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

February 2012 Recommendations

book cover  Midnight Riot
by Ben Aaronovitch

This is the first volume in a new series, which capitalizes effectively on the hot trend of contemporary urban fantasy. Peter Grant is a new London police constable who seems to have a touch of the paranormal to him. On one of his first major cases -- guarding a crime scene -- a witness comes up to him to report having witnessed the murder. Only...the witness is a ghost. Grant's special abilities bring him to the attention of his superiors, who assign him to become an apprentice to Scotland Yard's only magic-using detective, and Grant soon finds himself immersed in the daily grind of a copper who has to deal with demi-gods, vampires, and river spirits as part of his job. And not only that, but also all the paperwork that the paranormal generates as well. This is a marvelous introduction to Aaronovitch's gritty, realistic world. There's a lot of humor mixed in with deadly seriousness. A second volume (Moon Over Soho) is already out, and more are planned. I recommend this to any fans of the Dresden Files novels of Jim Butcher, especially if you like a strong British flavor to your urban fantasy.


[ official Ben Aaronovitch web site -- including the official site for this series ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDSide Jobs
by Jim Butcher

This collection of all the Dresden Files short stories and novellas was released after the Dresden novel Changes (2010), in which -- *spoiler alert* - Harry Dresden died (don't worry, he comes back). The stories included her have appeared in a variety of venues, mainly thematic genre anthologies -- so you might have seen some of the stories previously -- I know I had. None-the-less, it's great to have them all put together in a single package. This collection also features one all-new story, "Aftermath", set 45 minutes after the conclusion of Changes -- it focuses on Harry's cop friend Karrin Murphy, and deals with her coming to terms with the loss of Harry and her need to take up his role as a a protector of the windy city's paranormal population. I thought this one story alone was worth the price of the book! One other note -- friends have been trying to convince me to listen to the Dresden Files books in audio format, because actor James Marsters (Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is the narrator. This was the first Dresden book I "listened" to instead of "read". My friends were right -- Marsters does a terrific job with the narration, imbuing a variety of different characters with slightly different voices and personalities. I recommend this volume in both print and audiobook formats!. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Dresden Files series.]

[Also available in print and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ official Jim Butcher web site ]

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


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book cover  Booze Cakes
by Krystina Castella [641.865 Cas]

A collection of recipes that incorporate booze in desserts in a classy way. A fantastic book for a girls' night in. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Make Your Own Drinks by Susy Atkins, a cookbook on making alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks using fruit, herbs and vegetable, or Cooking With Beer: Taste-Tempting Recipes and Creative Ideas for Matching Beer and Food by Lucy Saunders.]


[ official Booze Cakes web site and blog ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  To Your Scattered Bodies Go
by Philip Jose Farmer

This classic novel is the first in Farmer's multi-volume Riverworld saga. British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton dies, then awakens in a vast alien space, floating with millions of other naked bodies in rows and columns. Attempting to break free from the invisible bonds holding him tight, he then suddenly awakens again, naked, with hundreds of other individuals, all from various time periods in Earth history, on the banks of a river. In an afterworld that no-one expected, it appears that some force has resurrected everyone who has every lived, from all time periods of history, and placed them in a controlled environment along the banks of an apparently-million-mile-long river. Who is behind this? Why are they doing this? How can individuals from different cultures, languages and philosophies possibility co-exist with civility. This first volume focuses on Burton's insatiable need for freedom and exploring the boundaries of his new world, and featurings a small group of the characters who are drawn to his magnetism and/or become his enemies. Later volumes in the series explore in much greater depth the background of the Riverworld and those who created and maintain it. This is truly one of the science fiction genre's most memorable classic entries, and should not be missed by anyone trying to read the SF award winners, although Farmer's handling of female characters leaves something to be desired.


