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

October 2012 Recommendations

book cover  You Had Me at Goodbye
by Jane Blackwood

Katherine "Kat" Taylor has ended her engagement to her cheating fiance and agrees to house-sit for her recently-widowed aunt Lila on Martha's Vineyard to heal her broken heart. Unknown to Lila, before he died her hubby had told a friend, author Lawrence Kendall, that he could have the house to write. They agree to an uneasy truce to share the house for the summer. And thus it begins. Published by Zebra Contemporary Romances, this is a more character-driven romance than usual and told from both Kat's and Larry's points of view. A quick, enjoyable read.


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


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book cover  The Halloween Tree
by Ray Bradbury

This short stand-alone novella, originally published in 1972, is a masterpiece of thematic writing. On Halloween night, in an average midwestern town, in an indeterminate time period, eight rambunctious trick-or-treating boys gather at the haunted house at the edge of town, awaiting the arrival of their ninth friend, Pipkin, to begin their holiday shenanigans. When some unknown force spirits the ailing Pipkin away, the remaining friends soon find themselves on the adventure of a lifetime! The haunted house's owner, Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud takes the boys on a trip through time and space, exploring the historical and cultural origins of many Halloween traditions (embodied by their costumes of Skeleton, Gargoyle, Witch, Mummy, etc.). Bradbury's tale, while an adventure told in language that may be a bit flowery for today's kids, is still engaging -- and does a terrific job of explaining many of the holiday's established lore, from the terror felt by cultures who thought the sun died each night, to the persecution of enlightened individuals in the middle ages by their uneducated and superstitious masses, to the Mexican celebration of El Dia de los Muertos. The adventure soars from Egyptian pyramids, to druidic stone circles, to the highest parapets of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I have friends who have made an annual tradition of reading this story out loud to each other, and I've now read it in back-to-back Octobers, finding new facets to this little gem with each reading. I highly recommend this title, with the caveat that it can feel just a bit dated, and there are no girls in the story. I should also point out that this was adapted into an animated TV special by Hanna-Barbera (the folks who bring us Scooby Doo) in 1993. This version has both its fans and its haters, and if you choose to track it down, just be aware that a lot has been changed between the book version and the video version! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try most any other Ray Bradbury work, but particularly Something Wicked This Way Comes.]


[ Wikipedia page for The Halloween Tree ] | [ official Ray Bradbury web site ]

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


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book cover  Frozen Heat
by Richard Castle

After a vaguely disappointing third entry in this meta tv tie-in series of novels, this fourth volume was terrific. The Nikki Heat novels are supposedly written by Richard Castle, the famous writer character played by Nathan Fillion on the TV series Castle. The multiple layers of meaning to the characters' relationships -- Nikki and Jameson's relationship in most ways parallels the on-screen relationship between Castle and Kate Beckett -- means that fans of Castle will get more out of the Nikki Heat novels that the average reader. However, even standing on their own, the Nikki Heat novels are excellent mystery/thriller stories. In Frozen Heat, NYPD detective Nikki Heat is finally able to dig into the unsolved murder of her mother over 10 years earlier -- a new murder victim has distinct ties to Cynthia Heat. Ace reporter Jameson Rook assists Heat and her squad, as Nikki delves into elements of her own past that reveal previously unknown secrets. The dialog is snappy, the plot is fast-paced, and the characters are likeable, even if somewhat formulaic. This was a quick read, and I do recommend it very strongly. If I weren't a Castle fan, I'd probably rate it slightly lower, but since I love both the show and the books, it gets a 9 from me! I, like many other fans, am still intense curious as to the identity of the author who is actually writing these novels. The studio and publisher have still managed to successfully conceal who is ghost-writing these as "Richard Castle". [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Nikki Heat novels, as well as the Castle DVD sets.]

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

[ Frozen Heat page on the "official" Richard Castle web site ]

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


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book cover  Bloom: A Memoir
by Kelle Hampton [Biography Hampton]

An emotional rollercoaster of a story when author Kelle Hampton's second child is born with Down's Syndrome. Follow her journey from grief to joy and the slippery spots along the way of Baby Nella's first year and redefining what the words 'special' and 'different' mean. Laugh, cry, and grow as an individual....whether your are a parent or not.


