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

November 2013 Recommendations

book cover  Written in Bone
by Simon Beckett

Instead of a "locked room" mystery, this is an isolated island mystery. A raging storm keeps police reinforcements from coming from the mainland to help forensic anthropologist David Hunter with his investigation. Hunter is ready to head home to London when a phone call changes his plans. Instead of going back to his snug flat he goes to Runa, a small island in the Outer Hebrides, to look into a fire death. Police Seargent Fraser and Constable Duncan travel to Runa with Hunter where the residents live off the ocean and summer tourists. Their only ally is former Chief Inspector Brody. Brody, who found the corpse, moved to the island after his retirement. The four men battle suspicious islanders in order to find the killer. This is a well written fast paced thriller. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Jefferson Bass, Kathy Reichs and Peter May.]

[ official Written in Bone page on the official Simon Beckett web site ]

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


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book cover  How to Cook Everything: The Basics - All You Need to Make Great Food
by Mark Bittman [641.55 Bit]

The simple, clean design of this general purpose cookbook caught my eye on our "new materials" display recently, so I decided to give it a browse. This is a tremendously useful book! Bittman is the author of numerous cookbooks, and a food writer for the New York Times, but in glancing at some of his other publications, I'd havet to say I like this guide the best. The first 40 pages are filled with the essentials of setting up your kitchen, picking your cookware - tools, containers, etc., how to affect certain types of common "cuts", how to properly "measure" ingredients, and what you need to know about different cooking methods - from braising to deep frying, broiling to sauteing. After that, the remaining 400+ pages are broken down into broad categories -- Breakfast, Appetizers and Snacks, Soups and Stews, Vegetables and Beans, Meat, Seafood, Desserts and more. In each section, dozens of standard dishes are featured, with each dish given two facing pages in the book. Each dish has simple (though sometimes very detailed) step-by-step instructions for how to create the dish, with perfectly-chosen photos to illustrate various steps in the process. This book could serve as the central "basic" cookbook for anyone just getting started, particularly college students or people moving into a home with a decent kitchen for the first time. As someone who would like to spend more time cooking if I could, I really admired the combination of clear text and helpful photographs. I highly recommend this book!

[ official Mark Bittman web site ]

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


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book cover  Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card

Ender Wiggins may be the only hope for humanity. In an effort prevent the destruction of humanity, government agencies are taking some of the smartest children that walk the Earth, and try their best to turn them into solders and battle tacticians. Ender is a Third, a derogatory word referencing his family's shame at having more than the allotted children, due to overpopulation. The government approved Ender's conception because his brother, Peter, and his sister, Valentine, showed immense potential, but were ultimately ruled out because of their unfit dispositions. Peter is abusive and violent, while Valentine does cares greatly and does her best to protect Ender from their brother's abuse. After being monitored for several years, Ender is chosen for Battle School. In Battle School Ender excels but quickly becomes an enemy amongst many of the children. The space fleet needs Ender because they fear another invasion from the "buggers" and Ender is the last one t hey will attempt to train before it is to late. Will Ender be able to become the hero Earth needs? Does he want to? Ender's Game is a very fast paced read and I enjoyed the speed at which it progressed. The ideas presented are very intriguing and the concepts well done. Ender is a very hard character to connect with however, and throughout maintained a coldness and aloofness and I couldn't help but find his superiority complex to be bothersome and felt quite narcissistic. I felt that the ending, the last ten percent or so, was totally disjointed and came quickly and anticlimactically, though it did have one of the greatest twists in science fiction. I give credit to Card for the technology he introduces, which at the time would have been quite futuristic and now seems very in place. I am very interested in reading more of the Ender Saga books and I am very interested in seeing how Card will continue.

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

[ official Ender's Game page on the official Orson Scott Card web site ]

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


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book cover  Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter
by Blaize Clement

Dixie Hemmingway is a former sheriff's deputy who leaves the force after the tragic death of her husband and daughter. Feeling that she can no longer deal with people, Dixie decides to care for animals and becomes a pet sitter. One morning, at the home of a wealthy client, Dixie is shocked to find the body of a man who was killed in an unusual fashion. He is face down in a cat's bowl of water, his head securely taped to the sides of the dish. Dixie tries to find her client to tell Marilee about the body but Marilee can't be found. Dixie becomes involved in an intricate plot of deception while trying to find Marilee. This is an enjoyable debut novel. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Ellery Adams and Kathryn O'Sullivan.]

