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

December 2013 Recommendations

book cover  River's Song
by Melody Carlson

This is book one in the Inn At Shining Water series. The series takes us through the life journey of three women. The first book focuses on Anna, the mother, who has lived most of her married life in support of her ailing husband. The story opens with Anna returning to her childhood home after her mother's death to make peace with the pain of the past and find comfort and strength from her memories. Finding a new series that holds your interest is a treasure. These are gentle reads that wisk you away to happy endings. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Book two: River's Call, focuses on Anna's daughter, Lauren; Book three: River's End, focuses on Lauren's daughter, Sarah.]

[ official Melody Carlson web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Dorene O.
Bennett Martin Public Library - Adminiistrative Office


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book cover  Look Up! Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard
by Annette LeBlanc Cate [j598.072 Cat]

The colorful graphics of the cover of this youth non-fiction title jumped out at me when a customer was returning it, and I snagged it for a quick read. And that's exactly what is was -- I finished this book in only about an hour. Despite the speed with which I finished it, I really enjoyed this humorous but informative guide to "birding" for kids and teens. The author/artist provides lively illustrations on every single page, and her descriptions of how to go about becoming a bird watcher are funny but inspirational. Her hand-drawn illustrations of dozens, if not hundreds of different bird species are surprisingly well-done. My only complaint about the the art is that Cates regularly chooses to insert "cartoon" versions of the birds -- especially with word balloon captions, as if the feathered critters are speaking to her (the writer) or you (the reader). Despite this awkward element, I can see this book being a great guide for kids just starting off at becoming bird enthusiasts. With the annual Christmas Backyard Bird Count coming up here in December, this might be the perfect time to introduce youngsters in your family to how fascinating bird-watching can be as a hobby, and Look Up! Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard is the perfect way to make that introduction! [If younger readers like this light-hearted approach, once you've got them hooked then introduce them to the Audubon Guides or Peterson's Field Guides or Sibley's Guides, with their more realistic reproductions of North America's fine fowl!]

[ publishers' official Look Up! web page ]

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


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book cover  Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
by Jennifer Chiaverini

I enjoyed listening to this historical novel. It was well written and well read also. I learned to appreciate President Lincoln and his wife and especially her dressmaker who was a very capable and caring black woman, who did so much more for the Lincolns besides simply making clothes for the first lady. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Union Quilters: an Elm Creek quilts novel by Jennifer Chiaverini.]

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

[ official Jennifer Chiaverini / Elm Creek web site ]

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


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book cover  L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food
by Roy Choi, Tien Nguyen and Nathasha Phan [641.595 KorYc]

Choi is credited with reinventing the food truck movement and creating the Korean taco. This book is both cookbook and a memoir of growing up in L.A. and absorbing all of the culinary and cultural diversity offered by the city. Some of his food, language, and experiences are not for the faint of heart, but make for a satisfying meal . . . um, read. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Smoke & Pickles : recipes and stories from a new southern kitchen by Lee, Edward; Fresh off the Boat : A Memoir by Huang, Eddie.]

[ Roy Choi web site ]

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


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book cover  The Christmas Mystery
by Jostein Gaarder

This book is best enjoyed in the month of December. The story takes place in Norway day by day in December as a boy, Joachim, opens the doors of his advent calendar. Rather than chocolates or small toys hidden behind each door is part of a Christmas tale. This story within the story is about a girl named Elisabet, who disappeared from her home fifty years ago and went on an adventure through time and space with a few companions. Their destination is Bethlehem, on the night that Jesus was born. They do not use a time machine, as this is not a science fiction novel, rather as they walk across Europe, time passes backwards. Joachim becomes increasingly interested about Elisabet's story as the month goes on, and shares it with his parents. As with other novels by this author, it provides you with a lot of philosophical questions to think about, including figuring out how the two stories are tied together. This would appeal to those looking for a thought provoking w inter holiday story. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder.]

[ publisher's official The Christmas Mystery web page ]

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


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book cover  Fortunately the Milk
by Neil Gaiman [j Gaiman]

This light-hearted illustrated juvenile novel is a fun, quick read for anyone, whether you're a prior Neil Gaiman fan or not. Filled with humorous illustrations by Skottie Young, this tells the tale of a small family in England, where the mother has to go away for a few days and leaves the absent-minded father in charge. Right off the bat, the two young daughters in the family discover that there is no milk for their morning cereal, and the father nips off to the corner store for a pint of the white stuff. When he returns, somewhat delayed, and somewhat disheveled, he shares his tale of the mind-boggling adventure he was on after leaving the store -- involving kidnapping by UFO, time traveling with a talking dinosaur in a hot air balloon, pirates and much more. A nearly perfect "tall tale" from Dad to the kids, with comical art that highlights the silliness of it all. Still, exceptionally well told!

