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

February 2011 Recommendations

book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDThe Dalek Conquests
presented by Nicholas Briggs [Compact Disc Briggs]

This one is a treat for science fiction fans, particularly those with a love for the British SF icon Doctor Who. One of The Doctor's main nemeses, ever since his second storyline in 1963, has been the Daleks, rolling weaponized tanks containing the mutated biological remnants of a species so dedicated to war and destruction that their ultimate goals include the destruction of all other life forms and the placement of themselves as the most superior form of life in the universe. Over 43 years of their history (this audioset was put together in 2006), the Daleks have returned again and again in episodes of Doctor Who, with their strident mechanical voices shrieking "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Over that length of time, a great deal of inconsistencies has cropped up regarding the origins and evolution of the Daleks, complicated by the time travel elements that are intrinsic to Doctor Who. This 2-disc CD set uses a narrative framework of a researcher attempting to compile a history of the Daleks, as well as audio clips from various generations of the tv series, to try to create an acceptable level of Dalek continuity over the years. The continuity ends up a bit flimsy, considering the vast number of TV writers/producers/directors who had a hand in individual Dalek storylines. But the attempt is admirable. For me, the most interesting part of this set is the chance to hear bits from rare episodes of the show that haven't been available any other way. Being a fan of the recent new Doctor Who adventures that have been airing since 2005, it was also mildly frustrating to not have the new Dalek storylines since 2006 included. But, still...this is a fun oddity for genre fans! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the various Doctor Who DVDs and novels in the library collection.]


[ official Doctor Who web site at the BBC ] | [ Wikipedia page for Nicholas Briggs ]

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


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book cover  Little Bee
by Chris Cleave

Little Bee is engaging, heartbreaking, and is one of those stories that leads you to ask yourself, "What would I have done?" Little Bee is a 16 year old refugee from Nigeria. Her story is interwoven with Sarah's, a white magazine editor living in England. One fateful day on a Nigerian beach changes both women's lives forever. Little Bee has experienced unimaginable horrors, but tells her story as a survivor. Sarah comes from a completely different world, but her shared experience with Little Bee has changed her life entirely. This is not a feel good story, but it is a story that needs to be told all the same. Although it is a work of fiction it leads one to think seriously about issues such as immigration and the treatment of refugees. I thought this book was beautifully written and well-paced. The author tells you what you need to know at just the right time.

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

[ official Chris Cleave and Little Bee web site ]

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


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book cover  The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction [2nd ed.]
by John Clute and Peter Nicholls [R 809.388 Enc]

Despite now being a bit "dated", The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by Clute and Nicholls, published in hardback in 1993 (which the library has) and reprinted with updates and an addendum in paperback in 1995 (which the library does NOT have), is an absolutely essential part of any science fiction fan's reference collection. This exhaustively researched volume contains biographies and bibliographies for every known author of science fiction literature through the early 1990s. Each author's entry features a biographical blurb, followed by a critical look at that author's most important or noteworthy stories or novels. If the author wrote books set in a series, there is a specific examination of that series. If the author's work are prominent within a SF subgenre, there are suggestions for additional topics to look under in the encyclopedia. But wait, there's more! You will also find detailed examinations of SF categories (cyberpunk, robots, artificial intelligence, big dumb objects), looks at famed science fiction artists, and entries on hundreds of classic and contemporary science fiction movies and television series. The 1993/95 edition is the 2nd Edition (the first was in 1979), and the editors have stated that all future editions of this Encyclopedia are intended to be on the Internet, once they are finalized. This volume is in the Reference Collection on the second floor at the Bennett Martin Public library downtown. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the companion volume from the same editors, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Clute has also edited Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia, a handsomely-illustrated but noticeably less-exhaustive book, available in our circulating collection.]