[ "Bloom" blog entry on the official Kelle Hampton blog ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemUR
by Stephen King

This relatively short audiobook is certainly a "nod" to the Kindle e-reader, written exclusively as a Kindle book which was later released as an audiobook. Wes Smith, a college professor, tries to veer away from traditional books and buys a Kindle. However, after an error in his order, he receives a pink Kindle (traditionally only available in white). The pink Kindle contains a particular "UR" function that reveals tragic alternate universes. Wes Smith must use the device to prevent a future murder in his own universe-- which leads to potentially horrifying consequences. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Stephen King works, such as: It, N, 11/22/63, or Mile 81.]


[ Wikipedia entry for UR ] | [ official Stephen King web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Nanny Diaries
by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a nanny to the rich? Two New York nannies spin their real-life experiences into a fictional diary following the life of 'Nanny' who takes a job for Mr. and Mrs. X while attending college. She soon finds out that - like her young charge, Grayer - she has become nothing more than a pawn in an endless cycle of greed and dishonesty. Time and time again, Nanny is put in awkward positions that make question her own moral judgement. Should she stay on and try to protect young Grayer from self-destructing in the endless cycle and vengeful society or try to save herself and whatever semblance of a life she has left?

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

[ The Nanny Diaries page on the official Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures
by Caroline Preston [741.5 Pre]

I suppose it technically falls under the graphic novel category, but this is a very unique book. It is a scrapbook diary from a girl in the 1920's. She is given the book as a gift for her high school graduation, and she chronicles her life from that point till she gets married. Her dream in life is to become a writer, and she practices her typing skills by making captions and notes about the various scraps in the book. Her journey takes her Vassar College, to Europe and back home again when her mother becomes ill. What I liked about it was that it was so full of little mementos to look at, that even though there is minimal text, it feels as if you've read a whole novella. If you have stayed away from graphic novels, because you don't think you like comic books, try this one. It's different enough that you may find you like them more than you expected. [If you want to try another great graphic novel, you might like The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel by Paulo Coelho. It too is a story of following your dreams.]


[ Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt page on the official Caroline Preston web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the downloadable audio format of this itemThe Last Victim
by Karen Robards

This is the first book in a new series by Karen Robards. At the age of seventeen, Charlie Stone was the soul surviving witness to a serial killer known as the Boardwalk Killer, who was responsible for murdering her best friend. Driven from that moment, she became a prominent psychologist specializing in profiling serial killers. Fifteen years later, the FBI needs Charlie's help because a new wave of killings have cropped up and either the Boardwalk Killer is back in action or there's a copycat in play. Charlie's reluctance of getting involved isn't just because it makes her an easy target for the killer to finish what he left behind, but also because of Charlie's ability. Charlie can see ghosts of the recently deceased. One ghost, in particular, makes this not just a murder mystery, but a romance with a fun twist. This book is a combination police procedural /paranormal/romance/mystery/thriller/humor.

[Also available in regular print and Large Print formats.]

[ Last Victim page on the official Karen Robards web site ]

Review Score - 5
Recommended by Diane E.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Technical Processes


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book cover  One Last Thing Before I Go
by Jonatthan Tropper

Drew Silver has been floating through a mid-life crisis for years now. He was once famous as the drummer in a popular rock band, married to the woman he loved and father to a new baby daughter. Now he makes his living doing gigs at weddings, his divorced wife is getting remarried, and his estranged, Princeton-bound daughter has confided in him that she's pregnant (only because she doesn't care what he thinks). When he finds out he's got a heart condition that needs immediate surgery, he decides his life as it has become is not worth saving. Instead of having the surgery he decides to use the time he has left to reconnect with his family and try to become a better person. As with Tropper's other novels, One Last Thing Before I Go is full of well-developed, likable characters. He manages to deal with middle-aged angst and failed dreams in a real but witty and humorous way. Several of Troppers books, including this one, have been optioned for movies. But you know the book is always better than the movie, so read it first! [All of Tropper's books are strikingly similar, and all are engaging, fun reads.]