[ official Neil Gaiman web site ]

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


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book cover  Ghost Gone Wild
by Carolyn Hart [Compact Disc Hart]

The fourth in Carolyn Hart's latest series, about dearly departed Bailey Ruth Raeburn and her adventures on behalf of Heaven's "Department of Good Intentions". This one finds Bailey sent, under odd circumstances, down to her beloved hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma, to help protect a young man who has recently returned to town as a successful and rich videogame producer, who is stirring up trouble with old friends and enemies alike. Bailey's "assignment" is made difficult by the fact that she was shanghaied by a fellow Agent from the Department, and her "boss" has no idea she's back on Earth. When Bailey gets trapped in a mortal body, losing the ability to move around at the speed of thought, her mission becomes more precarious. Making things even more complicated is the fact that the reluctant young man she's supposed to protect may have upset the plans of another Adelaide resident to cash in on a missing treasure -- something they are lethally upset about. I enjoyed this title as a book-on-cd, as I have all the other volumes in this series. The audiobook narrator, Ann Marie Lee, has a marvelous reading voice, and does a reasonable job of giving different voices to each of the primary characters. Her southern twang is perfect for this Oklahoma-set mystery series! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the previous three Bailey Ruth Raeburn novels by Hart.]

[Also available in traditional print format.]

[ official Carolyn Hart web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Spirit of Steamboat: A Walt Longmont Story
by Craig Johnson

An unfamiliar woman appears in Sheriff Walt Longmire's office on Christmas Eve and asks to see the previous Sheriff, Lucian Connally. Lucian is now widowed and living in an assisted living center. When they arrive, Lucian claims he doesn't recognize the woman, but then she begins to tell a tale of a Christmas Eve 25 years ago when Walt was a new Sheriff, three people died in a terrible car crash, and a young girl with burns and respiratory problems had to be flown to Denver or she wouldn't survive the night. However, the worst snowstorm of the season is bearing down on them and the only plane capable of handling the turbulence is a barely-held-together,decommissioned, WWII bomber. And wouldn't you know it, Lucian was a member of Doolittle's Raiders, who bombed Tokyo in 1942, and is the only pilot qualified to fly it. You alternate between nearly impossible mechanical troubles, deadly patient emergencies, and flat-out fancy flying. Even though you know how this will end, this is still an exciting ride and a very enjoyable novella at only 150 pages. If you follow the Walt Longmire TV series on A&E, it's especially fun to keep actor Peter Weller in mind as Lucian — his ornery behavior and snappy comments make this story. (You also learn who Steamboat is.). [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Longmire TV series on dvd.]

[ official Craig Johnson and "Longmire" web site ]

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


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book cover  Reality Boy
by S.A. King [YA King]

Gerald remembers when he first started resenting his family, the TV cameras were there to help. Growing up known as "the messed up little boy from that nanny reality show" is not easy, but even at seventeen his past continues to be brought up. His family is dysfunctional and how they interact is beyond flawed. Gerald remains to be the lonely little boy who was so horribly mistreated and throughout the novel we are presented with his journey of self discovery and humanism. His new friend Hannah will come to influence Gerald and becomes a large part of his life. By the end of the novel Gerald must come to terms with the real reality, coming to terms with life. I wasn't sure what to expect of Reality Boy when I started reading and at first I wasn't sure I liked Gerald as a main character. As the novel progresses King develops and reveals Gerald as the flawed person he is. What the author accomplishes is excellent, an intellectual look at just what makes us who we are and what is really important in life. I do not wish to go to in depth with the story as that is another area in which King excels, presenting pieces of Gerald's past, bit by bit, allowing the reader to discover the real person beneath the first impression. With impeccable writing and an immensely strong voice, Reality Boy is an excellent book of self discovery.

