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

March 2014 Recommendations

book cover  Perfect is Overrated
by Karen Bergreen

This book is a web of subterfuge, misunderstandings and half-truths. Mothers of pre-schoolers at an elite private school in New York are being murdered. Kate Alger emerges from four years of post-partum depression to look for the killer of the parents of her daughter's classmates. Perfect is Overrated is a quick, entertaining read. Perfect for a lazy afternoon.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Donna Andrews and Blaize Clement.]

[ official Perfect is Overrated page on the official Karen Bergreen web site ]

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


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book cover  Candy Apple Red
by Nancy Bush

Jane Kelly followed her boyfriend, Tim Murphy, from Los Angeles to his hometown, Lake Chinook, Oregon. Life was good until Tim's childhood friend; Bobby Reynolds killed his wife and children and vanished. Tim, unable to deal with the tragedy, broke up with Jane and moved to Santa Fe. In the years since Murphy left, Jane rebuilt her life working as a process server and as an assistant to a private investigator in Lake Chinook. Jane's life is disrupted when Bobby's mother Tess hires her to find if Bobby's father knows where he is. Things become complicated when Murphy returns to Lake Chinook and Bobby's newly dead body is found in the lake. This entertaining book is the first in the series.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Allison Brennan.]

[ official Candy Apple Red page on the official Nancy Bush web site ]

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


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book cover  That Old Flame of Mine
by J.J. Cook

J.J. Cook is the pseudonym for husband/wife writing team Joyce and Jim Lavene (hence the J.J.) who write paranormal mysteries set in the south. In this first book of a new cozy series, Chicago firefighter Stella Griffin has been injured on the job and during her 3-month medical leave has taken on the job as temporary fire chief for Sweet Pepper, TN. Sweet Pepper wants to re-establish their fire brigade and look to the temporary chief to get them trained and certified. A friend in town, Tory Lambert, believes the death of her first husband several years earlier is suspicious and wants to speak to Stella about it, but before they can talk, Tory is found dead in her burning home. Both are suspicious events but the police chief is eager to sweep things under the rug. In the meantime, a ghost seems to be haunting Stella's cabin. An easy, quiet, enjoyable mystery about small town characters you'll come to like. And the mystery was good too! Each book ends with a cliffhanger.

[ official That Old Flame of Mine page on the official J.J. Cook web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceSkinny
by Donna Cooner [YA Cooner]

Ever is the most talented singer in the school, but you'd never know it because she tries to draw as little attention to herself as possible. At 15 years old and 302 lbs, that isn't easy to do. Ever has tried every diet in the books, but finds herself easily discouraged and packs the pounds on. "Skinny," is the name of the voice telling Ever she isn't good enough and Skinny is everywhere. Every time Ever looks at the boy of her dreams or tries to interact with a classmate, Skinny puts Ever down so low that Ever lashes out at those around her. She decides that gastric bypass surgery is the best option for her to lose weight and get rid of Skinny once and for all. Ever has the support of her father, who only wants what's best for her, and her best friend, the boy she's known since long before her eating habits deteriorated. Coming out of the surgery, Ever begins losing weight and things start falling into place. She catches the eye of several popular kids, but she also feels like she's drifting away from her best friend. Will Ever be able to find balance with her old life and her new one? Many readers will be able to identify with the self-esteem struggles in this book.

[ official Skinny and official Donna Cooner web site ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Chasing Darkness
by Robert Crais

It's fire season in L.A., and the authorities are going door-to-door to ensure homeowners have evacuated the area. But at one home they discover an apparent suicide. The victim is holding a scrapbook of photos of murdered women that only the killer could have had access to, however, P.I. Elvis Cole had definitively proved this man innocent of the crimes at a trial several years earlier. And the murders continued. It was fascinating as the police walked Cole (and the reader) through the process to learn the evidence clearly implicated the suicide victim as the killer, yet Cole had absolute evidence to the contrary. So who's right? Now Cole, and his partner Joe Pike, have been shut-out of any further info from the authorities regarding the murder cases and must strike out on their own to solve this case. Both sides seem to be absolutely correct about the evidence - an excellent conundrum. This is the 12th Elvis Cole/Joe Pike mystery. The author provides enough back-story to enable to reader to understand the characters and their relationships without having read the previous stories. The answer to this puzzle caught this reader by surprise and there were terrific red herrings along the way.

