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

January 2013 Recommendations

book cover  At Home
by Bill Bryson [643.1 Bry]

At Home is a general history book centered on the author's home; each chapter is based on one room. The book has a tendency to go into the histories of things that you wouldn't necessarily expect, but are interesting none the less. You read about staircases, electricity, sewage systems, gardens, plague, architecture, the spice trade, physician practices, what people used to wear and how they washed them. It may seem a rather random collection of history, but as the author points out more history ends up in our homes that we realize. If you are in anyway inclined to learn a little bit about a variety of topics then this book is perfect, because even in the same chapter you are on a different topic every ten pages or so.

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd, downloadable E-book and Large Print formats.]

[ Publisher's official Bill Bryson web page ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan [YA PB Cohn]

This is a clever and interesting YA title that will appeal to teens and adults. This not so typical teen romance was written by the authors of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try "The Perks of being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky or "It's a funny Kind of Story," by Ned Vissini.]

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ official Rachel Cohn web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Lisa W.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon
by various authors, edited by Laurie King [823.08 Kin]

This series of short stories by various authors is a fun read. All stories are inspired by the Holmes Canon. Some very loosely, while others it helps to have read many of the original Doyle stories to solve the current mystery you are reading. A must read for any Sherlock Holmes fan.

[ Publisher's official A Study in Sherlock web site ] | [ official Laurie R. King web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemMile 81
by Stephen King [Compact Disc King]

A pre-teenage boy wonders off to a deserted rest stop to discover a muddy station wagon that "eats" good Samaritans passing by. Can he spare more lives before getting "eaten" himself? Very suspenseful, yet short. The language was foul-mouthed and crass at times. Only available in audiobook format, also contained another short story "The Dune" which was equally suspenseful. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try DVD Signs - M. Night Shyamalan, Sphere - Michael Crichton (book).]

[ official Stephen King web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemBloody Jack
by L.A. Meyer [Compact Disc j Meyer]

Bloody Jack is aboaut an orphan girl escaping dangerous street life to become a pirate hunter on a British warship. They aren't hiring girls, so she dresses and acts like a boy. Will she be safer onboard and will anyone discover her secret? The reader Katherine Kellgren, does a great job speaking in cockney. This story may be too adult for younger readers; the further volumes are in the Young Adult collection, which may be a better age for this type of story, which talks of sex and murder and has some profanity. This story has me curious enough to read the next one in the Bloody Jack adventures.

[Also available in downloadable audio and regular print formats.]

[ Bloody Jack page on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas
by John Scalzi

I loved Scalzi's collection of online essays from his blog -- Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, but had never read any of his many science fiction novels. This proved to be a marvelous introduction to his work. Redshirts starts out as a fairly light-hearted tongue-in-cheek treatment of the Star Trek tradition of the guys in "red shirts" (usually security officers) being prone to getting killed on away team missions. Ensign Andrew Dahl is one of a group of new crewmen assigned to the flagship starship of the Universal Union. Andrew and his friends soon recognize that crew members that go on away team missions with the ship's senior officers are almost always likely to suffer fatalities, even when the missions are benign. Dahl's efforts to uncover why this is true, and how he and his friends can potentially survive provides for a lot of laughs, and a good old-fashioned time travel adventure tale, and by the end of the book, some serious emotional storytelling has peaked through the humor. This book should appeal to fans of Star Trek (even if it isn't actually a Star Trek novel), fans of humorous science fiction, fans of thought-provoking science fiction, and especially fans of the Star Trek parody film Galaxy Quest. [Scalzi is an author who writes in a variety of different styles. This rather humorous novel differs dramatically from his more serious books in the Old Man's War series. If you like this, you might want to try Scalzi's novel Agent to the Stars.]

[ Publisher's official Redshirts web site ] | [ official Whatever blog by John Scalzi ]

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


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book cover  Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
by John Scalzi [817 Sca]

John Scalzi is an accomplished science fiction author, with both hard SF (Old Man's War) and humorous SF (Redshirts, Agent to the Stars) to his credit. He's also well-known in the science fiction online community for his excellent blog, Whatever, which he launched in September 1998. This book, the winner of a Hugo Award for best Non-Fiction dealing with science fiction, collects many of the most popular, and most controversial, of his blog entries from the first 10 years of Whatever. Though he's a science fiction writer, Whatever addresses whatever happens to be on Scalzi's mind at the time. That can include subjects of interest to scifi fans, but can also dip into politics, popular culture, history, the writing life, family, etc. Scalzi uses sarcasm like a surgical instrument, poking fun at topics that may be highly charged. He also receives a lot of feedback, often of a complaining nature (hence the title), from his followers, and this collection definitely highlights many of the blog entries that inspired both positive and negative reactions. Depending on your position on various political and/or social issues, you may find yourself fist-pumping in agreement or gnashing your teeth in frustration at some of Scalzi's essays. But you won't be disappointed. [I'm surprised to see this in the 817 "humor" section, instead of the 814 "essays" section -- some of these are very humorous, but others are extremely serious as well.]