[ official Dixie Hemmingway series web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Best of the Rejection Collection: 293 Cartoons That Were Too Dumb, Too Dark, or Too Naughty for The New Yorker
edited by Matthew Diffee [741.5 Dif]

Depending on what your threshold of enjoying bawdy, knee-jerk, occasionally dumb humor is, you'll either love this volume or hate it. Personally, I've always enjoyed the off-center humor of the one-panel cartoons featured in The New Yorker magazine, and this collection of cast-offs that didn't make the cut for that publication was hilarious. Editor Diffee sent a set of standard profile questions to dozens of the artists whose work most frequently shows up in The New Yorker. He then published their responses, along with a selection of each artist's rejected cartoons. The responses to the profile questions, though invariably humorous, also got a bit tiresome and rather repetitive. However, the examples of rejected cartoons were terrific. Though the subtitle says "Too Dumb, Too Dark, or Too Naughty", I'd estimate fully 50% of the cartoons here were rejected for sexual content. But, if you like the dry, somewhat urbane, and chuckle-inducing style of humor that that magazines specializes in, you won't want to miss this collection!

[ official New Yorker cartoons web site ] | [ Slideshow of some of the rejected cartoons ]

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


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book cover  Instructions
by Neil Gaiman [jP Gaiman]

Instructions is one of my favorite Neil Gaiman poems and is something that is as wonderful from a reader's perspective as it is from a writer's or those that are interested in archetypes. Instructions tells of the journey. Not a specific one, but one that in it's deepest sense is in fact instructions. As I was reading I found myself thinking of many of the adventure fantasy novels and myths I have read and Instructions is that journey. The one you find every hero going on, and every character facing. With this book Neil Gaiman cements himself in my mind as both a wonderful writer as well as a great knowledge of myth and stories. And not to leave it out, Charles Vess's illustrations add a wonderful element to Gaiman's writing and his limited color palette makes the pictures both simple and deep that take nothing away from the writing itself.

[ official Neil Gaiman web site ]

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


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book cover  A Father's Love: One Man's Unrelenting Battle to Bring His Adopted Son Home
by David Goldman [Biography Goldman]

David Goldman's Brazilian wife, Bruna, took their 4-year-old son, Sean, to Brazil for what was to be a two-week family vacation with David joining them later. But once in Brazil, Bruna called David to announce she was leaving him and keeping their son. Later, Bruna divorced David in Brazil, remarried, and died in 2008 giving birth to a daughter. David spent over five years and $700,000 fighting the Brazilian courts, Bruna's new husband, and her parents for custody of his son. It took the involvement of the international media and the US government to force the issue. Christmas Eve, 2009, David and Sean finally flew out of Brazil together. A fascinating story that is a quick read yet emotional. The first few chapters are background on David's growing-up years, how he met Bruna, and their life together. Once the media and government officials become involved in 2008 the suspense builds toward Christmas Eve. The last couple of chapters covers the family reunion, and how Sean is coping. The legalese is light-weight, just enough to explain what's going on yet not to overburden the story. The real story is how David and his friends fought the fight and finally overcame the old Brazilian system that allowed old families, wealthy families, and cronyism to dominate Brazilian application of laws. This story stayed with me for several days and I re-read parts of the book several times. I also visited the website, bringseanhome.org, to read the court rulings, filings by the attorneys,and statements made by the second husband, watched the NBC Dateline interviews, and read how the foundation continues the fight for other parents with abducted children.