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

[ official Chasing Darkness page on the official Robert Crais web site ]

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


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book cover  Honestly Dearest, You're Dead
by Jack Fredrickson

Dek Elstrom is a down on his luck PI living in Riverton, Illinois. One day he receives a phone from an attorney saying that his client, Louise Thomas, died and named Dek as her executor. Louise Thomas? Dek had never heard of her. Dek learned that he would earn seven hundred dollars for his efforts. Since Dek needed the money he agreed to settle the estate. The lawyer promises that it won't take long because Louise didn't have much. When Dek visits her home close to Ramble, Michigan he finds that the house has been searched. Papers are strewn all over and blood is spattered on the walls. When Dek digs further into Louise's life he feels as he has fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole. Nothing is as it seems. And it leads back to Dek's childhood. This is a fast-paced read with colorful characters.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Douglas Corleone, Steve Hamilton, and Harlen Coben.]

[ official Jack Fredrickson web site ]

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


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book cover  Dinotopia
by James Gurney [j Gurney]

This is an illustrated children's novel which begins when a father and son find themselves shipwrecked on an island called Dinotopia. They soon discover the island is inhabited by humans and dinosaurs who live together in the same society. The father and son meet a number of new friends, humans and dinosaurs, on their travels on the island. At first they both hope of returning home, but after a while, the son becomes so engrossed in the culture and way of life on the island, that he doesn't want to leave. The father becomes more comfortable and adventurous but unlike his son, he is more often homesick and desires to return home. The book reminded me of the film (based on the book of the same title) Lost Horizon. Both are stories of travelers who stumble upon a hidden dream like society. Some members of the travel party are content to stay and others seek an impossible way home. I think this book would appeal to readers of any age who enjoy fantasy, adventure, dinosaurs, or coming of age stories.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dinotopia: The World Beneath By James Gurney, The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs & Pre-Historic Creatures By: Barry Cox or Lost Horizon By James Hilton.]

[ official Dinotopia web site ]

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


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book cover  Cemetery Girl: Book One - The Pretenders
by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden

Having been a fan of Charlaine Harris' novels for many years, and also of Christopher Golden's TV series tie-in novelizations for just as long, I was pleased to see this graphic novel (with illustrations by Don Kramer) on the "new books" display recently and gave it a shot. I'm very glad I did. This is billed as the first in a three-part graphic novel storyline. A young woman is dumped in a cemetery and left for dead, but awakens not long after with no memory of who she is except for the knowledge that somebody wants her dead. Hiding in the cemetery, she gives herself a new name, cobbled together from various tombstones, and takes up residence in an unlocked but surprisingly comfortable crypt. This would have been enough of an existence, befriended by the elderly cemetery keeper and a curious woman from the neighborhood. But Calexa Rose Dunhill's life is far from simple. She seems to have the ability to commune with recently departed spirits, and when she witnesses a ritualistic slaying in the cemetery after hours, she finds herself bound inexorably with the spirit of the murdered girl. Her struggles to achieve justice for this young victim, without exposing herself to further danger, is the theme of this installment. Well written, with excellent art. I look forward to the remaining two parts in upcoming months.

[If you enjoy this, the libraries now have a growing collection of graphic novels based on contemporary urban fantasy authors' works -- check out those graphic stories based on novels by Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher and/or Laurell K. Hamilton.]

[ official Video Trailer for "The Pretenders" ] | [ official Charlaine Harris web site ]

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


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book cover  Dead Until Dark
by Charlaine Harris

The characters are quite interesting as well as unique. From Sookie, the waitress who can read people's minds, to Bill, the vampire who recently moved to the town of Bon Temps, LA. You can sense the passion between Sookie and Bill the moment they lay eyes on each other at the bar where Sookie works. Thanks to the clever wording by Charline Harris.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try True Blood, the television show based on this novel series.]