[ Wikipedia page for this book ] | [ Internet Speculative Fiction Database - not associated with the Encyclopedia but a great site! ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Magazine or JournalCottages and Bungalows
[Periodical Cottages]

For fans of vintage homes and decorating, and Arts & Crafts style homes with a slightly modern touch. You'll find lots of photos of makeovers, suggestions and ideas on how to make those renovations work in your own home, Do-It-Yourself info, and resources of suppliers. You'll have a fun evening browsing through all the photos and collecting ideas for yourself. Published monthly except for Feb/Mar and Jul/Aug. Current issue does not check out. Available directly at the South Branch, or have issues transferred to your local library branch. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Country Living magazine, and any books by The Farm Chicks.]


[ official Cottages and Bungalows magazine web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Cover Story: Volume Two - Odd, Obscure and Outrageous Album Art
by the staff at Wax Poetics Books [Music 781.49 Cov]

This is one of the oddest books I've read in years. The book is a collection of reproductions of over 250 record album (LP) covers from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Contributor David Hollander describes many of the included covers as coming from "private press" releases -- perhaps not seen by many in the general public. The images in this book are bizarre -- ranging from merely uncomfortable, to truly surreal. These coming from the height of the 1960s drug use era, and from one of the most prolific periods of New Age music. Dali-esque melting landscapes, Escher-like 3-dimensional images and nudity vie with cheesy Brady Bunch-like family portraits and sea- and space-scapes for prominence. In all, browsing all of the covers turns into something of a psychadelic experience. I do wish that there had been text accompanying many of the images -- background on the origins of the images chosen, or at least credits for who created the album covers. As it is, this is a unusual and memorable collection of images. But it could have been so much more than that. I kept wishing for a satirical authorial voice to poke fun at many of these inexplicably bizarre images. [If you're taking these images seriously, I can't help you. If you're looking at them with a satirical eye, you might appreciate the humor books of James Lileks.]


[ official Wax Poetic Books web site ]

Review Score - 4
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  A Catered Thanksgiving
by Isis Crawford

This cozy blends elements from the "golden age of mysteries" with modern day humor. Our intrepid heroines, Bernie and Libby Simmons, are stranded by a blizzard in a large country home with the bickering Fields family. Bernie and Libby are hired by the Fields to cater their Thanksgiving dinner. While Bernie and Libby pack their catering van with all the fixings for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast the snow starts falling. By the time they are ready to leave the snow is falling in a heavy white curtain. They slip and slide their way out of tiny Longely, New York and down the country roads to Monty Fields' mansion where they will prepare the traditional dinner for Monty and his greedy relatives. Monty comes into the kitchen to check on the roasting bird. As he taps on the red, pop-up timer the turkey explodes killing Monty. The Fields family initially blames Bernie and Libby because they prepared the felonious fowl. The family soon starts pointing accusing fingers at each other. Lexus, Monty's widow, asks Bernie and Libby to investigate because she is afraid that one of the clan will kill her in order to inherit a larger share of the estate. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Tracy Kiely, Laura Childs or Kaitlynn Dunnett.]

[ Bibliography of Isis Crawford's books ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Corpse Wore Tartan
by Kaitlynn Dunnett

I picked up this book because the name of the town intrigued me. It's Moosetookalook, Maine. I had hoped that the author would tell me how the town got its name, but no such luck. Instead I found a charming cozy with a Scottish-American heritage theme. Our heroine, Liss MacCrimmon, is helping to host the Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society's annual Burns Night Supper at the Spruces hotel. The festivities get off to a bad start when Phineas MacMillian insults everyone at the dinner and his twin, Phil, finds that someone has stolen his clan crest broach. Liss calls in local police officers, Sheri Willet and Pete Campbell, to investigate. As the evening wears on the heavy snow turns into a blizzard, stranding everyone at the hotel with no electricity or way to communicate with the outside world. Someone takes advantage of the situation to commit murder. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Isis Crawford, Ellery Adams and Sally Goldenbaum.]

