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

July 2013 Recommendations

book cover  The Quotable Musician: From Bach to Tupac
by Sheila E. Anderson [Music 780.008 And]

This is a humorous collection of quotes about music and on topics of several areas with music, on musical identity, on cynicism, rejection and failure to name a few. I would definitely say most of the quotes are from jazz artists, a few from modern pop artists, and very few from classical composers. I especially liked Mark Twain's comment: "Wagner's music is better than it sounds." And from Lou Donaldson, a sax player: "That record wasn't released, it escaped!" Very light-hearted and comic read, but still some bulk to it at around 200 pages – great for any one who plays, listens to, or enjoys music and musicians.

[ official publisher's page for Sheila E. Anderson ]

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


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book cover  Jams and Jellies in Less Than 30 Minutes
by Pamela Bennett [641.852 Ben]

This is a charming little cookbook with a very specific focus. After an introductory section dealing with the basics of jam/jelly production that apply to most (if not all) of the recipes in this book, the rest of the content is dedicated to providing simple, easy-to-follow instructions for creating 54 different spreads, in 5 categories: Berry Jams (7), Fruit Preserves (16), Citrus & Tropical Jellies & Jams (8), Herb & Savory Spreads (8), and Jellies From Juice and Wine (15). With two exceptions, each of the 54 recipes in this book is accompanied by a gorgeous full-page photograph illustrating the look of the finished product – with the extremely simple cooking instructions, I can't see how anybody could go wrong with any of these recipes...although some of them sound as if they'd take longer than 30 minutes to prepare. While some of the recipes included are for fairly simple, traditional spreads – blackberry jam, Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam, Fig Jam, Mint Jelly, etc., there are some rather exotic sounding ones in here that I'd love to try. Some of those include: Lemon-Blueberry Jam, Ginger Pear Jam, Crocodile Tears, Pineapple-Carrot Jam, Pumpkin Jam, Jalapeno Jelly, Herb Jelly and Champagne Jelly. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the many books on bread baking in the libraries' collection.]

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


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book cover  The Passage of Power
by Robert Caro [Biography Johnson]

It is hard to imagine a biography more in depth than Robert A. Caro's writings on Lyndon Baines Johnson. The Passage of Power is the fourth of a five volume set running thousands of pages long. Caro begins in 1958 with Johnson still the "master of the senate", one of the most powerful majority leaders in Senate history. With the 1960 election looming, Johnson sought the Presidency but his fear of failure and indecision on running allowed a young freshman Senator named John Kennedy to take the nomination. The book chronicles Johnson's fall from the most powerful senator to a virtually powerless vice president. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the genuine hatred felt between Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The balance of power would change on November 22nd, 1963, when JFK was assassinated in Dallas. Johnson instantly regained his authority and leadership when he was sworn in as the new President. Caro's books are fascinating studies of how politicians use power. The book paints a picture of not only Johnson, but the entire political landscape of America during the period of 1958-1964 and is highly recommended for anyone interested in historical biographies.

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

[ official Robert Caro web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Michael E.
intern at Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Wanderer
by Robyn Carr

This is the first book in the new Thunder Point romance trilogy. Hank Cooper arrives in Thunder Point, Oregon, a lovely small town on the coast, to settle the estate of his Army buddy, Ben Bailey. Ben's death was a surprise to his friends as he was only middle-aged, but according to the police report Ben fell down the cellar stairs of his bar/bait shop/deli. Odd, since Ben wasn't feeble or irresponsible, yet there's no reason to suspect otherwise. For readers of the Virgin River series, Hank is a friend to Lucas Riordan, both former Blackhawk pilots in the Army, and Ben was their mechanic. Then Hank is surprised to learn he's Ben's beneficiary of the business and land along the coastline. Should this wanderer stay put and repair the bar or just sell everything to developers then leave? To complicate matters even further, he's also just met Lt Cmdr Sarah Dupre, a Search & Rescue helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard who moved to Thunder Point the previous year with her younger brother, for whom she's guardian. As the first book in this series, we're introduced to the main characters including Deputy Sheriff Roger "Mac" McCain. Standard in Carr novels, the town is an ideal community that takes care of its own. You'll become involved in the high school football games each Friday night, and assist in decorating the town for the coming holidays, as well as become involved in everyone's private lives. You get romances for each of the guys, the usual town characters, and plenty of backstory for each of the major players. But don't forget Ben's mysterious death. A nice, easy read that draws you into another book filled with your new friends. Next book in this trilogy, The Newcomer, due out June 25, and the final installment, The Hero, August 27. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Virgin River series (first book, Virgin River) and the Grace Valley Trilogy (first book, Deep in the Valley) also by Carr.]

