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

July 2010 Recommendations

book cover  West of Last Chance
by Peter Brown and Kent Haruf [917.82 qBro]

This coffee table book is collaboration between Kent Haruf, who known for his eloquent fiction set in the high plains, and Peter Brown who has photographed the plains for 25 years. Brown trained his lens on the small towns and vast landscape of the central United States. He roamed eastern Colorado, western Texas, Kansas, South Dakota and the Nebraska sandhills capturing moments in time. The beauty of photography is that it preserves a slice of life that will never come again. Be it a waitress leaning on the counter in a café or dark gray clouds roiling over the prairie. There will be similar moments to be sure, but none just like these. Brown's photography is enhanced by Kent Haruf's moving prose about life in the high plains. The stories range from pioneer days when a young couple from Ohio dug a dugout in the side of a hill. One day the wife watched in horror as rattlesnakes dropped from the dirt ceiling into her baby's crib. With her heart in her mouth she tiptoed to the crib and carefully took up her son. She left her husband this terse note: "Gone home." And end with modern day stories about the fellowship that is served along with the food at small town church suppers. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild by Michael Forsberg, Along the Edge of Daylight by Georg Jourtas, and Distinctly American : the photography of Wright Morris / essays by Alan Trachtenberg and Ralph Lieberman.]


[ official West of Last Chance page on the official Peter Brown web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  212
by Alafair Burke

There are lots of things going on in this page turner -- a real estate mogul with a judge in his pocket, three women working for an escort service, a missing woman, an N.Y.P.D. lieutenant with a conflict of interest and murder. 212 opens with Detective Ellie Hatcher spending a night in jail for contempt of court. The book quickly moves onto the murder investigation of Megan Guenther who had a lodged a complaint of cyber stalking before her death. Sadly, the desk sergeant told her "nothing could be done." The title, 212, refers to New York City's area code and the name of a plush penthouse, the location of one of the murders. Alafair Burke is the daughter of James Lee Burke. But Ellie Hatcher is nothing like Dave Robicheaux. Alafair has her own voice and sets this series in New York City where she lives and teaches at Hostra University. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Samantha Kincaid series by Alafair Burke, the works of Brian Freeman and the Walt Fleming series by Ridley Pearson.]

[Also available in book-on-cd format.]

[ official 212 page on the official Alafair Burke web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Haunt Me Still
by Jennifer Lee Carrell

In the author's notes at the end of this book Carrell wonders why Macbeth is shorter than the other tragedies that Shakespeare wrote during the same time period. Is there something missing from this play? Did Shakespeare originally write another, much longer play that delved in the occult? Was Macbeth rewritten to omit these scenes? These questions are the seeds from which this novel grew. Kate Stanley, an academic turned Shakespearean director, is recruited by Lady Nairen to find the original manuscript of Macbeth and stage the play. Kate is not the only person looking for the play. Her ruthless competition stops at nothing in this literary thriller. Carrell weaves superstitions about Macbeth into the plot. Legend has it that Shakespeare incorporated witches' curses in the original manuscript. The witches were outraged and placed a curse on the play. Even today, theater people often consider it to be bad luck to mention Macbeth by name while inside a theater. They usually refer to Macbeth as The Scottish Play. If someone does say "Macbeth" that person must perform one of several rituals to negate the curse. The most popular ritual requires the offender to leave the building, walk three times around it, spit over their left shoulder, say an obscenity and wait to be invited back inside. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Kate Carlisle, John Dunning and Julie Kaewart.]


[ official Haunt Me Still page on the official Jennifer Lee Carrell web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDDarkside
by P.T. Deutermann [Compact Disc Deutermann]

P. T. Deutermann set this novel at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy. It's spring and the academic year is almost over. The seniors are looking forward to graduating and the plebes are looking forward to the end of their first year. All except for Brian Dell, who plunges to his death from a sixth-story window. Was it a suicide by a plebe that couldn't handle the academic life? Was it an accident? Why was there bruising on his upper arms? Why was he wearing undergarments belonging to midshipman Julie Markham? The NCIS is brought in to answer these questions. While the NCIS is investigating Dell's death, the academy's security chief, Jim Hall, is conducting a different investigation. A midshipman is running amok in the steam tunnels beneath the campus and a second death draws the NCIS detective into Hall's case. Deutermann paints a vivid picture of academy life - the rugged academic standards, the emphasis on fitness through competitive sports, the lack of a social life for plebes because they don't have time. The descriptions of Jim Hall's excursions down into the dimly lit tunnels have a creepy feel to them. I could almost feel the mortar from the old bricks sifting down the collar of my shirt as I listened to the reader describe how Hall stood still with his back to the brick walls, the mortar drifting down his neck listening for the footsteps of the miscreant. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Alex Berenson, Vince Flynn or Brian Haag.]