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ David Goldman's Bring Sean Home Foundation web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Reference item in microfilm formatPresident John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963: A Microfilm Documentary
[Microfilm 364.152 Ken]

This microfilm reel, available for use on the microfilm equipment at the Bennett Martin Public Library downtown, is a unique resource for people interested in the coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination. This microfilm contains the newspaper coverage of the assassination from the first announcement of its occurance through the public mourning and funeral for the slain president. But it is not the articles as they appeared in Lincoln's local paper -- rather it is a week's worth of in-depth coverage from approximately 20 major newspapers from across the entire United States and even some forgeign papers as well. Anyone who didn't already live through that era, and who is curious about the national mood during such a tragic week, will find a sense of the immediacy of those events in these articles and editorials. From the direct coverage by the Dallas newspapers, to the leading journals from New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and numerous other cities, you will get a good feeling for why everyone who lived through the events of November 22, 1963 is always quick to answer the question, "Where were you when Kennedy was killed?" A fascinating historical research tool!

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


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book cover  This review is for a music CDLive in Swing City: Swingin' With the Duke
by Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis [Compact Disc 781.65 Lin]

This album was the result of recording a Great Performances documentary at the Supper Club in New York City, back in August 1998. It features the works of primarily Duke Ellington, and a few arrangements of Billy Strayhorn (a close collaborator with Ellington for years) with guest vocalists Milt Grayson and Dianne Reeves. The CD focuses on big band swing hits in front of live dancers (you can hear them clapping and cheering in the background on several pieces). Wynton Marsalis brings his A-game, you really hear his improvisational ability and his versatility as a trumpeter. His "Portrait of Louis Armstrong" is spot on, and sounds "just like Louis would have played it." But in contrast, his "Mood Indigo" channels more of Bix Beiderbecke. The rest of the performers don't hold back either, (especially Wycliffe Gordon, trombonist on "Black and Tan Fantasy"). Overall, the arrangements allow Duke Ellington's personality to shine through, but at the same time keep a m odern flair. I thought executive producer Rob Gibson summarized the evening well: [the dancer's that night] "couldn't help but swing." [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Jazz at Lincoln Center, Portraits by Ellington, Best of Ken Burns Jazz.]

[ official Live in Swing City: Swingin' With the Duke page on the Wynton Marsalis site ]

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


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book cover  Delia's Shadow
by Jaime Lee Moyer

Delia has seen ghosts since her childhood, she was gifted (she considers it a curse) after the 1906 earthquake rocked San Francisco and the fires raged. After several years in New York, where she had hoped to flee the ghosts the haunt her, she returns to San Francisco. She returns because one ghost just won't stay away. A ghost that follows her. A ghost she has dubbed Shadow. When Delia returns, she is quickly swept up in her best friend Sadie's wedding preparations and falls for Sadie's matchmaking tendencies. A serial killer his ruining the festivities however, and Delia finds that maybe her Shadow is connected to the murder spree that is spreading terror across San Francisco and the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Delia's Shadow. The writing is simply lovely. Jaime Lee Moyer writes in a way that felt very period and yet flowed wonderfully well. I didn't feel as strong a connection with Delia as I would have liked and found her to be the weakest character in the novel. Her counterpart however, Gabe, was very well done and I enjoyed the switch from Delia's first person perspective to Gabe's third person perspective. (Though it was a bit jarring at first) Gabe was definitely the most developed character and he had a certain air of a dark persona. Which brings me to the romantic element. Gabe and Delia's courting is very mature and I felt their interactions were very real and romantic in a lifelike way. Moyer also creates a very palpable, eerie atmosphere that worked well with the setting. Moyer pulls the story in some very different directions and the plot becomes more of a murder mystery as the novel goes on. I find mystery's to often be very predictable and often cliched. This is an excellent exception that proves that, when well done, I do like things outside of my comfort zone. Romance, horror, mystery, and historical fiction all rolled into one, Delia's Shadow is sure to please those with refined tastes.