[ publisher's official Reality Boy web page ]

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


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book cover  Brush With Death
by Karen MacInerny

What should have been a peaceful holiday season for Natalie turned into a stressful time. She received a foreclosure notice on the Inn. Someone vandalized her property. Her future mother-in-law came two weeks early for her visit. And her niece's mentor is found dead. Gwen can't believe that Fernand killed himself as the police think and she begs Natalie for help. MacInerney paints a vivid picture of Cranberry Island in winter. It's easy to imagine snowshoeing in the snow-covered woods behind the Inn. This is the fifth book in the Grey Whale Inn series by Karen MacInerney. Her character, Natalie Barnes, has traded the hot summers of Texas for the changeable weather of Cranberry Island, Maine. Natalie has made a good life for herself managing the Inn. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Lea Wait and Sarah Graves.]

[ official Karen MacInerny web site ]

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


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book cover  Bread & Wine: Finding Community and Life Around the Table
by Shauna Niequist [Biography Niequist]

In this interesting story are great ideas for sharing your life and your table with family and friends during the holidays and throughout the year. It is a small book and would make a nice gift. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Seriously simple holidays: recipes and ideas to celebrate the season, by Diane Worthington, 2007. Another book is Slow family living: 75 simple ways to slow down, connect, and create more joy, by Bernadette Noll, 2013. Another one is The good life for less: giving your family great meals, good times, and a happy home on a budget, by Amy Allen Clark; Jana Murphy, 2013.]

[ official Shauna Niequist web site ]

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


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book cover  Known and Loved: 52 Devotions From the Psalms
by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira [242.643 Riv]

I recommend this book for those who like reading or meditating on the Psalms, or for people who are seeking devotional reading. The book is small in size and inexpensive so I think it would make a nice gift for someone who appreciates scripture and devotional reading. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Unveiled, historical fiction by Francine Rivers, in Lineage of grace series ; #1. This is about Tamar in the Old Testament. Another good devotional book with daily readings is Jesus Calling: A 365 Day Journaling Devotional [electronic resource] by Sarah Young -- OverDrive, Inc. Edition: E-book. Jesus Calling devo books are available for purchase at some stores or online too and will make a nice gift. Several of my friends have it and read it eagerly every day!]

[ official Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira web site ]

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


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book cover  Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell

Set in mid-1980s Omaha, this YA novel about first love as experienced by two misfits won me over completely. The references to 80s music mix tapes, comic books, Omaha landmarks, and the intense emotions that accompany adolescent relationships - between family members, cruel classmates, and deep crushes - all rang true. Eleanor is a buxom redhead, dressed in thrift store outfits, bullied at home and at school. Park is half-Asian (a rarity in his Midwest community), with a loving family, but his status is just outside the circle of the popular crowd. The alternating chapters reveal Eleanor & Park's relationship in such a truthful way, that you'll find yourself falling in love with them. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try North of Beautiful by Headley, Justina Chen, Fangirl by Rowell, Rainbow, Attachments by Rowell, Rainbow.]

[ official Rainbow Rowell web site ]

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


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book cover  Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls
by David Sedaris [Compact Disc 817 Sed]

I'll be honest -- I've never read (or listened to) a David Sedaris book prior to this one. I was looking for a nice, light, humorous audiobook to enjoy between a couple of more serious tomes, and friends have recommended Sedaris for several years. I've also enjoyed seeing him when he's been on television talk shows -- particularly The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. In the end, I found this particular audiobook to be too bland for my taste -- Sedaris' audio narration of his own material brings a strong sense of his own personality to the stories and essays he has in this collection, but unfortunately that personality just seems a little bland and lifeless. Admittedly, there are some humorous bits scattered in and amongst the less-interesting stuff. I particularly enjoyed his reminiscing about his father's insistence on David having a colonoscopy! Sedaris is definitely a "sharer", however whether or not you'll care about what he's sharing may be a matter of personal taste. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the many other David Sedaris titles in the libraries' collection.]