[ official Whatever blog by John Scalzi ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemThe Light Between Oceans
by M.L. Stedman [Compact Disc Stedman]

This audiobook tells a story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who have not been able to have a child, then a boat washes up on shore carrying a dead man and a live infant. Could this be an opportunity for this lonely couple or do his actions cause further suffering for their lives? Does the baby have a living mother or is she also dead, like her father seems to be? This was so interesting to me that I listened to it all, even though it didn't turn out like I'd thought it would. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards; The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger or The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.]

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

[ Publisher's official M.L. Stedman web page ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  The Bookman
by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar's The Bookman, first in a trilogy from this author, falls squarely in the hot current fiction category of Steampunk -- a fusion of science fiction, fantasy, adventure and romance. In The Bookman, the hero is a young poet named Orphan, living in an alternative Victorian-era England that's dystopian in nature...with alien lizards sitting on the throne. A rebellious terrorist, the Bookman, is striking fear into the populace with boobytrapped books, hoping to disrupt a major project to launch a satellite into space. Orphan, with friends and allies he meets along the way, is sucked into a wild and bizarre adventure, involving self-aware automatons, pirates at sea, a drunken Jules Verne and a secret Caribbean island where the descendants of the British Royal family are being kept prisoner. The pacing of the story is fast and exciting. The crazy technological devices at play are inventive. And the supporting cast is engaging and colorful. The only drawback is that Orphan himself is rather bland as a hero. Fortunately, the subsequent volumes in this series, though set in the same world and same time period, feature different casts of characters. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to check out the Thrilling Airship Adventures: The World of Steampunk booklist from my Nov/Dec 2012 booktalk at Bethany and Gere branches.]

[Also available in combined anthology with the other two books in the trilogy.]

[ official Lavie Tidhar blog ] | [ Publisher's official The Bookman web page ]

related lists See more books like this on Scott's Thrilling Airship Adventures booktalk booklist
Review Score - 6
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists and Strange Literature
by Jeff Vandermeer and S.J. Chambers [809.387 Van]

In his opening chapter to The Steampunk Bible, editor Jeff Vandermeer recalls the definition of Steampunk that he came up with a few years ago as the genre was first gaining in popularity:
STEAMPUNK = Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot.
Steampunk as a term has only existed since the late 1980s, but Steampunk as a form of written or visual entertainment has existed in a variety of forms for decades. Imagine the 1960s television series The Wild Wild West, with secret service agents James West and Artemus Gorden going after mad scientists trying to take over the late 1800s America with steam-powered robots. Or picture feature films such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, set in Victorian times, but involving famous historical and/or literary figures using technologies that are decades ahead of their time. Steampunk is also something of a social movement -- involving people who don't read the books or watch the movies that have been heavily influenced by Steampunk trends. There is an extensive subculture of fans who like to dress up in Steampunk finery and roleplay as if they were living in a world patterned after the visual stylings of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with retro-futuristic submersibles, electric rayguns, plucky female airship pilots, crazed mad scientists and high adventure in the late 1800s. The Steampunk Bible does a terrific job of providing readers with a detailed background on Steampunk's origins, and what the current movers and shakers in the world of steampunk are up to. Crammed with gorgeous color illustrations, this lovely book will engage your imagination for hours, as you contemplate how you can add bits of clockwork gears or ornate keys to your wardrobe for a touch of "out of time" -- or you can look back at the many elements of literary history which featured elements that were precursors to today's steampunk -- the "steam man of the prairie" featured in early American dime novels, for instance. The Steampunk Bible was a 2012 Hugo Award nominee in the non-fiction category -- and well-deserved its nomination. If you're familiar with the Steampunk genre, you'll definitely enjoy this one. If you're unfamiliar with Steampunk, I recommend this book as an exemplary introduction to an increasingly popular subculture in today's world. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to check out the Thrilling Airship Adventures: The World of Steampunk booklist from my Nov/Dec 2012 booktalk at Bethany and Gere branches. Another very similar book that came out a year after the Steampunk Bible was entitled Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions -- I also recommend this one!]