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

[ official The Wanderer page on the official Robyn Carr web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Follow Her Home
by Steph Cha

This book could have been title "I Want to be Philip Marlowe". Juniper Song read all of the Philip Marlowe books as a teenager. Now, she sees herself as Philip Marlowe when she does a favor for a friend. Luke asks her to find out if his father is having an affair with, Lori Lim, one of the members of his law firm. Song befriends Lim and drives the tipsy woman home after Luke's housewarming party. As thanks for her efforts, Song is knocked out. The next morning she finds a body in the trunk of her car and she is threatened. What starts out as a case of possible adultery evolves into a gnarled maze of family dysfunction, blackmail and murder.

[ publisher's official Follow Her Home web page ] | [ official Steph Cha blog ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemMurder at the Vicarage
by Agatha Christie [Compact Disc Christie]

This is the first book in the Miss Marple series. Set in St. Mary Mead, a villager is found dead in the vicar's study. The trouble in finding the culprit is that the victim was not well liked by a number of people in the village. The police get on the case, but Miss Marple has her own list of suspects. As neighbor to the vicar, she helps sort out the matter, without interfering of course. This was a nice cozy mystery that you could re-read and still enjoy the story, even after you know the ending. I listened to the audio book version and the narration was well done with different voices for different characters. Those who like mysteries or stories set in England or small villages would enjoy this book. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories and A Body in the Library, both by Agatha Christie.]

[Also available in a large variety of other formats.]

[ official Agatha Christie web site ]

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


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book cover  Snow White Christmas Cookie
by David Handler

Connecticut state trooper, Des Mitry has her hands full. Three blizzards have piled snow upon historic Dorset. Another blizzard is coming. Two residents commit suicide. A teenager crashes her car into a building after she shoplifts a pair of expensive Ugg boots. And a grinch is stealing Christmas gifts and prescription drugs from the residents' mailboxes. A joint task force of members of three federal agencies is created to help (some provide more help than others) Des and her fellow troopers solve the cases. As always, Des' boyfriend and film critic, Mitch Berger, worms his way into Des' case. I like the colorful characters in this cozy, especially Des' fellow troopers, Yoli Snipes and Toni Tedone. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the mysteries by Cheryl Crane and the Valentino series by Loren Estleman.]

[ official Snow White Christmas Cookie page on the official David Handler web site ]

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


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book cover  Sketch Card Mania
by Randy Martinez and Denise Vasquez [741.6 qMar]

I was surprised to find this helpful book in the library collection. Comic book and graphic artists have really popularized the use of "sketch cards" as ways to create quick little collectible works of art, especially while sitting at a table at a comic book or science fiction convention. Sketch cards are, basically, the equivalent of collectible baseball (or other sports) cards, or Wacky Packages (if you grew up in the 1970s!). They are 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" in size, usually have a "calling card" for the artist on one side, and start off as a blank art surface on the other side, which the artist will fill to a fan's requests on the other. This book approaches the use of sketch cards from the artist's point-of-view. It is broken up into four sections: (1) Sketch Card Tool Box, talking about the various mediums that sketch card art can be created with – from mere graphite pencil, to colored pencils, colored markers, watercolors and/or acrylics; (2) Designing and Constructing Your Personal Sketch Card – a VERY detailed section about creating your supply of ready-to-use blank sketch cards with your pesonal info attractively presented on the back; (3) Sketch Card Demonstrations – merely some examples of art styles; and (4) Introduction to Self-Promotion – a remarkably handy short-cut guide to established an electronic presence for yourself as an artist in the world of online social media and social networks. Although I have no artistic talents, myself, I still found this book to be an intriguing and informative read. I think it would be a really helpful guide for artists interested in getting into the sketch card game, particularly the section dealing with how to create your own supply of sketch cards.


[ official Sketch Card Mania blog – infrequently updated! ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a music CDJagged Little Pill
by Alanis Morisette [Compact Disc 781.66 Mor]

This album has sold 33 million copies worldwide, and I've loved it since it came out in the mid-1990's – to this day I still listen to it regularly! Several featured songs came from this album: You Oughta Know, One Hand in my Pocket, You Live You Learn, Head Over Feet, and if you listen to the very last track, there is a hidden a cappella version of "Your House" at the very end. It has since appeared on many of the "Greatest Albums of all Time" lists, and it won numerous Grammy Awards including: Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Rock Album, and Album of the Year. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Morisette's other albums: Supposed former infatuation Junkie, Flavors of Entanglement, Under Rug Swept.]

