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

March 2012 Recommendations

book cover  A Shadow in Summer
by Daniel Abraham

Huge, multi-volume epic fantasies have been all the rage in recent years, exemplified by the classic Tolkien works, then expanded with series by George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Stephen R. Donaldson, and the like. A Shadow in Summer, though it is the first volume in a quartet, feels considerably different. Instead of a faux medieval European-type background Abraham's "Long Price Quartet" has more of a middle-eastern or Asian feel to it. The world of these novels is incredibly complex, detailed, gritty and believable. The plot of this novel is complex as well, with several focal characters, whose stories all criss-cross over each other in a multi-layered tale of conspiracy, faith, personal discovery, politics, bureaucracy and love. The characters are all strong and believable, and the "magic system" of this world is quite intriguing. You'll not find elves, gnomes, dragons, white-bearded wizards and epic quests here. But if you're interested in a complex, well-developed world, peopled by intriguing characters, whose stories you become emotionally involved in, I highly recommend giving A Shadow in Summer a try...you won't be disappointed. [This is the first volume in a quarter, of which the libraries do NOT own the other volumes -- try them through InterLibrary Loan: "A Betrayal in Winter", "An Autumn War" and "The Price of Spring".]


[ official Long Price Quartet page on the official Daniel Abraham web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Magazine or JournalBookmarks
[Periodical Bookmarks]

If you have ever been at a loss as to what to read next, this is the magazine for you. Bookmarks was named "Best New Magazine" by Library Journal shortly after its debut in 2002. It is a bimonthly comprehensive new books guide, and also includes articles about classic and contemporary authors, a reader advisory section and "best of" lists from every genre. Each of the new books featured in Bookmarks is followed by several brief summaries of various reviews, which allows for a much broader impression of the book than would any in-depth review from a single source. I've gotten a couple of great title ideas from this magazine that I probably wouldn't otherwise have tried. After the magazine did an article on Kurt Vonnegut's life and works back in a 2003 issue he effused, "...nowhere else have I found such thoughtful and literate reportage on the state of the American soul, as that soul makes itself known in the books we write. News of the hour indeed!" [Bookmarks is carried by both Bethany and Walt libraries; copies can be reserved and sent to any other library location for pick-up.]


[ official Bookmarks Magazine web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Steph E.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleSeriously...I'm Kidding
by Ellen DeGeneres [Compact Disc Biography DeGeneres]

I've always enjoyed Ellen's wry, scatter-brained sense of humor -- I've been a fan of her stand-up routine since she first showed up on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, way back in the late 1980s. I haven't really followed her afternoon talk show, or the sitcom on which she "came out" publicly, but I've certainly followed the major ups and downs of her life in the entertainment news -- It's been hard to avoid! I've been enjoying listening to celebrity biographies on compact disc for the past year, and when I stumbled across hers, I was hoping it would be another great one. In the end though, I found Seriously...I'm Kidding to be an extremely light-weight volume, both in content and in tone of presentation. Ellen, who narrates her book herself for this compact disc adaptation, injects very little "life" into the words. Much of the content of this CD set feels like an extended stream-of-conciousness rambling. When she does focus in a little more directly on her topics, she still doesn't go into much depth. Admittedly, I found myself chuckling at various asides that she makes, but for the most part, I kept waiting for some literary "substance" to show up and it never did. If all you want is some light, breezy observations on life -- you'll like this. If you're looking for a celebrity autobiography that actually has something concrete to share about the life of the celebrity, look elsewhere... [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ellen's previous stand-up comedy books My Point, and I Do Have One (1995) and The Funny Thing Is (2003).]

[Also available in downloadable audio and print formats.]