[ official The Corpse Wore Tartan page on the official Kaitlynn Dunnett web site ]

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


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book cover  Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou
by Steve Duno [636.7 Dun]

Steve and girlfriend Nancy found homeless, 6-mo-old puppy Lou running with a pack of feral guard dogs. Flea-infested, covered with ticks, underweight, and a large, infected gash on his neck, Steve adopted Lou and doctored him, trained him, and gained a best friend for life. Lou was a Rottweiler/Shepherd mix who lived an amazingly long 16 years (but it's never long enough for owners). During those 16 years he faced down an armed robber, caught a rapist, fought coyotes and kidnappers, visited vets in nursing homes, taught sign language to kids, and helped train hundreds of dogs whose only remaining option was euthanasia if the training failed. His story moves forward chronologically and quickly, and is chock-full of tale after tale after tale of his exploits, intelligence, and special bond with Steve. A quick read, naturally there are tears at the end, but you can't put this book down and wish the stories would continue.


[ official Last Dog on the Hill and Steve Duno web site ]

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


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book cover  Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
by Guy Fieri [641.5 Fie]

This volume, and the follow-up (More Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) feature abbreviated looks at the joints that Guy visits in his Food Network series of the same name. Each brief (3-4 page) chapter features an introduction to a quirky little restaurant, its history, and the people who run it. Each entry them includes the recipes and instructions for fixing one of that restaurant's/chef's signature dishes. Most entries also have black & white photos accompanying the text, and many feature Guy's own personal recollections about the food and the people he met at each restaurant. Although the first volume doesn't include anything from Nebraska, volume 2 does have three Omaha diners in it -- Amato's Cafe, California Tacos & More, and Dixie Quick's Magnolia Room. When will he get to Lincoln?? [Obviously, if you like these books, you'll really like the episodes they were based on, which get regular rotation on The Food Network. I'm hoping the libraries will buy the DVD sets as well!]


[ official Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives web site ] | [ official Guy Fieri web site ]

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


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book cover  Merry, Merry Ghost
by Carolyn G. Hart [Compact Disc Hart]

Carolyn Hart's second book to feature Bailey Ruth Raeburn is a charming variation on the "cozy" -- with quirky characters and most of the violence happening off-screen. Bailey Ruth is a departed spirit, who's on her second mission to her own hometown of Adelaide, OK as a Heavenly agent from the Department of Good Intentions. Always a lover of Christmas, Bailey Ruth is overjoyed to find herself in the physical world, assigned to protect Keith -- a small boy being reunited with his wealthy but ailing grandmother, Susan. Susan announces her intention to rewrite her will, in order to leave her estate to her only blood relative, Keith. Bailey Ruth has her hands full trying to find out who then spiked Susan's nightly hot chocolate with an overdose of her heart medication, since all of the in-laws who stand to inherit Susan's millions all have motive to want to see her pass before her will is changed. Hart manages to inject a lot of humor into Bailey Ruth's antics, as she struggles to follow the "precepts" that forbid her to make her presence known to the mortals around her. I enjoyed this one far more than the introductory volume, and particularly liked the narration of the Book-on-CD version by Ann Marie Lee. A pleasant, light holiday mystery read! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ghost at Work (the first volume) and Ghost in Trouble (3rd) -- the other two (so far) volumes in this series.]

[Also available in print format.]

[ Bailey Ruth Raeburn section on the official Carolyn G. Hart web site ]

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


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book cover  Michael Jackson: The Making of Thriller - 4 Days/1983
by Douglas Kirkland [Music 781.66 JacYk]

An interesting and quick read. Kirkland was the LIFE magazine photographer who was assigned to do a "making of" photo documentary for the music video Thriller back in 1983. This is a collection of his behind-the-scenes photos, accompanied by a variety of short essays and/or quotes from notable celebrities in Michael's life, or who were strongly influenced by Michael's work. The stills here remind me of the iconic images from the legendary Thriller music video, but add to that experience by showing Michael as a "real person", enduring hours in a special effects make-up chair without complaint, or goofing around with the director and crew. Jackson's Thriller album is still the top-selling album of all time, and may have shown the singer at the apex of his creative career. This is a very fond look back at that era, although it makes me a bit sad to think of how disconnected and bizarre he became in later years. Nicely packaged book...but a bit pricey. I'm glad I was able to read a copy from the library! [Obviously, you need to watch the Thriller music video (available commonly online), and listen to the full Thriller album to accompany this book!]