[Also available in print format.]

[ official Darkside page on the official P.T. Deutermann web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  My Dark Places: An L.A. Crime Memoir
by James Ellroy [364.152 Ell]

In 1958, James Ellroy's mother, Jean, was murdered in Los Angeles. Her murderer was never found. James was only ten years old at the time, and soon he became obsessed with murdered women and crime. In 1994, Ellroy teams up with long time homicide detective Bill Stoner to reopen the case. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Black Dahlia Files: the mob, the mogul, and the murder than transfixed Los Angeles. Call number 364.152 Wol. Also consult the subject headings for Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia.]


[ My Dark Places page on Wikipedia ] | [ James Ellroy page on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  It All Changed in an Instant! More Six-Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure
edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith [808.88 Fer]

This is the third collection of Six Word Memoirs from Smith magazine, following Not Quite What I Was Planning and Six Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak. As with the earlier volumes, these were inspired by the (perhaps aprocryphal) tale of Ernest Hemingway being challenged to write an entire novel in just six words. His supposed contribution: "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn". This collection features works primarily by unknowns, with a few contributions by celebrities or well-known writers. The entries can range from funny, ironic and off-color, to touching, thought-provoking and insightful. There are even a few entries from artists, whose contributions take the form of little comic-book or graphic novel pages. This volume also includes some brief biographical profiles in an appendix, giving more detailed background information behind some of the six word contributions in the earlier part of the book. If you end up finding these to be engrossing, and you're into Twitter, try signing up for the Six Word Memoir of the Day on that service. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Not Quite What I Was Planning, from the same folks.]


[ official Six-Word Memoirs page on the official Smith Magazine web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDGrave Secret
by Charlaine Harris [Compact Disc Harris]

Grave Secret is the 4th in Charlaine Harris' increasingly popular Harper Connelly series, and the most "personal" one to date. Harper, struck by lightning as a teenager, has the ability to detect/find corpses, and, if she's close enough to them, sense what those bodies sensed in their last few moments of life. Though I was one of the readers who was made uncomfortable by the physical relationship Harper and Tolliver began in the previous volume, I've stuck with the series because the writing is so strong. That hasn't let up in this volume, in which Harper and Tolliver return to Texas to see their youngest stepsisters and take on a job for a rich ranch family. Unexpected discoveries abound as that new case dovetails with events in Harper and Tolliver's personal lives, leading ultimately to a shocking revelation about the fate of Harper's sister, Cameron, who disappeared almost 10 years ago. Despite the "squick" factor over Harper and Tolliver, this is probably still my favorite of the books in this series so far! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the earlier volumes in this series.]

[Also available in print format.]

[ official Harper Connelly page on the official Charlaine Harris web site ]

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


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book cover  This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
by Marilyn Johnson [020.23 Joh]

Since I had really enjoyed Johnson's earlier book, The Dead Beat, and I've worked in libraries for 30 years, I presumed I would love her look at the world of today's librarians. Oddly, I found this one a bit disappointing, but perhaps that's an "insider's" perspective. Johnson touches on the history of librarianship, but primarily focuses on the world of libraries and, specifically, librarians of today...a world of constantly changing information-based landscapes and services. As with her obits book before, Johnson's greatest strength is her ability to find the quirky and expand what could have been a mere anecdote into a story with substance. In this book, the best parts for me were about blogging librarians around the world, a distance-learning program to assist Third World librarians, the virtual world of Second Life libraries, and an exploration of the difference between librarians and archivists. If you're curious about why librarians are still necessary in the days of Google, ebooks and diminishing fiscal resources, give this one a try! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Dead Beat, the earlier book by this author.]


[ official This Book is Overdue! web site ]

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


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book cover  Murder on the Menu
by Jeanine Larmoth [809.387 Lar]

Larmoth examinies the use of food (and poisons) in the classic British mystery. Each chapter includes several recipes. She examines the library snack, strong drink, the tea trolley, the gardener, and the kitchen, among others. Anyone who enjoys British cozies will find this a delight. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Murder Book by Tage LaCour.]


[ Portrait of Jeanine Larmoth on authorguide.net ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir!
by Arthur Lyons [791.432 Lyo]

The cover of this one grabbed my attention, but the content kept me reading. I've always been a fan of film noir -- those black and white films of the 1940s and 1950s, featuring dark characters and plots, femmes fatale and down-on-their-luck gumshoes, that were cranked out factory-style, but occasionally turned out quite artistically. This book celebrates the second-rate films of this mystery/suspense genre. The first 66 pages of this book give background on the origins and history of Film Noir B movies, and the rest of the book is an encyclopedia of surprisingly detailed film descriptions, covering a ton of worthwhile Noirish films that you've probably never heard of. I think that the best compliment I can pay this book is that it makes me want to hang out on TCM or AMC watching late-night b&w film noir marathons.