[ official Ellen's talk show web site ]

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


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cd cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleGreat Classic Science Fiction
an audio anthology with works by eight authors [Compact Disc 813.08 Gre]

Interesting collection of eight classic science fiction short stories or novellas, on a set of seven compact discs. These stories, from some of the giants in the genre -- H.G. Wells, Andre Norton, Stanley Weinbaum, Lester del Rey, Fritz Leiber, James Schmitz, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert -- run the gamut from thought-provoking and timeless to kitchy, dated and awkward. But, if you're looking to sample some works by any of the included authors, this is a nice starting point -- especially if you're on a road trip and looking for something mild to pass the time. I particularly enjoyed the Wells, Del Rey and Herbert stories...but your mileage may vary. [If you enjoy this science fiction audio collection, you may also wish to try the sets of Twilight Zone stories adapted to radio broadcasts on CD.]


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


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book cover  File M for Murder
by Miranda James

Rare books librarian Charlie Harris of Athena College again uses his librarian skills to help solve the murder of his daughter's ex-fiance, quite an unlikable man. Of course, Charlie's cat Diesel, a Maine Coon, features prominently in this continuing series. The assorted cast of characters grows book by book, as one gets to know Charlie, his family, his boarders, and his friends. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Murder Past Due, and Classified as Murder.]


[ official Miranda James web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Carolyn D.
The Polley Music Library


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book cover  The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten. The Tweets of Steve Martin
by Steve Martin [817 Mar]

Having been a fan of Steve Martin for a long time, and also having a Twitter account of my own, I couldn't pass this one up when I saw it on the "new books" display. Martin originally set up his twitter account as a means of self-promotion. After having and using his account for several months, however, he realized Twitter was an interesting venue to experiment with humor. This book compiles some of the results of his experimentation. Organized in a loose chronological fashion, readers can see Martin's progression as as Twitter user. He also saved and reprints here some of the humorous responses he received from his followers, which turned his Twitter experiment into a two-way street. I enjoyed this as an extremely light-weight read -- I finished it in less than an hour overall, and was laughing throughout. On the other hand, I'm very grateful I was able to get it from the library, because the formatting -- hard cardboard cover -- and price -- $15.99 -- were ridiculous for a book of this limited size. So...if you're a fan of Steve's style of wry, sarcastic humor, track this one down for some quick laughs. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Steve Martin's novels and autobiography.]


[ official Steve Martin web site -- don't forget to follow him on Twitter! ]

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


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book cover  The Measure of Katie Calloway
by Serena Miller

The book deals with life in a north woods lumber camp in the mid-1800's. Katie is hired to cook for the men but no one knows she and her little brother are fleeing her abusive husband.


[ official Serena Miller web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Dorene O.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Snow Angels
by Jim Thompson

This is a police procedural as dark as northern Finland itself is during kaamos, the country's two weeks of complete darkness. After his wife left him, Kari Vaara left Helsinki and rebuilt his life in his hometown. Now the police chief of Kittila, he spends his time on routine police matters. The few murders that come his way are easily solved domestics and bar fights gone wrong. A few days before Christmas the body of Sufia Elmi, a Somali refuge and minor film star, was found gruesomely murdered in a snowfield just outside of town. The evidence initially points towards the common law husband of Vaara's ex-wife as the killer, which brings forth speculation that Vaara is seeking revenge. Vaara ignores the gossip. He and his team follow the forensic trail and find a more complicated crime. Thompson's debut novel is full of atmospheric descriptions of winter in the artic circle where the temperature, fueled by polar winds, drops to 40 C. And night is 24 hours long. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Hakan Nesser, Anne Holt and Asa Larsson.]

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

[ official James Thompson - Author web site ]

related lists See more books like this on our Nordic Noir booklist
Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Cowboys & Aliens
by Fred Van Lente, Andrew Foley, Luciano Lima, Luciano Lars and J. Wilson, and Silvio Spotti [741.5 Van]

Having been mildly entertained by the hodge-podge film Cowboys & Aliens in the summer of 2011, I was intrigued to actually read the graphic novel that served as inspiration for that film. I ended up far more impressed by the graphic novel than by the film. They resemble each other in only broad strokes -- both deal with humans in the wild west encountering a small alien invasion force and their efforts, with the assistance of one rebellious alien, to prevent the invaders from summoning additional reinforcements. Where the film introduces human conflicts with a cattle baron and an amnesiac central hero, the graphic novel is much more of a straight adventure story, with a traditional heroic cowboy trying to save the day. I'm not a fan of the art in the graphic novel, which varies from quite good to atrocious, but the flow of the action and the storytelling was good. If you haven't seen the film, the book will make even more sense. I recommend this -- as both science fiction, western and graphic storytelling. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the feature film, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.]


