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

April 2013 Recommendations

book cover  The Camel Club
by David Baldacci

The Camel Club is a four-man group of off-beat characters who meet weekly to discuss the latest goings-on that they think could spell government conspiracies. During one of these clandestine meetings in a secluded park area, they witness the murder of a man who turns out to be a Secret Service Agent who works with the terrorist database. This is the first book in the Camel Club series and we receive a little background on the fellows but at this point we don't know them well. Lots of characters with a fascinating plot that intricately comes together. The final 100 pages were so suspenseful and exciting that I couldn't put the book down. This is not so much a standard murder mystery but a spy/terrorist/political machinations suspense story. For those who like some of real life woven into a suspenseful story, start here. (Near the end you'll learn why they named themselves The Camel Club).

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

[ official Camel Club page on the official David Baldacci web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceShadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo [YA Bardugo]

Shadow and Bone is beautiful in it's descriptions and amazingly original. Alina is ordinary, she isn't pretty or talented and can barely draw a map and that's what she does. When she goes across the fold, a dangerous place where Volcra prey, her sand skiff is attacked and her best friend Mal is almost killed. When they turn on her she is sure she will die when a burst of sunlight disperses the Volcra and the skiffs are able to escape out of the Fold. Everyone who was there is saying she created the sunlight but she has no idea what they are talking about, she isn't one of the beautiful Grisha, she dosen't have powers. The leader of the Grisha, the handsome Darkling, think she does and rushes her to the Grisha palace to train her. And this is just the setup. I love the settings and the Grisha hierarchy. With strong Russian influences I feel the story was written well all though it ended quickly with a few loose ends. I look forward to future entries in the series.

[ official Leigh Bardugo web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  The Lost Symbol
by Dan Brown

After reading The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I have to admit the Robert Langdon series started to get stale and formulaic -- a over-dramatic opening and chasing ancient clues around a modern-day city. The Lost Symbol isn't much different, except taking place on American soil in Washington D.C. - solving ancient clues involving relics of the Freemasons. Dan Brown is the master of leaving chapters hanging and open ended. I had a hard time finding a good place to put the book down because so many chapters are left in suspense. Robert Langdon is summoned to give a lecture, but no one shows up, and an unfortunate incident occurs involving a mysterious invitation from the antagonist. Unlike other Brown novels, the identity of the "bad guy" is described quite openly, whereas in the other novels he keeps us in the dark until the very end. The plot ensues chasing ancient clues around Washington D.C., encountering high-ranking CIA officials, other Freemasons, and the antagonist himself. There is a huge twist at the end, foreshadowed by an event that happens in the middle of the novel. Identities aren't always what they seem - a recurring theme in Brown's books. At another point, Brown essentially corners himself into killing off Langdon -- but somehow manages to always find a way out. After the final climax, the book continues dreadfully on... yammering on about religion, ancient secrets, wisdom, and symbology for the last few chapters. Other than these last chapters, it was a highly suspenseful read and hard to put down. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Angels and Demons, Da Vinci Code, Digital Fortress, Deception Point (all Dan Brown), Inferno (on-order).]

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

[ official The Lost Symbol page on the official Dan Brown web site ]

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


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book cover  Suspect
by Robert Crais

This was my first read by Robert Crais (pronounced crase; his fans call themselves "craisies") which follows LAPD cop Scott James, who is recovering from a shooting that left him seriously injured and his partner, Stephanie, killed. Scott has refused a medical retirement but after many months is still battling pain and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He's desperately seeking a slot somewhere, ANYWHERE, within LAPD and is forced upon the K-9 unit. There he partners with Maggie, a former Marine explosives-sniffing dog who lost her partner to an IED and sniper attack. She also is suffering from PTSD and may be dropped from the force. Together, she and Scott help each other heal while they seek out the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. One does not need to be a dog fan to enjoy this mystery. The story is told from both Scott's and Maggie's points of view. Maggie is not anthropomorphized, and her chapters are fascinating as we learn how Maggie relates to the world. Scott is allowed on the fringe of the investigation because of his involvement as a victim, and he's the one to notice a few irregularities which others dismiss. He and Maggie end up on their own and in serious danger. The characters and their backgrounds held my attention, nor did I guess "whodunnit" though I had some very broad, overall suspicions in that general direction. Good mystery, good suspense, likable characters, pleasing epilogue; overall a satisfying read. Crais also writes the Elvis Cole, Joe Pike mysteries. So far this one is a stand-alone and I liked this one so well I hope this is the first in a planned series.

