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

July 2011 Recommendations

book cover  Timescape
by Gregory Benford

Fans of theoretical time travel stories, and fans of hard SF should find this classic science fiction novel by Gregory Benford right up their alley. Published in 1980, the events in this novel take place 18 years before and after that date. In the "future" 1998, the planet is suffering from global ecological disasters, and despite the fact that humanity is facing the danger of extinction, a small group of scientists must still fight bureaucracy and limited financial resources in order to attempt an experiment that may allow them to send a message back in time to try to forestall or prevent the catastrophes that their society is facing. In 1962, scientists in California are analyzing seeming unexplainable results they are getting from an experiment they are running -- results that appear to be static but when analyzed seem to be a message from the future. Benford handles the theoretical physics in his SF plot very well, without talking over the heads of his non-scientific readers. His characters are well-developed too, although sometimes their "soap opera" plot elements get in the way of a gripping science fictional story. This one is a true modern classic of the genre -- having won both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Award (both for best SF novel of the year!) -- and I highly recommend it!


[ Timescape page on Wikipedia ] | [ official Gregory Benford web site ]

related lists See more books like this in our Nebula Award Winners booklist
Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
edited by Robert Dimery [Music 780.166 Dim]

Another volume in the popular "1001" series, I found this one to be one of the most disappointing and/or baffling. A team of music critics/writers/afficionados combined their recommendations to come up with this bizarre list of 1001 singles that epitomize the history of recorded and commercially-released music. Beginning with the pre-1950s era, and continuing until "mere months before the book was published in 2010", this massive book lists the 1001 songs in chronological order, with detailed background about the artists and songs represented. Starting with "O sole mio" performed by Enrico Caruso in 1916, and ending with "Stylo" by Gorrilaz in 2010, this is quite the eclectic collection of tunes. I definitely agreed with about 80% of the selections prior to the 1980s, but from that time period on the editors/contributors make some of the most bizarre musical choices! And the selections from the 2000s are so far out of my musical comfort zone that I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm out-of-touch with contemporary music. Still...for a nice overview of the history of significant "singles" in recording history, this is a fun volume to browse. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other volumes in the "1001" series from this same publisher.]


[ official 1001 Things web site ]

Review Score - 5
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Body in Blackwater Bay
by Paula Gosling

Homicide detective Jack Stryker and his girlfriend, Kate Trevorne, are vacationing in Kate's family cottage on Paradise Island. There are ten cottages on the island that have been handed down among the island's original families. These islanders know each other well, having spent their summers together. Daria Grey, Kate's childhood friend and now a successful artist, has come back to her family's cabin to hide from her abusive husband. Daria is afraid that her husband has followed her to Paradise Island. She hasn't seen him but she senses his presence nearby. One morning Daria's husband is found shot to death on her lawn. Kate nudges Jack until he offers to help the local sheriff, Matt Gabriel, with the investigation. Since Gabriel is the sheriff of a rural area, he hasn't had a lot of experience investigating murders so he accepts Stryker's offer. Together they follow the maze of greed, deception and conspiracy to a surprising end. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Donald Harstad, K.C. Greenlief, and Mary Louge.]


[ Paula Gosling page on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  Stargate Atlantis: Homecoming
by Jo Graham and Melissa Scott

For fans of the television series Stargate Atlantis, the end of the series after five seasons seemed abrupt and premature, and although the final episode brought a limited sense of closure, most fans thought that there were still new stories to be told. Homecoming is the first in a series of six novels set after the events of that series finale episode, that carry the SGA characters' stories forward into the future. Featuring some crossover appearances by characters from the original Stargate SG-1 series, these novels send the Atlantis station back to the Pegasus galaxy, with all of the well-known and beloved crew members aboard -- Col. John Shephard, Dr. Rodney McKay, Zelenka, Ronan, Teyla, Richard Woolsey, etc. The Wraith continue to be a major threat, including sometimes ally "Todd". For anyone who loved the series Stargate Atlantis, these writers capture the tone and voices of the characters perfectly, and this book feels like slipping into a delayed sixth season. For those unfamiliar with the series, I recommend viewing the five seasons of the show before starting these novels. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Lost, the second book in this projected six-book series.]


[ official Fandemonium publisher web site ] | [ Stargate Atlantis episode guide at epguides.com ]

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


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book cover  The Janus Stone
by Elly Griffiths

Forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway, is called to the excavation of a Roman site because a human skeleton has been unearthed. The body is that of a small child missing its skull. Was the child an ancient sacrifice? Or was it more recent murder victim? Where is the skull? Ruth teams up with DCI Harry Nelson and his staff to find the answers to these questions. Harry learns that the mansion next to the dig has interesting history. In its former glory, the house was the opulent mansion of the Spens family. After they moved, it was converted into the Sacred Heart Children's Home that Father Hennessey ran. The priest tells Harry about two children, Martin and Elizabeth Black, who ran away from the home in the early 1960s. The children were never seen again. Martin was ten and Elizabeth was five at the time they disappeared. The child in the grave was about five. Is the body hers? Autopsy findings say no. The child died in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Long before the house was turned into an orphanage. The Spens lived in the house at time in question. They had a daughter that died in 1952. It's not Annabelle Spens because she is buried in the family plot. Who is this child? The book is a labyrinth of clues and duplicitous personalities. The book is a page-turner. Each night I promised myself that I would stop at the end of the chapter and go to bed. Did I keep the promise? Not really! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards and Susan Hill.]