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ official Charlaine Harris web site ]

Review Score – 5
Recommended by Carryna N.
Library Intern at Bennett Martin Public Library


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

I'll have to admit -- I stopped reading Stephen King back in the early 1990s. For me, all his novels started to feel the same and it was a bit tiresome. But, back in the day, The Shining (1977) was one of my favorite of his early novels, and I've enjoyed touring the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which was the inspiration for The Overlook Hotel that was the centerpiece of King's 1977 novel. So...when I saw that King had written a sequel to that earlier novel, 36 years later, and that the audiobook version was narrated by actor Will Patton (one of the stars of TNT's series Falling Skies), I couldn't pass it up. Doctor Sleep was worth the wait -- it looks at the life of Dan Torrance, the pre-teen protaganist of The Shining, now that he's in his forties. Dan is now a recovering alcoholic, trying to rebuild his life and use his paranormal ability -- his "shining" -- to help other people. Dan becomes the mentor to a 12-year-old girl with the strongest "ability" he's ever sensed. And they're both about to face some of their darkest nightmares, when they go up against a clan of paranormal parasites, who feed off of the life energy of children with the shining. King's characters are richly detailed, his dialog, as always, is very natural, and he loads up the scares to keep the adrenalin pumping. But Doctor Sleep is far more than merely a well-told horror story -- it is also a insightful character study and look at the demons of addiction. Will Patton does a terrific job with this audiobook, instilling every character with their own vocal personality. I found myself caring about these characters as real people, trapped in a nightmare situation. I highly recommend this book, particularly as a book-on-cd. If you've ever enjoyed reading The Shining, then Doctor Sleep is a must-read now.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Shining by King.]

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

[ official Doctor Sleep page on the official Stephen King web site ]

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


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book cover  Dog Shaming
by Pascale Lemire [636.7 Lem]

Lightweight but extremely hilarious collection of photos, which dog owners (or dog lovers) will almost certainly identify with. Our pooches may be "Man's Best Friend", but they can certainly have some behaviors that are less-than-loveable. What started as a single photo of a guilty-looking dog with a printed (or handwritten) sign explaining what they were "guilty" of, has turned into an explosion of silly, gross and shake-your-head-and-smile examples of dogs temporarily gone bad. The expressions of some of the dogs in this book range from "I know I did something I shouldn't have" to "And I don't care, 'cause it was fun!" If you've ever caught your dog doing something it has been told not to do, and seen it react with complete embarrasment (at having been caught), you'll enjoy this book! And the website that inspired it!

[ official Dog Shaming web site ] | [ official Dog Shaming: The Book web site ]

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


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book cover  The Ship Who Sang
by Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011) was, perhaps, best known as the creator of the Dragonriders of Pern series of novels that began in the late 1960s and has continued even beyond her passing, now written by her son. Back in the day, McCaffrey was known by the nickname "The Queen of Science Fiction", and she was one of the best-known and most beloved of science fiction and fantasy authors. Part of the reason for that is the expanse of different types of stories she told; one of her best-known non-dragon series was the Brain Ship series, starting with The Ship Who Sang. Helva is a seriously deformed child, whose parents submit her for a government program in which her human brain and wasted body are installed in a starship, which she controls mentally. Brain Ships, partnered with normal human pilots (brawns) then work for the interstellar government on a variety of spacegoing missions, until they can pay off the financial debt they own for their own modifications. The Ship Who Sang is a collection of novellas or novelettes, originally each published seperately, which have been reworked slightly to create a unified story. Though there's a highly "romantic" flair to the storytelling, the ideas behind these stories are intriguing and thought-provoking, even 40 or more years later. This is not "hard SF" by any means, but if you're looking for an excellent example of McCaffrey's early writing style, I recommend The Ship Who Sang.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of McCaffrey's other works, particularly those in her Pern series.]