[ One of many obits of Arthur Lyons (who died in 2008) ] | [ Arthur Lyons bibliography on FantasticFiction.co.uk ]

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


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book cover  Maggie Needs an Alibi
by Kasey Michaels

This lighthearted book is a good read on a lazy afternoon. It combines mystery and romance with a touch of fantasy. Maggie Kelly writes mysteries set in Regency England. She has put a lot of thought into her books' hero, Alexander Blakely, the Viscount St. Just and his friend Sterling Balder. Maggie made Blakely handsome, but not too handsome. She gave him charm, wit, intelligence and a touch of arrogance. Maggie bestowed Sterling with unwavering loyalty and kindness. She vividly describes these characters in her novels. Maggie does such a good job that Alex and Sterling jump off the pages -- literally. One day Maggie is standing in her living room. She turns around and is shocked to find two men dressed in clothing from the early 1800s. After reviving Maggie from her faint the men introduce themselves as the characters from her series -- Alexander Blakely and Sterling Balder. They tell her that they have decided to live with her in 21st century New York. Alex and Sterling have amusing problems adjusting to some aspects of modern day life, but they catch on quickly to other things, like using Maggie's credit card to buy stuff on the home shopping channel. Maggie explains Alex and Sterling to her friends as visitors from England. Alex is her distant cousin and Sterling is his friend. One evening Maggie has a dinner party. One of her guests, Kirk Toland, dies that night from eating poisonous mushrooms. Mushrooms were in one Maggie's dishes so she is the natural suspect. Maggie, with the dubious assistance of Alex and Sterling, works to clear her name. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, the Carlotta Wren series by Stephanie Bond, or the Wolly Shelley series by Harley Jane Kozak.]


[ official Maggie page on the official Kasey Michaels web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Ghosts of the Rich and Famous
by Arthur Myers [133.1 Mye]

The author organizes the ghosts by types: movies, politics, music, tycoons, literature, etc. Some of the celebrities who are either haunting or receiving visits from ghosts include Gable and Lombard, Judy Garland, Dick Clark, Houdini, John Lennon, Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, F. W. Woolworth, Allen Ginsberg, Thomas Wolfe, and Bill Cody. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the subject headings "Ghosts" and "Ghost stories" in the catalog.]


Review Score - 6
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Making Toast
by Roger Rosenblatt [Biography Rosenblatt]

This is a bittersweet, painful little gem of a book. When columnist/writer/university professor Roger Rosenblatt's 38-year-old daughter dies suddenly of a rare and undiagnosed heart condition, he and his wife Ginny move in with their son-in-law to help raise their three young grandchildren. Rosenblatt's book is basically just a series of slice-of-life vignettes, told mostly in chronological order (with a few flashbacks) as Roger and Ginny settle into the "parenting" routine they thought they'd left behind 20 years earlier. Family members each have different ways of coping with their losses, and Rosenblatt himself is superb at controlling his emotions. Each scene of this book is like a brittle, fragile feather -- you're never quite sure if it will crumble or disintegrate. But when you combine all of those feathers together, by the end of the book, you've got an entire pillow's worth of feathers -- capable of supporting the heavy emotional load of the subject matter. I found Making Toast to be an exceptional read, and Rosenblatt's ultimate message that "life goes on" and you should make the most of the small moments, was reassuring. Even if those small moments are as simple as perfecting the methods of making toast for your grandchildren.

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

[ Making Toast as it originally appeared as a column in The New Yorker ] | [ official Roger Rosenblatt web page from HarperCollins.com ]

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


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book cover  The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book: 745 Scrumptious Recipes That Start With Refrigerated Cookie Dough, Cake Mix, Brownie Mix, or Ready-to-Eat Cereal
by Camilla V. Saulsbury [641.865 Sau]

Do you love the convenience of mixes for brownies and cookies? Do you want to make your desserts look and taste special? This cookbook may be for you. It contains 745 recipes that use cake mix, brownie mix, refrigerated cookie dough or ready-to-eat cereal to create tasty desserts. In this wide variety of recipes you can find a cookie or brownie that is suitable for any occasion. The Apple Cranberry Harvest Cookies are made with spice cake mix and chunks of apple and are perfect for a club meeting. Snickerdoodles, a long-time favorite of mine, are made with refrigerated sugar cookie dough. The Chocolate Glazed Mint Frosted brownies make great treats for co-workers. Cereal based cookies like the Black Forest Bites do not require baking and are a tasty choice for summer days when you don't want to heat up the kitchen by turning on the oven. Camilla Saulsbury has written ten cookbooks and often appears on the Food Network.. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Cake Mix Doctor and the What Can I Bring Cookbook, both by Ann Byrn.]