[Also available in downloadable audio format.]

[ official Janus Stone page on the official Elly Griffiths web site ]

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


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book cover  The Elephants' Graveyard
by Karin McQuillan

Karin McQuilan wove memories of her Peace Corp days into this mystery. Like Karin, Jazz Jasper, served in the Peace Corp in Africa. After her assignment was finished. Jazz and her husband settled down to married life in the United Stated. A messy divorce caused Jazz to flee back to Africa. She settled in Kenya and started Jazz Jasper Safaris showing tourists the wonders of Kenya's wildlife. Business was good until aggressive poachers started killing the elephants for their ivory and drove the tourists away. Now Jazz's company is struggling. And to make matters even grimmer, Jazz finds her friend and fellow wildlife activist, Emmett Laird shot to death in his camp. Greed and jealousy are the top motives for murdering the wealthy Laird. Greed is a straightforward motive for the ivory poachers. Greed and jealousy combine to make more complicated motives for Laird's disdainful wife, Alisha, and her lover. And for his children who coveted his fortune. Mikki Darrow, Jazz's friend and the woman that Emmett wanted to marry, hires Jazz to find out who killed him. Jazz follows the clues through the grimy back alleys in the slums of bustling Nairobi and across the tree dotted savannah. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Suzanne Arruda.]


[ Karin McQuillan's books on LibraryThing ]

related lists See more books like this in our Africa--The Dark Continent booktalk booklist
Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Dreams of Joy
by Lisa See

I was incredibly excited when I found out Lisa See wrote a sequel to her amazing book Shanghai Girls. Dreams of Joy continues the story of sisters Pearl and May who were forced to leave their home country of China in the mid-1930s, and start a new life in Los Angeles. Dreams of Joy is narrated by Pearl and her daughter, Joy. Joy is a 19 year old college student who upon finding out painful family secrets decides to run away to Shanghai. She is young and idealistic and yearns to explore her Chinese roots. Joy leaves for China in 1957 during the midst of Mao's Great Leap Forward. Joy does not understand the dangers ahead of her, and fearing for her daughter's safety, Pearl follows Joy to Shanghai. While in China, Joy and Pearl both learn valuable lessons about love, patriotism, and freedom. I especially enjoy See's novels because they are great works of historical fiction. I feel like I learned a great deal about the communes of China, the famine that took many Chinese lives, and the challenges of assimilating into a different culture. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Shanghai Girls. Also, be sure to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan also by Lisa See, before watching the film adaptation.]

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

[ official Dreams of Joy page on the official Lisa See web site ]

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


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book cover  South Phoenix Rules
by Jon Talton

This book is set in modern day Phoenix with the specter of the mortgage bust hanging over the city. David Mapstone, a historian, had a unique job. He was a deputy sheriff specializing in cold cases. His boss lost the latest election and David is retiring. He doesn't want to work for the new sheriff. David's sister-in-law, Robin, is living with him while his wife works for Homeland Security in Washington D.C. One day the FedEx driver delivers a box for Robin. Thinking that it is a gift from her lover, she rips open the box and begins screaming. Her screams bring David running to her apartment over the garage. The box contains the severed head of her lover, Jax Delgado. David delves into Jax's murky past to discover who killed him. Jax claimed to be a history professor but he may have been a hit man for a Mexican cartel. David must use his research skills and knowledge of Phoenix's history to learn the truth. Jon Talton weaves the history of Phoenix into this novel. We see Phoenix, as it was when Mapstone was a child, a small city with orange and grapefruit groves gracing the outskirts. Now these groves exist only in his memory. They were bulldozed down to make way for homes and office buildings that sit empty. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Steven F. Havill, Elizabeth Gunn and Betty Webb.]


[ official South Phoenix Rules and Jon Talton web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBright Star
[DVD Bright]

If you're a sucker for poetry and or romantic historical dramas add Bright Star to your watch list. The film dramatizes the famous 19th century British poet John Keats' tragic life and romance. In love with his neighbor, their relationship inspires both him and love interest Fanny Brawne as they take on new creative heights. More than the compelling story, Bright Star is an exceptional period piece for it's great sense of style. There are quite a few cinematic moments that make watching Bright Star visually stunning. Watch it for the romance and learn a bit about poetry history too. [If you like this, you may also enjoy the following DVDs: The New World, Becoming Jane, Mansfield Park, Little Dorrit, Amélie.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Bright Star movie web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Glory B.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemTrue Grit
based on the book by Charles Portis [DVD True]

After her father is killed by Tom Chaney, fast-talking 14-year-old Mattie Ross hires US Marshall Rooster Cogburn - played by Jeff Bridges - to find Chaney and bring him back to be hanged. Cogburn is a drunk but they say he has true grit. Mattie stubbornly tags along against the Marshall's wishes. Along the way they meet Texas Ranger LaBoeuf who wants to take Chaney to Texas to hang for shooting a senator. After they split up who will find Chaney first? This movie is hilarious. Mattie Ross's character is very impressive, stubborn and smart, she seems much older than 14, and she's a great match to Cogburn's drunk and lazy approach. The acting all around is great and the storyline keeps you laughing and on the edge of your seat at the same time. [If you like this, you may also enjoy the novel by Charles Portis or the original motion picture version starring John Wayne.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official True Grit movie web site ]

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


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last updated July 2011
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