[ Riverworld entry on Wikipedia ] | [ official Philip Jose Farmer web site ]

Review Score - 3
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home
by Lara Ferroni [641.865 Fer]

There's nothing quite as satisfying as the guilt-inducing taste of a fresh-made doughnut, be it fried or baked, the traditional round-with-hole, or filled. This book's attractive cover caught my eye on the library's "new books" displays and the thin size convinced me to give it a read. In the first 1/2 of the book, Ferroni presents the basic recipes that form the core of her building palette -- including doughnuts from other cultures, such as crullers and/or sopapillas (just to name a few). The rest of this handy little volume is variations in flavors and textures, including numerous glaze flavors, accompanied by mouth-watered photographs of the end products. She finished off with a bibliography listing sources for special tools and ingredients for the kitchen geeks among us. I'll have to admit, though I love Krispy Kremes, I lean more toward baked doughnuts, and about 1/3 of the recipes here give me inspiration for trying a few new baked doughnuts at home. Recipes that jumped out at me included Margarita, German Chocolate and Creme Brulee!


[ Doughnuts entries on Lara Ferroni's official blog ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDBossypants
by Tina Fey

I've enjoyed Tina Fey's writing and acting on both Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, and was pleased to see she was the narrator of the audio version of her own book. Her sarcastic, witty attitude comes across perfectly as she reads Bossypants, and it's obvious she's having fun sharing her memories. At the same time, however, I sort of felt as if this biography was very light -- she doesn't really go into any serious depth about any of her topics, instead breezing through her experiences almost like an outsider, or teasing us with hints of a greater story, which then she doesn't share. Still, if you enjoy biographies about the making of television shows, or you're a die-hard SNL fan, or you grew up making jokes or "putting on a show", you'll probably enjoy this one. I definitely enjoyed listening to this more than I did reading it...Fey's personality comes across very effectively on audio.

[Also available in downloadable audio and print formats.]

[ Publisher's official Bossypants web page ] | [ Tina Fey page on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  Delectable Mountains
by Earlene Fowler

After multiple recommends to use an Earlene Fowler title for the libraries' Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, we finally used one of her titles -- Delectable Mountains -- for one of our group discussions. I enjoyed this one quite a bit -- it's a middle-of-the-road mixture of cozy and police procedural, and falls right in the middle of the long-running series featuring Benni Harper, and set in a small California community. The characters are all well-defined, even if the mystery itself is a bit predictable. Benni doesn't stand out as a busy-body, as many "amateur sleuths" do -- her involvement in the mystery seems reasonable, and I found myself liking her as a character very much. I recommend this series to anyone who's a fan of such authors as Carolyn G. Hart -- strong sense of place, and character-driven storyline. Enjoy!

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

[ official Earlene Fowler and "Benni Harper" web site ]

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


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book cover  The Art of Fielding
by Chad Harbach

It's true, I do love baseball, but I'm certain The Art of Fielding is not just for baseball fans. This surprisingly satisfying first novel by Chad Harbach centers around Henry Skrimshander, a scrawny small-town kid who is an absolute savant on the infield. Set in a fictional college campus, Henry is surrounded by a handful of rich characters, the sort you like all the more for their flaws. There is Owen, Henry's self-described "gay mulatto roommate", a strict environmentalist who spends his time between innings with his head in a book; President of the college Guert Affenlight, who finds falling in love a completely new experience in his 60s; Guert's daughter Pella, who married too young and has returned home for something of an unconventional fresh start; and Mike Schwartz, the lumbering and arthritic captain (and glue)of the team. When Henry's errorless streak is suddenly and unexplicably broken it sets in motion an unravelling of long held ambitions and expectations. The characters' journey through the unpredictablility of love and life expectations makes The Art of Fielding a richly enjoyable book.

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

[ Publisher's official Art of Fielding web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Chad Harbach ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Steph E.
Anderson and Bethany Branches


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book cover  The Essential Kitchen: Basic Tools, Recipes and Tips for a Complete Kitchen
by Christine McFadden [643.3 qMcF]

A fun reference guide of kitchen tools and gadgets. Contains color photos and descriptions of nearly every kitchen item imaginable sorted into categories by chapter (Cutting, Peeling, and Piercing; Mixing and Whisking; Frying, Grilling, and Broiling, etc). This also helps in identifying that kitchen thing from Grandma that you haven't figured out what it does, and now you know how indispensible it is! Unfortunately, this also triggers your gadget-buying reflex. Provides excellent guidance on pots and pans, the type and purpose of various knives, gives specific info on types of utensils, equipment, uses, and brands. The author is upfront about what's necessary and what's a luxury. Also included in each chapter are recipes that utilize the tools discussed. Also provided is a list of manufacturers and distributors. An enjoyable browse as well as a must-have reference. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Alton's Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen by Alton Brown.]