[ official Camilla Saulsbury web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Northern Light: Nordic Art at the Turn of the Century
by Kirk Varnedoe [709.48 qVar]

This book introduces the reader to many Scandinavian artists, most of whom the reader will not recognize. Probably the most well known artist in the book is Edvard Munch. (His most famous painting is undoubtedly "The Scream.") Sweden's Carl Larsson also appears. The book includes reproductions in color of every artist represented and is therefore a good opportunity to learn more about Scandinavian art. The author includes artists from Finland and Iceland, in addition to the perhaps better known painters from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the subject heading "Art--Scandinavia" or "Munch, Edvard.".]


[ Biographical portrait of Kirk Varnedoe ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemNew Moon
based on the book by Stephenie Meyer

This second film in the Twilight series finds Bella pining for Edward after Edward and his family leave Forks (ostensibly to protect her). This one focuses more on the introduction of the werewolves, the ranks of whom Bella's young friend native friend Jacob has just joined. Bella's refusal to abandon her love for Edward and a miscommunication that leads Edward to believe that Bella has killed herself, ultimately leads to a confrontation with the Volturi -- the ancient vampire ruling council, and sets in motion events that should play out in the third and fourth films. I found the werewolf special effects a bit lacking (i.e. "unbelievable") in this film, but the charming Taylor Lautner as Jacob really comes into his own in New Moon. For those who are already fans, you'll love this. For those who don't "get" the Twilight series, this is another heaping helping of over-the-top paranormal teen angst.
[Also available in print, book-on-cd [abridged or unabridged], and downloadable audio formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official New Moon movie 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 itemNicholas Nickleby
by Charles Dickens [DVD Dickens]

While the 1982 Royal Shakespeare Company version (released on video by A&E Home Video in 1994) remains the gold standard in dramatizations of _Nicholas Nickleby_, its 9-hour running time may be a bit daunting to some viewers. This 1977 production, weighing in at "only" about 5 1/2 hours, has much to recommend it. The basic story line comes through intact, though the threads that connect some of the subplots to the main plot are lost. While the cast is not quite as engaging as the later version's, Nigel Havers makes a splendid Nicholas, and most of the other major roles are at least competently played.
[Also available in a variety of other formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this production ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemTopaz
directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This Alfred Hitchcock spy thriller is adapted from a novel of the same name by Leon Uris. Topaz is set during the height of the cold war. Kennedy and Khrushchev stand toe to toe. A Russian intelligence officer defects to the West. He tells CIA agent Nordstrom that Russia is sending missiles to Cuba. Nordstrom asks his friend and French intelligence agent, André Devereaux to go to Cuba to find proof. Devereaux asks his mistress, Juanita de Cordoba, a leader of the Cuban underground resistance, to photograph the missiles as they are unloaded from Russian ships. Devereaux smuggles the photos out of Cuba and take them to Nordstrom in Washington D.C. In return for the information Nordstrom warns Devereaux about a Russian spy ring with code name Topaz that is operating inside the French Intelligence Service. Devereaux goes back to Paris check out the spy nest. Uris based his book on a true story. His friend, Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli, the former chief of French intelligence in the U.S. told Uris a remarkable tale of Russian espionage penetration and French apathy. A Russian spy ring operated freely inside the SDECE, the French Intelligence Agency in the early 60s. This ring went by the code name, Sapphire. For his book, Uris changed the code name to Topaz. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Torn Curtain, Our Man in Havana, and Havana.]
[Also available in original novel format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Young Ones [Extra Stoopid Edition]

I grew up with this British import airing on the local PBS station back in the early 1980s, so I was pleased to see that the libraries have it on DVD. This series is definitely not for everyone -- think Monty Python's Flying Circus if done by angry punk rockers. Part sketch comedy and part sitcom, The Young Ones were a group of edgy male students who lived together and got into completely unrealistic adventures. There was a "normal" guy, a punk-metal musician, a spacey hippie, and an anarchist revolutionary. And that doesn't even include the regular appearances of British standup comedian Alexei Sayle. If you like your comic television sophisticated, stay as far away from this set as possible. But if you like anarchy, comedic chaos, slapstick, sometimes infantile humor, punk music and occasionally a bit of things blowing up...give The Young Ones a try! There were only 12 episodes made, so this is the complete run of the series.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ The Young Ones page on Wikipedia ]

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


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last updated July 2010
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