodes become somewhat formulaic, the formula is an easy one to swallow. A great cast, great writing, great production values; I can't recommend this one highly enough. Castle is now in its successful second season, Mondays at 9:00 p.m. [If you enjoy this, you might also like the novel Heat Wave, attributed to Richard Castle.]

[Also available -- Heat Wave the first "Nikkie Heat" novel.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Castle web site from ABC ]

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
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 itemI Am Legend
based on the book by Richard Matheson

This Will Smith movie adaptation of the classic Richard Matheson novel can be viewed two ways -- First, as an adaptation of a well-known and respected work of genre fiction; and Second, as a standard Will Smith action/adventure film. As an adaptation of the original story, this film fails more than it succeeds. The depth of Matheson's story is never reached -- the complex relationship that Robert Neville has with the "monsters" that have taken over his world is never achieved in this film, and the shocking but thought-provoking ending to Neville's story is completely eliminated from this film. At the same time, as Will Smith films go, this film has a lot of action, some very emotional bits, and an intriguing storyline. Smith's performance here is excellent -- much better than his standard action hero roles. And the production design is fabulous -- although the novel is set in L.A., the movie is set in New York City, and the movie-makers do a remarkable job of creating an abandoned metropolis. All in all, even though I could appreciate the film as it was made, I was frustrated that they couldn't do a more faithful adaptation of the novel, and I have to downgrade this film in that regard. Note -- take a look at the Alternate Ending available on disc 2 -- though still not as strong a finish as the novel, it would have given this film a little more depth. [If you enjoy this, you should definitely read the original novel, and then try out the other loose adaptations -- The Last Man on Earth (1964 - starring Vincent Price) and The Omega Man (1971 - starring Charlton Heston).]

[Also available in print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official I Am Legend web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemWives and Daughters
by Elizabeth Gaskell

This superb Masterpiece Theater production is well worth watching. Written by the same author who brought us North and South and Cranford, this drama focuses on the changing nature of relationships from the perspective of Molly Gibson, young daughter of the local doctor, a widower. When her father remarries, Molly is suddenly thrown into the position of having to deal with a step-mother and stepsister whose expectations of Molly's behavior in society does not always create harmony between them. What I find most intriguing about "Wives and Daughters" is the portrayal of familial relationships which are just as relevant today as they were in Gaskell's time. Michael Gambdon's performance as Squire Hamley in this production is excellent. [If you enjoy this, you may also like: North and South and Cranford, both on DVD.]

[Also available in VHS, print formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Wives and Daughters web site from PBS - tons of information! ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated February 2010
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