[ official Steampunk Bible web site and blog ]

related lists See more books like this on Scott's Thrilling Airship Adventures booktalk booklist
Review Score - 9
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 itemRowan Atkinson Live!
[DVD 817 Atk]

Having been a tremendous fan of British comic actor Rowan Atkinson since his Blackadder days, I quickly snagged this DVD of his live standup comedy when it passed across the desk at the library recently. I'm more a fan of Atkinson when he's being bitingly sarcastic or droll, and not so much a fan of his "Mr. Bean"-style physical comedy. This hour's worth of stand-up routines, recorded in 1991, leans a bit more toward the physical comedy end of his style. None-the-less, I found myself laughing hard at many of the bits he's collected here, and wishing the show was even longer. Short bits like these don't allow for the viewer to be quite as emotionally invested in continuing characters, but allow for very quick punchy comedy. Definitely worth checking out, and definitely falls into the PG-13 level rather than the R level of comedy. This entire show is also available on YouTube, with additional footage. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the library's complete set of Atkinson's Blackadder series, as well as his Mr. Bean -- all on DVD.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Rowan Atkinson page on Wikipedia ] | [ Complete show available on YouTube ] | 

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemDune
[DVD Dune]

I was very pleased to see that the library had purchased this DVD edition of the 2000 television miniseries adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune. Although the 1984 feature film version of Dune, directed by David Lynch, and starring Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, had its good points, it was a flawed production overall. This 2000 version, done as a 4-hour mini-series for the SciFi Channel, features a cast of lesser-known actors (with the exceptions of William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides and Giancarlo Giannini as the Emperor Shaddam), but the production values were excellent and Alec Newman turns in a powerful performance as Paul Atreides, the man destined to become Muad'dib. The four-hour length gives the story plenty of room to stretch and be more fully fleshed-out than the 1984 version. The special effects, costumes and soundtrack are all exceptional. I highly recommend this both for long-time sci-fi fans, and also for those just wanting to see what a good science fiction adaptation film can be. This miniseries was followed up with a second, which adapted the 2nd and 3rd Dune books into a single production -- some fans consider that to be superior even to this Dune, however I had problems with it. However, I don't have any problems with Dune -- definitely worth your time! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to compare this to the highly-stylized 1984 film, linked above. I think this is an improvement.]
[Also available, obviously, are the classic novels by Frank Herbert upon which this mini-series and film are based.]

[ 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 Muppet Show
[DVD j Muppet]

This entertaining show features Jim Henson's Muppets. The show's original run on TV was 1976-1981; so far only three of the five seasons have been released on DVD. It is set up as a variety show run by Kermit and regular acts include Pigs in Space with Miss Piggy, Fozzy's jokes, stunts by Gonzo as well as musical and dance numbers. Each episode has a special guest who does their own numbers and interacts with the Muppets behind the scenes of the variety show. Season one has guests such as Peter Ustinov, Phyllis Diller, Twiggy, and Florence Henderson. Anyone who enjoyed Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies, or Sesame Street as a child should give the Muppet Show a try. It is in the children's section but is just as entertaining for adults or as a family show.
[Also available: Seasons Two and Three.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Muppets.com web site (Disney) ]

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 itemPitch Perfect
[DVD Pitch]

Beca can't wait to move to L.A. and be a DJ, but first she's got to get through college. Her father makes her a deal, she must join one club and then he'll let her quit college after her freshman year and help her move to L.A. The question is, what club will she join? After an embarrassing performance at the acapella finals last year the Barden Bellas are down to just 2 members, Aubrey and Chloe. Now they must hold auditions to fill their squad. Originally aiming to recruit their usual type of member - thin, good-looking female with perfect pitch -- they find no one by that description is interested and get stuck with a group of misfits who they must train to become the Bellas they once were. After Chloe convinces Beca to try out, Beca and Aubrey clash over the type of music they should sing. Will the Bellas make it back to the finals to make up for last year's embarrassment or will they get beaten again by Barden's other acapella team -- an all-male team called the Treblemakers. Rebel Wilson shines as Fat Amy and the soundtrack is amazing! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book the movie was based off of - Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory - by Mickey Rapkin or "Glee" the TV show on Fox.]

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

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 itemThe Raven
[DVD Raven]

When people start getting murdered exactly the way Edgar Allen Poe kills off some of his characters in his books, Poe (John Cusack) joins forces with Detective Fields (Luke Evans) to find the killer. When his girlfriend is abducted by the same killer, things start getting even worse. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try anything by Edgar Allen Poe, and Castle season one - the premiere episode is about a killer using Richard Castle's works as inspiration and murders people the same way he does in his books.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Thin Man Goes Home
[DVD Thin]

This is a black and white film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. Mr. Charles is a detective who has decided to take some time off work and visit his hometown. Upon his arrival everyone believes he is there working on a case even though he says he's just there to relax. Despite his wishes for a restful trip, someone is shot dead on his doorstep and he finds himself at work once more, with the help of his dog Asta. While this would clearly appeal to mystery fans, there is also a lot of humor, and if you enjoy old black and white movies -- or have never watched one -- then I would recommend it. There are six movies in this series, and a documentary about Myrna Loy and William Powell. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Alias Nick & Nora: Two Documentary Profiles - DVD, The Thin Man - DVD, After The Thin Man - DVD, Another Thin Man - DVD, Song of the Thin Man - DVD, Shadow of the Thin Man - DVD. There are Thin Man books as well, written by Dashiell Hammett.]
[Also available in audiotape, book-on-cd [abridged or unabridged], and Large Print formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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last updated February 2013
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