[Also available in downloadable audio, traditional print and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ publishers official David Sedaris web site ]

Review Score – 5
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Snacking Dead: A Parody in a Cookbook
by D.B. Walker [641.55 Wal]

Okay, this has got to be one of the oddest tie-in books I've ever seen, and I actually collect TV and movie tie-in books! The Snacking Dead is a combination of a decent cookbook with schmaltzy fan fiction based on The Walking Dead zombie television series. There is a narrative line, in which a suburban mother of two attempts to survive the beginning of the zombie apocalypse (as seen in the Walking Dead tv series), by using food and cooking to connect with the people around her. While she whips up delicious foods, using ingredients still available after society's collapse, she remembers her run-in as a teenager with Daryl (one of the fan-favorite characters from the tv series). Narrative chapters alternate between the unnamed narrator and Daryl, himself, who is out on his own away from any of the series' other characters -- these narrative chapters also alternate with actual recipes, and photos of the dishes, posed in apocalyptic settings. The recipes themselves all sound quite good, and I'd like to try a few of them. But the tale of the narrator, who eventually joins the ranks of the undead, along with Daryl's own narration, is a bizarre counterpoint. I recommend this one for its sheer oddity, however I'm not sure that either Walking Dead fans or cookbook fans will come away fully satisfied! [If you like this style of parody cookbook -- with legitimate recipes -- the same folks are responsible for Fifty Shades of Chicken.]

[ official The Snacking Dead web site ]

Review Score – 5
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Weight Watcher's 50th Anniversary Cookbook: 280 Delicious Recipes for Every Meal
by Weight Watchers International [641.563 Wei]

This book would make a great gift for people wanting to lose weight, whether or not they belong to Weight Watchers. It lists the Points Plus points for each dish, by serving, so you don't have to figure points out yourself, saving you time. I wish all of my cookbooks had the Points Plus points listed as this book does. Lots of great, tasty recipes and they don't taste like diet food. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Weight Watchers simply delicious winning points cookbook : 245 no-fuss recipes - all 8 points or less or Weight Watchers Magazine, also found at our library!]

[ official Weight Watchers web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemEpic
[j DVD Epic]

Epic, from the same production group that did the Ice Age movies, is a marvelous, family-friendly adventure movie, with a nice message about family. When young Mary Katherine (M.K.) visits her estranged and eccentric scientist father's home/laborator deep in a mysterious forest, she merely wants to reconnect with the man who's mainly been absent from her life for many years. Following the recent death of her mother -- his ex-wife -- M.K. wants to make a family connection. But, despite being happy to see her, Professor Bomba is still obsessed with monitoring his equipment, scattered throughout the forest, for evidence of a race of tiny people, which he believes lives in the woods. The tiny people are real, and make up forces of "good" (the Leaf-Men) and "bad" (the Boggans), who fight a constant battle to maintain their equilibrium of power. The time for the Leaf-Men's queen to pick a successor has come, and the Boggans wish to use this opportunity to tilt the balance of power and use their powers of decay to despoil the forest. Despite initially disbelieving in her father's fantasies of "little people", M.K. gets magically shrunk to the size of the forest race, and is pulled into their war by being chose as guardian for the powers of the dying queen. The rest of the film is a terrific action film as the animated war plays out, and M.K. worries about how to return to normal size and reunite with her father. The voice work by the actors is marvelous, and the animation veers from photo-realistic in any of the scenes without characters in them, to painfully cartoonish with some of the animated characters. I really enjoyed this film, and recommend it quite highly. [Inspired by the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs.]

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

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Lincoln Lawyer
[DVD Lincoln]

If you missed this movie from a couple of years ago, check it out. Matthew McConaughey is terrific as a slick and tricky defense attorney who works out of his chauffeured Town Car on the streets of L.A. However, he may have met his Teflon-like match in a privileged playboy client on trial for rape and murder. The impressive cast includes Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillipe as the accused, John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas, Bryan Cranston, Frances Fisher, and William H. Macy. The film is based on the Michael Connelly book of the same title. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Time To Kill; And Justice for All; web article: The 25 Greatest Legal Movies.]

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

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemNow You See Me
[DVD Now]

After a group of magicians known as the Four Horsemen rob a bank during their act Agent Dylan Rhodes is tasked in tracking them down. The only problem is that the magicians always seem to be one step ahead of him. I loved this movie and was completely surprised by the ending. [There are a lot of movies about magicians; some similar to this would be The Illusionist and The Prestige.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Now You See Me movie/dvd 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 itemWorld War Z
based on the novel by Max Brooks [DVD World]

Based off the book by Max Brooks, this movie is about a United Nations employee - played by Brad Pitt - traveling the world in search of a cure for the zombie infestation that is overtaking the world. It's an interesting movie because unlike most zombie movies it focuses on the disease aspect of the infestation rather than them being undead and here to kill the living. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book by Max Brooks, also ZombieLand DVD, Warm Bodies DVD, and The Walking Dead TV series.]

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

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official World War Z web site ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated January 2014
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