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

[ official Suspect page on the official Robert Crais web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a music CDMusique Vol. 1 1993-2005
by Daft Punk [Compact Disc 781.66 Daf]

This collection of music from (or incorporating) the Grammy-winning French techno/house duo Daft Punk has elements of new wave, funk, disco, pop and rap. I especially like tracks 7-12, including the charmingly digital-age themed "Technologic". Known as much for their visual artistry as their aural output, they also composed and performed the score for the 2010 science fiction film Tron: Legacy. A new album is expected to be released in May 2013, possibly featuring some collaboration with singer/songwriter/actor Paul Williams, an Omaha native. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try TRON: Legacy - original motion picture soundtrack; Tron: Legacy [dvd]; Homework [album].]

[ official Daft Punk web site ] | [ Wikipedia entry for Daft Punk ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the Downloadable Audio format of this itemThe Wurst is Yet to Come
by Mary Daheim [downloadable audio]

Judith McMonigle Flynn and her cranky cousin, Serena, head to Oktoberfest to help man the State Bed & Breakfast Association booth. Judith's reputation as a detective has preceded her and the local police chief asks for her help when the body of Dietrich Wessler, the town's patriarch, is found. Serena provides much of the humor through out this witty book. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Donna Andrews and Cleo Coyle.]

[Also available in traditional print format.]

[ official Mary Daheim web site ]

Review Score - 5
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird
edited by Paula Guran [813.08 Gur]

Inspired by the impact of the groundbreaking horror works of H.P. Lovecraft in the 20th century, this collection of 27 short works is a sampling of what is being referred to as "the new weird". The stories are not necessarily Lovecraftian in style -- although some have strong hints of that -- but they are modern, up-to-date takes on the kinds of themes and ideas that Lovecraft's stories touched upon 100 years ago. The stories in this collection vary in quality, but even at their weakest, they still exude a sense of otherworldieness -- humanity is still a small speck in the greater cosmos, and we appear to be sharing our small planet with fascinating and terrifying creatures beyond our imaginings. I highly recommend this collection, in part, due to the reputations of many of its contributors. The stories are all reprints from other sources, but you'd be hard pressed to find as good a collection featuring such an esteemed variety of contributors, including: Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Kim Newman, John Shirley and Sarah Monette. If you have even the slightest interest in contemporary horror fiction, you'll want to try this one on for size!. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lovecraft's original stories and novels.]

[ The New Weird entry on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  Beowulf
new edition edited by Seamus Heaney [829.3 BeoS

This classic saga of heroism and adventure, recounts Beowulf's life from youth to old age and death. The tale begins when he sails to the aid of a king being plagued by a dragon. He slays the dragon then its mother who comes after him and is praised by the king. He then goes on to becomes successful in him homeland, and exemplifies heroism till his dying day. I found this to be a quick read once I got into the rhythm of the writing; it only took me a day to finish it. If you have trouble getting into it, this version does come with notations on the side of the page to keep track of the plot. This is one of those classics you should read if you enjoy fantasy, mythology, and or adventure.

[ Seamus Heaney page on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemStranger in the Room
by Amanda Kyle Williams [Compact Disc Williams]

Amanda Kyle Williams writes a readable series about a private investigator, Keye Street. who struggles with alcoholism. What keeps this series being completely clichéd is Keye's affection for her family and for the south. This love resonates from the pages. Keye's drinking problem cost Keye her job as an FBI profiler. Now she pays the bills by looking for bail jumpers and doing legwork for attorneys. Keye's boyfriend, Atlanta police detective Aaron Raucher, uses Keye's profiling skills to find the murderer of three people who had nothing in common -- an elderly man, a thirteen year old boy and a twenty-something junkie. Keye's loyalty to her family draws her into this case. One night Miki Ashton came home after partying with her friends. She tried to get her house key in the lock but she dropped it on the porch. As Miki bent to pick it up she heard a noise inside and she looked in the living room window. A masked person stared back out at her. The frightened Miki ran to her cousin Keye for help. Keye, her mother and Miki returned to Miki's house where they found a gruesome surprise. I enjoyed the quirky characters and seeing Georgia through Keye's eyes. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Karin Slaughter and Gerrie Finger Ferris.]