[ Wikipedia page for movie ] | [ official Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel web site ]

related lists See more books like this on our Graphic Novels booklist
Review Score - 7
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemAround the World in 80 Days
[DVD 910.41 Pal]

This was Michael Palin's first travel documentary. He is well known for being part of Monty Python, but he also makes for wonderfully enjoyable travel host. Inspired by Jules Verne's novel, he starts his journey in London in attempt to circle the globe, using no aircraft, and return to London in 80 days or less. Unlike other travel documentaries that explore the fancy hotels and sightseeing, this and Palin's other travel documentaries focus more on the everyday lives, customs, and history of the people who live in the places he visits. It's a fantastic documentary of the world's people and places. As you watch through the seven episodes, you feel as if you are traveling along with the film crew. I've seen all of Palin's travel documentaries and he hosts them in such a real and personal way that after watching them, you just want to watch them over again. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Michael Palin's other travel documentaries: Sahara, Pole to Pole, Full Circle and Himalaya.]
[Also available: Tie-in Book.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Michael Palin's Travels web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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

Mossad agents, a Nazi war criminal, and the plot to bring him to justice. This espionage thriller will keep you thoroughly focused as we learn the past is never truly gone.


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

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemStranger Than Fiction
[DVD Stranger]

One of my favorite films from the past few years! I'm not normally a big Will Ferrell fan -- I find most of his films played a little too broad, slapsticky, farcical and crude for my taste. He's actually a very good actor, capable of serious drama and even sweetness at times. And Stranger Than Fiction provides him with a very intriguing opportunity to explore his acting chops. Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS auditor living a very organized but repetitive life. That life is thrown off-balance when Crick begins hearing a woman's voice providing voice-over narration, which is describing everything he does. No-one else hears the voice, and Harold begins to think he's going insane. What could have been another overly-broad comedy actually turns out to be an intelligent, introspective look at reality -- what it is, to various points of view. Stranger Than Fiction features excellent performances from both Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson as Karen Eiffel, the eccentric, reclusive author who appears to be writing his life story...as he lives it. This film will make you laugh, make you think and make you feel! Highly recommended.


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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 itemThe Walking Dead: Complete First Season
[DVD Walking]

Now nearing the end of its second season on the AMC cable network, The Walking Dead is one of the most impressive television series I've watched in recent years. This boxed set gathers the first six episodes, which comprised the first season in Oct-Dec 2010. The plot, in a nutshell, is that Georgia police officer Rick Grimes is injured in the line of duty and ends up in a coma. When he awakens, in an abandoned hospital, he discovers that the world around him has gone to hell. Undead humans (zombies, called Walkers in this incarnation) are everywhere, and the few remaining human beings are on the run, hiding out and trying to survive. Grimes connects with a small band of survivors, including his wife and child, and the first season features their efforts to get to Atlanta and the CDC headquarters, where they hope to find a cure for the undead problem. The production design on this show is incredible, particularly in the 2-hour pilot. The cast provides intense, dramatic performances, and the storytelling (though it differs somewhat from the graphic novels it is based on) is compelling. Viewers have to be willing to accept the basic premise, but if you can get past that, this is a powerful, visually unforgettable series, telling all-too-human stories against an apocalyptic background. I can't recommend this one highly enough. The bonus features in this Season One boxed set were impressive as well, including missing scenes, behind-the-scenes footage and a great feature on Zombie Make-Up. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the graphic novel series that this tv series is based on; also, any of the classic "zombie" movies like Night of the Living Dead.

[Also available in multi-issue graphic novel format, plus a stand-alone novel, The Governor.]

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

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


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last updated April 2012
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