[ official Delia's Shadow page on the official Jaime Lee Moyer web site ]

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


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book cover  The Nebraska State Capitol: Restoring a Landmark
by Robert C. Ripley, Robert Fell, et. al. [725.11 Neb]

This is a nice volume for anyone who loves the Nebraska State Capitol building, or is interested in architecture and restoration. It explains concisely but in interesting detail why the "Tower on the Plains" needed some t.l.c. and how that was accomplished. Many photographs of the work in progress are included, as well as some architectural drawings. The captions and narrative are informative without being too technical and dry. I appreciate the coffee-table-sized format but the layout leaves many pages with much blank space. I really enjoyed learning about the collaborative and careful work that was done on our skyscraper statehouse. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Harmony of the Arts: The Nebraska State Capitol; Lee Lawrie's Prairie Deco: History in Stone at the Nebraska State Capitol; Architectural Wonder of the World: Nebraska's State Capitol Building; City Shapers: Five Events that Defined Lincoln; Building a Landmark: The Capitol of Nebraska; Art Deco Architecture: Design, Decoration and Detail from the Twenties and Thirties; Twentieth-Century American Architecture: The Buildings and their Makers.]

[ official Nebraska State Capitol restoration web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Who-ology: Doctor Who: The Official Miscellany
by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright [791.457 DocYs]

As Doctor Who fans -- known as Whovians -- prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the premiere of this venerable science fantasy series on November 23rd, 2013, the publishing world is being flooded with a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction titles related to the world of this time traveling Timelord. One of the best of the non-fiction books is Who-ology: The Official Miscellany. The Doctor is a member of a long-lived species, the Gallifreyans, which have the ability to "regenerate" when they reach the end of a lifespan, whether by natural or unnatural causes. As a television series, this gives the writers/producers the ability to continue the series when the lead actor chooses the exit the role. Thus, as Whovians celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of their series, we are enjoying the final few adventures of the 11th actor to play The Doctor, and looking forward his regeneration into the 12th Doctor in late December. In the meantime, whether you're a hardcore Whovian who can quote every last bit of time traveling trivia, or you're relatively new to the fandom and want to know what everybody else is so all-fired-up about, this volume has a little of everything any Doctor Who fan might want to see. How many different places on planet Earth have the Doctor and his various companions visited? Check out the map on page 224. How many times has a duplicate of The Doctor appeared on the show? Check page 54. How many different companions, both human and otherwise, have traveled with the Doctor in his 50 years of adventures? You'll find that here. To be honest, this is the Doctor Who trivia fans' ultimate source of useful information. My only complaint about this book is that I wished there were photographic illustrations -- there's a lot of line art here, but no photos of any of the Doctors, companions, monsters, planets, etc.

[ official Doctor Who web site ] | [ official Cavan Scott web site ]

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


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book cover  Superman: The Dailies, Volume 1 - 1939-1940
by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster [741.5 qSie]

This is a collection of the first Superman stories from the 1930's. They were originally printed in the newspaper, but reading them feels like a graphic novel short story collection. There are several story arcs in the book; Superman comes to the aid of a variety of folks including a suicidal boxer, a runaway orphan, and royalty. What I liked about this, and I think would appeal to others too, is that it's very easy to get into. What I mean by that is if superheros or comics sound interesting, but you're put off by all the back stories it feels you need to know before beginning, then you should try this. The first few strips recount Superman's birth on an alien planet and how he came to Earth. His story then starts as he decides to use his super power to help those in need as Superman, and as Clark Kent, gets a job as a reporter for a newspaper. Adventure after adventure ensues, but in these strips his powers have limits. I think that makes things more exciting than knowing he can do anything and survive any circumstance. In addition to the heroic adventures, what's equally entertaining is watching him switch between his Superman and Clark Kent personas. It's especially comical when he finally goes on a date with his co-worker Lois Lane as Clark, when he hears something on the radio which causes him to duck out and disappear as Superman; when he returns hours later, Lois is rather grouchy. I think this would appeal to graphic novels readers or superhero fans who haven't read the original comics. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Old American comics: Superman: the dailies, volume 2, Dick Tracy: The Thirties, Micky Mouse the Race to Death Valley.]

[ official Superman: The Dailies page on the offical DC web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Loyalty
by Ingrid Thoft

The Ludlows are a family of successful personal injury lawyers, except for Fina. Fina rebelled by flunking out of law school, her father retaliated by putting her to work in his firm doing odd jobs. Here Fina found her true calling working for the firm's private investigator, Frank Gillis. Under Frank's tutelage she got her license and she took his place when Frank changed jobs.When the book opens, her brother's wife, Melanie, is missing. Rand quickly becomes the main suspect because he and Melanie had a difficult marriage. Fina's job is to find out what happened to Melanie. Fina's interactions with her family, lovers and friends bring the book to life. This is a well-written debut.. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Linda Barnes, Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller.]