[ One Last Thing Before I Go page on the official Jonathan Tropper web site ]

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


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book cover  The Girl in Hyacinth Blue
by Susan Vreeland

A college professor questions whether or not an oil painting is an authentic Vermeer. The novel progresses backward through various stories of each previous owner until the actual inspiration of the painting is explained-- revealing the true identity of the painter. Is it truly a Vermeer?! The concept of a book tracing the painting backward through smaller short stories works very effectively; however, some of the origin stories are more interesting than others. Overall, a very great read. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Other reverse chronology/retrograde books: Alvarez - How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accent, Banks - Use of Weapons; Reverse chronology movies: Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Retrograde music: Coldplay - The Scientist (Music 787.877 Col), The Beatles - Strawberry Fields (Music 781.66 Bea).]


[ The Girl in Hyacinth Blue page on the official Susan Vreeland web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemAlien
[DVD Alien]

"In space no one can hear you scream!" I can still remember this advertising catch phrase, from the first time I saw this film. I had read the novelization already, and was young enough that I needed my dad to go to the Cooper Theater with me to get me in to this R rated film. Knowing the plot, I ended up covering my face at the "chest-burster" sequence in the ship's mess hall. Now, years...and multiple viewings later, I can still look back on Alien as one of the classiest, most compelling science fiction films made in the last 30+ years. Referred to by critics as a "haunted house in space" film, Alien (especially the extended cut) triggers a lot of visceral reactions. Though later films in the Aliens franchise have thrown dozens of the deadly predators at the screen, there's nothing quite like the creepy quality of having a single one of these creatures stalking the Nostromo's crew through the darkened halls. And Sigourney Weaver shines in her role as Ripley -- although she's even better in the follow-up film Aliens. Alien is a near-perfect film -- terrific performances, spine-tingling soundtrack, gorgeous visuals, and one of the scariest creature designs ever seen on film. No matter what you may think of Prometheus, the prequel film that came out this summer, I highly recommend revisiting the original Alien. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Aliens, Alien3 or Prometheus.]

[ 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 itemBuffy the Vampire Slayer
[DVD Buffy]

In all the years we've been offering up Staff Recommendations here on the BookGuide site, I can't believe nobody has recommended the DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! This being October, it seems only appropriate to recommend this incredibly iconic seven-season fan-favorite supernatural show. Joss Whedon took the idea he'd introduced in an unsuccessful 1992 movie (starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy), and turned it into a weekly television series in 1997. Sarah Michelle Gellar starred as Buffy Summers, latest in a long line of mystically empowered "vampire slayers", whose mission is life was to hunt down not only vampires but all of the other supernatural menaces that threatened mankind. Problem was -- she just wanted to be a normal high school student, without all the carnage and mayhem. Paired with her "Watcher", the somewhat stuffy high school librarian Giles, Buffy quickly makes friends at her new high school is Sunnydale, CA -- which sits on a gateway into Hell (The Hellmouth), and the supernatural proves unwilling to let her live a normal lifestyle. Breaking with centuries of tradition, which state that the Slayer's life is a solitary one, Buffy and her friends...the Scoobies...proceed to go through three years of high school and four years of college, battling the threats to humankind. Filled with snappy dialog, absolutely terrific performances from the main cast (Giles, Xander, Willow, Angel, Cordelia, Oz, Faith, Tara, etc.) and each season's "big bad" villain, cool effects and make-up, and great music, Buffy is a pop culture treasure. Whedon and company manage to use a wild and crazy concept of a teenaged demon fighter to tell emotional tales about the "real world" and what it takes to survive adolescence and young-adulthood. Three key episodes stand out above and beyond all the others: "Hush" (season four) is almost complete dialog-free as a group of demons steal everyone's voices and float menacingly down the streets at night harvesting victims' hearts; "The Body" (season five) features some of the cast members' best performances, as Buffy finds the body of her mother, who has died unexpectedly but of natural causes; and "Once More, With Feeling" (season six), in which a visiting demon forces everyone to experience key emotional moments in the form of song and dance - all of the cast turn in bravura musical performances in an emotionally-wrenching storyline. Each of the seven seasons features an over-all story arc, with a primary villain that Buffy and company have to fight against in the season finale. Personally, I found certain seasons stronger than others -- Season Two features Buffy's vampire boyfriend Angel turning into the darker Angelus. Season Three features the Mayor of Sunnydale building up to a demonic "ascension" and also sees the destruction of the high school in the final episode. Season Six features a resurrected Buffy (killed at the end of season five) coming to terms with having been brought back to life, and shows gal-pal Willow (a witch) going to the dark side when her love is killed. the series wraps up many of its overall plots at the end of the seventh season, but leaves several plot threads dangling, which have been picked up in official "season 8" and "season 9" comic-book/graphic-novel follow-ups. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the spinoff series Angel.]