[Also available in traditional print format.]

[ official BOOK web site ] | [ official AUTHOR web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceLawn Boy
by Gary Paulsen [j Paulsen]

A 12-year old boy gets an old lawn mower for his birthday. He begins mowing lawns and gains more and more business. With the help of some unusual friends he expands his business, but with more responsibility comes more headaches. The chapters are humorously titled with wordy economic jargon, for example: "The Law of Increasing Product Demand Versus Flat Production Capacity," and "Overutilization of Labor Compounded by Unpredicted Capital Growth," but the chapters breakdown complex economic principles into a simple story. Great for kids and understanding money. The book is a little misleading about how easy it is to get into and make money in the stock market, but still a great story about capitalism. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lawn Boy Returns - Gary Paulsen, Flat Broke - Gary Paulsen, Ultimate Kids Money Book - j332.024 God.]

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

[ official Lawn Boy page on the offical Gary Paulsen web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceNation
by Terry Pratchett

Nation had many thought provoking themes that I enjoyed. Though the book drags and can be somewhat repetitive the writing more than makes up for it. At times the characters feel flat but I still enjoyed this very colorful book.

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

[ official Nation page on the official Terry Pratchett web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  A Field of Darkness
by Cornlia Read

This is a moody mystery set in 1988. Cornelia Read paints a desolate picture of Syracuse that matches the tone of the book. Her heroine, Madeline Dare, struggles with living a blue-collar life which a far cry from her childhood where she grew up with the comforts of wealth. Madeline's father-in-law shows her a set of dog tags that he found in a field. He tells her that two young women were murdered it in 1969. Madeline is shocked to see her cousin's name etched on the pieces of metal. Lapthorne is her favorite cousin and she can't believe that he was involved. She sets out to find the truth. This debut novel is interesting but the writing is uneven. Flashes of humor are mixed lengthy complaints by Madeline about life in the rust belt of New York. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Jeff Crook and Douglas Corleone.]

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ official A Field of Darkness page on the official Cornelia Read web site ]

Review Score - 5
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  A Midsummer Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare [822.33 ShaP7]

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies and for good reason! I recently re-read this classic in anticipation of attending a performance of the play at one of our local high schools. I had not read this play since college, so it struck me with renewed delight to read the "play within a play." Fairies, confused lovers and sprites abound in this tale where "all's well that ends well." What fools these mortals be! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Much Ado About Nothing, or any of Shakespeare's other comedies.]

[Also available in a variety of formats.]

[ Wikipedia page for this play ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Children of Hurin
by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien

This is novel takes place in Tolkien's Middle-Earth. It is set before Lord of the Rings and is told briefly in The Silmarillion. While it does have a place in Middle-Earth history and lore, you could easily read this as a stand-alone or as your first Tolkien novel. The tale begins with Hurin, Lord of Dor-Lomin, who goes to battle Morgorth's army. He leaves his pregnant wife Morwen and his young son Turin at home, unsure when or whether he will return. After the battle is he is captured, cursed and held prisoner by Morgoth; his family can only guess what has happened, but know they are in danger. To ensure the heir to the throne does not perish, Morwen sends Turin away to live in Doriath, under the protection of King Thingol. The rest of the tale recounts the misadventures of Turin in his quest to seek his family and run away from the curse Morgoth has set upon them. It is a tragedy, so don't expect a happily ever after, but it is well put together and edited by Tolkien's son Christopher. If you find yourself wanting more Tolkien, check out this website www.tolkienlibrary.com. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try by Tolkien and Tolkien's world : paintings of Middle-Earth By: Michael Hague.]

[ Children of Hurin entry on Wikipedia ] | [ www.tolkienlibrary.com ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Downloadable Audio format of this itemThe Taken
by Inger Asher Wolfe [downloadable audio]

DC James Wingate is in change while his superior Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef is recovering from back surgery. Wingate is a reluctant boss and when an apparent body is pulled from Ontario's Lake Gannon Wingate lures Hazel Micallef from her bed to head the investigation. The "body" turns out to be the torso of a mannequin. Micallef and her crew think that this is a prank and they examine the torso with hopes of finding a clue to the mischief-maker. What they find is a number stamped on the plastic form that leads them to a video feed of what appears to be a person held captive in a basement. They are in a race against time to find the victim. This is an intense novel with well-developed characters. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Louise Penny.]