[ Thriller article on Wikipedia ] | [ official Douglas Kirkland web site ]

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


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book cover  Valentines
by Ted Kooser [811 Koo]

This is a light poetry collection from Nebraskan and former U.S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) Ted Kooser. Starting in 1986, Kooser composed a Valentine's Day poem and mailed it (first to 50 women friends, but in more recent years to more than 2,500 women friends) around the country, to arrive on the holiday. This book collects the first 22 years of Kooser's tradition, and accompanies the poems with attractive, homey pen-and-ink illustrations by Robert Hanna. The poems range from serious to whimsical and touch on all aspects of the Valentine's Day holiday, from the stereotypical hearts, flowers and chocolates trappings, to explorations of love and friendship. These poems will make you think, will force you to explore your own feelings, and will make you appreciate the loved ones in your own life. If you've never read Kooser's poetry before -- and his work regularly appears in the local newspaper, so why haven't you? -- this is a marvelous collection to get started with. Make it an annual tradition to read Valentines by Ted Kooser on Valentine's Day!. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other poetry collections by Ted Kooser.]


[ official Valentines web site ] | [ official Ted Kooser web site ]

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


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book cover  Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions
by Vicki Myron [636.8 Myr]

This follow-up volume to Myron's mega-bestselling Dewey revisits that loveable cat who called the Spencer Public Library home, with a few more stories of his inspirational interactions with patrons. But the majority of this book is a look at other cats and their special relationships with "their people". Following the publication of Dewey, Myron received thousands of letters from readers who shared their stories of their own relationships with special pets. For this book, she picked a handful, and goes into great detail about how unique those cats were. The stories range from heartwarming to distressing. Myron finishes up the book by telling more about her own personal experiences, and the wonderful man (and his cat) that she fell in love with in recent years. This is a feel-good book, that even non-cat-lovers should be able to appreciate. Not quite as good as the original -- after all, Dewey was a unique and unusual cat, with a degree of empathy that I don't think could possibly be duplicated. But I still enjoyed this one, and think most readers will, too. [If you enjoy this, and you haven't read the original, you may also wish to try Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat That Touched the World.]

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

[ official Dewey the Library Cat web site ] | [ another official Dewey the Library Cat web site ]

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


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book cover  Miss Rose's Spice of Life Quilts
by Carrie Nelson [746.46 qNel]

Thirteen quilt patterns using favorite blocks - Sawtooth Star, Log Cabin, Flying Geese, Hour Glass, Four Patch, Ohio Star, a House block, Bear Paw - combined together to appear intricate but are actually not. She uses strip sets and a neat, quick, cheater method for making Flying Geese. Fabrics shown are current and colorful but not blinding. Each chapter begins with her explanation of how she came about to make that particular quilt. The usual General Instructions on quilt-making are included. If nothing else you'll love browsing through the photos. Recommended for those who especially like the traditional patterns in soothing colors using cotton fabrics - no geometrics, batiks, or loud colors here.


[ official Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays
by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht [394.26 Piv]

This is a quirky book about how to handle a variety of holiday emergencies. The situations covered range from plausible (grease fires, food poisoning) to unlikely (getting someone unstuck from a chimney, fending off a reindeer attack) to downright silly (silencing a group of carolers, how to treat a wrapping-paper cut in 10 steps). The combination makes for entertaining and (sometimes) informative reading.