[ official Alanis Morrisette web site ]

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


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book cover  Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders
by Richard Preston [On Order]

Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders is a great classic steampunk tale. The high flying crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin are on a mission to the mysterious lost city of the Founders. Their goal, to save their clan chief and adoptive father at all costs. Set in California, an alien invasion occurred years before and decimated the world we know now and the people have had no choice but to revert to steam and hydrogen. This lands squarely in the steampunk genre. You have the ever present zeppelins, steam powered machines, and the all encompassing outfits. The surprising thing is that though the themes have become very used the story is also so highly original that I never felt like I "had read that before." This book does take a good while to get into however and I was tempted to put it down in the first fourth. After the halfway point however the plot picks up speed and I found myself absorbed in the adventure. Whether you are a fan of steampunk or have yet to enjoy one before, this is a wonderful example or starting place. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Cherie Priest's The Clockwork Century Series.]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

Clay Jannon is a computer techie who has lost his job due to the Great Recession. He takes a night clerk job with Penumbra's bookstore just to have money coming in and is intrigued by the weird characters who visit the mysterious bookstore. And this bookstore doesn't stock the usual titles either – they are obscure, unknown books Clay isn't able to locate anywhere else in the world. Clay recruits his friends to figure out the secret goings-on. Among other things, we learn about a secret society trying to solve a 500-year-old puzzle. Partway through this book you'll realize you are on a Tolkien-type of adventure as Clay and his group find themselves pulled into solving that same puzzle. There are many humorous asides with references to sci-fi/fantasy, familiar authors, Harry Potter, and a dungeons & dragons-type of game. There's also a touch of history, a secret subterranean library, codes, thefts, and secret passageways. See if you can figure out the actual historical figures and events as opposed to the fictional amalgams that also populate the story. Keep in mind, "penumbra" means "something partially hidden." This was one of my favorite books so far this year – it felt like such a book lover's tale. The author's writing style is easy and immediately draws you into the characters and the story. And for added fun – the cover glows in the dark.

[ official Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore page on the official Robin Sloan web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


A gently jarring fable about how we humans integrate our history with our now with our future dreams and fears. I don't read a lot of fiction but this caught my attention and I found it very charming and, gladly, mostly free of rough language and without gratuitous sex and violence. How refreshing! It kept me interested from beginning to end and I could feel the author's affection for his amalgam of subject matter. A thoughtful, wistful, hopeful tale.

Review Score - 9
Rated by – Becky W.C..
staff member at the Walt Branch Library

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book cover  Pillow Stalk
by Diane Vallere

Interior decorator Madison Night is fixated on the atomic age and Doris Day movies. She specializes in decorating homes in the style of the 1950s and 60s. But it's her fixation on the actress that involves her in the murders or Doris Day look alikes. Madison can't believe that her handyman, Hudson, is involved in the murders of women who look like the blond star. She thinks that Lieutenant Allen and rest of the Dallas police department are looking only at Hudson instead of searching for the real killer. Madison takes it upon herself to investigate. In the process she finds out that Allen is more involved in the case than he should be. This is a great read for a lazy afternoon. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Susan Kandel and Sharon Fiffer.]

[ official Mad for Mod Mystery Series page on the official Diane Vallere web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Keep
by F. Paul Wilson

"Something is murdering my men" reads a note sent from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle in the Transylvanian Alps in Romania to his superiors. The locals had warned against anyone staying the night in The Keep. One man per night is brutally murdered regardless of the precautions they take. An arrogant Major of the SS, on his way to open a Romanian version of the Nazi Death Camps, takes a squad of men with him to resolve what he considers an easy problem caused by insurgents. Yet the murders continue. The walls of the keep are lined with what appear to be crosses. But is that to provide safety for those walking within the castle or to keep something in? Finally the Major agrees to let a Jewish scholar of local lore assist in determining what they are really dealing with. And a mysterious man secretly arrives in the village as well. Dread and atmosphere drip throughout this book as ancient good vs ancient evil battle it out. The second book in The Adversary Cycle (you can skip book one) is a tale of fantasy and horror. This was made into a movie, "The Keep," in 1983 starring Scott Glenn, Jurgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne, and Ian McKellen.