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Wikipedia entry on this series ] | [ Detailed episode guide at epguides.com ]

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 itemCharmed: Season One
[DVD Charmed]

Charmed was a TV show that aired from 1998-2006 about three sisters who were witches and came into their powers when their grandmother died. The entire first season is about them learning how to use their powers to fight demons and save innocents. Meanwhile they're trying to live normal lives but magic keeps getting in the way. There's a lot of humor to the show, and some great special effects. The first season stars Shannen Doherty as the eldest and most stubborn sister, Prue, Holly Marie Combs as the middle and caring sister, Piper, and Alyssa Milano as the wild child sister, Phoebe. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Supernatural -- the TV series starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles about two brothers who also kill demons, or "Hocus Pocus" which is about another group of three sisters who are witches - though they are the evil kind.]
[Also available: Numerous Charmed tie-in novels -- see the complete list on the TV Tie-Ins booklist on BookGuide.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Detailed episode guide at epguides.com ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemEscape From New York
[DVD Escape]

One of my all-time favorite stylistic scifi films. John Carpenter brings us a gritty, action-filled storyline with a tight countdown to disaster. In a near-future dystopian United States, Kurt Russell is purely iconic as Snake Plissken, the ultimate tough guy, blackmailed and forced to go onto the island of Manhattan, which as been walled off and turned into a penal colony for the country's worst criminals. His mission: rescue the President of the United States, whose plane has gone down somewhere on the island. Filled with colorful characters, impressive set pieces, and an unforgettable and driving minimalist score, Escape From New York is the ultimate guilty pleasure film. Russell's performance is the best thing in the film, but there are some other great character actors chewing the scenary, including Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasance, Adrienne Barbeau, Isaac Hayes and Harry Dean Stanton. Followed by the much inferior sequel Escape From L.A. many years later.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official John Carpenter's Escape From New York web site ]

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 itemMurder on the Orient Express
[DVD Murder]

Perhaps one of the most perfect films ever made, Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express is an exquisite adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's most memorable novels featuring Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. Years before David Suchet's take on Poirot became so incredibly popular, Albert Finney's performance dominates this film completely. Which is hard to do when you've got a huge celebrity-filled cast that includes Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark and Michael York. The set design, costuming and camerawork are incredible, but in the end it all comes down to Finney's quirky performance as the vacationing detective, called upon to solve a brutal murder aboard an iconic railcar that has been stopped by an avalanche of snow on the tracks. This should be essential viewing for any and all mystery fans. This DVD edition features numerous extras, including a profile of Agatha Christie, and a four-part documentary on the making of the movie. I love David Suchet and his portrayal of Poirot in dozens of television episodes (including this very story!), but Finney is forever stuck in my mind as Poirot from just this single performance!
[Also available as the original printed novel and as an episode of the Poirot mysteries starring David Suchet.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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 itemNorth by Northwest
[DVD North]

An advertising agent is wrongly accused and framed as a killer. After fleeing the United Nations in New York, a suspenseful chase ensues across the United States, the apex of which ends atop Mt. Rushmore. Lot's of twists and turns to the plot (some more predictable than others), great script, and excellent music score by Bernard Herrmann. Continually listed as one of the top movies of all time. Great performances by Cary Grant, and Eva Marie Saint. (Also, keep an eye out for Hitchcock's cameo appearance!). [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Hitchcock DVDs: The Birds, Notorious, Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, Marnie, Lifeboat, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Psycho.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSalmon Fishing in the Yemen
[DVD Salmon]

This was simply, to me, a sweet story. A wealthy sheik dreams of bringing salmon fishing to the desert. It is then up to a scientist and fishing expert (Ewan McGregor), and the sheik's land agent (Emily Blunt), to make the seemingly impossible, possible.
[Also available in book, downloadable e-book formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Salmon Fishing in the Yemen web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Alyse S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated October 2012
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