[ official Loytalty web site ] | [ official Ingrid Thoft web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song: New and Updated Edition
by Steve Turner [YA PB]

While I consider myself a lifelong Beatles fan, I won't try to lay claim to being a Beatles expert, and I certainly haven't tried to read each and every book about the Beatles that has ever been published. So, when I say I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes exploration of the history behind the writing of every Beatles song, you've got to take that with a few grains of salt -- there may have been other books, perhaps many others, which covered this ground before. In fact, the version of this book by Steve Turner reviewed here is, itself, an update of an earlier edition. But, speaking as a casual reader of Beatles-related books, I do recommend this particular book. For each song included, the author explains what the inspiration for the song was, where the songwriter(s) were at the time of the writing, and other little historical tidbits. Where there are discrepancies about the origin of a song, Turner includes all the variant tales, rather than trying to narrow it down to the correct one. The amount of background provided for each song various considerably -- from one or two paragraphes of text, to several pages, about the most well-known of the Beatles hits. The text is accompanied by a plethora of rare and obscure photographs, making this a pleasurable read for Beatles fans, even if all you're doing is browsing. Maybe there are better, more in-depth historical volumes about the Beatles' song out there, but I found this one to be a fun and informative read!

[ official The Beatles web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Steve Turner ]

Review Score – 8
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 itemCrossfire Trail
based on the novel by Louis L'Amour [DVD Crossfire]

Tom Selleck as a cowboy - need I say more? This is a TNT production based on a Louis L'Amour story. Selleck stars as Rafe Covington who promised his dying friend to look after the friend's wife, played by Virginia Madsen. Rafe and his buddies arrive to work her abandoned ranch while she's in town trying to make ends meet as a teacher. She's also being wooed by the town gambler, played by Mark Harmon, who has been lying to her about her husband's death - and possibly about other things as well. A standard but entertaining Western with gorgeous vistas and a quiet but stalwart cowboy who is all about doing the right thing. And let's not forget the shoot-out at the end. Also stars Wilford Brimley. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Sacketts on dvd, another Louis L'Amour Western starring Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott.]

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

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemHitchcock
[DVD Hitchcock]

Anthony Hopkins is excellent as famed film director Alfred Hitchcock. Soon you forget that's Hopkins and see him only as Hitchcock the character. The film revolves around the making of his film "Psycho" with all the financing difficulties, script problems, and casting issues. Also delves into his personal life with his wife, Alma, who was his professional partner in every sense. Only for the Hitchcock fan who has some awareness of his films and the actors involved. Helen Mirren stars as his wife. Daniel Day-Lewis took the Oscar that year for Best Actor but Hopkins was definitely worthy of the award as well.

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

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemTin Man
[DVD Tin]

Fascinating and well-done "reimagining" of the Oz books, for a contemporary audience. Zoey Deschanel (New Girl), stars as D.G., a twenty-something waitress who finds herself unexpectedly transported to a dark, steampunk-like fantasy world -- the O.Z. (Outer Zone) -- filled with monsters and wonders alike. She allies herself with several new friends: policeman Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough - The Tin Man), tortured by having been imprisoned in an iron suit and forced to witness the murder of his family, repeatedly; Glitch (Alan Cumming) -- a former advisor to the realm's despotic queen, who fell into her displeasure and had his brain removed; Raw (Raoul Trujillo), a psychic empath -- leonine but cowardly because of being inundated with people's pains; and The Mystic Man (Richard Dreyfuss). Together, they must fight back against the ruling witch, Azkadellia. This 3-part TV mini-series was a visual feast, with terrific performances from the core cast members, particularly Cumming and McDonough. The effects and make-up are top notch. Not a "modern adaptation" of the original L. Frank Baum novel(s) -- I would say it is more accurately described as taking the themes of those novels and putting a hipper, darker spin on them. Definitely a Yellow Brick Road worth following!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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last updated November 2013
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