[ official The Keep page on the official F. Paul Wilson web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Adventures of Milo and Otis
[DVD j Adventures]

A curious cat and friendly pug are inseparable friends on a farm; but one day Milo (the cat) gets separated and washed downstream in a crate; Otis the dog desperately follows and triggers a series of adventures in an attempt to reunite the two. Great music, narration by Dudley Moore, great for kids, and comes in just a little over an hour. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the DVDs Homeward Bound the Incredible Journey, Doctor Doolittle, Mr. Popper's Penguins.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemChitty Chitty Bang Bang
[DVD j Fleming]

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) is an inventor who salvages a magical car which can turn into a boat and also fly. He and his two children must use the car, along with a candy maker's daughter, Truly Scrumptious, to help save Grandpa from an evil Baron and Baroness of "Vulgaria." The comedy is hilarious, and the songs are addictive and catchy, including: "Me 'ole Bamboo" a high-octane dance feature, "Toot Sweets," "Hushabye Mountain," the feature song: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," and pay special attention to "Doll on a Music Box" – Sally Howes apparently recorded the choreography and music in only one take! Nominated for an Academy Award, and a few Golden Globes in 1969. Excellent movie, classic film and great for families and children but a little lengthy at 144 minutes. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Sound of Music.]

[Also available in traditional print, vocal music selections formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemDredd
[DVD Dredd]

Based on the character from the British comic 2000 AD, and set in a future irradiated wasteland, Judge Dredd lives in Mega City 1 on the eastern coast of the United States. The metropolis is a violent place where the criminals are so out of control that the police officers, called Judges, act as judge, jury and executioner. Judge Dredd is paired with a rookie for a day to evaluate her and determine if she should become a Judge or not. They respond to a call and end up being trapped by the criminal MaMa in a housing block full of thousands of citizens. The Judges and MaMa's gang hunt each other down over the course of the film. There is a lot of action and violence in this movie, but considering the plot and setting, it doesn't feel out of place. I wouldn't recommend this if you are bothered by violent movies. It would appeal more to viewers looking for a futuristic action film. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Judge Dredd : the complete case files, volume 1-3, by John Wagner.]

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

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemLes Miserables (2012)
[DVD Les]

I was familiar with the background of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and I knew the musical version existed, but I had actually never seen the stage version or previous movies of it until this movie; I was pretty impressed. Prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) put in jail for stealing bread for his starving family leaves on parole; when a priest offers the prisoner a second chance, the man makes the most of it, becoming a mayor, but skipping out on his parole – Javert, an officer who goes by the extreme letter of the law has pursued Jean Valjean for a number of years. Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is removed from a paying job for having an illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). She works the dangerous streets, and sells her hair and some of her teeth to survive. She manages to find a family for Cosette to live, but they don't take very good care of her. Jean Valjean vows to help Cosette as a favor to Fantine, and pays them to take her away from the home. Fast forward several years, Cosette falls in love with Marius, but they can't be together for long because Jean Valjean must escape from Javert yet again. Marius and his revolutionary friends vow to fight against having another emperor of France by creating an uprising. Fast forward again, all of the other revolutionaries have fallen except Marius and the students' small hold-out in a fort made out of furniture. The French military essentially comes in and slaughters them, except for an injured Marius who escapes, barely, only because Jean Valjean drags him through a sewage duct. Marius and Cosette finally can be together... but at what cost. From the opening scene, I knew this was going to be absolutely epic. The size and scale of the movie, the scenery, the music, the production team did an extraordinary job. The singers are exceptional (except Russell Crowe, who clips off every. single. phrase he sings.), and the movie was nominated for a slew of awards, and won 3 Academy awards, including Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress. This is a monumental film coming in at nearly 3 hours long, and don't except an entirely happy ending... its called "the miserables" for a reason. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Les Miserables - Victor Hugo book; Les Miserables (1998 DVD) with Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman.]

[Also available in Motion Picture Soundtrack on CD, traditiona print formats.]

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

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


Although this movie version of the stage musical was a grand and gritty production, and any Miz-phile would probably enjoy it "just because", I found it less than stellar in some ways. And I was rather disappointed in Hugh Jackman's vocals and parts of his performance – and I usually like him a lot! For a powerful non-musical depiction of the book, I would recommend tracking down the excellent 1978 TV Movie with Anthony Perkins and Richard Jordan.

Review Score - 7
Rated by – Becky W.C..
staff member at the Walt Branch Library

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last updated August 2013
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