[ Wikipedia page for The Ship Who Sang ] | [ official The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey web site ]

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


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book cover  An Unmarked Grave
by Charles Todd

This fourth volume in the Bess Crawford series, from mother and son writing team "Charles Todd", following the experiences of an English nurse in France during WWI, begins as the Spanish Flu is running rampant throughout Europe. With soldiers dying left and right of the disease, and bodies being stacked up for eventual burial, it is fortuitous that one of the orderlies at a Medical Aid station near the French front line sees a body in storage that has died of other-than-natural causes and not been accounted for. When he brings his discovery to the attention of Sister Bess Crawford, she recognizes the victim, who died of a broken neck, as a past member of her father's former Indian regiment, whose body has been concealed with the "plague" victims. Before Bess and the orderly can report this apparent murder, Bess herself falls victim to the flu and has to be taken back to England to recover, and the orderly mysterious commits suicide. Once Bess is coherent again, she begins to investigate the unnatural death, but attracts the attentions of someone who'd just as soon not have his handiwork revealed. Bess is an interesting character -- she compares very favorably with Maisie Dobbs, from Jacqueline Winspear's very similar post-WWI series. Bess' upper-middle-class background, and the fact that her father has the pull to have her removed to safety seemingly whenever he feels like it, reduces the seriousness of her wartime setting somewhat, but the mystery was still interesting, and the descriptions of wartime France and England were very evocative of the times.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other works of the mother and son writing team of Charles Todd.]

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

[ official An Unmarked Grave page on the official Charles Todd web site ]

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


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book cover  Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action
by Nick Vujicic [Biography Vujicic]

This is the second book by Nick Vujicic detailing his life struggles and triumphs, and joyously declaring his Christian faith. Born in 1982 without arms or hands and with only a small foot where his legs would be, this determined Australian boy has grown up into an inspirational speaker and entertainer. Normally a fearless and fun-loving child, Nick went through a very dark time in his teens, both from depression and bullying, but he got through it by faith and with the support of family and friends who never doubted that he could be and do anything he aspired to. Now living in California, Vujicic is the married father of a "normal" toddler and has encouraged and ministered to many thousands of people on the web and in person at churches, rallies, and community events all over the globe. On his down time he enjoys such things as surfing and golf! If you're feeling like life is hard, Nick's story of weathering a severe disability and finding purpose and fulfillment is a good reality check.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life.]

[ official Life Without Limbs and Nick Vujicic web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  The Great American Slow Cooker Book
by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough [641.7 Wei]

Not a slow cooker recipe book that includes Cream-of-Something soup. The authors avoid most processed foods though will occasionally use canned broth, tomatoes, and frozen veggies. The ingredients are easily obtainable from your local grocer and do not require a specialty or gourmet store, and the book uses basic kitchen gadgets - nothing fancy here. You'll be using lots of fresh, and dried, herbs and spices, and no-salt or reduced-salt items. The recipes inform you of how much time or effort you'll take prepping the ingredients before they go into the slow cooker (Not Much, A Little, or A Lot). There's also a short chapter on making your own stocks in the slow cooker (vegetable, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, and shellfish). You'll find recipes for Breakfast, Soups, Beef, Poultry, Fish & Shellfish, Vegetables & Side Dishes, and Desserts & Party Drinks. Be sure to read their excellent Introduction as they explain to you the whys and what-fors on using their recipes — as well a s good ol' slow cooker advice.

[ official Bruce and Mark web site/blog ]

Review Score – 7
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 Bletchley Circle
[DVD Bletchley]

Set in Post-war England in 1952, four women who worked at England's Bletchley Park (a secret-service government operation of code-breakers) are reunited to solve a series of murders in the London area. The women run up against all kinds of bureaucratic obstacles in their effort to find information about the serial killer's identity. This series is one of the most gripping, tense thrillers I have ever seen. I highly recommend this but be warned that this contains adult content of a gritty nature.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the DVDs Foyles War and Danger UXB.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Bletchley Circle web site from PBS ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire
[DVD Catching]

The second installment in the Hunger Games series - in this one Katniss and Peeta go on a victor's tour visiting every district while still pretending they're in love to avoid any sort of rebellion against the capitol. Because it's the Quarter Quell (every 25 years something unique happens in the games) President Snow decides the tributes this year will be former Hunger Games winners. Katniss and Peeta are forced to compete again and must ally with other winners in order to survive. Excellent story, awesome acting, and moments of comedy.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hunger Games on DVD or any of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, or the Divergent series by Veronica Roth.]

[Also available in traditional print, audiobook and downloadable formats.]

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

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


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last updated March 2014
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