Review Score - 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka

A beautifully crafted jewel of a book, sharing glimpses into the lives of Japanese picture brides in early 20th century California. Uniquely told in first person plural style, this novel heartbreakingly displays the optimism, despair, and strength of women, from their travel to a new culture across the ocean until their forced internment during WWII. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford.]

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

[ official Julie Otsuka web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Kathryn K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemAmerican Pickers - The Complete Season One
[DVD American]

This reality series is about two guys named Mike and Frank who travel all across America looking for antiques buried in peoples' buildings that they think are diamonds in the rough. They buy them from the owners, fix them up with the help of their friend Danielle, and sell them for a profit. It's a cool show that teaches you a lot about history - most of the stuff they find comes with its own unique story. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Storage Wars - people buy a storage locker and turn its contents for a profit or Pawn Stars - people bring antiques to a pawn shop in order to sell or pawn them for money.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official American Pickers web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemPerry Mason, Season One, Volume One
[DVD Perry]

Perry Mason was one of the pioneering legal television series during the 1950's. Based on ideas and characters by Erle Stanley Gardner, the plots feature complicated legal manouvering and many suspects that usually only Perry can sort out in the courtroom. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Boston Legal, The Good Wife, Shark.]
[Also available The Perry Mason Novels of Erle Stanley Gardner.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Perry Mason episode guide web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Jim W.
South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemRango
[DVD j Rango]

I wasn't sure what to expect from this film -- the trailers and DVD cover made the art seem vaguely grotesque in some ways, but in the end I fell in love with this film. Though marketed as a film for kids, I really believe the majority of this film's references and humor were aimed at a more nostalgic adult audience. Rango is the tale of a pet chameleon with aspirations of being an actor, who ends up abandoned in the desert. In search of civilization and precious water, our main character stumbles across a nearly-dead western town in need of a heroic sheriff, and decides to "act" the part. What he doesn't expect is the need to truly become a hero to the townsfolk as they face a serious struggle. This film is full of wonderful tributes to traditional western tropes, and has some terrific voice performances from actors such as Johnny Depp, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton and many more. The animation, both on the characters and their environments, was stunning, both in quiet emotional scenes and slam-bang action sequences. Highly recommended!
[Also available: various kids books and videogames based on Rango.]

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

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 itemSuper 8
[DVD Super]

When filming an entry for a film competition a young group of friends witness a massive train crash that appears to be an accident. Immediately after the crash people start disappearing from town, lights start flickering, dogs go missing and they begin to wonder if it wasn't an accident afterall. The story takes place in 1979 and it has a retro feel to it. The acting is great, the storyline is intriguing, and the moments of comedy between the kids are a great addition that don't take away from the mysterious storyline. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Goonies - another movie about a group of young misfits.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Super 8 web site ]

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


Review Score - 9
This was one of my absolute favorite films of 2011 -- Excellent action, excellent acting -- with great performances from the kids, one of the best "kid casts" since Stand By Me, and excellent special effects. A top notch film!
Rated by -- Scott C.
staff member at the Bennett Martin Public Library

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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Whistleblower
[DVD Whistleblowers]

The is a devasting look at international and United Nations corruption and malfeasance regarding sex trafficking during the wars for the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Not for the faint of heart but a necessary story, nonetheless. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Informant, The Prisoner, Traffic.]
[Also available: The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors and One Woman's Fight for Justice, the book by Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn, upon which this movie was based.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official The Whistleblowers web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jim W.
South Branch Library


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last updated February 2012
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