[ official Josh Piven web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Farm Chicks Christmas: Merry Ideas for the Holidays
by Serena Thompson [745.594 Tho]

Country decorating ideas for Christmas from the Farm Chicks. Colorful photos on every page of wonderful vintage decorations - old style Christmas lights, vintage patterns on dishware and mugs, plastic light-up Santas from the 1950's, cardboard villages, mini pine trees. They also offer new uses for old items (hadn't thought of turning an ugly, wire 3-tiered desktop organizer into a cute holder for candies, candles, and ornaments). The Chicks reminisce about Christmases past and offer suggestions to make your own holidays special. Also included are several holiday recipes for beverages, cakes, and cookies. A thoroughly enjoyable table book especially if you appreciate country decorating, vintage Christmas, and cutting down your own tree.


[ official Farm Chicks web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBurn Notice - Season One
[DVD Burn]

Watching a show from the beginning is always a good way to start. I'd seen commercials for this show but I'd never had time to watch it. The first season is hilarious. The show is set in Miami. Here you meet Michael Weston, a spy who's just been burned and blacklisted. The entire first season is about finding out why he was burned and who burned him. Meanwhile, with the help of his best friend Sam, his ex-girlfriend Fiona and his nagging mother, he picks up odd jobs helping those in deep. If you're looking for a series with a lot of adventure - explosives, guns, undercover operations - and a lot of humor this is it. [If you like this, you may also enjoy NCIS - Their mix of action and humor is somewhat similar, and the movie RED with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, etc.]
[Also available: Season Two, Season Three.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Burn Notice page on the USA web site ] | [ official Episode Guide at epguides.com ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library and South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemLeverage - Season One
[DVD Leverage]

Leverage is a comedic crime/action drama that has been airing on the TNT cable network for the past three years. The series features Timothy Hutton as an ex-insurance investigator who got tired of being pushed around and abused by large corporations or powerful executives. Hoping to make a difference, he assembles a team of the types of people he used to hunt down -- a grifter, a hacker, a burglar and a hitter, and they take on cases whether they try to run con jobs on the rich and powerful who are taking advantage of the ordinary joes. Leverage features complicated cons, reminiscent of The Sting, which often seem to break down -- in the vein of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder books. The regular cast has great chemistry together, the writing production values are exceptionally good, the guest "villains of the week" are almost always exceptional, and the music is particularly noteworthy. If you like stories about con artists, or tales about the underdog against the powerful and corrupt, you should enjoy this series. The third season has recently finished on TV and the library currently owns the first two seasons on DVD. Both are great fun! [If you like this, you may also enjoy The Sting , and the British TV series (which aired on AMC in the U.S.) Hustle (available through InterLibrary Loan)]
[Also available: Season Two.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Leverage page on the TNT web site ] | [ official Episode Guide at epguides.com ]

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 itemMidnight Bayou
by Nora Roberts [DVD Roberts]

Fun and quick to watch. Unlike most of the other TV-movie adaptations of Nora Roberts works, the main character in this one is the "guy" instead of the "gal". Jerry O'Connell (Sliders, Crossing Jordan, The Defenders) is a Boston lawyer, Declan Fitzpatrick, who is mysteriously drawn to a plantation manor outside of New Orleans, which he purchases to use as a home and an office for a legal-aid center he wants to establish in the post-Katrina world of the city. Lauren Stamile (Grey's Anatomy) is Lena Simone, a local restauranteur, and the granddaughter of Declan's new bayou neighbor, Odette (played by Faye Dunaway), a woman with insight into the mystic. As the story plays out, there's elements of reincarnation and possession, with flashbacks to generations ago. The contemporary setting is rich with Cajun accents, both visual and verbal, and the chemistry between O'Connell and Stamile is steamy. It's a complicated and twisty plot...one of the most complicated of all of the Nora Roberts Collection DVDs to-date. Enjoyable and atmospheric...I heartily recommend this one! [If you like this one, you may also enjoy he others in the Nora Roberts Collection (8 made so far!)]
[Also available in audiotape, unabridged book-on-cd formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Midnight Bayou page on the Lifetime web site ]

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


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last updated February 2011
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