[Also available in traditional print format.]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  John Dies at the End
by David Wong

I'm on the fence. This book was very well written and was quite funny. My problem is with the plot. I know some people were confused with the jumping around in time but my issue was more with the story itself, or should I say stories, as there seem to be two. They are even separated in the book, though they link. I would recomend this if you are looking for a very funny action filled story. Just don't say I didn't warn you, this story is one of the most trippy things I've read.

[ official John Dies at the End web site ] | [ David Wong on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemAlphas: Season One
[DVD Alphas]

Alphas was an original series produced for the Syfy (formerly the SciFi) US cable network. Unlike a lot of Syfy's other, more outlandish series, Alphas was grounded in a contemporary world only slightly different from our own. David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd) starred as Dr. Lee Rosen, a scientist studying the increasing numbers of humans who have evolved much more highly developed physical and mental abilities than the average man. He has put together a team of some of these "Alphas" to help him locate more of these people, before they do harm to themselves or others. Alphas was a quirky mix of crime procedurals -- some newly developed Alphas used their special abilities to commit crimes -- and plausible science fiction. The series, sadly, was cancelled after only two seasons and the libraries currently do not own season two. But I do recommend sampling season one, in the hopes that season two will be out eventually. The writing, acting and production values were top notch, and the characters were definitely people you could grow to care about. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Eureka, and Warehouse 13, also both produced for the Syfy network, and set in contemporary times. There are also strong similarities between Alphas and the general underlying plots of the X-Men feature films and the syndicated scifi series Mutant X, which aired from 2001 to 2004.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Syfy's official Alphas 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 itemWishful Drinking
[DVD Biography Fisher]

Following publication of her 2008 best-seller, Wishful Drinking, actress/author Carrie Fisher turned her tell-all sharefest of an autobiography into a one-woman stage show, which she performed in L.A., San Francisco, Berkley, Seattle, Washington D.C. and on Broadway. This 76-minute DVD was an edited taping of one of those performances. Fisher shares awkward yet funny memories of growing up in a dysfunctional Hollywood family -- her flow chart of family relations based on father Eddie Fisher's famous womanizing is hilarious. And she is brutally honest about her drug and alcohol abuses, as well as per bi-polar mental issues. Overall, I'd have to say I enjoyed the book a little more than the stage show -- the book covers more details than she can fit into her live performance, and at times her stage delivery is a little too "inside joke" and nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Still, Fisher can be quite the raconteur, and her personal background provides the fodder for plenty of entertaining stories. Star Wars fans, in particular, will enjoy her sometimes-loving, sometimes-aggravated relationship with the multimedia juggernaut that brought her her greatest fame. The only "special feature" on the disc is a bizarre, awkward, and yet compelling on-camera interview with Fisher's mother, the famed Debbie Reynolds. It's fascinating watching Debbie matter-of-factly discuss Carrie's mental illness issues!

This review is also for the Book on CD of Fisher's other autobiographyShortly after watching this documentary, I also snagged the book-on-cd version of Fisher's second (2010) autobiography, Shockaholic, in which she discusses the electro-convulsive thearpy treatments that have helped to stabilize her personality in recent years. Shockaholic also gives her a chance to indulge in some more emotional recollections of some of the damaged relationships she's had over the years, and how she and her father Eddie finally bonded in the the last few years of his life. I'd give both of these items (DVD and audiobook) a "7". [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try both of these titles in traditional print format, not to mention Fisher's novels, and, of course, the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD!]

[Also available in traditional print and book-on-cd formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this show ] | [ official Carrie Fisher web site ]

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 itemLife of Pi
[DVD Life]

A 16-year old boy is swept to sea on a lifeboat after a violent storm sinks the boat he was traveling with his family. Some animals that were also on the boat (they owned a zoo that was being moved) end up on the lifeboat with Pi, including a tiger. Pi must use his survival instincts as well as tame the tiger to survive. The story is framed by a writer who wishes to tell Pi's story. The visual effects are absolutely stunning. Ang Lee won an Academy Award for directing the movie. My only complaint is the length, being that it's rather slow moving, coming in right at 2 hours--but otherwise a really great movie!. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Life of Pi in book, ebook, or audiobook formats; The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho, The Shack - William Young.]

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

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Life of Pi Movie web site ]

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


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last updated April 2013
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